kraftemessen by haralampi g. oroschakof

Kraftemessen/Contending Forces: Concept by Haralampi G. Oroschakoff Munich

“Kraftemessen/Contending Forces” was a project of contemporary Russian art with the goal of instigating intellectual discussion and communication. Initiated and conceived by Haralampi G. Oroschakoff, it was realized in cooperation with the Russian curators/philosophers Margarita Tupitsyn (New York), Boris Groys (Cologne), Viktor Misiano (Moscow), and numerous Russian artists. The project consisted of 12 cultural events, including exhibitions, symposia, literary and musical performances, and readings. The idea for the show emerged from prolonged discussions with Russian artists, who felt that their own respective positions and general sociocultural situation in the former Soviet Union were not properly reflected in conventional Western exhibitions.

Moscow Boogie-Woogie

We stepped outside and stood in front of the house. The street was quiet. At the next corner a few meters away, “pseudoamerikanzi” were toiling away in noisy cheerfulness. Somebody should tell them that the 80’s are over, I thought in exasperation. The decade of machines for the destruction of money, on the other hand, had passed without leaving behind any discernible traces. While we walked down the dark street, I recalled a series of projects that confronted the rigid sham problematic of art “isms” of the 70’s with a superior opportunity for the senses. The prevailing mood was good and allowed things to come into being. Not for long. What we had in mind as a continuation of concept art only paved the way for the senseless variation of the “Paradis artificiels” and led to a fatal strategy of lust and excess. “They don’t know anything about us, nothing at all…” Kostja said as we turned off at the site of the ruins. “No.” I shook my head, “and why should they? There is a natural boundary between Latin and Byzantine culture. It’s misleading because of the fact that it occurs on supposedly European soil.” “Do you feel like seeing the Petljura?” Boris asked. “There’s a party there tonight.” During the drive there I learned that this so-called “Petljura,” named after the Cossack general from the period of the revolution, was a commune of the most varied artists; the anti-establishment as a self-administered discotheque.

The car stopped in a wide deserted street. A trelliswork fence separated the dark rows of houses. A wooden fence with a crooked door. Somebody in a state of inebriation stumbled out. Snippets of greetings were exchanged here and there, and we entered a large courtyard. Toward the back, in the gleaming spotlight, a boisterous crowd frolicked to the music of the 60’s. A bright beam of light in the midst of the darkness. I stepped into a water hold. Kostja and Borja had already gone on ahead and were mingling with walking, dancing, or sitting people, projecting gigantic shadows on the surrounding walls of the houses– a Kubelka film. Kostja stood in the middle of the “dance floor” and pointed at me. “That’s Harlampii” he said to the heavy-set man with long hair and beard. This man’s shirt was unbuttoned, and his body gleamed with perspiration as he held out his right hand to greet me. An open bottle in his left hand spilled vodka with every movement. He held the bottle up to me and grunted a “Sergej” and all sorts of other things in my face. I made an effort and said “My pleasure.” I passed the bottle to Borja. The music droned louder from the loudspeaker. Everybody was jumping around, pushing and shoving each other in an incessant commotion. A number of attractive women strutted about in high heel shoes, not taking any notice of me. Sergej pushed me down a narrow flight of stairs, and entered the “bar.” The room was cramped and low and dominated on one side by a makeshift bar of wooden slats. Behind it stood an elderly man with the face of an experienced alcoholic. He wore cowboy apparel with a fringed jacket in black velour leather, black gloves, and a pistol holster. Two silver pistols dangled in it. He gave me a cold stare and not a muscle twinged in his face. I said “Howdy stranger.” There’s nothing more embarrassing than to be the only one to laugh at your own jokes. I ordered a round. We drank to the rebirth of the Russian soul; uncertain times prevailed. A number of times. Just to be on the safe side; I smoked like a chimney, and my reaction level mutated to a level crossing barrier. All the walls were covered with posters–Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa. I went back to the dance floor, looked for a wooden crate and settled down on a fresh puddle of homemade wine. Pure lust within a context that obstructs real correspondences. The gigantic courtyard was enclosed on all sides by housing complexes. Lights burnt everywhere, rusty equipment lay about, and mountains of rubbish stood piled high. Sometime later a visibly intoxicated Borja staggered by and earnestly assured me that we would have to stay here. “It would be absolute suicide to take a taxi at this time of the night, you know, it’s just too late–and anyway the old lady, you know, our neighbor, she always blocks the door to the stairs with a cane, so we wouldn’t be able to get in.” He left me behind disgruntled and disappeared into the building at the rear. I decided to follow him, went inside the large house and climbed the partly demolished staircase to the top floor. I heard voices somewhere and followed them to the crowded kitchen. Young people stood about, leaned on or sat at the table. Kostja was telling stories. When I entered everybody stared at me inquisitively and fell silent. I wanted to say something cheerful, but my words tumbled to the ground like lead. Thank goodness somebody in the group asked me something. He introduced himself as Maxim and offered to show me his film. I carelessly said, “Yes, I’d like to see it…” An unimagined flurry of activity ensued. Maxim ran immediately out of the kitchen, calling loudly for a super-8 projector while his friends transformed the place into a screening room. A young girl bent over me from behind and said softly, “We’ve made a bed for you in the next room.” I looked around. Kostja was nowhere to be seen, it was impossible to talk to Borja and the film was ready for screening. Only Maxim, the creator, was still missing. While I massaged my aching feet, he dashed into the room out of breath, somebody turned on the projector, the light was turned out, and the opening title flickered across the stained wall, dancing slightly. Black and white anecdotes. A good mixture. I express my thanks.

The girl asked whether I had a lighter and led the way. While I pondered over the question, she went into the room, pointed to the corner, smiled amicably and disappeared. I was alone. It was pitch black. Terrifying. I lit a match and held it before my eyes. In the flickering light of the flame I saw that the room was lined on all sides with black plastic. In the middle of the room a light bulb hung from the ceiling. It dangled just above the floor. A drawing lay underneath it. “Moskwa” was written on it in white paint. I burned my thumb. In the corner to my left side she had lovingly made a bed for me. The second match went out, and I was immediately swallowed up in an infinite blackness. The search for the lighter ended with a tremendous bang as my head painfully struck the wall. Emitting an endless torrent of Viennese curses, I crept into my corner.

Haralampi G. Oroschakoff

1995