Fransiz polisi Oleg Kulik'in FIAC fuarinda sergilenen islerine mahkeme karariyla el koymus. Fotograflari yukarida, hikayesi asagida.
"Circulez!" shouted a wiry man with a shaved head as he fixed a piece of electrician's tape across the entrance to the booth of Moscow's XL Gallery, barring access. "Ce n'est pas un spectacle!" But indeed it was.It was day two of the FIAC art fair in Paris, around 4.15 in the afternoon, and visitors to the small two-storey section at one end of the Grand Palais were witnessing a public performance rarely seen in the contemporary art world. At its centre was From the Dustbin (2007), an installation of unframed photos by Ukrainian artist Oleg Kulik. As is often the case with Kulik's work, many of the photos depicted simulated acts of zoophilia – naked men, usually the artist, pretending to couple with sheep, dogs, and, in one photo, a guy in a monkey suit, the latter in behind the crouched-over Kulik, whose face is contorted in a feigned rictus of rectal pain or pleasure. Other images were more innocuous: the face of a beautiful woman next to the head of a large bulldog; a naked man in the arms of a naked woman; a man walking a dog at the end of a leash; a man walking the artist at the end of a leash; the artist wearing a dog collar and growling at the camera from inside a cage; the artist, bare-chested, flying through the air. Perhaps the most disturbing was a close-up of a smiling young girl hugging a giant mastiff — not because there was anything bestial in the representation, but because the girl had two black eyes.
Next to the photo-installation, a small sign in English and French read, 'The explicit sexual content of certain images is likely to disturb some members of the public and is not suitable for children.'"Whose stand is this?" asked someone in the crowd gathering outside the booth. Someone had removed the sign above the stand indicating the gallery's name and origin.Six other men of identical dress and demeanor were hovering behind the man with the tape. Black jeans, black shirts, black jackets – the only thing differentiating them from most of the onlookers' were the accessories: walkie-talkies and guns. "Is it a performance piece?" someone asked. "Who's the artist?" Under police instruction, XL gallerists Sergey Khripun and Elena Selina take down images by Oleg Kulik.
Alone woman in a dark overcoat joined the group of men as they consulted a thick document. Elena Selina and Sergey Khripun, the gallery owners, towered over them. They looked worried. Khripun, a tall, sad-faced man, pointed at a photo. "It was exhibited in a Paris gallery very recently," he said in broken French. "And this one is in a collection of the French state."The men in black shrugged. Khripun sighed, walked to the wall and began prying thumbtacks from the edges of the offending image with a small screwdriver. Two photos already removed from the wall were on the floor at his feet.Meanwhile, the crowd behind the tape was growing. The woman in the overcoat stepped toward them.
"No photos! We are not artists. You can't take our picture. We are civil servants."
"What's going on?" someone asked.
"What are you doing?"
"There's nothing to see here," said the man with the shaved head.
"Circulez! And stop taking fucking photos!""It's a publicity stunt," said a man as he walked away. A few others rolled their eyes and moved on. Others stayed, more arrived. Word was spreading fast.
"Who are you people?" said a member of the public.
"Why are you taking down those pictures?"
"We're police officers and we have a court order from a judge to seize these photos."
"Because a judge has determined them indecent."
"Indecent? Ridiculous. Since when is art something that a judge decides?" said the man.
"Just doing my job, monsieur. Following the judge's order."
"Since when is bestiality art?" countered a cop with a sneer.
"This is outrageous!""Appalling!""Scandaleux!"A man shouted over the railing at the multitudes milling about on the floor below.
"People, come see! A judge and the police are deciding what you can and can't see!"The police tensed. Walkie-talkies crackled. Within 30 seconds a sizeable phalanx of backup was racing up the stairs.
