Dialogue between Ilya Kabakov and Pavel Pepperstein.

Pepperstein: We now begin a discussion of the series “Holidays”, a series of works done in oil, on the surface of which are equally distributed bright, shining pieces of multi-colored foil, resembling candy wrappers of artificial flowers. In the dialogue “Boar”, A. Monastyrsky defined this series as the continuation of developments in the tradition of “frames”, “shells” forming an empty center. The center is always the carrier of ideology, and only by ensuring its emptiness can you attain the de-ideologization of the work, the absence in it of a lie. In this case the center is de-ideologized via the gluing of “candy wrappers” resembling shells with an extracted or absent content onto the painting’s surface…

Kabakov: This interpretation is completely accurate. In actual fact, we are talking about a certain shining emptiness, laid-out in such a way so as not to be visible. It is also important that from the very beginning these painting were done not by an artist, but by a “personage” by “someone”. I would like to say a bit about the two “times” present in this painting. It is assumed that a certain nameless hack artist, approximately thirty years ago, received an order to make this series of works for decorating either the House of Scientists, or a collective farm House of Culture. The series accurately represents various achievements in different fields of the economy and culture during that time. But the main theme of the works is joy and exultation. For some reasons, the paintings were never sent and remained in the studio until recently. Again dragged out into the light of day, these works filled the artist with revulsion because all their light and energy have disappeared, the paint has yellowed, they are covered with dust, everything has been transformed into boring murk. And a new impulse emerged for the artist: to renew the series, to return to it once again those qualities that it once possessed, to re-inject those feelings of joy and exultation that were previously present and that were supposed to be there. It is possible that now, after the course of many years, he is compelled to realize these works. One could redo the paintings with rich, bright, emotional colors. But he has neither the strength nor the time nor the desire to do so. But the determination to make them cheerful and bright wins out. And he runs to the strangest method form injecting joy – namely, he sews on these flowers. Time splits in these works. On the one hand, it is old hackwork, made as something remarkable but that by now has lost this remarkableness and is presented here as junk and vileness. And on the other hand, holidays have a place today as well, and demand at any cost that a joyful facial expression be hastily achieved. This is similar to many of our buildings, at one time decorated in intense rose or yellow colors, but over the course of many years they have been covered with dust and soot. However, often before holidays, painters would add another layer of rose and yellow ”shininess” without first cleaning this dirt, and this film of shininess renews the past holiday….
Pepperstein: That is, on the surface this series of yours is a post-modernist reflection of the traditional modernist gesture, when something unexpected is superimposed on an easily recognizable object, the result of which, in theory, should become a new interpretation, a new view of the object. Similar to gestures that were more clearly articulated by Duchamp and Magritte. Having behind them that modernist experience, the post­ modernist consciousness considers that such a superimposition does not lead to a desacralization, not to a liberation, a renewal, but leads merely to yet another illusory shift in attitude, to the imposition of yet another layer. This can be expressed by the formula: ,The new is no newer than the old.’
Kabakov: Yes. This duplication resembles the second time a bad joke is repeated. In our country such а pseudo-renewal is called “cosmetic repairs”. This work is of an exclusively superficial nature. The former, aged surface is perceived as a certain walrus skin, but not as the walrus itself. The surface in this sense is precisely that sign of those phenomena that are no longer discussed. Post-modernism interprets profound structures, but accepts signs, the meanings of which are familiar to everyone. But these signs have not meant anything for a long time already. Between the “signifier” and the “signified” there is a colossal rift. Of course, you could say: ,If there really isn’t anything behind the skin, then what is it needed for?’ But this, perhaps, already belongs to the next stage of the self-consciousness of culture…
….There is yet one other moment that I would like to talk about here – the reduction of a “painting” to a “thing”. Any dying is a transition of a subject to an object, from problematicness to non-problematicness, from the depths to the surface, etc. “The attaching of flowers” reveals an attitude toward the painting as a thing, much the same way that pom-poms might be sewn on to an old coat…
Pepperstein: Yes, that is a very essential aspect – the cor­relation between the background and what stands out against the background. The painting traditionally stands out against the background of wallpaper. Here the wallpaper element stands out against the back­ground of the painting. This is entirely characteristic of post-modernist thinking, since in this model of consciousness, all that stands out against the back­ground in its turn becomes the background for the next thing to stand out, and this goes on ad infinitum.

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