Tag Archives: Ukraine

The Russian manifesto on crisis avoidance

Ideas have immense power over people.

I know an antique dealer who’d kill a customer for saying, “Oh, what a great baroque piece!” while pointing at a gothic chest of drawers. The guy believes dating is sacred. No wonder he’s single: his attempts at the other kind of dating failed because women he met were attributing themselves to a different epoch. You don’t discount 42 to 35 in front of a man whose profession is about pinning a proper age tag onto the object he is about to acquire.

I also know a president, who believes his country is surrounded by enemies, which can’t sleep properly until his motherland is destroyed. Wolves of evil circle the clearing, waiting for the lonely pilgrim to nod off. So he sets fire around his camp torching up all the surrounding countries, and shoots at the firemen coming to the rescue, taking them for the Hounds of Hell that lurk in the fiery darkness.

You’d say it is not rational, and hence unlikely. One of the firemen would shout out for the pilgrim to stop shooting. I am sure one of them will. But if you are certain they are the proverbial Hounds of Hell, you’d just murmur, “No, you devilish creatures, I can see through your foul tricks!” and keep shooting. It is not about what’s real or true and what’s not. It is all about beliefs. Irrational behaviour in otherwise normal people is just as common as rational actions of complete psychos.

If you are convinced that Anglo-Saxons and Zionists conspire to turn Russia into a failed state (which is the prevalent theory in Russia right now), Russian politics start making sense.

The problem is that Russian politics are represented by very real tanks, soldiers, and nukes.

Today, we witness the Russian belief in a global conspiracy against it materialising into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if originally it was a figment of Putin’s imagination, it becomes real as the world watches Putin’s actions. Other nations start thinking they indeed would be better off with Russia in a restraint jacket.

Is there a way out of it? No one wants a war, bloodshed, shelling, refugees, and sanctioned poverty. Surely, everyone has good intentions, including the Russian President.

In a situation like that, good intentions help as much as a bullet-proof vest on board of a sinking ship.

That’s how it works.

Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Savitsky, Morning in a Pine Forest, 1889

Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Savitsky, Morning in a Pine Forest, 1889

Imagine a bear wanders into a hunter’s lodge in search for food.

A half-naked hunter barely escapes, slipping out through a small window at the back. He picks up his rifle at the last moment. He then buttresses the door from the outside with a log, and makes a 911 call.

The call is received by an operator who is incidentally a PETA activist, and before she calls a team from the nearest zoo, she makes sure a group of her fellow PETA members is on site to prevent any harm that may come the bear’s way.

The bear is barricaded inside the lodge, and PETA activists create a shield around the hut, waiting for the arrival of a suitable transport to take the bear to a safe location in the forest.

peta-not-bear-skinThe bear sees a crowd of people outside. They are very loud and aggressive, chanting something about bears, hunters, and fur hats (here the bear shudders) in hysterical voices. The bear’s best guess is that it is going to be killed. Hunters are known to have killed bears before, you know, so in human terms, it is an educated guess. The bear wants to find a way out of the wooden hut and run, run, run back to the forest: any bear knows it is dumb to confront an army.

After an hour of thrashing around, the bear is seconds away from ripping the door off its hinges and storming outside.

There’s no gun with a sedative bullet yet, just a regular one.

The hunter wants to train his rifle on the door to catch the bear disoriented when it emerges from the lodge. He knows there would be no second chance to create the first impression with a bear that size.

PETA activists shout that a pointed rifle may provoke the bear to assault people, and that it is better to throw out the gun altogether, because the bear would simply run off to the woods.

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Now, add to the scene a bear cub that was discovered by PETA activists outside the lodge. It is a cute fluffy ball of fur, and very hungry. One of the activists takes a bottle of milk to feed the poor creature. The father-bear sees a human grabbing the cub and realises one of the cubs has been following its father to the lodge. The scary thought “They gonna take my son!” flashes through the bear’s mind.

The bear doubles up its efforts to break out.

The hunter cocks up his rifle.

PETA activists keep shouting at the hunter to lower the gun.

