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The tenth International Forum for Artistic Initiatives to be held in Moscow in July
The tenth International Forum for Artistic Initiatives to be held in Moscow in July is a good opportunity to take stock of one of the phenomena most typical of modern art: Trying to produce extreme emotional impact at any price. Russian art has become one of the leaders of this extremism, and a major intrigue of the upcoming forum is: Whether the Russians maintain their leadership of radicalism, or will their foreign colleagues surpass them in the art of scaring the public? For a long time, attempts at extreme radicalism caused only laughter. The excesses of the notorious Oleg Kulik, who - naked, wearing a dog collar, and on all fours - acted like a dog, biting VIPs at his Reservoir Dog performance in the Zurich Kunsthaus, are more ridiculous than frightening. The same could be said about the E.T.I. group, who spelled out a three-letter Russian swear word with their bodies in Red Square, and Alexander Brener's act of public defecation in front of a Van Gogh painting in the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow. Artists wanted to give society a slap in the face, but instead evoked laughter. They learned their lessons and launched an offensive, the results of which we are witnessing now. No one is likely to laugh at works by realist photographer Natalia Edenmont, for example. One huge, colorful still-life shows the severed head of a real rabbit that Edenmont has put on a toy rabbit, while another photo depicts the heads of a freshly decapitated cat and mouse, wrapped in bright fabrics, put in a vase and photographed. Edenmont now lives in Sweden, where opponents of her vivisections have repeatedly taken her to court, so far in vain. The court does not have the power to condemn an artistic gesture where the death of an animal remains behind the camera and the glossy snapshots do not show a single drop of blood. Yet killing animals is not the limit in the pursuit of shock. Man himself became the subject when Emperor Vava (real name: Vladimir Aleksandrov) stitched up his mouth with coarse thread at an event in the TV Gallery. Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Mizin and Alexander Shaburov, known as the Blue Noses, shot a video of some extremists trying to rape Lenin's mummy. But even these are overshadowed by the prospects that genetic engineering has opened up for artists. In this sphere Russian artists have so far been lagging behind: Experiments with genes require a lot of money. Brazilian Eduardo Kac caused a stir in the world with his genetic-engineering creation: A live rabbit implanted with a fluorescent seaweed chromosome, so that in the dark the rabbit radiated soft green light. Kac's next creation was a chimera of a frog with a dragonfly's wings implanted in its skin that fluttered as if the frog could fly. A term quickly appeared for the new art form: Ars Genetica, Ars Chimaera, or Tissue Culture and Art. Suddenly the world found itself facing a new threat. The essence and integrity of man and all living beings are challenged by this new radical art, which does not consider it a sin to interfere with bodies and souls, and instead sees these vivisecting metaphors as further development, the primary prospect of being. "New directions have been set, and there is no avoiding them," Italian Enzio Manzini, a proponent of the new technologies, said recently. To put it simply, the genie has been let out of the bottle and there is no way of putting it back. Ars Chimaera fairs continue to present new works of art that send shivers down the spine. One example is the third ear of Australian artist Stelarc, which experts in tissue engineering are growing from his cartilage tissue. The ear will then be transplanted to his right cheek. The decoration will not be able to hear, but it will have a chip and sound sensor implanted, so it will be able to speak to those who address it. In the future Stelarc intends to plug his third ear to a modem and portable computer so that it could broadcast sounds in the real audio format as an antenna. Internet users can already see the artist's future image with the ear on the cheek. But the ear is nothing! A group of neurobiologists led by Steve Porter of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States created a painting bio-robot, with neurons from a rat embryo implanted in a multiple-electrode matrix. The computer passes neural activity from these neurons to a mechanical hand, which holds a color marker touching on a sheet of paper. As a result, the motor impulses of several thousand rat neurons make the hand paint a picture. These pictures sell fairly well. The dream of futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who a hundred years ago dreamed of the coming era "of man multiplied by machine", has come true dangerously soon. This can be seen not only in Moscow, but also at many other festivals
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