Grisha Bruskin is an artist, sculptor and essayist. All this is combined in it with incredible ease. His paintings hang in the prestigious American museums. His sculpture is protected by the Tretyakov gallery, Pushkin, Russian… His books are sold in the bookstore of the leading countries. Yes Bruskin is an Artist (in the broadest sense of the word), which participates in the Venice Biennale.
In his Studio on Clean ponds. Photo from the personal archive.
According to his passport he is 71 and on the strength of 50 years. Slightly gray, with round glasses, dressed. Avoids any details that would suggest a Bohemian lifestyle. Very erudite. It is pure, without slang. Shortly after the first and the last Soviet Sotheby’s auction in 1988, where work Bruskin “Fundamental lexicon” was the top lot went for £220 thousand, he began to live on two cities — Moscow and new York.
We have sculpts and paints there. But to call it a Russian or an American master — is not entirely correct: his international art. Bruskin has penetrated into the past, scan the present and tried to outline a future. And if we argue according to Hegel, as he Grisha, who is obsessed with philosophy, between the form and content of his works — a paradoxical harmony. They are simple and laconic, but at the same time deep and multi-layered. In General, Bruskin of who is flying somewhere above us, analyzes, creates.
He is in normal life somewhere. In new York, Moscow and dwells on the upper floors. It austere iota without the luxury of a workshop on Clean ponds, where we met for the interview, occupies the attic of buildings. Tables, chairs, sofa — that’s all. The floor is littered with books (art, philosophy, poetry), and the walls were scattered dozens of white figures, sculptures and paintings. Frozen in action dolls and mannequins represent heroes of the world — from ancient gods to the chiefs and the common people, including the Soviet. Pioneers holding weapons and musical instruments, and boys, portraits of Lenin, zeppelins, and the girls themselves. Bruskin also seems ready to carry the ladies on his hands, nurtures and lavishes compliments.
— Gregory, as far as Moscow and new York different worlds?
Different. I live and work in both cities, but said to myself, my close friend Solomon Volkov, “don’t live in America, not in new York, and even on Broadway, and in apartment 23”. So I live in their shops. Place of stay is dictated by the working conditions. In Moscow, engaged in sculpture, and in new York — painting.
— What is the reason?
A choice dictated, in particular, and living conditions. In Moscow it is more convenient to study sculpture, so here I have two workshops and good assistants. Yes, and it costs much cheaper. The work of preparing for the Biennale in Moscow.
— Why do you need participation? Laurels in the art world have long gathered.
— Laurels in the art world — something external. The artist works on the internal need. I have such physics: if I say that I can no longer work, will be in a psychiatric hospital. It is already the natural state of life. If the master starts to work on his heart, and for fame or money, he ends as an artist.
— Venice is not for the glory?
If I hadn’t called there wouldn’t have died. Although, when I was offered the part, I confess, was delighted. Want your work looked at hundreds of thousands of people. And it’s not glory. I am interested to comment on my work the world around us, to give people the opportunity to look at him differently. It is also important to show their work to friends, including the imaginary. An imaginary person can be anyone. For example, Leonardo da Vinci.
— You know, you kinda of true artists, but you’ve touched and imagined. So who are they for you?
Those whose works are made according to the recipe. Person learned something, and he does then all of the template. Sometimes come to the Museum of Paris, new York, tel Aviv, everywhere, and the impression that you see the same exhibition. Ideas and images are read instantly.
From your work in the Russian pavilion, which is called “Theatrum Orbis,” that is the theatre of the world, what the original judgment to wait?
— The main theme of my work “Change of scenery” — modernity, in its different guises. I’m interested in the new world order, whom we had never met. For example, faced with terrorism on this scale, changing our psychology. Earlier, we were troubled by the fact that we’re being watched, searched and spying, but now happy with this as the guarantee of our security. Never state never invented such a sophisticated means of monitoring and tracking people.
— This is the topic of the authorities and of the crowd…
— I am interested in the concept of the crowd. In modernism this was done by many authors, in particular, Baudelaire and PoE. They saw the crowd as a single organism, the ant, as a mass, in which man loses his identity, obeying the herd instinct. In their “research” I am repelled by many of his predecessors, starting with the scientists of the XIX century seriously tried to find a microbe that infects humans in the crowd, and ending with the concept of Jean Baudrillard with his silent majority. Of course, when there theme of the crowd, there is the theme of power. The relationship between man and power — a separate story.