They all, including the bear, mean frigging well and are behaving noble-mindedly, god after all being on their side.

As the bear comes out with the door turned into flying shrapnel splinters, the hunter pulls the trigger, trying not to hurt a PETA activist, and… just wounds the animal. Wounded bear massacres activists, with the first to be ripped open being the one feeding the cub. Then the bear goes for the hunter. No one can outrun a wounded bear.

When the police arrive at the scene (which they see as a massacre site), they aim for the head and finish the bear with a dozen accurate shots.

That’s when they see a zoo van pulling in.

Oh, the important detail: the hunter was out there in the forest on a fishing trip, originally.

You may think it is now irrelevant, until you realise it was the surviving fish that benefited in this conflict, ultimately.


Now think of the bear cub as Ukraine.

Think of PETA activists, protesting that the gun is trained on the door, as Western “lefties” (that’s not difficult to imagine at all).

Think of the hunter as Western “righties”.

The bear itself is, well, Russia.

There’s no police within a thousand light-years.

The fish is somewhere in China.

The time is now.

What are the chances that the zoo van pulls in before the bear is out of the lodge?

Slim.


Could the whole mess be avoided?

Yes, and here’s my manifesto on crisis avoidance strategy:

a) Avoid people who want to impose their ideas on others. They are well-meaning bears.

If (a) fails:

(b) Make sure your bear is fed, whatever or whoever it is. If it is not your bear, install electric fence.

(c) Do not allow liberally-minded and well-meaning people to manage a crisis

(d) Shoot to solve the problem, not aggravate it

(e) If you can’t solve the problem, hide to not become a part of it

If (b) to (e) failed, RUN or put on a Justin Bieber song, or find its equivalent.

P.S. No bears, hunters, or PETA activists suffered while this post was being written, but some people actually died in Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, which means the bear is not necessarily Russia, and the fish is not always in China. And no, I am not feeling light-hearted about it.

Keep Feeling Sorry and Carry On

Angela Merkel believes the Russian President has lost any connection with reality and is currently living in his own world of grandeur delusions. He aspires to ascend to a historical figure of such proportion that would warrant a burial alongside Russian Tsars in a tomb similar to that of Napoleon. Marble, bronze, a raised pedestal, and an annual military parade to commemorate his birthday.

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To my readers from Ukraine: I am sorry I won’t go campaigning against the atrocity of Russia’s invading Ukraine. Russia is a state where freedom of expressing opinion does not exist. That is, one can whisper what one thinks but please refrain from shouting out loud. The borders are open (yet), but I happen to live on the inside. So, I have to respect the prison rules, or emigrate and enjoy civil rights. I have obligations towards a lot of people to live and work in Russia for now.

Were I living elsewhere, I’d be in front of the Russian Embassy protesting against the invasion.

For the time being, I’ll have to keep feeling sorry and carry on.

Sorry.

*****

The above does not mean I see Ukraine all white and fluffy in this conflict. Nationalistic frenzy of the first few days with complete disregard of the fear that some of the Ukraine’s East felt about nationalists “occupying” the Parliament (Rada) and invading executive branches is responsible for much of the unrest.

And of course the nationalism card has been played by the Russian propaganda machine, which still remembers how to make Goebbels go green with envy.

This is what I’ve taken from a Russian news site a moment ago.

Women complained that as soon as a group of citizens started collecting signatures in support of Victor Yanukovich, they began receiving threats. Representatives of the new powers in Ukraine are also engaged in extortion.

“Odessa citizens (a town in the South of Ukraine) are crying! The city is flooded with proclamations saying that the new commandant (appointed from Kiev) requests people to list all their property and give 50% of it to him. He also requested people to make duplicates of their house keys, for their flats would be given over to fighters with Russia (coming over from the Western Ukraine) to use for living, storing ammunition, and hospitals. The flyers claim those people who support Russia will be prosecuted.”

It is amazing how much this kind of propaganda resembles North Korea: this poster shows what American imperialists were doing to communist fighters during the war:

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I am sure Mr Putin encourages and uses this propaganda, but he doesn’t believe it. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to trust it unconditionally.

