“A naughty guerrilla action was performed at the opening of the 6th Moscow Biennale by Russian representatives of the Austrian Art-Label FUCKi̶s̶m̶ Toshain / Ceeh.
The theme proclaimed by the curators of the Biennale was “HOW TO GATHER. ACTING IN A CENTRE IN A CITY IN THE HEART OF THE ISLAND OF EURASIA”. On this occasion, Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh took the opportunity to deliver their personal vendetta message against the Biennale curator, and director of the Kunsthalle Wien, Nicolaus Schafhausen. They presented their “ACTING IN A CENTRE IN A CITY..” in the form of an art newspaper that depicts Schafhausen as a ‘poster boy’ placarded around the city of Vienna. Also depicted was the documentation of an illegal guerrilla performance by Anna Ceeh and Iv Toshain that had been carried out at the Kunsthalle Wien itself. The artists themselves sprayed the FUCK̶i̶s̶m TC label logo on the exponents thus prompting a reaction from the Kunsthalle.. (rumours have been circulating that Kunsthalle Wien have recently plagiarised an exhibition-setting from the FUCK̶i̶̶s̶m TC team..).
Despite the daring action, Kunsthalle Wien removed the sprayed logos quietly and without a trace.
2000 copies of the newspaper artwork edition featuring a text by Ursula Maria Probst, were distributed to the public, and to the Artists and curators of the 6th Moscow Biennale at the opening.
The FUCKi̶s̶m̶ artists commented on their action in the VDNKh:
“Art is Personal. We made this Guerrilla Art / Vendetta Performance to question curatorial self-representations, institutional power and hierarchies; extending the established status quo of artistic concept and space.” – Valera Krasnagir/ FILET magazine
What’s up with “FUCKi̶s̶mTC“? by Ursula Maria Probst
The first question to come up is: what do Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh want to achieve with their project “XXXXi̶s̶m̶ TC” and their label FXXXXismTC, or what is their purpose in activating new models on the art scene? What long-needed discussions about (power) structures, authorities and rigid bureaucracies in the art business are they initiating by means of a meticulously planned, detailed yet also unconventional way of dealing with institutional sensitivities and concepts and such keywords as appropriation and re-appropriation or branding and re-branding? Even though their methods sometimes have the prefix “re” attached to them, and even though they act in a field of tension between Actionism and guerrilla actions, the sequences of their activisms and graffiti performances amount to an extension of what we have hoped for, and still hope for, in avant-garde approaches – namely an emancipatory “twist” that goes beyond currently propagated art trends, demanding a re-politicised positioning in art and appealing to both our intellect and our instincts.
Why did Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh devote so much space in their project “FXXXi̶s̶m̶TC РИТУАЛ“ to a portrait of the present director of the Wiener Kunsthalle, Nicolous Schafhausen, within the project FXXXXismTC, plastering the city with posters of it (using unauthorised free spaces for the purpose in guerilla style) and distributing it on the occasion of an opening at the Secession, thus causing confusion between the otherwise clearly separated action and performance spaces of Viennese art institutions? (The Secession was already considering taking legal action against the Kunsthalle Wien when lv Toshain and Anna Ceeh outed as their art project what had looked like a self-promotion action of Nicolaus Schafhausen.) Their setting almost achieved iconic features on the occasion of their exhibition “Urban Diary” in the Galerie Charim (which in turn took place as a form of cooperation with the Kunsthalle project “Destination Vienna” in 2015) by including a kneeling-bench, which invited visitors to genuflect in front of the portrait of Nicolaus Schafhausen while simultaneously thus thwarting a re-branding of the heraldic eagle that forms the logo of the Kunsthalle.
Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh began working together in 2012 with the FEMINismTC project for which they made photo shootings with protagonists of the art and culture scene dressed in a black or white t-shirt bearing the text “FEMINismTC”. Nicolaus Schafhausen was one of them. He posed in front of the camera with the t-shirt designed by Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh pulling his jacket wide open and putting his hand over his heart in a gesture of pathos. Even this project of the two artists was an initial trigger to develop contrarian formats and to reflect critically on the feminine discourse in the art industry, which proclaimed clear positions in theory but which was polarising in practice. Since 2012 Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh have used their art-label as a platform, as a modular instrument for inquiring critically into institutional activities or their absences. In this they are skilled networkers, placing interdisciplinary activities, contexts and displays into new relationships, bursting through the boundaries within the field of art. As an interim intervention in the framework of their project ПРЕЙЪР they plastered the city with slogans from such artists as Marina Abramovic, Linda Bilda, Anneta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkácova and VALIE EXPORT, for this purpose making use of hoardings and passages, employing the streets as an exhibition space for a kind of branding.
When Nicolaus Schafhausen and Vivien Trummer also took the poster as a format for the exhibition “Attention Economy” in May 2014, using hoardings as a display site and labelling themselves as a think tank, Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh saw a need for action and opposed this act of appropriation by the two curators with an act of re-appropriation, by spraying their own label onto the poster installations in a guerrilla action and publishing a video of their work on You Tube. In this way they worked against the tendency of the Kunsthalle’s curatorial strategy to appropriate ideas from artists without discussing copyright or copyleft or taking that into account. Instead of taking the opportunity for a discussion of the matter, the Kunsthalle Wien removed the labels. When friends of the artists dared to check the action visually, the labels were gone without any announcement of the incident finding its way into the media. Even though Nicolaus Schafhausen personally knows the two protagonists of FUCKismTC – unlike the legendary Guerilla-Girls or Artivistic groups, they don’t operate in masks but have given their names to their projects from the beginning – he never made contact with them or sought a conversation to discuss precisely the shifts in artistic and curatorial cooperation described above.
It looks as though Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh have always been a step ahead not only because they uncover the hegemonic structures of the art industry and its effects and analyse them but also because the appropriate curatorial practices themselves and use their arti practices to produce a public space for discourse and new audiences.
photos by Alexei Lysak, Nastya Shashkova