Oleg Kulik first initiated the 'On Transparency' exhibition in late 1991. His timing was well chosen. The recent August victory over the putschists had unleashed the unprecedented energy of so-called private enterprise in our country. The new Russian business ran wild from lack of control and a sense of impunity, developing with the speed of a thermonuclear reaction. With great sadness I watched the grandiose spectacle of human values yielding to the power of money. Amid this unbridled debauchery anything artists had to offer paled in comparison. Before our very eyes art became a deeply personal affair, a private interest proclaimed by some of my friends as a new aesthetic programme, although it seemed utterly hopeless to me.
But there was an alternative. If I understood Oleg correctly, by 'transparency' he meant art that could mimic social realities, coalesce with them and stay invisible, while still remaining powerful and independent. This gave rise to his non-human image, although I have encountered worse bestiality in real life. At the time I was working on large-scale yet almost dematerialised compositions, on the brink of visual perception. Kulik found something akin to his own concepts here and invited me to participate in this project.
An abandoned Pioneer camp named after Yuri Gagarin was selected for the exhibition. We set off to examine the site. Decrepit buildings, sports grounds overgrown with weeds and faded boards around a flagstaff. I prefer to forget my youth, but here there was no escape. Gagarin, weightlessness, the soil of the Pioneer camp impregnated with sperm, and rage at the burden of physical existence in Moscow in 1992 should all have crystallised in a single image. After reflecting for a couple of months I decided to hang a cloud of badminton shuttlecocks over the camp.
Now the idea had to take shape. For this I called on my friend and co-author Konstantin Bokhorov. He was responsible for implementation, using a whole series of technical devices. For a week we suspended thousands of shuttlecocks in the air, under the pouring September rain. Every day, from dawn to dusk.
The entire project was financed by the Regina Gallery in Moscow, an example of phantasmagorical cooperation between financial-industrial capital and contemporary art in post-perestroika Russia. The exhibition preview lasted a whole night, marked by scandal that was somehow prophetic. Kulik dreamed of uniting artists and new businessmen in one space. But they found it hard to love one another. In the end a fight broke out. Or rather, the businessmen's bodyguards beat up some of the artists. A night in the Pioneer camp, with singing and dancing from specially invited gypsy performers and sturgeon shish kebab, beneath a cloud of badminton shuttlecocks.
From the 'Bons Baisers de Russie' exhibition catalogue, Festival Garonne 2000, Toulouse (published in French)