Having said that, it is important to remember that even a passing reference to Ukrainian nationalism scares Russian Ukrainians into action: whenever a nationalist force came to power, it was massacring Russians, Jews, or Polish with equal pleasure. One of the new leaders of Ukraine (and the leading nationalist) is famous for using exactly the same lexicon as Hitler’s media about Jews and Russians, so it is really awkward to say Ukrainian nationalism poses no threat to the Russian-speaking population.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Kyiv (Kiev) in the last few years. My encounters with people with nationalist mindset were always reminding me of the fact my granddad was a Jew. My encounters with people brandishing their Russian imperialistic banners were just as horrid.

So it was stupid to put these people on the front page of New Ukraine (revised edition) without balancing it off with an equal measure of respect towards the needs and wants of Eastern Ukrainians. It was even more stupid in a position of weakness: their new state was just emerging from the ruin!

Mr Putin is never the one to pass an unconscious beautiful woman without taking her with all his judoistic might. The fact that her barely conscious husband is lying beside her does not even begin to represent a moral dilemma. 

He is certain that if he doesn’t take the woman, the US will. And they will beget children who one day would descent onto Russia and make it a slave resource supplier for American capitalists.

It may sound a bit bizarre, but that’s his mindset. You may joke about it, support it, hate it – BUT IT IS SUICIDAL NOT TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THE MINDSET OF A POWERFUL BRUTE WHO OWNS THE NEIGHBOURING FLAT WHEN YOU DECIDE TO COMPLETELY REBUILD YOUR OWN. 

It is not clever, isn’t it? Not practical, not strategic, not politically wise: there are many things it is not. Suicidal, is the only thing it is.

The clash of a band of unarmed idiots (with at least one known nazi in their group) with a fully armed Mr Putin is very likely to lead to a war.

My only hope is that Ukrainians and Russians are so much more clever and so much less trigger-happy than their leaders, respectively. Against all odds

P.S. Good news: Russia’s leading (and Kremlin-affiliated) public opinion agency reports ca.75% of Russians don’t want their army to go into Ukraine. 

Contemporary art: ultimate success recipe

Banksy’s latest stunt was to sell his signed (!) paintings at $60 each during a whole day in New York, anonymously, from a pop-up stall. This earned him a bit over $400 (still not bad for a street sale if you’re not a big name, right?). Some of the paintings on offer were worth over $200,000.

Those of us who love Banksy’s art and/or money could now extract and export their envy. If only liquified envy could sell!

Two days before the stunt, a Ukrainian TV channel (“Ukraina”) invited Miss Natural Breasts to their talk show and its viewership skyrocketed.

Oh, and in case you missed Banksy news, here is the video of the event.

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There’s a guy closer to the end of the reel who bought 4 paintings to liven up empty walls in his new flat in Chicago. His collection is now worth $500 000 to $750 000. I wonder if he is aware of the fact, for it alone could infuse colour in his life, even if the walls stay empty.

WHAT CAN THESE TWO UNRELATED FACTS TELL US ABOUT ART?

Contemporary art wants to first shock us and then make us think about an issue that the author thought important to ponder on.

Tits of this size shock us and make us dream our own personalised dreams. At least, this is what happens to the male part of the audience.

IF A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST SENDS US DREAMING AFTER THE INITIAL SHOCK (INVOLUNTARY DREAMING AT THE DEEP AND “PRIMITIVE” LEVEL), AND CAN DO IT WITHOUT USING IMAGERY OF FEMALE BREASTS, (S)HE WOULD BE A NEW PICASSO.

This is the ultimate recipe.

I know some of my art-loving readers may start hating me if I don’t post the link to the TV show. It was a good show, with a lot of respect towards the girl, but people of feminist persuasion may start feeling dizzy. I’m just sayin’. Oh, it is in Russian, no subtitles, and the lady appears closer to the end of the show.

Stupidity * Ignorance = Love for Renaissance?!

It is universally acknowledged that a rags-to-riches man in possession of the burning desire to be seen as a “cultural” human must be in want of some arts.

