September 9 – October 9 : Spazio Thetis – Arsenale – Venice.
In the work, ‘ICONOCLASM: ‘The Extinction Of A Culture’, the audience is given the opportunity to throw stones at the heads of artists, musicians, architects, film makers, etc. All heads are equal, anonymously merged into the crowd. Yet there is a name tag under each head. On this name tag there is a name of one of the above mentioned creative minds. It is up to you, dear visitor, to throw a stone and participate in this artistic Iconoclasm.
Iconoclasm is the action of attacking or assertively rejecting cherished beliefs and institutions or established values and practices. Iconoclasm is most associated with religion. It heralded the beginning of Protestantism. But also in the Byzantine Empire there was already talk of Iconoclasm, even if this term was not used then. it literally means “image breaking” and refers to a recurring historical impulse to break or destroy images for religious or political reasons.
Some examples in recent history are the attack on the Twin Towers, the tearing down of the statue of Saddam Houssein, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union. The war in Ukraine is the result of the last example: the end of the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the USSR split into several countries. Control was no longer centralized and directed from Moscow. The West had won the Cold War. The Russians had to watch it with sorrow. Ex-Warsaw Pact countries were quickly annexed to NATO and the EU. This was a thorn in the side for the ex-KGB top of Russia.
The West promised Russia not to annex more countries. Yet they forgot about the fact that Ukraine, and other ex-Soviet countries, were actually tired of the way of life forced out of Moscow. The Ukrainians had seen their neighbor countries, including Poland with whom they
have a brotherly bond, making progress with help from the EU. The economic situation did not improve, they were tired of living in poverty and therefore wanted to join the EU. That was not at all to Putin’s liking. He considered this a threat to the sovereignty of Russia.
According to the West, Russia is signing its own death sentence by starting this war. Putin is said to be wiping out his own culture: ‘The Extinction Of A Culture’. The question is, of course, can you just erase a centuries-old culture? There is a big confusion here between culture and tradition: Culture can be defined as ideas, customs and social behavior of a particular people or society. Traditions can be defined ideas, beliefs that are passed down from one generation to another generation. Culture can be seen in a social group, while tradition can be reduced to a small group of people, for example a family. Culture is created by a particular social group of people, over a period of time. Traditions can be created by individuals. Russia has lived under a tradition of oppression since Stalin. In fact, this has nothing to do with the cultural identity of the country and the people. If we consider what a rich history Russia has in the field of art and culture, we can only conclude that this is an enormous patrimony. However fierce and brutal the dictatorial oppression was, somehow artists and intellectuals still managed to bring art and culture. They risk their lives for it.
We must also refer to the identity and origin of the artists. For example Malevich: He was born in Kiev, had The Russian nationality and also had Jewish-Polish blood running through his veins. The Soviets wanted to fully claim the cultural authenticity of the occupied countries. To finally erase the original identity. We can also refer to Eisenstein, the filmmaker. The man was born in Riga, Latvia, but his name suggests that he was actually of German descent.