"Christ," said someone in the crowd. "You don't see this many cops at a murder scene."More duct tape was stretched across the entrance to the stand. The stairs were blocked off. Two young women bearing FIAC badges showed up. "S'il vous plaît," said one, addressing the crowd. "C'est une question de poids. You're too heavy. It's not safe. And there are other works to see. Be reasonable. It's not fair to the other stands."
"It's not fair to us nor to the artist. We have a right to see this."
"Allez!" said a cop. "Let's go. No photos! Move!""And if we don't want to move?" said a petite, fashionably dressed French woman."Then we will move you."The woman giggled.
"Ah, but you see, we are French, and this is la résistance. This is what we do in this country. We resist."
"Vive la résistance!" shouted a man with a heavy German accent. The crowd laughed. No one moved away.
"Get them out of here!" shouted the little man."I tried," said his colleague. "They don't want to.""No! We don't want to!" shouted the petite woman.
"Vive la résistance!"By this point the Russian gallerist with the screwdriver had been replaced by four policemen with penknives. Three quarters of the 30-odd photos were lying in a stack on the floor. A DVD of I Bite America and America Bites Me (1997), Kulik's two-week performance piece at Deitch Projects in New York, was removed from the player and placed in a plastic bag. The video shows visitors in protective suits fighting with the naked and dog collared and chained artist inside a heavily secured doghouse. It and stills from it belong to major art collections around the world. What's more, Kulik's dog-lover photos were on public display just a few yards away – at the FIAC stands of Vienna's Krinzinger Projekte and Moscow’s M&J Guelman Gallery – and had been on view at XL Gallery's stands at earlier art fairs, including Frieze (in the UK, the possession of bestiality imagery is a criminal offence but only if it can 'reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal') and Art Basel.
"There are collages downstairs by Thomas Hirschorn with photos of magazine models next to pictures of dismembered Iraqis with their heads blown open and their brains oozing out."
"This is absurd! You can see worse images on TV or the Internet every day." Which is true – type "Oleg Kulik" into Google Images and thousands of carnal canine pictures will pop into view."Are we to be told what is art?"
"This is a disgrace!"Khripun and Selina had their coats on and the police were escorting them toward the stairs. One of the flics lunged out at a middle-aged tourist with a camera, grabbing him by the forearm. "What did I say? No pictures!""Why not?" said the well-dressed woman.
"Is this a police state? Are we sheep? Are we just going to bend over and take this?"No one answered, but a few saw the parallels and snickered. The police and the FIAC forces gently pushed back the crowd. The gallerist and the police started down the stairs, just as the fair's directors, Martin Bethenod and Jennifer Flay, were coming up. Bethenod, an elegant man dressed in black, pulled out his notepad and began taking names. "This is a scandal," he said. "Some of these works are in national collections."
"What's happening?" a man asked Bethenot."A member of the pubic complained that these images are indecent. A judge has ordered them seized. There will be an enquiry. We have a lawyer who specializes in this and we will do what is necessary." He headed off to the police station, cell phone at his ear. Jennifer Flay, the fair's artistic director, stayed behind."I am shocked that this has happened," said Flay. "French customs held up the images, then two days ago the police told us that their had been a complaint and that we had to put up signs warning people of the explicit nature of the work. The gallery raised no opposition and signs were placed next to the photos. Now, with no prior warning, the police have seized the works, acting on a judgment from the courts." She dropped into a chair. "I don't want to talk about this. It's too upsetting. These works are no more shocking than many of the works of Picasso or Hans Bellmer or other great artists throughout the history of art. This is appalling and we will of course help the gallery.
Within seconds, no trace of the ruckus remained except the gaps and thumbtack holes on the stand wall. The strip of tape came down, new members of the public rolled by, gaping unawares at images and their absence. A handful of photos had survived the police raid: the woman and the bulldog; the artist flying through the air; the artist submerged in a tank of water. These and a few others were scattered here and there across the wall. The video screen was black. A pile of yellow thumbtacks was left on the floor. Visitors puzzled over the haphazard placement. Then they moved on.