Oleg Kulik

                                   Dog House

Fargfabriken, Stockholm

March 2, 1996

It was suggested that Kulik produce his Doghouse project wit hin Interpol, an exhibition devoted to the problem of communication. The artist was invited as a sort of a ready-made to stay in a specially built house. The audience was warned that any communication with the artist who denounced the language of culture is dangerous and that no one should cross the borders of his territory. Following the logic of this action Kulik bit a Mr. Lindquist who had neglected the warning. Kulik was arrested by the Swedish police. This performance and the exhibition as a whole aroused scandalous response from the media. Interpol was called an event that divided the art world into East and West. Kulik published an explanation of his action in response to demands made by the Manifesta I curators.


An Open Letter To The Art World

Olivier Zahm, Elein Fleiss, Jan Aman, Catharina Ahlberg, Catti Lindhal, Thomas Lundh, Magnus af Petersens, Matthias Wagner K, Brigitta Muhr, Wenda Gu, Ioanna Theocaropolou, Ulrika Karlsson, Dan Wolgers, Ernst Billgren.

We would like to inform what happened at the opening night of the exhibition Interpol - a global network from Stockholm and Moscow on February 2, 1996, at the Fargfabriken Centre for Contemporary Art and Architecture in Stockholm. 1. Fact: The Interpol Scandal Alexander Brener, Oleg Kulik and the Russian curator Victor Misiano were part of the Interpol project, a collaborative exhibition based on the idea of network and exchange, which opened at the Fargfabriken in Stockholm on February 2. Their intervention in the show, after two years of preparation, took the form of deliberate acts of destruction - physical, mental and ideological aggression - directed against the show, the other artists in the show, the visitors, and against art and democracy. For Oleg Kulik's performance, he played a role of a chained, dangerous dog, and physically attacked visitors (who were seriously shocked and hurt). He also blocked circulation around the show, and began to destroy artworks by other artists, mainly those by Wenda Gu (China/USA) and Ernst Billgren (Sweden). Alexander Brener stopped in the middle of his drum performance, and totally destroyed the main, central installation of the exhibition, a 20-metre-long tunnel of human hair, made by Chinese/American artist Wenda Gu. The opening was turned into total chaos, with large numbers of visitors being mentally shocked and some physically hurt. Brener's and Kulik's brutality was unexpected, and contradicted the intensions they had declared to the Swedish curator before the opening. Kulik was to perform as a dog, but the emphasis was on endurance. He would react only when and if provoked. Brener had declared that he had left art to become a "rock-star" and wanted to do a drum performance. One day after the opening, during a press conference organized by Fargfabriken, the Russian curator of the show, Victor Misiano, described and legitimized this destruction as dynamic artistic action, which he also called "a new expierence" in the catalogue. Alexander Brener, for his part, said that the exhibition had no reason to exist, since it was the "art of slaves", and that he was satisfied with his action. 2. Warning Through this open letter we want to inform the art world (artists, critics, curators, institutions) of the consequences of the collaboration with these people, and to help them see that: 1) What happened at this show reveals the true nature of what Misiano calls "a completely new experience". 2) Misiano is using theory to legitimize a new form of totalitarian ideology. His discourse plays with uses the discourse of art, but in fact has nothing to do with art theory. It is what we would call hooliganism and skinhead ideology. His ultimate ambition is destruction and chaos, in the name of "the new experience". He wants to destroy the art world, since "the only reason for art to exist today is the debate about the destruction of the art world". 3. He wants to inform Hans Ulrich Obrist, Andrew Renton, Rosa Martines and Katalin Neray of the Manifesta team of curators (Misiano declares in the Interpol catalogue that the other curators of the Manifesta "have positively accepted" Misiano's own idea that a curator must "create the new expierence" - and we want to inform everyone else in contact with these three people that they are involved in a direct attack against art, democracy and freedom of expression. This attitude denies every possibility of dialogue between the (former) East and West. It is a speculative and populistic attitude that cannot be accepted as a basis for dialogue. Brener and Kulik do not accept or respect the opinions or expressions of others: they do not even accept the work of fellow artists. Using this alibi of the discourse about the final step in art, Brener is willing to occupy a position as a curator's artist, who denies the possibility of art today. Brener, Kulik and Misiano also represent an attitude that excudes female artists. To carry out these attacks on the artworld at an alternative, independent new art space in Stockholm - peripheral to the main art world - cannot be interpreted as anything other than following the classical model of imperialist behaviour. Why didn' t this happen in the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennial this summer (curated by Victor Misiano). 3. Excerpts From The Catalogue Brener writes: "I intended to become a dissident and deal out my blows in the dark, and not participate in a game which has already been lost. Maybe the foofball hooligans will prove to be my supporters, and not artists and intellectuals. I am prepared for this". Misiano writes: "Artists should produce accidents. Otherwise nobody would pay any attention. How can you find the resources to pay any attention, any interest, to art after having read five pages of kidnapping, killing, corruption, murder? Of course this is imposing a specific condition on society and the culture..." "So the critics are becoming artists themselves, working in the same way as the artists - like the artists that work in the streets as hooligans. They have to produce scandals!" "You have to accept this model of "accidents". And what must be communicated is a killer attitude". "You should shock people, and you should give with your physical gestures and your physical presence some obvious visual synopsis of what they are experiencing. And they are experiencing terrible things. So you must be terrible".

