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23/06/2006 11:33 Local Time 
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“Thoughts on culture and Europe” series: Exclusive interview with Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

Ilya Kabakov
What is the role of politics in your work? Is art an efficient, or even subversive, form for addressing political questions?

I.K.-E.K  Politics doesn’t play any role in our work. Art is a different field of human existence and it doesn’t really influence politics. Politics (or politicians) very often use art but this doesn’t mean that art wants to be used.

Your work has often been portrayed as a critique of the Soviet system. How is it relevant in the context of a liberal society?

I.K.-E.K It is not a critique of the Soviet system. It is a complaint! It is impossible to criticize the climate: if you live in a place where the weather is always rainy, it is useless to criticize it, you can only complain.

You started your career in the environment set by the Soviet regime. Was your work influenced by official Soviet art?

I.K.-E.K It’s a double sided version. The artist arrives into the existing history of art. This system does influence him, but, at the same time, he is influencing the system (or at least he has the opportunity to do something to this art history – if he manages to do so).

Europe apart from a political project reflects a cultural dimension as well. This, in terms of setting the boundaries of European culture and trying to pin down a European identity. Do you think this is feasible or even desirable? If you do, even if you don’t, where do you think this process might lead?

I.K.-E.K Any strong physical body as long as it is alive works through the expansion and influence of its area. This is different from politics, which is only interested in territories and borders.

Debates on globalization usually suppose a tension between the global and the local or national. Is your work inspired by this tension or do you think that the global and the local/national might be thought as supplementary?

I.K.-E.K The problem is extremely serious. We think it is dramatic from the start and probably unsolvable.

How would you picture/write/direct something that you would call ‘European’?

I.K.-E.K The answer can sound very banal: “European culture”.



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