— Would not this look too technical and confusing and archaic?
Philosopher Giorgio Agamben said: “the Contemporary is he who is not modern”, that is, one who is not in this point in time.
— Yuri Trifonov also wrote that while floating in the lava, can’t determine its temperature. But how do you connect this theory with the art?
— At all times contemporary art looked back. The most daring inventions of modernism reinterpreted archaic. For example, Picasso turned to the black arts to gain power over the viewer. Modernist architects was to the ancient forms: the pyramids, towers, ziggurats. I am interested in the point in time where there are simultaneously archaic and modern, where there is no movement from worst to best, there is no concept of progress, and the time flickers. Time trap.
Bruskin easily recognizable by the round points. Photo from the personal archive.
— According to you, the visitors of the Biennale will read these meanings?
— My task is to get them to be active. Not just walk, to see and understand what he saw in a second. First, the artist must stop and make an impression. The idea is great, but when they just set out on paper or written on the wall (art is, too, exist), that, in my opinion, is not enough. Between such a statement and the audience loses the gap, where just dialogue is possible. There is no space where you can find his interpretation of your comment to the product. “Because sometimes it is more important to comment on comments, rather than a life.” If the viewer read some of my texts, he definitely will understand. And if he even begin to interpret them and comment, for me it will be very valuable.
— At the Biennale will be your texts?
The directory can be found in the Russian pavilion. Among the authors who wrote texts about my project: Boris Groys, Viktor Stoykite, Sylvia Burini and Giuseppe Barbieri. I love the context of large-scale, ambitious projects which do not consist of one sculpture, not one picture from the nth number. The viewer will see in our pavilion. To think the exposure was not easy, because between the first and second floors — hole 4 meters in diameter, and almost a third of the area of the Central hall. At first it was a problem. I tried to persuade the Commissioner of the pavilion Seeds Michael to close the hole. But he insisted. I tossed-tossed, and found the solution which I have arranged and carried away.
I began to make videos, which in this case is dictated by the architecture of the space. Video has become an integral part of the project. So, sometimes, overcome difficulties, you gain something very important.
— Tell us about the video.
— 20 years ago I was staying in an old castle. Walking at night in the Park, looked over the pond with black water, where the day was swimming black swans. The facade of the castle was lit by a spotlight from below. Suddenly the wall appeared a black point, which in the next moment turned into a giant shadow of a man… a Shadow flashed and disappeared. I did not understand what it was, but a strong impression in me still lives. It became the prototype for the video, and it is an important comment to my work.
— “Change of scenery” sounds nice, but how it will look?
If I told you, and you will print, the viewer will be interested. Must remain intriguing. Suffice it to say that the work played up the idea of “the glass bead game” (understanding Hermann Hesse) — playing with toy soldiers, playing in the theatre. They unfold according to the title on three stages. Not literally, of course. In my work I used mixed media: paper mache, plaster, new technologies that are invented specifically for this job.
A fragment of Bruskin’s work in the Russian pavilion. Photo courtesy of the press service of the Russian pavilion.
— I hope that people will appreciate. But often in the selection of the winners of the Biennale can be traced to political causes. And for Russia today the ambiguous attitude…
— The image of Russia today demonized. Evil number one is ISIL, a prohibited organization. Then Russia, which is still not prohibited, but everything is going to. There are many reasons, including propaganda. On both sides. If in Ukraine or in America, something happens, Russia will immediately start to inflate with a negative context, in other countries the same. Generally a lot of problems.
— What have you faced getting ready for the show?
— With financial. It was not easy to find sponsors. There are people who do this professionally. But I called their collectors, which are friends, and asked them to participate.
— What are the difficulties experienced?
— I have limited time, but it accelerated the process. I quickly gathered. Mentally to see the work right from beginning to end I do not know. The ancients believed that at first in the artist’s soul there is an image of the work. “Eidos” — Aristotle unlike Plato interpreted this concept. Then Eidos is realized in the form. In the beginning I usually occurs only a rough idea that in the process of changing. At some point I feel something, and work has already begun to myself, and I don’t know what will appear on the turn. These are the moments of happiness.
— Are you happy?
— Probably because they live as they want.
…Today, the intelligence, the scale and the moderation and accuracy Bruskin has a slightly old fashioned charm emanates from them effortless elegance that distinguishes disappearing from view layer of the Moscow intelligentsia. Understand the audience of the Venice Biennale — we’ll see. But the main thing — Russian audience Bruskin long appreciated.