Raw tape for the award-winning series The 90's. Pop artist Alexander Kasparov is interviewed about his work, which critiques American culture and its link to capitalism. His work combines Communist phrases with American products like Mickey Mouse and McDonald's.
00:15Copy video clip URL Shots of Kasparov’s artwork: “McLenin’s” combines imagery from McDonald’s and KFC with Lenin’s face; Mickey Mouse is painted next to the slogan, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”; Mickey Mouse with hammer and sickle, and bullet holes; Marlboro boxes with “Malevich”; Marlboro symbol with birds; a king in a forest looking out at the McDonald’s sign.
01:50Copy video clip URL Videomaker Esti Marpet interviews Alexander Kasparov, who talks about how he believes Americans are friendlier than Soviets because they did not experience seventy years of Communism. He discusses the hospitality he and his wife received after their move to Pennsylvania, despite their being foreign.
03:30Copy video clip URL Kasparov recounts his arrival in 1975, and the problems he faced with the Soviet artistic system. “They see artists like serving only ideology, and if you are not sharing of the same ideology, you are just completely out of the business, you are nowhere.” So he came to America, despite difficulties with immigration.
05:00Copy video clip URL Marpet asks whether America has lived up to Kasparov’s expectations. He says he idealized the country from the beginning; it was a “youthful dream.” He grew up in a state under the Iron Curtain, where there was a lack of information and the free market system and capitalism were foreign, so it was hard to learn how to fit in and to start a new life.
06:45Copy video clip URL Marpet asks how Kasparov’s art criticizes, and he responds by saying that it is a reflection of where he was born. His art explores American culture through his own Russian experience. Kasparov uses his art to criticize and find humor in the differences and similarities between American and Soviet cultures. In particular, he compares the monopolization of advertisement art in America and propaganda art in the Soviet Union. Both methods produce the same results, though in the Soviet Union, people are expected to believe in the culture. In America, though, you can escape (by not watching television, for instance).
11:00Copy video clip URL Marpet asks, “What are the American dynamics that are expressed in your paintings?” and Kasparov responds, “When I started to feel more and more involved in American culture, I used more and more American images.” He goes on to talk about a painting of Spiderman, brief contact he had with Stan Lee, and how he did not have access to comics as a child. Such openness of American culture appeals to him.
13:10Copy video clip URL “Are you concerned with consumerism?” Marpet asks. Kasparov thinks that consumerism is a large part of American culture, “it’s like a constant fight, a constant exchange of ideas, and trends and styles… But this is how it is supposed to be.” He concludes by saying that the American culture is a leading culture.
14:00Copy video clip URL Kasparov explains that he has had exhibitions in Germany, other places in Europe, and Moscow, but now American culture is inside of him.
14:30Copy video clip URL Kasparov talks about his Marlboro painting, which addresses the “double life” of his experience. Marlboro is part of American mythology and is heroic, and he tries to relate the design on the boxes to Russian avant-garde, constructivism and Malevich. Repetition of the design makes you lose the sense of what Marlboro is, in a mass culture. Malevich is the same in Russia–he is a cultural hero–so he puts together the images.
17:33Copy video clip URL Kasparov discusses the painting of Mickey Mouse paired with part of the Communist Manifesto. He means it to be a mockery, but he imagines what kinds of ads will be used when Disneyland comes to the Soviet Union.
18:45Copy video clip URL Kasparov discusses the “McLenin’s” painting. He recalls seeing McDonald’s in Moscow, and considering “How is the best way to represent America to the Russian public?” He combines Lenin, McDonald’s and KFC imagery (which reminds him of Trotsky).
20:30Copy video clip URL They turn to the artwork of Mickey Mouse with hammer and sickle, which is riddled with gunshots. Kasparov likes comics because he didn’t have them as a child. He used a Russian gun to shoot the painting because, “It’s a Russian approach to the surface of the paintings.”
22:00Copy video clip URL A painting of the tsar looking for McDonald’s. Kasparov thinks about helping advertisement campaigns in Russia. “The tsar was lost in the woods and suddenly he found the way out, and he found this through the McDonald’s arch.” In the style of Faberge and fairy tales, Kasparov represents American culture in a Russian style.
23:30Copy video clip URL Marpet asks if Kasparov has any criticism of the American culture. He says that as an artist, he doesn’t criticize; instead, he tries to be more free and address things that interest him, because he finds it more productive. As a human being, he believes there is no ideal place, and we could find many solutions if we concentrated on problems such as homelessness and racial problems.
25:53Copy video clip URL A painting with the words “War” and “Recession,” that Kasparov painted during the Cold War. He painted in a style he invented called “Recessionism,” in a fairy tale, Russian style.
27:00Copy video clip URL So far, Kasparov thinks America has been good to him, and he feels he exists like an artist again. Economics were not a factor for him, because in Russia artists are state-supported, but he feels could not do his art in the same way in Russia.
29:11Copy video clip URL Kasparov has gotten a lot of mockery about the capitalism in his paintings, but “now capitalism is being shipped to Russia.”
29:40Copy video clip URL A painting of caviar tins, a famous icon in Russia, similar to Campbell’s soup is in America.
30:14Copy video clip URL A shot of the painting of the Malevich and Marlboro images combined in a painting.
30:30Copy video clip URL Painting of the Marlboro man, as Kasparov says, “how it is supposed to be advertised in the Soviet Union.”
30:50Copy video clip URL Russian macaroni artwork, using real macaroni. “Paintings are supposed to be like real things.” The tape ends with a panning shot of Kasparov in the gallery.
32:18Copy video clip URL End of tape.