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"Sewers of the World, Unite!"



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"ARTCHRONIKA" # 4-5 / 2001

The idea of creating an encyclopedia of sewer manholes as a field of spontaneous contemporary art is disarmingly obvious as well as surprisingly belated in its essence. It is hard to explain rationally why the theme never emerged on Moscow's art scene before. Magazine cartoonists have used as their favored motifs sewer grates and manhole hatches, with their regular visual structures, since about the early 20 century - at the dawn of European constructivism and geometric abstraction where they figured as anonymous self-styled doubles of Duchamp's "Pissoir". With time those grotesque Dada associations were enriched with yet another - paranoiac - context called forth by the birth of the "world web" accompanied, naturally, by the rumors of a "conspiracy". And the authors of this originally web project seized upon the chance to play in its title around the spectre of the alleged sinister plot. Though the link between the Marxist slogan and the sewer may have been also prompted by the mixed fortunes of the Internet whose image is neurotically distorted in the mass consciousness (and in some of its higher strata too). Next to the demonic nightmares imagined by the Orthodox Church technophobes and overexcited anti-globalists there is a sceptical, nearly medical, view of the Internet as a refuge for autistic people, perverts, grapho- and other maniacs, which is also deplorable, but less globalistic. Still, it was in the literal, underground, and not electronic sewers, that historical conspiracies were hatched: remember Eugene Sue with his Mysteres de Paris, Julio Cortazar with his strange characters vanishing in the Metro, or Umberto Echo's horrible mysteries lurking in those chtonic labyrinths. It may be the latest digital form of such conspiratorial discources and practices that finally lifted a ban on public demonstration of that esoteric part our troublesome culture.

Sergei Epikhin

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