Chocolate or Cherry Sorbet?

When I meet someone new and intriguing, I always delve into three distinctive things: the hue of their eyes, their favorite ice cream, and the breed of their beloved dinosaur.

Chocolate or Cherry Sorbet?

When I meet someone new and intriguing, I always delve into three distinctive things: the hue of their eyes, their favorite ice cream, and the breed of their beloved dinosaur.

Eye color, in this scenario, serves as the least substantial detail, merely a mnemonic to navigate beyond superficial interactions. Regarding ice cream, it holds significance, for one’s favored flavor unveils their character. I won’t divulge my secrets, but I’m convinced British scientists, famed for their remarkable research, have long deduced statistics on the ice cream preferences of serial killers and those with philanthropic inclinations. However, the matter of dinosaurs is much weightier. I’ve yet to meet anyone without a favorite dinosaur, and each person I’ve queried about this has responded with earnestness. You’ll soon realize why this matters.

Imagine this: you’re engaging with someone, perhaps building a business, or, worse, a family. Then, after years, you learn that in their childhood, they favored the Parasaurolophus, while your favorite was the predatory Carnotaurus, which hunted and devoured the former at every chance. What’s the next step? How do you proceed? Trust me, one’s favorite dinosaur speaks volumes about a person — their childhood, culinary and entertainment preferences, and certainly, their temperament. Yet, here’s the point: these simple questions instantly acquaint you with the other person, but they’ll never narrate their development. This leads us to the next question — culture.

Green t-rex family dinosaur. He rests his paw on an antique column against the background of a red bedspread.

How do you ascertain whether your conversational partner shares your cultural depth? A favorite painting? Undoubtedly, everyone has one. Even if you’re a dedicated physicist, an atomic scholar who merely visited a museum during a cultural studies class, one painting surely resonated with your soul. The response to this query will divulge more about a person’s past than you might anticipate. Art preferences primarily represent lived experiences: it’s improbable that a conservative raised in a boys’ school will grasp Bruce Nauman’s message in neon. Similarly, a woman nurtured in a fine family may empathize but not fully comprehend the pain hidden within a particular work, embodying domestic violence. Art preferences, in any field, are profoundly subjective yet fundamentally built upon experience.

Let’s draw parallels, dissecting my case in detail. Starting with my birth year: 1990 — still within the USSR era, yes, it dissolved, yet it leaves an indelible mark. Textbooks in my (good) school until the 5th grade featured Lenin on their front covers. I grew up during the times of perestroika, and later, during the years of hatred and denial of all Soviet things. Subsequently, I pursued higher education, emphasizing philology and literature (a portion of this literature was Soviet; if translations of these ominous books exist in English — strongly do not recommend them! My teenage psyche suffered greatly from Zamyatin and Platonov, detailing Soviet realities. Orwell — just a children’s tale in comparison!

Contemporary art from Alexander Kosolapov “Lenin and the Family of Dwarves”

Following the trendy and prestigious higher education, I delved into the historical realm, an area I’ve desired since childhood. My academic mentor, once again, specialized in the USSR and Leninism. My dissertation topic delved into the events during the Russian Revolution of 1917. As a result, my adored artistic movement became Sots Art! This endearing, subtle, and touching satire on the horrors of the Union resonated deeply with me. Let me tell you a bit about this unpopular movement.

Undoubtedly, this is the shortest artistic movement among all possibilities! Sots Art emerged as a parody of official Soviet art and the images of contemporary mass culture, reflected in its ironic nomenclature, merging the concepts of socialist realism and pop art. On one hand, pop art in American culture was a response to abstract expressionist artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. On the other hand, pop art reflected the mass production of commodities and the abundance of advertising slogans and pop-culture icons.

While the West had Mickey Mouse and Marilyn Monroe, the USSR had Lenin and Stakhanovites — objects of Sots Art focused on the overproduction of ideology. The term “Sots Art” emerged in the mid-1970s, becoming a natural response to the hostile policies against freedom of expression. All artists of this period were obliged to create a bright Soviet future, depicting the Union’s leaders and happy pioneers. However, the true rebellious spirit of the art community starkly contradicted these doctrines. Each artist in this movement could easily earn a 15-year sentence in corrective labor camps for nonconformity, further fueling their dissent.

Modern art from Alexander Kosolapov “Mickey and Mini. Worker and collective farmer”

Thus, while painting yet another portrait of Lenin, the urge to infuse it with dreams — a foreign gum, or dressing him in fashionable clichés — became an intense desire. The official culture couldn’t depict itself; only an element from the unofficial culture could do that. Sots Art emerged from the underground only after the movement itself ceased to exist in art, paving the way for its popularity. The Iron Curtain fell, unveiling the covers hiding the works of our heroes. As everything concealed and prohibited always sparked interest, a surge in Sots Art commenced.

Most artists of this movement are alive and still creating masterpieces, possibly no less reactionary, but Sots Art dissolved during Perestroika. The masters of this movement are few, and here is a list of those, in my opinion, representing it vividly: Erik Bulatov, Vitaly Komar, Alexander Kosolapov, Alexander Melamid. Perhaps that’s why the works of V. Tselser are particularly close to me now; he’s still in the loop, and during evening gatherings, we’re still concocting new plots for Sots Art paintings. You can observe my favorite works within the body of this text. Psst, Lenin, are you here?

Contemporary art from Vitaliy Komar “Yalta Conference”. Hitler, Stalin and some guy from other planet.

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