[lbo-talk] Sometimes in Russia a flea is turned into an elephant

Russell Grinker grinker at mweb.co.za
Thu May 24 10:45:17 PDT 2007

Presidential montage falls foul of Moscow customs

Tom Parfitt in Moscow Thursday May 24, 2007 The Guardian

Alexander Pushkin flicks a cigarette lighter as Russian president Vladimir Putin warms his hand on a candle held by a beer-bellied Jesus Christ. The trinity seems harmless enough within contemporary art's scatological canon, but this week customs officers in Moscow refused to ship the photomontage, The Candle of our Life, to an exhibition at the Städtische Gallerie in Dresden. By coincidence, the city was Mr Putin's home as a KGB member in the 1980s.

In a sign of Russian paranoia about satirising public figures, customs officials turned away six works of art, two featuring the president. Natalia Milovzorova, a spokeswoman for the Marat Guelman gallery, which was sending the work by a Siberian art collective, Blue Noses, said the decision was "absurd" but had been overcome by sending a digital copy. She added: "It's as if we returned to dissident times."

The Städtische curator Johannes Schmidt told Reuters: "This is a setback for us. Russian authorities seem to be tightening the screws."

The gallery found out what had happened when ExpART, the firm shipping the art works, wrote apologising for the "inconvenience made by such a brutal decision of the customs". The firm had been advised that the works could "unleash international dissension".

Last year customs confiscated eight of Blue Noses' photos on their way to London . The images featured three members of Blue Noses wearing masks of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, US president George Bush, and Mr Putin, all cavorting on a sofa in their underpants.

Alexander Shaburov, one of the Blue Noses, declined to comment except to say: "Sometimes in Russia a flea is turned into an elephant."

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