Ithaca, NY, 1994. Handwritten flyers reading «You have nothing to lose but your voice» and «All tastes are created equal» were distributed by students to advertise Komar and Melamid’s* project The People’s Choice. The project’s curator managed to get pretty much everyone in town involved in Komar and Melamid’s great art event: the university and other schools, the church, the local media and businesses. «What do YOU want to see in a painting? Tell artists Komar and Melamid–they’ll paint it. Come to the meeting and you could win $250 cash … dinner for two at Old Port Harbour or a signed lithograph by the Artists!» ran the text for full-page ads published in the free papers. A spot on the local radio ran: «I could have painted that! Have you ever seen something at an art museum, and said, «I could have painted that!?» Yeah! Then what do you think should be in a painting? Cayuga Lake? A still life with cookies? A really good-lookin … no, wait, YOU tell us!» The church bulletin ran an announcement with a graphic counterposing the onion dome of St. Basil’s in Moscow and the steeple of the local church. The daily newspaper printed the Komar and Melamid The People’s Choice story at the top of page one–above Princess Diana’s visit to D.C. and the news of Burt Lancaster’s death–with four additional stories inside.
The above offers a picture of the atmosphere created for one of the installments of The People’s Choice, toppled by a film students television crew following artists Komar and Melamid around town, as directed by the curator–even if there was no tape in the cameras.
Soviet-born artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid have explored the issue of elitism in contemporary art through a range of projects including The People’s Choice resulting in works as The Most Wanted and Most Unwanted Paintings and The Most Wanted and Most Unwanted Songs. Through polls, The People’s Choice discovered that what people like the most is what the art world disdains the most: a blue landscape painted in a realistic style.
Komar and Melamid will visit Norway for the first time, certainly at the right moment, when the Norwegian people, politicians, artists, and the media are deeply engaged in several parallel debates on art’s elitism. The cultural minister is publicly disqualifying an esteemed art critic’s comments on the Norwegian spel; a group of neighbors are threatening to sue the State for wanting to build an internationally acclaimed proposal for a memorial at Utøya; the Norwegian Arts Council artists committees are accused of nepotism; and, according to their statistics, the media claim that people are no longer interested in press coverage of art and culture. Does society need art? Do people want art? Are people to tell the artists what kind of art should be produced? These are some of the questions Komar and Melamid asked in The People’s Choice and throughout their career.
General public, artists, media, theorists, come to the open debate. Remember: You have nothing to lose but your voice!
Vitaly Komar’s lecture and debate on August 29th kl. 20.00 at Tout Va Bien Series, Landmark, Bergen.
* Artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid worked as the Komar and Melamid duo from 1967 til 2004. Born in the Soviet Union in the 1940s, Komar and Melamid moved to the USA in 1978. They are considered amongst the most influential Soviet artists and their work is included in major art museums across the world. Komar and Melamid can be found in Oxford’s Dictionary of 20th Century Art; The Penguin Concise Dictionary of Art History; Art since the 40’s; Bildende Kunst im 20 Jahrhundert; Bordas’ Petit Dictionnaire Des Artistes Contemporains; Art in the Modern Era; and Phaidon’s The 20th-Century Art Book. They collaborated with the conceptual video artist Douglas Davis on Questions New York/Moscow in 1976 (collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); with Fluxus musician Charlotte Moorman on Passport in 1976 (Ronald Feldman Gallery); with Pop Artist Andy Warhol on We Buy and Sell Souls in 1978-79 (private collection, Moscow); with dozens of artists and Soviet monuments on Monumental Propaganda in 1993 (traveling show, Independent Curators Inc.); with the masses and Marttila & Kiley Poll Company on Most Wanted and Most Unwanted Paintings in 1994; with composer Dave Soldier on an opera about Washington, Lenin and Duchamp, Naked Revolution in 1997 (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and The Kitchen, New York); with painter Renee the elephant in 1995 and with photographer Mikki the Chimpanzee in 1998 (Russian pavilion at Venice Biennale, 1999).
STUDY GROUPS 12, 20, 27. August, kl. 13.00 till 17.00 at Bergen Kunsthall The study groups will introduce the work of Komar and Melamid within the theoretical framework of philosopher Jacques Rancière. Admission is free of charge, but registration required: email@example.com
UPCOMING TOUT VA BIEN EVENT 3. October, kl. 20.00, philosophers/aestheticians Frank Ruda and Agon Hamza
Tout Va Bien is hosted by cooperation partner Landmark. Tout Va Bien is sponsored by Norwegian Arts Council, Bergen City Council, Fritt Ord. Alt Går Bra is sponsored by Visual Artists Association (BVF), Norwegian Arts Council, Bergen City Council, KORO, Fritt Ord.