actions “I am not …”,
2008 – 2012
Video documentation. Actions in public spaces, Minsk, Belarus
Mikhail Gulin performed a series of important public actions in Minsk. The actions were designed as art experiments and situations for random public. In 2008, Gulin started a series of actions “I am not …”, in which he disguised himself as a given provocative character and walking out of his studio or apartment, he followed a certain itinerary in the city. An assistant cameraman documented the reaction of the city dwellers to the artist. Mikhail Gulin chose stereotypical characters treated with prejudice in Belarusian society – “partisan”, “terrorist”, “homosexual”, “American” – underlining the clichés related to them in his outfit. At the same time, he held a sign with a handwritten text on it – “Ich bin kein Partisan”, “I am not a terrorist”, “I am not gay”, “I am not a Yankee” – creating dissonance between his looks and the negation of the chosen image. Subsequently, the artist continued the series, including other countries, highlighting the tabooed and clichéd local characters.
In 2010, Mikhail Gulin created a large post-minimalist sculpture reminiscent of a huge molehill and went drifting with it across Minsk, accompanied by a cameraman, filming the object in various urban spaces, as well as the reaction of the viewers who were encouraged by the artist to interact with the object. The sculpture was conceived as a way of working with urban space, aimed no longer at identifying social phobias, but at the problematization of that space. By the end of the day, the hole was occupied by a woman who used it as a tribune for telling the tragic story of her life. The very idea of a portable sculpture allows, on the one hand, to overcome the alienation inherent in Minsk, which is reflected in the fact that citizens can not influence the way the streets and squares of their native city look, and, on the other, to create something like a monument to the future – individualized, mobile and interactive at the same time. The artist exhibits this Situationist work titled “Hole” as a video documentation along with the object itself.
On October 9, 2012, the artist prepared another drift through the city as part of the international Minsk festival Going Public. On Difficulties of Public Expression, initiated by the Goethe-Institut. Mikhail Gulin designed a minimalist abstract sculpture made of several cubes (40 х 40 cm) and one rectangular block (120 х 40 cm), painted yellow and pink, and with his assistants he visited all big city squares, building temporary sculptural variations from the blocks and taking pictures of them. The action titled “Personal Monument” was interrupted on Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk, where the artist was arrested by the police, his work confiscated and his assistants beaten. A case was filed to the court, which, luckily, declared the artist not guilty. However, the arrest led to the festival’s cancellation and Mikhail Gulin was fired from the professor’s position at the Belarusian National Technical University.
The artist plans the imagery and approximate itinerary of his actions, but he never calculates their outcome. As can be seen from his experience, radical public expression and artistic intervention are risky, while the reaction of the Belarusian society demonstrates fear, aggression and alienation once again.
Mikhail Gulin (born 1977, Gomel, Belarus) – artist, curator.
Lives and works in Minsk, Belarus.
Text: Sergey Shabohin, KALEKTAR ©
This is a shortened version of the text. Full article is under construction.