This is why defining beauty for today’s rags-to-riches men, as well as selling it to them, is such a thriving, crisis-immune business. What a few selected critics or gallerists define as art, becomes instantly marketable to those who confuse this definition for an axiom. Unlike omelette, which requires real eggs for it to be cooked, contemporary art does not need to have real art as an ingredient. Contemporary art is defined by a belief system of a few super-rich men. If they have been made to believe 30 grams of artist’s shit is art, it becomes art because they are the ones who can pay a hundred thousand dollars for a shallow gesture of irony and bitterness (the artist’s father owned a canning factory and once told his son that his art was crap).

Stocking art or buying a football club?

The question of why the newly minted super-rich want to possess contemporary art has been answered a million times before. They want to change the hoodies of ruthless thugs (the public opinion is locked onto the concept that Fortune favours those on whom Justice turns a blind eye) for the elitist white robes of contemporary leaders. There are only two ways to cut it: becoming an art connoisseur or buying a football club. While the latter is made somewhat inconvenienced by the limited supply of clubs, the former is inexhaustible.

I am sure a lot of art-world people are doing what they are doing not just for money, but out of the sheer enjoyment of working a small miracle each time they sell something. Just imagine the fun of persuading a yesterday’s thug from Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan who got suddenly rich by siphoning money from the budgets of their respective countries, or an oil sheikh, or a Chinese communist party bureaucrat that canned shit is art. Priceless! And, of course there is the buyer’s premium and dealer’s commission.

Now, there are super rich entrepreneurs who have risen from a background so humble that they don’t have the minimum mental capacity to understand that the magic wand capable of turning them into contemporary leaders is made with contemporary art. Guys, you can’t buy Botticelli and expect people to respect you for that. Everyone knows Botticelli is old, established, museum-quality, national-heritage type of art. You can only go for Botticelli if you hand it over to your national government. Otherwise, you are seen as a greedy, insensitive and stoopid thug, and that’s exactly the starting point from which you wanted to distance yourself! Oh, and if you buy Botticelli to hand it over to the people of your country, remember to do it only after you’ve amassed a collection of contemporary art. Otherwise, that Botticelli affair is likely to be seen not as an act of generosity but as you praying and paying for forgiveness of past sins, and that’s not leader’s quality. “Botticelli” here stands for any globally-recognised old master, of course.

Now, I want you to meet someone.

Let me introduce two brothers who have never read this blog and missed the opportunity to get enlightened on the subject of contemporary art. They have bought their “Botticellis”.

Meet the Kluev brothers from the East of Ukraine, the land of coal mines, steel-makers, and – allegedly – gangsters. I wonder why no one thought of changing the name for that part of Ukraine to Urkaine, as the word “urka” means a gangster in the old Stalinist lingo. I am sure Ukrainians from the Western Ukraine would love the idea, regardless of how untrue it is.

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My grand-granddad had been a coal mine engineer there, until the moment Stalin’s NKVD decided he was an enemy of the people. A half of staff in my Kiev office is from Donetsk (one of the largest cities there), and they are the smartest people in psychology, sociology, marketing, and common sense that you can hope to get in any world capital. So, the Eastern origin of the Kluev brothers does not automatically mean they have been gangstering at the start of their careers. Look at their jaws sagging in amazement (in sync!) at such a suggestion.

The Kluev brothers are the personification of business & government marriage that people enter to beget money, just like rock and roll were married to provide fun to its listeners.

They are filthy rich, shrouded in security and secrecy. Their photographs are rare, and pictures of anything that can be described as “theirs” are even rarer. The “Reason Why” stares at you from this picture:

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This is one of their bodyguards. He got famous after he introduced himself to a reporter taking pictures of the brothers’ car as, “My name? My-Dick-In-Your-Ass is my name!” Paparazzi may be willing to sacrifice the integrity of their faces for a great shot, but they still value their lives and the wholeness of their bottoms a tad above it.

Were you a Kluev brother, what would you want after a day of rubbing shoulders with a brute who loves to associate himself with a violent penis?

