25 Aipril – 26 July 2011, GCCC Moscow, intervention.
The project was carried out in the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture in Moscow where Tatiana Baskakova held a position of an invigilator from 25th Aipril till 26th July 2011.
In this three-month performance matters of institutional critique coincide with practice of experimental exploration of Russian society and creative industry’s labour conditions. It largely relies on social and communal relations of gallery staff, their understanding of hopelessness of the current situation, and disbelief in the possibility of a positive change in their life, working conditions, or society in general.
The performance piece runs though three gradual stages of change in invigilator’s attitude – from happy enthusiasm and patience to “revolutionary” moods and attempts to organize a trade union. The climax of the performance happens when the artist performing an invigilator is fired from the gallery for “sabotage” (quote from an exhibitions department manager), due to sharing the legal rights information with fellow colleagues, which is understood as a pure subversive action.
Through the process of overidentification with an idea of contemporary art gallery and legal rights, the performance brings attention to power relations that are representative of the current condition of Russian society and attempts to shift it. It talks of the institutional structures that are run with big international budgets, but perceive their underpaid and undervalued workers as a mere consumable material for the beautifully presented causes. It brings one back to what was Soviet Union’s utilitarian perception of its people, for example.
We see that pretence of the Moscow gallery space to carry contemporary art ideology does not coincide with its workings on the level that goes few inches behind visual presentation. The ethics of Moscow’s private “equivalent of Tate Modern” depends on impulses of those in charge at the moment, and this makes an institution function in the permanent state of exception, as a structure of no rules, but servitude.
For those who observed the process of the performance in its subtle development for the whole three months, some gallery staff and other participants, as instance, the action was intended as something bringing in an alternative narrative and brighter look into the future. The naivety and goodness of an actor-outsider is tactical, however fails to bring anything but the dream of politically organized labour. Due to the failure of the piece to develop more positive scenario, this socially engaged work could also be seen as a live paraphrase of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Idiot”.
The documentation of the performance is presented a set of internet-sourced private view images that document presence of the artist at work.