Why Have I Bitten a Man?

An open letter of Oleg Kulik

The text was written under the pressure of the organization committee of "Manifesta I" (Rotterdam I996) and one of its curators, Hans Ulrich Obrist. The organizers were sure that after the Interpol scandal, Kulik's participation in Manifesta

I, could cause too many questions. To prepare the exhibition, they needed some document, some written declaration made by the scandalous artist, that explained his understanding of what had happened. After the exhibition the text "Why Have I Bitten a Man?" was placed on the Internet site of Manifesta I. I am distressed that an absolute clearness of my performance "Dog House" (within the borders of "Interpol") hasn't saved it from wrong interpretation. Why have I stood on all fours? Why have I become a dog? My standing on hands and knees is a conscious falling out of a human horizon, connected with a feeling of the end of  antropocentrism, with a crisis of not just contemporary art but contemporary culture on the whole. I feel its over-saturation of semiosis as my own tragedy, its too refined cultural language that results in misunderstanding, estrangement, and people's mutual irritation.

I thought that in Russia one could feel these processes as nowhere else. I thought, that we were Different, and the cause was inside us, in eternal ambitions of cultural super-power in the situation of insolvent actual cultural events. In Moscow I became a dog, I growled there and demonstrated a dog's devotion to an artist's ambitions. I was not going to export an artist's experience without a language outside the Muscovite context. But while getting to know Western context I found out that my program is applicable there as well.

Art as an addition to a supermarket seems an impasse to me.

For me human stopped to be associated with the notions "alive", "feeling" and "understanding" and started to be associated with the notions "artificial" and "dangerous". I began to look for some basis outside human. But overhuman for me is our bestial nature, which doesn't need any explanation from the outside. I was invited to Stockholm by the curator of the exhibition Jan Aman and the artist Ernst Billgrin, who proclaimed that within that project built upon the communication he preferred a dialogue with animals to the dialogue with people. I was invited as a dog, as a ready-made. I was surprised how quickly they'd reacted to my zoofrenic image. I came to Stockholm and was open for any variant and form of collaboration. To my surprise Ernst Billgrin's ready work was waiting for me: he was not prepared for any kind of collaboration. So I was made to become something different of what I could have become in a dialogue. I became a "reservoir dog". Indifference, frenzy and falsification was in the atmosphere of Fargfabriken - the initiator of the project on communication between East and West. This is what I have experienced together with my Muscovite friends, participants of Interpol. A work of art stopped to become an act of communication and it only enforced alienation and misunders tanding between people. This is an endless Loop.

In the exposition, nothing was left of the primary idea - neither of its sense (the idea of communication ended in rhetoric, to the practical desire of using different foundations of the support of contacts with the Eastern Europe) nor of its practical idea (we witnessed how the organizers had miscarried the Moscow projects). Being in the first place an artist and only then a person on all fours, "a dog", it was unbearable to take part in a farce. But that is not the case. For me art remains a zone of not-falsified, real values and notions. I can't reject this position. To keep my own authenticity I am ready to become a dog or a bird, an insect or a microbe. In Stockholm I didn't bite just a person but the person who had ignored a sign "dangerous" beside my dog-house. By my action I proclaimed one idea: keep away from communication, think about your own and the world's future. This turned out to be impossible.