You’d want beauty. Loads of beauty. Pools of beauty to rinse the mind and wash the body.

Thanks to a construction worker (either extremely brave or just having suicidal tendencies), who published pics of the brothers’ house interior, we can be administered a spoonful of Kluev brothers’ style and refinement.

I need to warn you before you decide to click on any of the images. It is an atrocity against architecture and the gold-dripping interiors of an uncertain mixture of styles you’ll see there can burn a few thousand neurons out of existence.

As I scrolled down the online page with the pics, one of the images STRUCK me like a flying ball.

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What? Excuse me?

Andrea Mantegna?! Who thought COPYING a Renaissance masterpiece was a good idea? I mean, buying a “Botticelli” is not right, but buying a fake “Botticelli” is stupidity squared.

And in this case, it is not just getting a fake Mantegna, it is murdering Mantegna’s ideas along the way!

Look at the beauty Mantegna created in the Ducal Palace in Mantua:

Frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi; scene: vault fresco detail; 1473

The vault fresco is the summit of the frescoed room, featuring scenes from Ludoviko Gonzago’s life (historians still debate which ones) and intricate design.

This is just one of the walls, but you can have a better look at it here:

I don’t think the Kluev brothers ordered the whole chamber to be copied. Unless, of course, they ordered something in the style of Mantegna, but depicting their own life.

I’d buy a ticket to see it.

As an afterthought, I wonder if the Kluev brothers understand the bridal symbolism of the fresco on their ceiling. I think the one who explains it to them will doom their interior designer to a slow and painful death.

I am afraid the new breed of rich and powerful from developing countries will continue corrupting art in the years to come, just as they’ve done to their own developing economies. Except that in the case of art, the effects will be global.

Any ideas on how this sad process can be stopped?

If this is your first time here, you can sample stuff in this blog by clicking on ABOUT at the top of the page. You’ll find links to some of my best or typical posts there. There’s an Art & Fun shelf if you feel like in need of a laugh. You can also sign up for my posts to be delivered right into your hands using the form on the right.

Sources of photographs I used in this post: 1 and 2 (the text is in Russian)

The myth of Ukrainian beauty

In Kiev, when you go outside, you don’t see a higher number of beautiful women compared to, say, London or Moscow. You see more women wearing fake Chanel bags, you see more women wearing very glitzy t-shirts, and very tight and short skirts that could be mistaken for wide belts, and more women who dye their hair in some bizarre DIY ways than in London (not necessarily than in Moscow).

Yet, there is a myth that Ukrainian women are more beautiful and accessible than women from other countries.

No.

They are more obsessed with external beauty and being slim, that’s true.  Their average slimness defies Western dietary recommendations, according to which Ukrainian cuisine is only good for people who want to become instantly and terminally overweight, and the last meal of a condemned prisoner.

But I understand how this myth is maintained against all the evidence to the contrary.

This is a low-price/discounter pharmacy window, and it promises SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS LARGE AND SMALL.

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And no, the lady on the poster does not work inside. I bought toothpaste there (they don’t have scissors or nail-cutters though. Blast )

You see a lot of such “advertising” around the town, creating a false impression that everything here is run by blond models in high heels. The truth is, today there are more  girls wearing flat sandals, natural colour hair, and intelligent look on their faces in the streets of Kiev than a year ago.

Advertising in Kiev is made by guys who overdosed on Mad Men, but art also plays a role in the perpetuation of Ukrainian beauty myth.

This is the most expensive photograph (so far) ever sold in an auction that was made by two Ukrainian artists, Vitaly and Elena Vassiliev. Husband and wife I assume.

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US$ 63,400, without the buyer’s premium.

Myth or no myth, even Ukrainian political process is coloured by sex. Take FEMEN. They  protested against treating Ukrainian women as more accessible by going topless.

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Perhaps,  no one told them the simple truth about making a statement: when men see naked titties they stop thinking rationally and only think of, you know, what they are exposed to, so the envelope is not only returned to sender, it goes back with a very different letter inside.