Five MANI Folders: An Experiment in Modeling Cultural Space
September 24 - October 23, 2011
Venue: The Ekaterina Cultural Foundation
Curators: Elena Kuprina-Lyakhovich, Alexandra Danilova
As part of the 4th Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art, the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation and E.K.ArtBureau present a new joint project, entitled Five MANI Folders: An Experiment in Modeling Cultural Space.
This exhibition continues the foundation's commitment to exhibiting the most significant and important phenomena of Russian art from the second half of the twentieth century, and explores one of the most interesting pages of its development at the border of the 1970s and 1980s: artistic experiments in self-archiving undertaken by the Moscow Conceptualist school.
Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin, founders of the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, describing the project, noted:
"The period of the 1970s1980s has long attracted our attention by its complexity, ambiguity, and incredible richness. It is not an accident that a significant part of the foundation's collection comes precisely from this period. The new project, which the foundation presents jointly with E.K.ArtBureau, interested us for the opportunity it gave to show the audience unique and unfamiliar material, since the MANI folders have up to this day never been exhibited or published in their entirety."
The MANI folders, which gave the project its title, contain documentary material and artworks, as well as art-historical and critical texts. The term MANI - the Moscow Archive of New Art - was coined by Andrei Monastyrski (in collaboration with Lev Rubinshtein and Nikita Alekseev) in 1980 to refer to the circle of artists associated with Moscow Conceptualism. The archive exists in the form of folders, and was compiled as a collective work starting in February 1981: each participant was free to include any material - text, drawing and photograph.
The idea for such an archive was discussed within the circle of conceptualists already in the mid-1970s, though the first folder was not assembled by Monastyrski until February 1981. Five folders were created in all, each with its own author-editor. The second was prepared by Vadim Zakharov and Viktor Skersis; the third by Elena Elagina and Igor Makarevich; the fourth by Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov. The fifth and last folder was supposed to be prepared by the Mukhomor (Toadstool) group, and work was begun by the group's ideologist, Konstantin Zvezdochetov. It was completed by Georgy Kiesewalter when the Mukhomors were conscripted into the army in 1984.
The MANI folders comprise a temporally complete and self-contained project. An invaluable document compiled within the School of Moscow Conceptualism, the folders are at the same time a unique artistic work an integrated authorial statement crafted out the works-statements of other artists'. Each envelope that an author has included in the folders is a mini-exhibition, a mini-investigation.
The author-editors also pursued the goal of cultural transmission. In their time, the folders were a means of popularizing, archiving, and museumifying the work of the MANI circle. In this way, they reflect the collective and individual understanding of each author about conceptualism, about the artistic situation of the time, and about art in general.
"What is unique about this publication is that practically the best artists of different generations participated in it. This was the result of a consolidation of a microculture," notes Viktor Skersis.
The exhibition, unveiled in the halls of the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, allows viewers to see and analyze for the first time the materials contained in all five MANI folders.
Additionally, the exhibition will present a series of video-interviews with the editors, in which they describe how they chose the materials for their almanacs, explain the choice of particular works, comment on the general meaning of the folders' contents, and describe the artistic situation of the time.
The curators intend to describe in detail each object contained in the folders, putting on view the works deemed most interesting and important by the author-editors. The combination of two parts - documentary-artistic masterpieces of the 1980s with contemporary interviews creates a space within the present project for a dialogue with the past.
As a unique historical-artistic work bringing together features of an archive, a catalogue, an artistic almanac, and an art object in its own right, Five MANI folders present the opportunity to bring to light all of the various artistic ideas and strategies of the early 1980s, a rich and complex turning point at the conclusion of the era of "unofficial art."