Obviously I am ready to apologize to those who became avictim of my action: I've done it personally in Stockholm and now I am ready to confirm it in writing.

I hope I wasn't too pathetic for a dog.

Sincerely yours,

Oleg Kulik

March 15, 1996


To Bite or to Lick?

Oleg Kulik


1. It is the first time when I take part in the dialog concerning the Stockholm events as Oleg Kulik, so I want to say a few words about my present attitude to Interpol , its esthetical meaning and the problem which I formulate (in order to preserve the succession between Kulik and Oleg Kulik) as the to bite or to lick problem. This question might seem to have narrow specifics if one insists on the dog perspective, or too playful, if one insists on the human point of view. First of all, I wouldn't like my transformation into an animal (a dog, a bird, a bull, an ape, a fish etc.) refer to my personal neurotic sphere. This practice has two important aspects for me: 1) it is about the position of contemporary Russia , its present image in the East-West opposition and, respectively, about the position of the Eastern artist on the international stage; 2) it is about my individual esthetical strategy of becoming an animal and rehabilitating an animal in myself which is developed in cooperation with Mila Bredikhina. The Zoophrenia program is a response to important processes evolving in culture today.

2. The search for dents has always been morbid in Russia . The question «to bite or to lick ”has always had a principle importance for the Russian intelligentsia. During the revolution or in the 30s it was no less radical than the famous Hamlet's question to be or not to be. In mature Soviet period it was even more acute than today as Russian emigrants still seem to believe. But it was not so. At that time this could only mean little bites or little licks , because the third party the West, Western democracy, Western way of life was involved in the Russian rivalry of the authorities and the intelligentsia as a sort of a eferee. The Russian dissident intellectual who went abroad, as far as possible, to bite the bad aster as hard as possible, lost any opportunity to do it and eventually turned into a lap-dog with exceeding social temperament. The need to lick the new master from time to time distracted rom biting the old one. The sincere and impecunious ”agents of the Western way of life” who stayed at home were distracted from biting the bad old master by the desire to lick the new one. This is only a model, far be it from me to become an accuser because I was an active participant of that process of biting a little and licking a little . It is no fun to have no house of your own, no stable values of your own. It is a historical tragedy. A historical farce, probably. I think the situation has changed irreversibly. I think that today many artists of the ”Eastern block countries” have ealized that one must have a house of his own , even if it has been destroyed or never completed, even it is not comfortable. My Dog House Interpol project is, from my present point of view, a yearning for a house of my own which retains its identity, its smell, where one could hide like Diogenes, which could be guarded, where one could receive guests, conduct a dialogue, although the yearning for it was not fully understood then. I'm afraid that Kulik did not have any choice two years ago. Having marked a territory for himself, he had to observe the rules of the game. Today I'm not inclined to find any excuses for myself or to justify those rules. One thing is clear: the rules must be the same for all.

3. I will not dwell on the familiar problem concerning the disappearance of the geopolitical Other, the appearance of vacuum in its place and complicated processes where both Russia and the West were involved. The position of Igor Zabel is close to my own I mean his recent article about the dialogue between the East and the West which he published in the Art Press and devoted to the Stockholm Interpol project. I, in person, have had the existential experience mentioned by Zabel which Ilya Kabakov regarded as the experience of the ”culturally relocated person” in Stockholm in 1994. In the West the Russian artist actually as and still remains an orphan visiting his prosperous friend. The family and its ”bourgeois” nature which has exhausted his Western friend seemed to be ultimate well-being for him, and the permitted criticism of his Western friend seemed to be true freedom. Two years after Kabakov's speech in Stockholm I experienced on my own hide his suggestion that the enfant terrible behavior was allowed only to the legitimate son and only within the limits determined by the parents. Police is called in the opposite case, which is quite logical. I could add a few things. Even when you are invited for a visit in a well-known role (and I was in vited in a well-known role of Kulik the Dog), you must forget your own ideas and rules, you must guess and display only those things which stay within the limits outlined by your Western ”parents”. Police enters in any other case. There is an extensive bibliography about the Interpol developments. It was a project exclusively devoted to the West-East dialogue in the new political situation, an attempt to find a new protocol and the procedure of this dialogue. The result is well-known. The ”open letter” of the thirteen was widely discussed in art journals. No comment is needed. I will refer again to Igor Zabel who revealed the methods used to realize the domination of the necessary and, consequently, the only codification. I believe that the Interpol result is natural and very important. It is conditioned precisely by the lack of behavior rules observed by both parties in the new situation. The dialogue between the West and the East, just as any productive dialogue, is impossible if any of the parties to it does not need it very much. The dialogue presupposes vital interests in its result and a firm position. A dialogue, as a rule, is a clash and aggression (I don’t mean biting Lenard Linquist for which I hope to apologize some day, I mean the totalitarian authority of language, the aggression of any message).

