Alice vs. Lolita, Duratrans print, lightbox, 100 x 100 cm
Curated by Rosa Martinez
Oleg Kulik achieved wide international recognition during the nineties thanks to a series of radical performances where he was personifying a dog. In many of his actions he stood on all fours, he ate dog's food and he even bite a man. For him, becoming a dog was connected with "a feeling of the end of anthropocentrism, with a crisis of not just contemporary art, but contemporary culture on the whole". He felt the over saturation of semiosis, its too refined cultural language, were producing misunderstanding, estrangement, and peoples mutual irritation.
In the work of Kulik the dog is not just a metaphor of the social and political conditions of Russia. The ideas of a wild country and a "dog's life" are certainly present but as Viktor Misiano states, a dog is a "mythologeme", a fundamental element in Kulik's world of obsessions, an essential star in his cosmology. Being a dog was a way to go back to nature, life and reality. "A Dogman is a dubious figure, which stays outside culture, outside institutions, posing a question of what culture and institutions are", says Kulik. In his project Family of the Future he was conceiving an inter-species family which could provide permanent emotional comfort, envisaging a new renaissance for the future happiness of all living creatures because there is no happiness within the limits of human family, he says.
His recent works are a classical detour in relation to his wild performances of the nineties. In the series Windows he comes back to landscape, a traditional genre. Landscape was a projection of an idealised nature during the Renaissance, it went through domestication and privatisation during the XVIIIth century, it reflected the hallucinations of the surrealists and it is now a conventional and sometimes "old fashioned" way to frame the world. Kulik's windows are an element to establish a dialog between reality and representation, between the real world and the ideal, i.e. the dead world. A glass protects their empty and unpopulated nature and the spectators see their images reflected in it. The glass acts as the surface of the painting that is conceived also as a dead object.
The desire to escape from death took Kulik to realise performances situated far away from esoteric conceptualism. Now he appeals to billboard aesthetics and uses linguistic strategies of mass culture to achieve the widest availability of consumption. The extraordinary project Alice vs. Lolita conjoints a multilayered fascination for beauty and nature. "On the one hand, we have Lolita and the submersion into the infinite depth of subconscious. On the other hand we have Alice and the emergence of childishly naive and wise meanings", says Mila Bredikhina.
In a recent interview Kulik evaluated his artistic path. "I began my career in art with the search of a material that would not screen reality. It was glass at first. Then it was my own body, performance, photography and even computer. And now it is glass again. It helps the eye to evade aesthetic obstacles. But I did not understand very well what I wanted to see at the beginning of my career. I had to run about in the dog's skin for ten years to understand I must see pain."