Clement Kojitor: “I was not sure that Belutin and his wife really exist”

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Clement Kojitor – Winner of one of the most prestigious awards in the field of contemporary art, the Marcel Duchamp Prize, as well as many cinematic prizes. In January at the Pushkin Museum. Alexander Pushkin, he presented his new video installation “The Evel Eye” and took part in a discussion on the relationship between mysticism and reality in art – it was included in the public program “Mythology Tomorrow”, which the museum started within the framework of directions “Pushkin XXI”. And before that, I discussed with ARTANDHOUSES the relationship between cinema and art in his work, the changes that he observes in Russian reality, and the mysterious Russian collection, which the Pushkin Museum has rejected.

In Evil Eye, you used ready-made fragments , collecting a video installation from them, like a robot from the Lego constructor. It turned out to be a kind of movie-ready-made. You even left the catalog numbers of the frames, specifically drawing our attention to the fact that these are semi-finished products.

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For all the images that I found in video banks – all of this was stored there and used either for advertising purposes or in videos of political campaigns – I bought copyrights. And having made a film from ready-made fragments, he told his own story.

The use of advertising in art is most often associated with pop art.

I never thought that in connection with my last work it is possible talk about pop art. Still, it seems to me that pop art is an accumulation of ready-made advertising images with an emphasis on advertising, but I reused them in a completely different context.

It seems that Bernard Blistin, director of the Pompidou Center, said in connection with your award that at last it was received by a representative of the “seventh art”, which traditionally means cinema. In fact, he thus equated cinematography and video art. Do you agree with this passage? And who do you consider yourself first of all – a director, an artist?

It seems that it was not Bernard Blistin who said this, but definitely someone from the jury of the Prize. I consider myself a filmmaker, but I have to object both to you and the jury, which mistakenly considered me the first. A few years ago, the Duchamp Award was given to a duo of filmmakers – they made films, but at the same time did work for exhibitions, like me.

Your debut and so far the only feature film “Neither on Earth nor in Heaven” (2015) was honored by the Gan Foundation in Cannes. Unexpectedly for me, the picture about the war turned out to be very beautiful – each frame is like a finished picture, you can hang it on the wall. Hence, in fact, my impressions of you as an artist.

Thank you. Of course, cinema and contemporary art are completely different types of creativity for me. But the result of both is the creation of some kind of picture. As a writer can work in different genres, so can I.

Clement Cogitore
& # 171; The Evil Eye “
2019
Courtesy Galerie Eva Hober, Paris and Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart

I saw your video based on Rameau's ballet Gallant Indies: 18th century baroque music danced by hip-hop artists … Tell us about it.

The six-minute video was filmed for the Opera de Paris. In September, my three-hour performance will premiere there – already with a choir, dancers … It's not even hip-hop, but, I would say, its offshoot.

Is this your first theatrical experience?

< p> Yes.

How did you find the story about Bragino? Especially for the readers, I will explain that the recent documentary film “Bragino” (2017) was filmed in Siberia, in the taiga, and its heroes are an Old Believer family.

Initially, I had an idea for a project dedicated to utopias presented through the eyes of children. I wanted to show the process of the emergence of a certain community of people inventing their own world, their own rules of life, through the eyes of a child. I was thinking about where, in which country, by the example of which community it could be done. By chance, my colleague, journalist from Russia Alla Shevelkina found out about this. She suggested that there is such a Bragin family from the Old Believer community who left their own people to create their own settlement. I only had the GPS coordinates of their settlement and the surname, name and patronymic of the father of the family. I went. Later, I flew there a second time and shot a film.

When was that?

I first came to them in 2012, and the shooting took place four years later.

Have you noticed changes in their lives during this time?

Not in their lives, but while I was getting to their place of residence, I saw what changes have taken place in four years in Russia, how close the civilization is to their settlement.

Clement Cogitore
& # 171; The Evil Eye & # 187;
2019
Courtesy Galerie Eva Hober, Paris and Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart

How did you get there?

Three planes, a ship along the Yenisei, two cars, a helicopter.

It's amazing that they allowed themselves to be filmed.

They left the Old Believers' community. The head of the family, Sasha Bragin, comes from the Old Believers, but left them precisely because of religious dogmas, and then his family no longer followed the Old Believer canons.

Today the Old Believers are perceived as marginalized, but a century and a half ago they brought culture to the masses – most of the large industrialists – patrons and collectors, such as Shchukin, the Morozov brothers, Kharitonenko, etc., were Old Believers.

I even where- then I read that Lenin was from a family of Old Believers.

There is a version that his paternal grandfather belonged to the Old Believer community. Nothing specific, as I understand it, not confirmed. But you shot this film for France – how interesting is this topic for the French?

She is interesting to me, I shoot for myself. This film was shown in many countries – in New York, London, Madrid, Buenos Aires, just for Russians, I think this topic is closest. I noticed that people here immediately identify the Old Believers – by some signs, familiar only to them. And for Russians this topic is especially important – I realized this when the film “Bragino” was shown at the “Artdokfest”. Unfortunately, I could not come then, but I know how the audience received it. And the film won the festival award.

