Oleg Kulik

Oleg Kulik in collaboration with Mila Bredikhina

Extracts from the Artist’s Notes on Performances in the Zoophrenia Programme

1. Deep into Russia

Tverskoy region.

Dudrovky, 16 July 1993

This action took place on a hot day in the presence of eight witnesses (Vladimir Sorokin, writer, Iosif Bakshtein, Director, Institute of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Faina Koroleva, dairy-maid, and others). Kulik’s head penetrated the vagina of a cow in an attempt to be born anew. After this tormenting action he stated “I have closed the theme of reality for myself. For the time being, at least. Just as Malevich closed the theme of painting with his Black Square. Inside the cow I realised that there is no reality, and that means that reality is still to be discovered.”

3. Freedom of Choice

Patriarchy Prudy,

Moscow, 23 October 1994

Taking part in Freedom of Choice, an action of young Moscow artists dedicated to the mass exodus of Cubans from their ‘island of freedom’, Kulik unexpectedly jumped into a pond of ice-cold water. He crossed it at an inhuman speed, losing all his strength by the time he reached the opposite bank. Later he observed that this spontaneous action was especially significant for him as he had no time to think of himself as an artist or even as a human being.

6. Reservoir Dog

Kunsthaus, Zurich,

30 March 1995

This action took place on the opening day of Signs and Wonder, a large international exhibition including famous artists (eg. Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst, Ilya Kabakov). It also featured expressive animalistic paintings by Nico Pirosmani, a naive artist and tragic figure, hardly known in the West. Kulik was howling at the entrance of the exhibition scaring away spectators. This unexpected appearance of another ‘naive artist’, the dog artist at the entrance of the ‘Swiss Bank of Art’, was his protest against the transformation of an artist’s life into material value, against art as commodity. Kulik was arrested and spent a night in prison.

11. In Fact, Kulik is a Bird

Gallery 21, St Petersburg,

22 September 1995

This action played on the meaning of the word ‘kulik’. Kulik is Russian for ‘sandpiper’. It conformed to statements made by Kulik at the beginning of his election campaign for the Russian Presidency as a member of the Party of Animals, advocating the utmost development of animal qualities in man. ‘Anthropocentrism has exhausted itself’, Kulik repeated. ‘Can man forecast earthquakes, like a small aquarium fish? Can he smell like a dog, be lithe like a cat. Does he know the secret of harmonious social life like that of an ant or a bee? No. Besides that, an animal cannot lie, pretend, deceive and cower.’ This action besides providing an inspection of man’s ability to fly out of a seventh-floor window (with the use of a simple harness), conveyed information about flight in ‘bird language’. The process of becoming a bird involved overcoming a fear of heights and the psychological experience of flight by Kulik and the spectators.

14. Dog House

Fargfabriken, Stockholm,

2 March 1996

It was suggested that Kulik produce his Dog House project within Interpol , an exhibition devoted to the problem of communication. The artist was invited as a sort of ready-made to stay in a specially built house. The audience was warned that any communication with the artist, who denounced the language of culture, was dangerous and that no one should cross the borders of his territory. Following the logic of this action Kulik bit a Mr. Lindquist who had neglected the warning. Kulik was arrested by the Swedish police. This performance and the exhibition as a whole aroused scandalous response from the media. Interpol was called an event that divided the art world into East and West. Kulik published an explanation of his action in response to demands made by the exhibition’s curators. (See his letter entitled Why I Have Bitten a Man)

15. Police Dog

Rozentol night club, Moscow,

20 February 1996

In the heat of criminal passions, and the total absence of a local art market, Kulik tried to earn his living as a police dog inspecting visitors to nightclubs, looking for drugs and weapons.

17. Suspended

Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin,

23 May 1996

The artist was hung high over the ground, balanced with a cage full of books. Spectators had to pull a rope to get the artist closer to themselves. The books went up and became unavailable. Kulik explained: ‘To be suspended is to inquire for sense. Culture has repressed the nature of human beings. A man is an animal first of all. And then he is a Social animal, a Political animal and so on. I am an Art animal, that’s why, spectator, I need your physical and psychological efforts to make sense.’

26. Two Kuliks

incl. Art Center ‘Ark’, Riga, 4 November 1998, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham,

17 May 2001

Kulik-the-artist and Kulik-the-animal fight using the means available to both of them. The first is drawing his self-portrait with his ‘beak’, remembering that he is a bird, while the second is always displeased with the conventionality of the result. In Riga the conflict reached its climax when one of the Kuliks (which one?) broke the glass self-portrait with his hand, and had to be rushed to hospital for surgery.

27. White Man, Black Dog

incl. Gallery Kapelica, Ljubljana,

7 October 1998

Kulik was trying to establish close relations with a black dog in complete darkness, split intermittently by camera flashes made by two photographers documenting the action. This process revealed a surprising effect when temporal imprints appeared on the retina of the spectators’ eyes. Such ephemeral ‘documentation’ is the only true, ‘absolutely real’ art.

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