In the classical legal context, “public” is defined by the concept of accessible to everyone, in other words there is no control over access. But the paradox is that, in relinquishing control, the individual himself becomes the focus of the “surveillance camera”, allowing the observer to control any event in the public life of the observed.

One’s appearance in the public space opens not only new possibilities for labeling one’s own presence in the world, but also removes the element of control from the problem of sovereignty. From that point, you become accessible. Your intimacies and all your secrets are bared, and your image begins to exist in the “society of the spectacle”, as Guy Debord so accurately called it. The individual, having anchored himself in the layers of the mass media, having satisfied his ambition, and having opened a dialogue, is transformed into a personage in a play, the role being undertaken by literally everyone who is able to access that play. Everyone who breaks out onto Facebook’s stage is free to enter into contact with the complete informational text, react to it, and, most importantly, go from being the observer to becoming the observed. Personal statements in this society of the spectacle, personal writings on one’s wall, naturally lose their independence. Any game immediately translates into its own ambivalence, into a system without rules – “play”, and into a limited system with rules – “game”, where the rules are formed by others, the rest of the observers. Kuzma Vostrikov’s realization of the possibilities of forming this new drama allows him to burst onto the stage from the audience zone and into the participant’s. The naïve observer, putting herself on display, unexpectedly begins to understand that she has been discovered. Someone has invaded her mise-en-scène, without asking her permission. That which was previously for us considered personal, deeply intimate, fixed in memory as an “event” and consummated in the form of video or photo evidence in the deconstruction strategies of the social network is no longer independent. Her personal memory runs up against a psychotherapeutic reform, proposed, or rather named, by Kuzma Vostrikov. Her memory fades, and she is immersed into a new dimension in which she never really existed. All of her past turns into nothing, into a “null form”, as Kazimir Malevich said. Kuzma Vostrikov at that moment of intrusion creates an absolutely new “improved” space for the existence of the user’s person and opens a “different” new observable information network personage. The so-called “friend” of the user in this play that is coming to life acquires a special function, defined by the friend himself. He can be a brother, a father, a lover, a terrorist -- not asking permission, but using only those rules whose existence the user did not previously suspect.

In our vagueness, in our virtual hovering, Kuzma Vostrikov manifests a new certainty, a new aesthetic of consent to the presence of Something Else. Is he an alien, observing our lives throughout the entirety of human civilization and then finally deciding to make direct contact, desiring to improve our reality, still not completely inhabited by us? Or maybe he is that angel who is always shimmering over our left shoulder and is now openly materializing in the virtual space of the Internet.

At the same time, in this position we see the personal Zen-like outlook of Kuzma Vostrikov come forth as well. He accepts nothing as “ready”. If it wasn’t created by him, it depresses him. His gesture points at natural behavior, dissolved in reality, experiencing culture not as a system of compulsion, but as a continuous process of its dematerialization. Kuzma Vostrikov as a person is completely oriented toward the “original person” – to complete freedom, to accepting any space as his own, rejecting the values that have come down to him through tradition and those outside his own experience. His audacity is a call to renewal, to a rebellion against perfected reality and the mummification of human presence, even on the Internet.

Vitaliy Patsyukov

National centre for contemporary arts,
Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation



Play is the state of a creative person. In situations in which a mere mortal goes on the defensive or falls into the inertia of melancholy, the artist begins to play. Maybe artists are a strange mutation of the human type, allowing them to survive in a changing world.

New times are upon us, and even an artist feels like a layman in the light of the digital era, which turns all of us into observers, consumers of the information trickling out of every pore. This information screams, tempts, and engages you. Take me, take me into your delightful world! It’s so glamorous, so retouched and virtual. Smooth, like the huge round lollipops bought for children that everyone likes so much.

Kuma Vostrikov is a young artist who has made an experiment of himself. He’s the kind of guy who sits for hours on end on the Internet, who has hundreds of readers and thousands of friends on Facebook, Odnoklassniki, and VK. A typical modern fellow, trying to elbow his way into the narrow shining blue window of the Internet on order to reach a free world, where everything is happening. Where there are parties, premieres, conferences, drinks with friends, presentations, buffets, vacations in the Seychelles, cocktails at the pool, new winter coats, awesome cars… Vostrikov tries to be there, in the world of the visualized desires of modern people. That world every schoolgirl wants to be a part of, straightening her spine so that she appears on her social network account to be there already.

The forbidden window, through which there is the blue sky and freedom, is both set decoration for an opera (Tosca, for example) and a soap opera (the appropriate example here would depend on the age of the reader), and a surrealistic parody of reality, a la Joseph Cornell, where everything is a box – the theater, the cinerarium, and even the light from a tiny window in a dungeon. Nothing more than a trompe l'oeil in a wall niche.

