Vladimir Dubossarsky: There Always Exists a Black Swan

In his latest interview with «Art&signatures» contemporary art magazine Vladimir Dubossarsky tells what is behind his postmodernistic art projects and the formation of his art in the 90s:

Vladimir Dubossarsky, photo ©️Dubossarsky.studio

Irina Vernichenko, «Art&signatures»: Which artists have you been influenced by?

Vladimir Dubosarskiy: Everything that a young artist sees, everything that happens around him in the art world, has a certain influence on him— this is obvious. Everyone is prone to being influenced, and I tell my students, «Don’t worry about your own identity because 95% of what you think is you, is the culture that is around you and 5% — yes, you can bring, and that is great. Everything else is someone’s else work and the art history.» I have always looked at this question as simple as that — an artist can experience any influence.

On the other hand, I have never copied, nor have I been directly influenced by anyone, this I have deliberately avoided. I have always tried to find something that is mine. Now I understand that the middle way is better when you use the tools that your predecessors or peers left you.

There are artists (for example A. Katz) who make paintings like mine, or similar to those that we made with A.Vinogradov, but I did not know about their existence. Critics always look directly, formally, without delving deeper, and in modern art it is all about thinking, not about who looks like whom formally; the methodology and the conceptual approach are important. If we talk about our project with A. Vinogradov and about the postmodernists (Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, H. Steinbach), we used postmodernism as a method.

Vladimir Dubossarsky, photo ©️Dubossarsky.studio

People determine by similarity. They do not understand how modern art is born. They think you opened a contemporary art magazine, saw a picture and drew something resembling it. In the early 90s, there was zero information, not only was there no internet, there were no magazines. Seeing works was a special occasion. I got to know all the artists from the following books: «The Crisis of Ugliness», «The Philosophy of Modernism», in which modernism was criticised, but there were illustrations and the names and surnames of the artists.

I remember how I got acquainted with the art work of David Hockney, it was in the army, I was already working at the club as an artist, I took the magazine «England» from the library, there were wonderful early watercolours by Hockney, they were the size of a stamp, and it was fascinating… I was just shocked. I think the viewer should experience an emotion, a response from the picture, even if there is emptiness in the picture, but emptiness as a state of being, as an emotion.

Vladimir Dubosarsky, photo by Igor Mukhin

It was the American postmodernists who influenced my project: I understood how it worked: artists took systems and worked with them, it was almost a discovery to me, and I liked that they were the same age, it was important back then. The artists I discovered for myself were strange artists, they were such «stalkers» who showed me the way.

Some were not from the world of colours at all. I knew M.Kippenberger, in London I saw Kippenberger’s book at my friend’s house, and he impressed me, although he was not a very close artist. I saw Bruce Nyman’s book in Amsterdam, there were his performances, objects, sketches in it.

When an artist sees all the work of another artist in a book, a three-dimensional picture is visible: how the artist developed and moved on. When it hits on the wave, and you are ready to perceive, it is difficult to describe the impression. For example, Picabia, he loses to Matisse and Picasso in terms of artistic form, «as a picture», but when I saw all his work in the book in its entirety: surrealist works of the 30s, realism, as he moved, by periods, it became clear that Picabia is a project artist. Picasso was changing formally, and Picabia was changing his mindset, and this is important.

I V: How is the picture created ?
V D: My mood used to influence me, but that’s in the past. An artist is a person who creates not just a world, but a strategy. Now is the time when you can take everything. The information field has changed, and the artist is often not the bearer of his own achievement – as soon as his achievement appears on the web, then a week later it is already being done in all countries of the world.

Therefore, now it is more about proper functioning, rather than the extraction of some style and language. It used to be important, the artist has been working on his style for many years. When his discovery became known, it was pointless to copy it. And now everything is available, I do not know how to deal with it, in future perhaps artificial intelligence will figure it out, in the meantime everyone is an «artificial intelligence» that makes according to its algorithm, pictures collected from another million of pictures.

