“All countries are starting to look back ideologically towards their past, even Russia is receding not even to the time of Stalin, but before the beginning of the 20 c., while some countries are moving right back to the Middle Ages. All turn to their roots looking for their cultural identity. All are trying to pinpoint their place in the world turning to the simple formulas of their cultural identity.” Boris Groys
This new type of conservatism that has seized the world I examine through the prism of the Russian – Ukrainian war conflict which is developing within the boundaries of the newest hybrid wars. An important ingredient for every hybrid warfare is the informational and psychological war where disinformation is a crucial weapon. With the start of the Russo – Ukrainian Conflict in 2014, information warfare won its internet space. In the social networks and the information forums of this region the so-called couch wars started – an epic battle of the bloggers. This online war led by an army many thousand strong soldiers armed with computers. They lead their battles sitting back at home on the couch, in the office, in the café, the park and everyplace that there is access to WI-FI.
In the last two years I have been a partial witness to the couch wars and the project Museum of the Couch Wars is the result of my observations of its development and its characteristic features. My double ethnic origin (Russo-Ukrainian), as well as the place I live (Bulgaria) helped me understand the methods and the means employed by the enemies and allowed me to form my own opinion of their effectiveness.
The language of hate is one of the main combat weapons of the couch wars. The rhetoric of hate is built mostly on ethno-national differences of the nations at war. Everything that is not “ours” is the object of ridicule and insults. In a series of auto-portraits I depict the use of neologisms and ethnophilism aimed at “hurting” the enemy by insulting them on ethnic grounds. The term “ethnophilism” comes from old Greek: ἔθνος – tribe, clan and φαῦλος – bad, inferior. It is an expressive ethnonym with a negative connotation used in colloquial speech. Ethnophilisms include negative names directed against representatives of different ethnicities in the common language. Typical of this speech is the emphasis on the “foreignness” which can vary in tone from ironically mocking to degrading contempt and even derogation.
As an artist I focus mainly on the cultural aspects and the “episodes” of war related to art. I’m interested in the processes when ethno-cultural characteristics mutate into cultural chauvinism and how the focus of the economic problems shifts in the direction of ethno-nationalism and hurrah-patriotism visualized with propaganda clichés. In the Museum I present a series of “exhibits”- artifacts (hand-made objects) which absorb popular “couch” themes from the field of art.
One such subject is the reassessment of national identity and respectively the appropriation of the art of famous artists of the Russian/Ukrainian avangarde. The civil war provoked a revival of national consciousness, a desire for a distinctive cultural identification of oneself and consequently stirring processes for the demarcation of the national cultural wealth. Especially outstanding are the attempts to write in the artists of the Avangarde into the narrow frame of the national-ethnic model. This for me is in complete controversy with the idea of their art, which is supranational and universal in its essence and is the emanation of the absolute freedom of the human spirit with no boundaries.
This subject is of particular topical interest for today’s artists who are living in a new multicultural and nomadic in its character society. I am curious to analyze what is definitive in the work of an artist – one’s ethnic origin (the blood of one’s ancestors), the country of birth or the country where one is able to develop one’s talents.
In this context I included in the museum exposition a series of
watercolors of famous artists made in the style of the popular in the 19th century Europe postcards depicting authentic types of different nationalities in costume.