Elena Elagina, Igor Makarevich

MANI Folder 3


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Not on display

Elena Elagina born 1949
Igor Makarevich born 1943
Box file containing 35 paper envelopes with typescripts on paper, carbon copies on paper, gelatin silver prints on paper, nails, tobacco, metallic blades, screws and staples
Dimensions variable
Purchased with funds provided by the Acquisitions Fund for Russian Art, supported by V-A-C Foundation 2017


This ‘folder’ comprises a beige box file that holds thirty-five folders, each of which has a green cover and beige interior, and small green envelopes containing photographs. Each of these subfolders is filled with works on paper produced by an individual or group of artists associated with the Moscow Conceptualism school. This is the third in a series of five folders produced between 1981 and 1986 as part of the Moscow Archive of New Art (Moskovskii Arkhiv Novogo Iskusstva, or MANI) project. MANI was conceived in 1980 by artist Andrei Monastyrski (born 1949), one of the leading Moscow Conceptualists, in collaboration with Lev Rubinstein and Nikita Alexeev. The intention was for the folders to provide unofficial Soviet artists with a central place to record their collective experience, as well as enabling them to disseminate information about their work at a time when it was subject to strict censorship. Monastyrski compiled the first MANI folder in February 1981, and selected teams of artists to manage the subsequent folders. These artist-editors invited other artists to curate mini-exhibitions within a series of subfolders, with the content ranging from works of art and reproductions of works, documentation of actions and exhibitions in the form of photographs and posters, artists’ statements, and art-historical and critical texts. Folder 3 was compiled by Moscow-born conceptual artist Elena Elagina, in collaboration with her artist husband, Igor Makarevich.

Each of the five MANI folders was produced in an edition of five, with the editors and contributors typing or printing five copies of each item. Each folder constitutes an archive and a catalogue, as well as being an art object in its own right, with the five folders together forming a collective work of art. Speaking of the perceived need to create such a record, Elagina later recalled that, ‘back then, it seemed to everyone that everything would disappear, that there would be nothing left’ (quoted in exhibition wall panel, John Hansard Gallery 2014).

The five MANI folders each show the personality of their editors. Elena Elagina was the main driving force behind Folder 3, which is typical of her role as the ‘ideas generator’ within the creative partnership she formed with Igor Makarevich. The pair are recognised as leading Moscow Conceptualists, working independently and together, as well as contributing since the late 1970s to performances by the Collective Actions group. Elagina’s participation in the MANI project is in line with her installations of the 1980s, which are also logocentric and make use of readymade materials; while Makarevich’s work of the period – such as Target Selection 1979 (Tate P82119) – shows his concern with recording the disappearing network of nonconformist artists as his friends and collaborators began to emigrate from the Soviet Union. Elagina and Makarevich aimed to use their folder to reveal the extent of the Moscow Conceptualist circle by including artists and theorists not just at its centre, but also on the periphery. The folder also includes an envelope by Michal Kern (1938–1994), a nonconformist Czechoslovakian artist, demonstrating the close links between unofficial artists operating in the USSR and other Socialist countries. In an interview given in 2011, the artists explained:

We wanted to include as many people as possible who had remained in Moscow. There had been a kind of stagnation because so many people had left. And we needed to preserve ourselves somehow, which is why we decided within the circle to put together these folders ... The sole instrument we had at our disposal at the time was the typewriter. It must be said that artists gave their own photographs and materials, whatever they could – that is why they are not always of the highest quality, but then this is evidence of the times. In any case, we wanted to bring together and present the new works in order to make a record of them somehow.
(Elagina and Makarevich, video interview, June 2011, for John Hansard Gallery 2014.)

In keeping with the traditions of samizdat – hand-produced copies of censored text that were illegally passed from reader to reader in the Soviet Union – the MANI folders were shared among artists and individuals within the circle of the Moscow Conceptualists. The development of this artistic strategy exemplifies the pressures upon nonconformist artists in Moscow at the start of the 1980s, and marks one of the group’s last collective projects before the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and the consequent disappearance of the category of ‘unofficial art’. Under the conditions of Soviet ideological censorship, the MANI folders were practically the only means of disseminating new artistic ideas.