The time of receipt of information on the traffic of art has accelerated so much that there is no possibility of being unique, no one is counting on uniqueness anymore, the question of being global in the new time can be considered more broadly: any object has practically lost its individuality now. This is a question for the consumer, not a question for the creator, the viewer probably doesn’t care.

Art is in a social field, not in a mystical one. The artist is in the social sphere. The very concept of art is broad, more and more new segments of art are appearing: performance, activism, science art, video art, technology-related art, media art, artificial intelligence appears as a new branch, and the old branch of painting is at the bottom.

I realized a long time ago that art should be viewed through society, through politics, economics, art is a reflection in a false mirror of what is happening in society. It’s very simple: art is like its time, there is no other way. Who pays for art? Foundations pay for political art. There is commercial art, what is for sale, it is financed by collectors — all this is called modern art.

My paintings have nothing to do with my current mood. I have a system that allows me to make paintings within my paradigm, my strategy. There are a million ideas in my computer, and I will never do even a tenth part of what can be done. It’s just a flow, I have such a project that only the path is important, so I follow the path and that’s it.

«What picture are you doing?» was once an important question in art. Everything was moving slowly, a black background appeared, Caravaggio began to apply it, before that there was Titian’s system. These were whole epochs.

The second question arose: «How to make a picture?» The question «how?» is a question of art at the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the post—Impressionists, the question «how?» became important — Pissarro painted the same landscape in one style, and Van Gogh in another. And now the question is not «what?» and not «how?»
The important question now is «Who are you?» If Damian Hurst makes flowers, it’s interesting. There is a history behind the name, there are institutions that promote him, or he himself may be such an institution .The context in which the artist is located is important — the name and the whole context, for example, a London artist and an artist from another country.

I V: What does an artist do in the social sphere? Decorating?

V D: I choose the most successful ideas within my paradigm. I always carry an album with me, I sketch my ideas in the format of stamps. I work all the time and I am influenced by the market. I need to exhibit my art, which should be recognizable. The market, the system — it determines. If you change, make a strange picture — a change of strategy is for several years, a change carries risks.

I try to simplify, otherwise, everything is so difficult, you will not understand anything if you look at the world in a difficult way and try to figure out the subtleties. I try to simplify in my understandable schemes that work for me. On the one hand, I act on intuition, on the other hand I have 30 to 40 percent of the calculation.

You find the right path and the right movement. Where is art moving to? What kind of people does it move with? There are a lot of questions that you find answers to, or don’t find. You can answer all the questions incorrectly, and suddenly you turned out to be the most successful. What is important is the artist’s obsession with his ideas, his personal inner involvement of the artist in these processes. V. Sorokin and Pelevin did not study literature: everything related to free professions depends on the talent of the artist and the ability to develop yourself, and I tell students: «The most important thing is that you learn to study independently.»

There are things that do not depend on you, and are not the sphere of forecasts, the opportunity to become a good artist is given by personal qualities. It’s like the stock market, everyone knows about the tend, but no one knows where the index will go. There is always a black swan.

I V: Is the «Black Swan» an image from marketing?

V D: There were no black swans before in the 18th century, but there was a legend that they existed, and suddenly they were found, so the «black swan» is a random factor that changes everything.

I V: Can art change the world?

V D: The world can change art, art changes the picture.

The artist is no longer a bearer of values. Society presents certain tasks to the artist. The gallery owner presents the task: «How will I sell this?» People always look back, they are pleased to recognize.

I have always been interested in marginal artists, real trends are born among the marginals: punk, hip-hop, rap, graffiti. Real art always happens there, and it happens freely, because real art develops in conditions of freedom, in conditions of institutions it is impossible to create new, you can compile, draw attention.

I V: Did you have a retrospective exhibition?