And regarding trompe l'oeils … all of Vostrikov’s work is from that same playbook. Trompe l'oeils. Collages. The computer montages are subtle in places and intentionally brash in others. It’s just like an eighteenth-century trompe l'oeil, a charming (i.e., attractive) sculpture or a flat painted figure placed in a garden or unassumingly awaiting the blank gazes of a guest in the drawing room corner. This is what comes most to mind when I observe the collection of Vostrikov’s images. They are unexpected. And thus frightening. And quite amusing. Like how children laugh after the fear imposed by stories of the bogey man told by adults subsides. Laughter as a relief, as a deliverance from fear, as an acknowledgement of a situation as trivial, insignificant. Indeed, the choice of subject matter into which mister Nobody (i.e., Vostrikov, i.e., the Man in the Orange Jacket) impudently inserts himself, or even meddles in, his appearance changing the context in which the depicted event is perceived – all situations in the photographs in his collection – are insignificant. Undoubtedly, for those who published them in the social networks, they were valid happenings: Me and whoever in such-and-such a restaurant, Me presenting my project, My friends on vacation – and so on and so forth. But for an outside observer, these personal history events lack any meaning, and because of this lack importance. They are not photographs, although they were created using photography and a camera in the hands of a specific personage. None of the shots includes an initial compositional form. Strangely enough, the interference of the Man in the Orange Jacket at last creates this form. The shots become finished photographs (compositionally), and, being now endowed with the conceptual presence of this personage – even in objects of art (underground conceptual ones) – Kuzma Vostrikov, in his idiotic intrusions, is putting on the second act of expropriation, and because of that, finally provides the picture with some strength. The publishing of photographs on social networks — all publishing — is a labeling of the personal: I am pretty, My presence in some place, My things and situation, Where I am. But this “capturing” of reality with a photograph is done effortlessly, without an assertive attempt towards mastery, so for anyone on the outside they have no energetic gesture or meaning. But the intrusion of the orange man, in some places touching and in others funny, in some places sly and in others derisive – everywhere ironic – gives these pictures energy. Vostrikov’s compositions are expropriation of an already expropriated reality – but only his – artistic, creative – is a legitimate expropriation (as legitimate as a successful aggressor in a war being called the Victor by historians).

What else is special about Kuzma Vostrikov’s work? A word springs to mind that very accurately describes his tactic of intrusion into a photograph: sneaky. The red fox creeps into the henhouse in autumn, barely noticeable in the rays of the evening sun. The artist’s tactics are the endgame of the sole humanitarian against the strategy of capturing the lifespace of the Internet (or more accurately, by means of the latter). In this new war, the lifespan of the individual is devalued by a massive exchange for “news” of the virtual life announcements of other individuals. The presence of the artist’s “I” in others’ Internet news is against the rules. It launches different mechanisms of perception ­– first and foremost laughter – which sobers you up and gives you a moment of respite and realization of the insignificance of the events peddled by the social network.

An old woman was speaking to an advertisement. She’s peeling carrots in the kitchen, while the radio is offering her tours to Egypt and canned meat. She, politely and with certainty, like good girls were taught in school long ago, answers the commercials with: no, thank you kindly. What does it mean to be able to refuse politely, but without a doubt? — This is the prerogative of a person with a cultured, living mind: listen – read – see/experience – accept – imagine oneself in the situation or with what is offered, and then easily – already from experience – refuse. If someone were to tell this woman, educated in a ladies’ finishing school in the harsh years of the battle against cosmopolitanism, that she is using the methods of suggestive psychology or Buddhist practices, she would laugh. In the years when advertising came into the virgin fields of the post-soviet space, some people bowed their heads to it and begged alms, while others quietly and politely kept themselves from the madness.

Like our lady above, some, especially young people, were able to deal with the hurricane of ads, to adapt, block them, and, protecting themselves with irony, use the effort of their awareness to keep the advertising in the background of reality, where it could be easily ignored. Somewhere there droned the television and political life, the yellow press. They never went anywhere, though, and their stench seeps into the cracks under the door subconsciously – if the resistor just loosens their control even a bit… And even so, even so there were no serious artists who could win back the mass consciousness from the advertising of the time through total counteractivity. An enemy must be defeated using his own weapon. Using the opponent’s tactics against him is one of the secrets of ancient Chinese strategy. With the aggression of the mass media in Russia (no so much advertising as much as political news and pornography (which long ago became a type of mass media, somewhere on the border between the yellow press and fantasy novels)), we also saw the rise of an active dialogue with the art group known as the “Blue Noses”. But, just as the period of television and the yellow press slowly became part of the past, their activity too became more of an object for the museum of art history.

What will be left of today, of the era of the Internet provocation of society to react to these new conceptual irritants? One of the most significant losses of this era is society’s almost gleeful dumping of the idea of “private space” and “private life” – privacy. It was abandoned willingly, proudly, in an attempt to stand out by independently publishing one’s image on social networks. But then people started wanting to restore some of this privacy: celebrities initiating court cases, mere mortals changing their accounts and even names and where they live – but it all begins with Pandora’s Box, with curiosity, multiplied in our post-television world by the desire for one’s own 15 minutes of fame.

Worhol’s promise of fame for every mortal may end for good the dispute over whether indeed that stranger had the divine gift.

In the era of Facebook, pop art, with its appropriation of works of art of the past, becomes, possibly, the most cited of all spheres of art of the twentieth century. As we can see in Vostrikov’s work, it’s not so much the form, but rather the philosophy, the conceptual possibilities of the gesture of appropriation, which become important for artists of our time.  Only now, as opposed to the “era of television”, the appropriation usurps not the social space, but the personal space of others, desacralizing the last bastion – the social religion of privacy, the expansion of belief in which defines the boundaries of the democratic world, the Internet. The artistic gesture of seizing others’ posts (akin to the pagan eating of the souls of friends and enemies) is in actuality the destruction of myth, the cleansing of visions of reality, and the opportunity to prepare a foundation for the construction of a new myth. Which is what artist Kuzma Vostrikov is playing with today.

Irina Chmyryova,

Doctor of Art History,
Senior Researcher in the Department of Russian Art of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Research Institute for the Theory and History of Fine Art of the Russian Academy of Arts (NII TII RAKH)