I was invited to Stockholm as a ready made. I was provided with a nice doghouse and a chain of the size which was more adequate to a furious bull. Nobody wondered why I became a dog, what cultural tradition this transformation fits in. Everybody wanted to see nothing but a Russian watchdog. The rules of the game were not discussed. It was a mistake made by both parties. (A symptomatic mistake, so it is worth to be discussed again). By the way, if the dog is repressed by its master who calls it ”severe bringing”, for instance, ”teaching the true culture” or something else, the dog has to face an alternative: - it is either to accept the rules of the game without thinking whether they are fair and reasonable, without protesting under any conditions (to lick, lick and lick , in other words!), - or to defend its point of view, its right to be heard, to express opposition to the proposed rules, to insist on its own rules (to bite, bite and bite , in other words!).

In the first case, the dog could expect regular encouragement, perhaps, it will be even patted behind the ear. In the other case, it is to be mercy killed.

I have solved this problem within the framework of Interpol, choosing the second alternative. Don’t think that it was an easy choice. Art is not a Sunday occupation for me. For me, and for Russia, the question to bite or to lick is a survival issue, of the physical, geopolitical, cultural survival. It is a vital concern. The Interpol show esthetically expressed the real complexity of the problem concerning the place of Russia in Europe and the potential for a dialogue with it. Unfortunately, the esthetical aspect of the event remained underestimated.

 4. I did not take part in the two-year communication marathon which was run by all Interpol participants. I was invited at the last minute. Meantime, I ran over half a Europe on all fours. I barked desperately in Berlin and Strasbourg, Moscow, Rotterdam, Zurich and other cities. Passers-by and police behave in different ways in the West and in the East. I could write a guide-book comparing the behavior of police and people in the streets of different European cities. But this difference is not important. People are everywhere. Everywhere nothing human is alien to them (nihil humanum, etc.). Everywhere they make mistakes, hate, feel compassion and do not understand each other. My stay in dog's skin taught me to tolerate human weaknesses. I must say that, from the point of view of a dog , West and East have much more in common than they have differences.

5. And, at last, using the chance when I cannot drop the language of culture, I will note that the question of biting or licking , besides raising social, psychological and esthetical problems, provokes the discussion of a wide range of theoretical issues which are important for contemporary art. The problem is that the metaphysical difference between the human being and the animal is the last thing that avoids deconstruction, according to Jacques Derrida. The place of the human being in nature as a problem refers to the program of ”deep ecology” (here I prefer to limit myself by the reference to a brilliant article by Renata Salecl entitled Love my Dog if You Love Me published by the Index journal).

Biting or licking as a problem refers to the above-mentioned Diogenes test of the relativity of human behavior norms, to the revision of these norms by the ”canine” behavior.

It also refers to the old dispute between Dr. Pavlov and Dr. Freud (the Pavlov's Dog project, produced in cooperation with Mila Bredikhina in Rotterdam was devoted to it), to important ethical issues of eugenics and cloning. Though I, as an artist, am especially interested in the unlimited research and projecting potential present in the topics of the animal as a non-anthropomorphic Other of the human being, the animal as an unalienable alter ego of the human being hiding inside it from the repressions of severe socialization. The human being is an animal, first and foremost, and only after that it is a social animal. But the difference between these two animals is so great, that they have not been able to conduct a dialogue for millennia. For several years I have offered myself (Kulik) as an interpreter, a mediator. And I was not unsuccessful, I can say. It is much more difficult to participate in the dialogue as a human being, for the animal, unlike the human being, allows itself to recklessly insist upon its rig