</From Cancel Culture to Neo-romanticism: The World Of Tishkov>
author: Nikita Malashenko
If you think that cancel culture is a modern phenomenon, you are mistaken. The period of the USSR has taught us that anyone can be expelled from society. “I have been a famous cartoonist in the Soviet Union since the beginning of the 1970s, but after my unauthorized participation in a show in West Berlin they refused to publish my works in magazines. Thus, I became an underground artist…” — recalls Leonid Tishkov. In the underground environment, Leonid tried to open new media for himself: book illustration, livre d’artiste, sculpture, installations among other formats. It looks like in captivity he became free. The romantic worlds of Tishkov seem to be rooted in a sense of detachment from society and have the imprint of loneliness as a scar.

“Private Moon”, 2003 until now

Tishkov’s oeuvre has been explored by the recent exhibition “Only the stars are closer than the moon” summarizing poetic works of different formats. It comprises parts of the project “Private Moon” (2003 until now), installations “Houses-wanderers” (2008), “Wishing Machine” (2010) and video-installation “Migration of people into space” (2012). Тhe connection of these works create a humanistic and peace-loving meaning, it is hard not to catch in our terrible and frightening time.

“Private Moon” is a light object’s travel around the world, weaving different spaces and times into one fabric. The project has been ongoing for almost 20 years. Its geography extends from Taiwan to the Arctic and from the Urals to the American cities though Kyiv. The lighting moon traveling around the world makes poetry and sensuality find its way to the viewer.

According to Mr. Tishkov, “the private, absolutely quiet, even delicate project” brings people back to the territory of senses by simplicity and sincerity. It tries to “reveal the sensuous surface of art without mucking about in it,” as Susan Sontag has said. Luminous photos of the lighting moon look especially charming in а twilight of the hall. The bewitching effect of the familiar and habitual image of the Moon is connected with Surrealist tradition. “Private Moon” is an homage to Rene Magritte. Mr. Tishkov said: “I dedicated it to the Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte. There is a picture by him called September 16, 1956; it is a luminous moon in the crown of a dark tree. That is actually all that is depicted there. It might have been a usual postmodernist trick that so many artists are fond of: to take an image and transfer it to another context.” Not so much the object itself, but the environment around it acquires new outlines and meanings, a new magical aura. A goal of the artist is to make the viewer more sensitive to a feeling that is more typical for children – experiencing new facets of the world. It is no wonder that Tishkov is called a neo-romantic of the post-industrial world.

Complementing the lunar theme is the “Wishing Machine” installation. The lighting star climbs on the platform, then it falls. The random and subtle phenomenon that we call a shooting star has become industrialized and subject to the will of the mechanism, not the space. Nevertheless, Tishkov brings the visitors closer to a miracle and encourages them to engage in a dialogue with our desires, depriving the shooting star of its hanger. On the wall, the artist wrote a question asking what DO you really want. Previous desires are contested, and new ones surrender to the general atmosphere of the exhibition — dreaminess, calm, peace. And then your mind comes back into reality under a stream of contemplating and meditative music.

Installation “Houses-wanderers” becomes a visual demonstration of the harmony and tranquility of the world in peace. A small village in winter, glimmering windows and shapes of people, — this image expands to sizes comparable with a city, region, country, continent, all the world. These are small figures though, no more than 3,5 inch. Video-installation “Migration of people into space” invites visitors to come into a long room with a lot of black-and-white portraits in oval frame.

“Private Moon”, 2003 until now

In Russia, photos like these are usually used on tombstones. It flies up into the distance, forming stars against the background of black space. Given this, the meaning of the name of the exhibition (“Only stars are closer than the Moon”) becomes clear. That moon of Tishkov, which he took almost all over the world, with which he survived in the frosts of the north and slept under one blanket, which Tishkov brought from the sky closer to people — it isn’t as close as a memory of dead people who have become stars in the night sky.

There is another key written on the wall. It is a poem of Vsevolod Nekrasov. Below is a free unpoetic translation:
I will fly or not — I don’t know
To moon or to stars
But I tasted the moon on my tongue
In the forty-first year in Kazan



which is not

there is no bread

I returned to Moscow a long time ago
I have lunch almost every day

And the moon looked delicious
And the moon tasted white
Quote sources:
Anna Prosvetova. INTERVIEW: Anna Prosvetova meets with Leonid Tishkov, a Russian contemporary artist, to talk about his exhibition at Erarta Galleries London. URL: https://www.prosvetova.com/blog/2015-05-28-interview-leonid-tishkov-talks-about-his-exhibition-at-erarta-galleries-london