Igor Makarevich

Target Selection (Vybor tseli)

1979, printed 1980s

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Not on display

Igor Makarevich born 1943
Original title
Vybor tseli
19 photographs, gelatin silver prints on paper
Displayed: 650 × 4200 × 25 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Acquisitions Fund for Russian Art, supported by V-A-C Foundation 2017


Target Selection 1976 comprises nineteen black and white photographs of the artist’s friends from non-conformist artistic circles, arranged side by side in a horizontal composition. The first image in this installation is a single portrait-format group photograph. It features Makarevich’s friends and fellow artists posing for the camera within a confined street setting. The faces of the artists are marked by either black or white dots taken from a die, from one dot to six: the sitters are Aleksandr Yulikov (1), Leonid Sokov (2), Ivan Chuikov (3), Rimma Gerlovina and her husband Valery Gerlovin (black and white 4 respectively), Igor Shelkovsky (5) and Sergei Shablavin (6). The remaining eighteen photographs are arranged in pairs, one above another: the top one is a group shot of the six artists, in a range of group poses with underneath the second print featuring an arrangement of dice, which corresponds to the grouping of the sitters. The five white dice correspond to the male members of the group and the single black one to the only female member of the group. As the people in the group image shift positions and move, sometimes disappearing from the frame completely, the arrangement of the dice in the lower part of the composition mirrors their movement.

Makarevich considers Target Selection to be his earliest photographic artwork. The photographs of his friends were taken in 1976 as the group was leaving their fellow-artist Leonid Sokov’s studio at Sukharevsky Side Street in Moscow, after the launch of an unofficial art exhibition. The group was photographed against a brick wall in an empty courtyard full of building site rubbish. The images were taken with a large professional camera with a long exposure, which required the subjects to remain absolutely still. After the first shot, the friends became distracted as the watchful inhabitants of the apartment block – alarmed by the gathering of bohemian-looking bearded and longhaired man dressed in fashionable leather jackets and a woman in a long raincoat – shouted at them. Reacting to being shouted at, the artists started moving and shifting their positions. Rimma Gerlovina’s discovery that she had ruined her new coat by sitting on a container of wet paint set the entire group in motion. When developing the prints later, Makarevich discovered that thirteen out of the fourteen shots he had taken were imperfect, with one or more members of the group appearing blurred. He noted:

While examining the prints I had a thought – the spoiled images appeared to gain additional depth, which transforms the superficial space of the image, giving the action a totally different meaning. I have decided to reinforce this spontaneously achieved effect by adding a second visual element of dice, which in their quantity and arrangement correspond to the number and movement of the artists. Therefore, I have incorporated the time element comparable to that of the shifting perspective in Cubism.
(Quoted in Russian in National Centre for Contemporary Art 2014, pp.236–7, translated by Tate curator Natalia Sidlina.)

The introduction of dice into the work adds a dimension of unpredictability and chance. To develop the first print in the set, Makarevich came up with a special template with holes in it to create the white dots, while the black marks on Gerlovina’s face were painted by hand directly onto the printed image. The cast dice randomly determine the artists’ destiny. In the late 1970s many of the artists featured in the group shot faced a choice between staying in the Soviet Union or emigrating. Shelkovsky left as early as 1976 for Paris, Rimma and Valery Gerlovin left in 1979 for the United States, soon to be followed by Sokov.

Target Selection was first shown as an installation at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1979, within the programme of the landmark exhibition Paris–Moscow 1900–1930. For the first time since the 1920s, works by key artists of the Russian avant-garde, such as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Natalia Goncharova and Alexander Rodchenko, were exhibited alongside those of the masters of the Paris School – Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani. In parallel, the Centre Pompidou presented an exhibition of young artists from Soviet Union, those working in Moscow and exploring the latest trends in international contemporary art. When, in 1978, Makarevich was invited to contribute to this exhibition, he sent two of his key photographic projects, the autobiographical work Changes 1978 and the installation Target Selection. This first version of the work consists of twelve pairs of photographs and is now held in the collection of the Centre Pompidou. In the 1980s Makarevich revisited the work, removed three pairs of images which he considered too repetitive, and printed it in an edition of three plus one artist’s proof at a professional photography studio. Tate’s version of the revised work is number one in the edition of three.

Makarevich has explained the importance of photography and of Target Selection (also known as Choice of Target) within his conceptual practice:

For me, photography has always been connected with conceptual art. In … one of the first exhibitions of unofficial art in Moscow, I used photography not simply as a means to fix reality. My early works – for example, Choice of Target (1976) or Changes (1978) – were works of conceptual art. No one did this back then. I was one of the first to start using photography in this way.
(Quoted in Neumaier 2004, p.285.)

An active member of the Russian artists’ group Collective Actions between 1979 and 1989, Makarevich also photographed most of the group’s performances.

Further reading
Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no.2, 1979, pp.259–71.
Diane Neumaier (ed.) Beyond Memory: Soviet Nonconformist Photography and Photo-Related Works of Art, New Brunswick 2004, pp.278–91.
Yuri Albert (ed.) Moscow Conceptualism: The Beginning, exhibition catalogue, National Centre for Contemporary Art, Nizhny Novgorod 2014 (in Russian).

Natalia Sidlina
December 2015

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