Moreover, this is not your first work dedicated to Russia. It all started with the 2011 film “Belyutin: Dance in the Garden of Times” about Elia Belyutin, a mysterious figure from whatever side you look at.

First I heard about him, about his wife Nina Moleva, about their collection. It was perceived as a legend – I was not even sure that they really existed. Then I found out that Belyutin is a real character. But a very controversial figure – both his political views and views on art are controversial. He's an artist himself.

Clement Cogitore
“ Elegies »
2014
Courtesy Galerie Eva Hober, Paris & amp; Galerie Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart

Abstractionist, founder of his own school, in which he taught painting to non-professionals, a participant in the famous exhibition at the Manege in 1962, to the 30th anniversary of the Moscow Union of Artists. It should apparently be remembered that Belyutin invited nonconformists to participate in it – many believed that it was a provocation on his part. His collection, which many have heard of, but few have seen, became actively discussed after his death in 2012.

I wanted not only to talk about the collection, but to look at him and his wife just as people, to draw their psychological portrait. Eliy Belyutin and Nina Moleva told everyone that their collection was allegedly Leonardo, Titian, El Greco, Velazquez.

Subsequently, this was refuted by experts, and we know that the Pushkin Museum, within the walls of which we are now, refused from her. It’s not just that. But you are the rare person who saw the meeting alive. What are your impressions of the characters, of the paintings?

When it comes to characters, they are very attractive. Of course, manipulators, especially him, both are legends living in the environment of art. Different layers are compressed in the film – including a lot of fictional things, this is clearly present in their stories. There is a lot of fiction.

The first fragment of the film I saw is a scene where Belutin points to the portrait supposedly by Velazquez and either he or his wife says: “He is Spaniard, he is cunning …” Some kind of childish babble & # 8230; And the same intonation is present in the book “Dance in the Garden of Times” by Nina Moleva, dedicated to the collection, which is also difficult to take seriously.

It’s true, and it was obvious, so when working on the film, I tried to communicate with professionals. In Paris, I met an expert who was familiar with the Belutin collection and who had seen it with his own eyes. Both he and others had conflicting opinions about her. It was clear that not all of the paintings are genuine, and if it is said that it was a brush of Leonardo da Vinci, one cannot believe it 100 percent.

Clement Cogitore
“An archipelago”
2011
Courtesy Galerie Eva Hober, Paris & amp; Galerie Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart

This, as I understand it, no one particularly believed. But it’s not a remake.

Perhaps the work of Leonardo's pupil, incomparable in value with the work of a master. But an old thing. And in the collection of a good provincial museum, it would look worthy.

Who was an expert familiar with the collection?

Eric Türken, very famous in Paris.

Everyone usually refers to him when talking about the Belutin collection. And, as far as I remember, it was Türken who attributed the painting by Caravaggio found several years ago in Toulouse. Seeing the Belyutin collection back in the 1990s, he confessed that he had found a dozen more or less interesting paintings in it. No more. But no less. Tell me, were there things that amazed you?

Several of the paintings that I saw seemed outstanding to me. For example, “Mary Magdalene” – they said it was Titian. There is little chance, it is obvious that the painting belongs to Titian's brush, but the work itself is beautiful. Again, I do not believe that the Descent from the Cross that I saw in this collection was written by El Greco, to whom it is credited. Maybe one of the students. Or not students. But the picture is great. And, then, art was difficult to perceive separately from the general entourage, manner of communication, environment. Candles in 18th century candlesticks, antique furniture, blackout. There was something mystical about it. And the place itself contributed – the apartment is located in the very center of Moscow, on Nikitsky Boulevard. All together created the impression that you were entering some kind of fairy tale, opening the door – and beyond it another world.

You yourself also have this tendency to mystification. In the film “Neither on Earth, nor in Heaven,” people simply disappear, as if dissolving.

And there is. Fiction, the mystical are present in many of my works. I always try to show how, through communication, people try to comprehend and solve the riddles that life puts before them.

Clement Cogitore
“ An archipelago »
2011
Courtesy Galerie Eva Hober, Paris & amp; Galerie Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart

For this, you place the heroes in extreme situations, such as the war in Afghanistan?

Exactly, it is important for me not just to place, but to some extent to isolate my heroes from society, from civilization. Or I find those who already exist in isolation, be they the Bragin family or Eliy Belyutin, and try to trace how, when faced with the challenges of the outside world, they respond to these challenges from their confined space.

I can. to say that the hero of my next film is a medium. The action takes place in Paris. He is a clairvoyant and at the same time a skillful manipulator, a deceiver. A very modern character.

You have had a lot of contact with Russia in your work, it seems that you even speak a little Russian.

I don’t speak, but I understand a little.

The premiere of a very loud project by Ilya Khrzhanovsky “Dau” is currently taking place in Paris. Will you go for it?

I've heard about it – as far as I understand, the impressions are very mixed. You know, I teach at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris – I hope that I will watch this with the students.

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