Kyiv . Ya Gallery Art Center

Inessential Properties

Rostyslav Koterlin

25.09.2013 – 14.10.2013

Rostyslav Koterlin

Rostyslav Koterlin's new project in Ya Gallery art center is aimed both at the wide public and at his artist colleagues. It is an author's attempt to reveal, what's essential around us, with the help of various artistic means and techniques.

Exhibition Kyiv Ya Gallery Art Center

In the middle of the first millennium B.C. the mystic player with numbers Pythagoras founded an order that left a number of unique rules. Here are some of them: “To refrain from consuming beans”; “Not to lift anything that fell”; “Not to bite off a whole loaf of bread”; “Not to tear flowers from a circlet”; “Rising from the bed, fold it and smooth the imprint of your body”.

A similar thing can be said about this exhibition: “Upon seeing it, smooth the imprint of the seen”.

There are images that should not be talked about. Attempts to talk out, to describe the senses result in an accumulation of words that confuse the meaning even more.

What is essential? Trying to answer this question we will always face contradiction and limitation. Crossing boundaries is only the beginning of the way, and possibly just the start of a contradictory reply.

Rostyslav Koterlin

Contemporary shit,

or in short about what unites us on the way to enlightenment

It could be said easily: when the form turns into formality – shit makes its way into the content. But it's not that easy.

Live creatures defecate. It is natural and very visible in the countries where there are a lot of homeless people, stray animals, where people, dogs, cats, birds and insects feed next to uncleaned trashcans. In other words – however you put it – there is a lot of need, waste and shit around.

Having become a sensor marker for the contemporaneity, shit dictates plenty of allusions with its material presence. It is just like Zeit Geist, but not as much “spirit”, as the “smell” of time. Shit became the first rate bargaining chip of the modern politics, culture and art. Is it a good sign? Manzoni's cans grow in value. The crisis didn't stall, it overstretched.

It is the very substance that unites everyone, a great metaphor of the global human community's waste. People are different – white, black, rich, right, left, liberal, fundamentalists – but everyone has to daily perform the common business that cleanses and unites everyone – especially on the sewage level. Similarly, with art.

Many of the initiated, educated and uneducated united in the discontent with contemporary art and with life at once. They are wishing for better art and better life. And they chose shit as the measure of what there is – of course, in the symbolic aspect. Renowned American art theorist Donald Kuspit remembers Breton in his text “The Triumph of Shit”, who said that transforming the shit of life into the art of gold was an old alchemic idea. At the same time, Kuspit reduces artwork by such well-known shit transponders as Andres Serrano and Paul McCartney to narcissist avant-garde show-business.

Famous Polish dramatist, novelist, philosopher, art theorist and artist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz wrote in his letter to the German philosopher Hans Cornelius: “Everything is shit – everything, but philosophy. Without it I would be a shithead”...

The same year 1939 two events took place: World War II started on September 1 and 17 days later Witkiewicz committed suicide. The spirit and challenges of that time became bigger than philosophy. Shit won.

Jonathan Swift couldn't accept the fact that his mistress with beautiful perfect body defecated. This contradiction drove him mad.

“Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Oh! Shit!” So spoke Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his sister, trying to convince her to taste this “treat”.

Contemporary psychologists, researching his letters and searching for the reasons of his enchantment with shit, speak of the so-called anal stage that every child goes through. It is common knowledge that this genius of music composing remained a child all his life.

The anal stage of modern culture...

People's verse:

Artists sat in front of the restroom,

Hammering shit,

But shit is shit,

So hammered irregularly.

Recently in one of the talks, two famous Russian artists claimed loudly that “in all times 99% of art was shit”. If they said – 100 percent – they would become modern Malevich-es, yet the chat session remained a trivial peripheral episode of coprophagy.

The strategy of the avant-garde graffiti artist in the foreseeable future will be getting into important buildings where the government resides and, as a result, drawing bold anti-government images with shit in the interiors. Come with full intestines, quickly get the artistic substance, promptly paint the wall, took a picture, immediately posted it online – and 15 minutes of fame, avant-garde artist title, success and money, or prison and fighter against the system rank.

Many idealists of our time dream with utopian or anti-utopian visions where people's masses parade with shovels or picks, neckties or decorative aprons on them, all smiling, perform some kind of work friendly and with a song, – all as if the “God's will” is performed. Few realize that everyone daily performs God's will anyways. And numerous complains about the crisis, decline and chaos are inessential. Inequality and difficulty have always been present in the world. There is need and there is holiday, there is war and there is carnival, there is freedom and attempts to restrict it, personal will and persistent attempts to control it, there are curators and there are performers. Not everything is good, but it's not that bad. The path to knowledge is wide and open. Because when everybody really marches according to somebody's will, smiles will quickly disappear from the faces, and the shared singing will be promptly replaced with the joint choral in the emptiness: “Shit!!!” Political enema will be a hundred times more painful than the artistic one.

Kuspit names a number of artists, some of whom symbolically, some literally, played with this alchemic substance. Picasso, Duchamp, Dali, Manzoni, Warhol, Oldenburg, Schneemann, Frankl, Terrence Koh, McCartney, Serrano... Everybody knows the heroic artists of the post-Soviet lands, who joined this heroic process, well.

Similarly to ontogenesis, ethnogenesis or phylogenesis in the context of today's mass culture we'll be able to speak of coprogenesis phenomenon. What Serrano of McCartney create with crap is the ideal, top of the genre.

Another attempt at artistic enema.

This series was conceived as a certain internally collegial, ironic message. A message to the artists. But in the process of creation the lines were crossed. The series is called “The Short History of Inessential Formalities”.

It is dedicated to everyone!

Rostyslav Koterlin


Born in 1966. Lives and works in Ivano-Frankivsk.

1998 graduated from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, department of journalism.

Koterlin is a researcher and an analyst of processes that take place in contemporary art; he is also an author of essays and articles about artists of Ivano-Frankivsk. Since 1990 he's an organizer and a participant of almost all contemporary art programs and projects in his city.

Since 1999 he edits and publishes an almanac of contemporary visual art "Kinez Kinzem".

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