Alexander Tsikarishvili: Funny Soil Frutti Land

3 December 2019 - 29 February 2020

OVCHARENKO is delighted to present a new solo exhibition of the founder of art group North-7 — Alexander Tsikarishvili: Funny Soil Frutti Land.

The whole gang is here: Fanny Tutti and Mario Montes, Elio Oytisika and Jack Smith, Carmen Miranda and Slave Izaura, Busby Berkeley and folk geniuses-visionaries Nikolai Sutyagin and Oleg Arkhipov. Everything was mixed in a dizzying kaleidoscope — a cycle of fake bananas and female legs, fruit baskets and nets with onions, scarves with floral patterns and Amerindian feathers, cowboys and summer residents, earthen dwellings and diode signs — everything is painted in thousands of sparkling shades of native exotic lands.

What does this «native exotic» mean or why does everything «overseas exotic» attract us? Immersing in a personal study of the phenomenon of «private eclecticism» — modern forms of spontaneous folk art and embellishment, which are characterized by an impulse to create collages of images, textures and scattered elements lacking their usual functionality - Alexander Tsikarishvili became interested in their perception as «exotic», as well as how these forms are created due to cravings for something «exotic». So, by raising the question of the exotic as such, we can say that it is the inevitable flip side of any attempt to talk about the national.

The exotic was always silent, voiceless, taken out of context. Exotic character is always gagged. At the same time, the desire for the exotic, which is used by all Hollywood media cliches, is considered as something rather perversive, squeezed out into the gray zone on the periphery of «public taste». Hence, in the ironic name of the fairy land «Funny Soil Frutti Land», the camp icon and one of the symbols of tropicalism Carmen Miranda (Hollywood star, referred to only as «tutti-frutti hat girl») merges into a seemingly chaotic stream of images with the name of Cosey Fanni Tutti — the artist and radical performer of the 1970s and the pioneer of industrial, alluding to the inevitable connection of the exotic and the perverse. Cosey Fanni Tutti used BDSM aesthetics, a radical public body demonstration as a tool to criticize the existing economic and social system as fundamentally perversive — exploiting the perversive desires of the subject. «Exotization», that is the creation of an exotic image acts
according to the same mechanism — it exploits the desire for a different, outlandish, oriental, while imposing a taboo on its full realization.

Thinking about the exotic it seems impossible to resist the temptation to plunge into the rustling foliage of banana palms or dance samba on the hot sand. And here the author does not limit himself to any of the tropical cliches, trying to find a new register of understanding the mechanisms of their occurrence. He decides to use the historical phenomenon of «tropicalia» as a kind of found object: extracting the term from its historical context and placing it in the context of the mythology created
by the artist.

The tropicalism movement arose among the avant-garde Brazilian artists of the 1960s. One of its starting points was the idea of «cultural cannibalism» — the omnivorous culture, transgressive mix of ideas and contexts as a way to redefine the national «self». Alexander Tsikarishvili continues the
path of subsequent mutations that the tropicalia underwent, transforming itself into art, into what Elio Oytisika designated as «tropi-camp», «tropi-pop» or «tropi-hollywood». Rummaging through the garbage continuously produced by the media machine yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the author of Funny Soil Frutti Land collects his own «self-construction» - an absurd form that becomes a crooked mirror of ideological mechanisms that steal from us exotic fantasies in favor of creating a myth about the national.


Explaining the confrontation between the ideology and the aesthetic universe of the Tropi Camp, it’s enough to recall how the legendary director Busby Berkeley, in his brain-exploding Hollywood musicals, makes full use of his experience from being a director of military parades: the slender processions of long-legged dancers in colorful Brazilian bikinis are inevitably associated with a psychedelic kaleidoscope of military structures by an attentive viewer. Thus, the analysis by artistic means of the methods of exploiting the image of something exotic, overseas, different, used both by the official ideology and the entertainment industry, was an attempt to regain the alienated right to oriental fantasy.

Continuing this logic and transferring it to «native soil», the artist observes how the reverse turn of «exoticization» turns the most painful national myths - «untouchable» and «eternal» themes into a light carnival whirlwind. The «vatnik» becomes a carnival costume, the oily chernozem becomes multi-colored cheerful sparkles, and the sacred image in the red corner of the dwelling becomes a photograph of the dazzlingly smiling Carmen Miranda. The desire to make a trip to the overseas lands of «Funny Soil Frutti Land» basically carries a deep desire to regain stolen, «cultivated» and packed fantasy, the right to escape into the fantasy world from a forcibly imposed ideology. And the spontaneous need to create an almost eerie countryside eclecticism of «self-construction» turns into
a desire for self-expression through the magical, shamanistic and ritualistic, non-utilitarian, that is, falling out of the «understandable» generally accepted system of rational behavior.


Lisa Tsikarishvili