The full series of five MANI folders were exhibited together for the first time in 2011, at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow, as part of the 4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. An abridged version of this exhibition was presented at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton from May to July 2014, and items from some of the MANI folders were on display at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow from March to May 2015.

MANI Folder 3 holds a total of 168 photographs, 228 sheets of text and 19 artworks. A list of contents is printed in the inside front cover of the box file, with the contributors ordered from 1 to 35. The contents of the subfolders are as follows:

1. Nikita Alexeev (born 1953) – 6 photos, 14 sheets of text, 9 drawings
2. Yuri Albert (born 1959) – 3 photos, 1 sheet of text
3. Yuri Albert and Nadezhda Stolpovskaya (born 1959) – 1 photo, 1 sheet of text
4. Erik Bulatov (born 1933) – 1 photo, 29 sheets of text
5. Oleg Vasiliev (1931–2013) – 2 photos, 15 sheets of text
6. Eduard Gorokhovsky (1929–2004) – 16 photos, 4 sheets of text
7. Boris Groys (born 1947) – 1 sheet of text
8. Anatoly Zhigalov (born 1941) – 19 photos, 17 sheets of text
9. Vadim Zakharov (born 1959) – 5 photos, 14 sheets of text
10. Vadim Zakharov and Igor Lutz (born 1959) – 1 photo, 1 sheet of text
11. Francisco Infante (born 1943) – 5 photos, 61 sheets of text, 3 posters
12. Ilya Kabakov (born 1933) – 7 photos, 5 sheets of text
13. Georgy Kiesewalter (born 1955) – 2 photos, 7 sheets of text
14. Nikolay Kozlov and Leonid Tishkov (born 1953) – work from 16 folders, 1 sheet of text
15. Boris Kokorev (born 1958) – 8 photos, 1 sheet of text
16. Collective Actions (established 1976) – 11 photos
17. Aleksandr Kuzkin (1950–-1983) – 2 works, 1 sheet of text
18. Rostislav Lebedev (born 1946) – 4 photos, 1 sheet of text
19. Igor Makarevich (born 1943) – 3 photos, 1 sheet of text
20. Toadstool (Mukhomor) (1978–1984) – 10 sheets of text, 1 drawing
21. Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934–2009) – 4 book-objects, 1 sheet of text
22. Boris Orlov (born 1941) – 7 photos, 1 sheet of text
23. Lev Rubinstein (born 1947) – 2 text-objects, 1 sheet of text
24. Victor Skersis (born 1956) – 3 sheets of text
25. Victor Skersis and Vadim Zakharov – 4 sheets of text
26. Simona Sokhranskaya (born 1939) – 7 photos, 2 sheets of text
27. Nadezhda Stolpovskaya and Vadim Zakharov – 5 photos, 10 sheets of text
28. Ivan Chuikov (born 1935) – 5 photos, 1 sheet of text
29. Sergei Shablavin (born 1944) – 8 photos, 2 sheets of text
30. Evgeny Shiffers (1934–1997) – 15 sheets of text (biography and manuscript)
31. Eduard Steinberg (1937–2012) – 6 photos, 2 sheets of text
32. Sergei Shcherbakov (born 1959) – 4 photos, 1 sheet of text
33. Alexander Yulikov (born 1943) – 6 photos, 1 sheet of text
34. Vladimir Yankilevsky (born 1938) – 9 photos, 13 sheets of text
35. Michal Kern (1938–1994) – 7 photos, 1 sheet of text

Further reading
Alexandra Danilova and Elena Kuprina-Lyakhovich, translated by Yelena Yalinsky, ‘Five MANI Folders: An Experiment in Modeling Cultural Space’, introductory exhibition wall panels, Paper Museums: Moscow Conceptualism in Transit, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, 27 May–19 July 2014.
Vadim Zakharov, Moscow Conceptualism, online resource at http://www.conceptualism-moscow.org, accessed 1 December 2015.

Julia Tatiana Bailey
December 2015

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