Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview. Gradient. Oct., 2009, New York

Interview by ALAN VINOGRADOV & Photography by MATT FRIED

Artist Andrey Bartenev was born and raised on the Taimyr Peninsula near the Arctic Ocean in the Norilsk City located in Russia. His homeland built on a huge piece of ice has been one of Bartenev’s forces of inspiration. Bartenev is an individual full of creativity and special skills. He will charm you with his subtle Russian accent and wow the masses with his amazing outfits & costumes. Gradient caught up with the Moscow based art professor that has also grown into one of the most imaginative performance artist the world has seen in sometime. His performances bring together some of the most bizarre outfits that Bartenev composes himself. Ranging from pokodot suits to neon spandex outfits, all of the costumes Bartenev produces are used to portray his creative ambitions.

What are some of your favorite mediums?
My favorite genre - is certainly the art of performance. Performance - is the freedom gained through individual improvisation. Landscape of the performance - is a collection of achievements of individual liberties. If you change one part of the landscape - then everything changes, but the unity of the aspirations remain. And my aim is - to program this unity of aspiration.

The best space for my performances are stairwells of shopping malls, escalators of the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, ramps of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and small island states of Oceania. I love having my audience be a part of the performance.

How long have you been participating in performance art?
I’ve been doing performances for the last 19 years. I started very early. However, all of this happened suddenly to me, on the one hand, I wanted to do the theatrical production, but I did not like the dramatic framework of contemporary theater, and on the other hand, I was fond of fine art. One of my first performances was spectacles of moving sculptures: ‘The Great Seagull of North’ and ‘The Lone Reindeer Herder’.


Art is an always changing movement - new artists come and go every year, what are some of your plans to continue being a consistent contributor to the performance art movement?
Yes, I have been in this process for many years, half of my life I should say. And my interest is still not exhausted. I have never built myself on the principle of “stay afloat” - as my passion for the invention of moving compositions is a subject only of my will, and not based on the silhouettes of relevance. As for the newer artists that appear in this world – it’s better for me - because the meaning of my mission is: to create maximal attraction of an artist’s profession. More people could be captured by this practice and more people could be turned into a creation, taken away from war and destruction.

What does it mean to be Andrey Bartenev? What are some of the expectations that you set for yourself?
It means - Don’t be a meat! I am able to transform myself into another person which allows me to have the ability to live through any system of comparisons. And with this in response to all “Bartenev is so-and-so” - to shout: “Yes! And It’s me … And it’s me!” I learned to love my volatility - as the sky made me so. And my confidence to the sky is always based on my individual internal responsibility. One of my plans is to create large monumental flight forms. You must stay tuned to see where I go with this.

What are some points in your art career that you feel are breakthrough moments?
Turning-points in my artistic career were emotional breakthroughs: the ability to breathe, to hear, to talk, to eat, snow, water, first sexual experience, love, the first flight by airplane, holographic television, ardor of stage…

I find it interesting that your sense of style plays a major role in your performances, who are the designers that influence you?
Many of my performances were aimed to destruct any style … such as ‘Gogol-Mogol or Adventures of the Invisible Worms in Russia’, “Underpants on the Stick”, “Invasion of the Bread Crumbs”.

Another part of my performances imitated “the style” – to push action into the space of cold and emptiness, where the structural part of performance can be understood easily… Swiss artist Jean Tinguely influenced me with his works “Meta-Malevich” and “Meta-Kandinsky”, and his “self-exploding sculptures” and “self-destroying sculptures” which led me develop my own theory of “falling sculpture”. I have understood the action of falling as a moment of form that is conceived through my work.

We know that you have some major projects in the work. Do you mind sharing with our audience some concepts that you are currently working on?
I have just arrived to Moscow from Norway, during my time in Norway I taught first year students part of the Drama and Scenography Departments of the Norway Theater Academy. The theme of the course was - Structure of a Performance. As a basis of research I took a poem from 1922 by Korney Chukovsky, a children’s absurdist writer. This poem was dedicated to praising the rules of personal care and cleanliness. The theme is an actual point in a situation of current preventive antiviral propaganda that was waged in Norway. Our performance was called “Wash Your Hands Until You Get the Holes”.

I arrived to Moscow, for the opening of my new project - Hand-Walker sculpture “Monkey Bars” for the 3rd annual Moscow International Biennial of Contemporary Art. The work developed was a longtime creative concept of mine, which incorporated wall bars, one of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment. The sculpture fills out almost the entire space of the hall with the bars and invites the viewers to exercise.

So after this exhibition I will take part in preparing the performance “Bubbles of Hope” for VII. MID_E International Exhibition. MID_E´09 in Spain and then one more for the Pinakothek in Munich – they need bubbles of hope too!


Are you a one man show or do you have a team that helps you produce these amazing exhibits? If so, who are some of these people that help you produce this work?
Some projects I create alone. Sculptures and installations are team projects. Performance also - is always the result of collective work - where I play the role of a conductor. A lot of my students work with me, and in these moments of work, they grasp the mysteries of a profession “The Artist”.

Can we expect any upcoming exhibitions in 2010? Will any of those be in the USA?
My installation “The SunPool”, which I built for The Willem de Kooning Foundation in the summer of 2009, will be shown at The Watermill Center of Robert Wilson in summer 2010. But currently most of my follies still occur in Europe.