V D: A. Vinogradov and I were doing a «fake» retrospective. For 15 years, there have been accumulated unfinished works in the studio. There were 30 completed works and 50 unfinished paintings, and we came up with the idea to make a retrospective of unfinished works: we put them on the perimeter, changed something, added. There were two such exhibitions: at the «Winzavod» and at the «Triumph» gallery, and it was successful.

I look at the retrospective differently, this is the time that destroys, leaves something, makes something important. I will tell the truth about the retrospective, and time will tell the myths.

Time changes a lot. I studied restoration, I worked on Solovetskiye islands, I restored the Annunciation Church. There was a fresco, and over time it turned into a «Rembrandt», it was a fantastic painting, and next to it there were a fresco of same artist, which was an ordinary 19th century fresco, where there was no water.

Vladimir Dubossarsky, photo ©️Dubossarsky.studio


Therefore, now it is more about proper functioning, rather than the extraction of some style and language. It used to be important, the artist has been working on his style for many years. When his discovery became known, it was pointless to copy it. And now everything is available, I do not know how to deal with it later, perhaps artificial intelligence will figure it out, now is the intermediate stage when everyone is an «artificial intelligence» that collects another picture from a million pictures according to its algorithm. The time of receipt of information on the traffic of art has accelerated so much that there is no possibility of being unique, no one is counting on uniqueness anymore, the question of universality in the new time can be considered more broadly: any object has practically lost its individuality now. This is a question for the consumer, not a question for the creator, the viewer probably doesn’t care. Art is in a social field, not a mystical one. The artist is in the social sphere. The very concept of art is broad. More and more new segments are appearing. Art is becoming broader: painting, performance, activism, science art, video art, technology-related art, media art, artificial intelligence appears as a new branch, and the old branch of painting is at the bottom. I realized a long time ago that art should be viewed through society, through politics, economics, and this is a reflection in a crooked mirror of what is happening in society. It’s very simple, what a time, such is art, there is no other way. Who pays for which art? Foundations pay for political art. There is commercial art, what is for sale, it is financed by collectors — all this is called modern art. My paintings have nothing to do with my current mood. I have a system that allows me to make paintings within my paradigm, my strategy. There are a million ideas in my computer, and I will never do even a tenth of what can be done. It’s just such a flow, I have such a project that only the path is important, so I follow the path and that’s it.

«What are you doing?» was once an important question in art. Everything was moving slowly, a black background appeared, Caravaggio began to apply it, before that there was a Titian system. These are whole epochs. The second question arose: «How to make a picture?» The question «how?» is a question of art at the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the postimpressionists, the question «how?» became important — Pizarro painted the same landscape in one style, and Van Gogh in another. Picasso creates cubism. And now the question is not «what?» and not «how?».


The important question now is «Who are you?» If Damian Hurst makes flowers, it’s interesting. There is a history behind the name, there are institutions that promote it, or maybe the artist is such an institution himself. The context in which the artist is located is important — the name and the whole context, for example, a London artist and an artist from another country.

I V: What does an artist do in the social sphere? Decorating? Leads?

V D: I have a million stories. I choose the most successful ideas within my paradigm. I always carry an album with me, I always sketch my ideas in the form of stamps. I work all the time and I am influenced by the market. I need to participate in exhibitions, my art should be recognizable. The market, the system — it determines; if you change, make a strange picture — a change of strategy is for several years, a change carries risks.

I try to simplify from personal experience. Otherwise, everything is so difficult, you will not understand anything if you look at the world in a difficult way and try to figure out the subtleties. I try to simplify in my understandable schemes that work for me. On the one hand, I act on intuition, but I have 30 to 40 percent of the calculation. And then you find the right path and the right movement. Where is art moving to? What kind of people does it move with? There are a lot of questions that you find answers to, or don’t find. You can answer all the questions incorrectly, and suddenly you turned out to be the most successful. What is important is the artist’s obsession with his ideas, his personal inner involvement of the artist in these processes. V. Sorokin and Pelevin did not study literature: everything related to free professions depends on the talent of the artist and the ability to develop yourself, and I tell students: «The most important thing is that you learn to study independently.» There are things that do not depend on you, and are not the sphere of forecasts, the opportunity to become a good artist is given by his personal qualities. It’s like the stock market, everyone knows about everything, but no one knows where
the index will go. There is always a black swan.

