action “Guerra di torta” /
300 cream cakes with 2100 cherries, 30 participants in evening attire, 15 round tables, white tablecloths, red carpets
The happening took place on November 7, 2000 in the big hall of Malkasten Künstlerverein, Düsseldorf, Germany
On November 7, 2000 in the artistic center of Malkasten Künstlerverein, Düsseldorf, with witness of a large audience 30 people in evening gowns, invited by Alexej Koschkarow, gathered to take part in happening Tortenschlacht (the Cake War). The artist had found the participants by sending out invitations to his friends and simply random recipients. As a result, the happening had a very diverse range of participants, from couriers to people of high society. The room was separated with tape, creating a distinction between the ones participating in the “theatrical production” and the audience. 300 white cakes with 2100 cherries were cooked specially for the happening and placed on the 15 tables in a strict geometrical order.
At the beginning everything looked like a regular VIP drink reception, accompanying the contemporary art exhibition opening at respectable institutions, when the audience in ceremonial attires leisurely saunter with glasses of champagne. In some time, without any special signal from the artist, one of the participants threw the first cake, and the “battle” began. All the participants started throwing the arranged cakes at each other. They were falling down, getting up, and gathering the cream, throwing it again, and so on to the absolute exhaustion until the last piece of cake. In 20 minutes the action was finished by itself and the participants dispersed to the restrooms.
This grotesque action was observed by the visitors of Malkasten center, which is known for its restaurants and sophisticated art discussion traditions from the mid-19th century. The whole happening was documented by several cameras. Alexej Koschkarow chose the most democratic approach for the event, when performance becomes not a therapeutic session for self-analysis of the artist, but a truly egalitarian and group action. The action of the performance started with the group of more-or-less acquainted people and spread to an up-to-the-minute community, who shared the experience of existence in the specific situation. By making his performance Koschkarow appropriates the cultural meme of the Cake Battle, and brings it to a new location and a new audience (middle and upper class). Thus, he throws together two cultural contexts in the same room: a happening based on slapstick comedies and the space of the respectable art center.
Alexej Koschkarow is famous for his neo-baroque monumental sculptures and installations that refer both nostalgically and ironically to the historical quotes, the tradition of “Potemkin villages” and perfect simulation, which severely reflects the spirit of postmodern neo-historicism in the Belarusian art of the late 90’s. Many of his works, including the kinetic elements and performing practice, become a sort of performance-sculpture, as it was in the case of Tischfeurwerk (Table Fireworks) in 2001. In that work, using expensive materials, he created the model of the building (Haus Fürstenberg, Xanten, Germany), where the exhibition took place, and detonated it at the opening ceremony, turning the entire space into the flame-smoke fireworks.
Alexej Koschkarow (born 1972, Minsk, Belarus) – artist.
Lives and works in New York, USA
Text: Vadim Dobrovolsky, Sergey Shabohin, KALEKTAR ©
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