I V: Is the «Black Swan» an image from marketing?

V D: There were no black swans before in the 18th century, but there was a legend that they existed, and suddenly they were found, so the «black swan» is a random factor that changes everything.


I V: Can art change the world?

Vladimir Dubossarsky, photo ©️Dubossarsky.studio


V D: The world can change art, art changes the picture. The artist is no longer a bearer of values. Society presents certain tasks to the artist. The gallery owner asks: «How will I sell this?»

I have always been interested in marginal artists, real trends are born among the marginals: punk, hip-hop, rap, graffiti. The real always happens there, and it happens freely, because real art develops in conditions of freedom, in conditions of institutions it is impossible to create something new, you can compile, attract attention to some points.


I V: Did you have a retrospective exhibition?

V D: A. Vinogradov and I were doing a «fake» retrospective. For 15 years, there have been accumulated many unfinished works in the studio: there were 30 completed works and 50 unfinished paintings. We came up with the idea to make a retrospective of unfinished works, we put them along the perimeter, changed something, added. There were two such exhibitions: at the «Winzavod» and at the «Triumph» Gallery, and they were successful.

Time destroys, makes something important. I will tell the truth about the retrospective, and time will tell the myths. I look at the retrospective differently. Time changes a lot. I studied to be a restorer, I worked on Solovki, I restored the Annunciation Church. There was a sprayed fresco, and over time it turned into a «Rembrandt», it was a fantastic painting, and next to the same artist there was an ordinary fresco where there was no water.

I V: Tell us about your work in sculpture

V D: I did graphics, videos, I participated in performances and did performances, I did ready–mades in sculpture — I have a large volume of ready-mades «Tomsky’s Sculptures», they are in the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum. The first thing that was acquired by the Russian Museum were my readymades.

There was a studio of the sculptor N.Tomsky nearby, it was bandoned, some fragments of sculpture remained. In this concurrence of circumstances, I did not plan to make such a readymades, I did not like his work, the Soviet, classical style. I did not sell this fragments of Tomsky’s sculptures, I did not give them away as presents, I collected them, painted them, I made etchings from them, I made an exhibition.

I was worked with social realism in sculpture, not in my own material, I understood how to work with it, and it spread into my paintings. It was 91-92, I understood how to work, I realized that at the break of the epochs, when monuments are collapsing, Soviet culture, worldview is leaving, but a huge country remains, and there are people who do not want to to loose it, and there are people who have always been against, and there are victims of the regime, and there are the whole world and, for example, there are left-wing radicals and there is the whole amount of it. I realized that it’s too early to throw it away, I need to work with it.

I V: Is mindfulness important for an artist?
V D: Mindfulness can be different: it can be attentiveness to details, or it can be attentiveness to concepts, the vision of the world. The ability to find interesting things, to stop.

It’s a paradox. These fragments were taken by many people. Many people took the sculptures away, but I started working with them, and then I began to transfer it to graphics, to ceramics. Like Jeff Koons, maybe earlier than he created «Ballerina».

I had a penny’s worth of financial resources: I had an acquaintance, a friend of my father, who cast the bronze sculpture for free (and the part of this particular series is in the collection of the Russian Museum).

The point is that the painting is also an empire, I began to imitate Deineka, Plastov. This was my current, and the Russian mainstream was different then — it was the theme of communication, performances, an attempt to become European artists, and I took the most unpopular pictures of the 30s, and even painting, it was generally a «shame». At that time everyone showed photocopiers, black-and-white photos, then video art began to appear in Russia. My style was against the stream.


I V: Were the readymades of Tomsky’s sculptures a Black Swan?

V D: Yes.

Vladimir Dubossarsky
artist