vladimir umanets

What exactly is Yellowism?

In 2010, Russian artists, Vladimir Umanets and Marcin Lodyga collaborate on a set of ideals. Putting them to the test, both Vladimir and Marcin hosted a series of exhibitions which eventually put the cogs of yellowism in motion. The yellowist’s first exhibition was entitled, Flattened to yellow, and was hosted in the “Natalia Vodianova Yellowistic Chamber”, Giza, Egypt, 2010. On may 24th 2012, Yellowists hosted their third exhibition entitled, No One Lives Forever. The exhibition was shown within the same “Natalia Vodianova Yellowistic Chamber.” Within the show, Damien hirst, Represented a piece of work he compiled back in 2010. Magnificent seven is a rectangular box that houses seven ping-pong balls. On each ball is a single word that shows his process. Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results, Findings. The idea behind the exhibition was to take previous gallery works from non yellowist artists, and recreate them under the laws of the yellowism manifesto. Damien Hirst, Neville, and Miroslaw Balka were the artists that took part.

Vladimir and Marcin defined the right context for there works, which were in a wrong context before. The new and right one is called “Yellowism”, the wrong one is called “art”. Marcin wrote the Manifesto of Yellowism in the period of change, somewhere in the grey; in between – between the territory of art, which they wanted to escape (and they did) and a new, exciting territory known as Yellowism. It was the act of moving from one state of mind to another, but the latter they were forming simultaneously. The decision they made should not be considered as an artistic process. It is not right to class Yellowism as a whole a work of art, as it is not art. Even as pieces of yellowism, they are to presented seperate and not be viewed as one big piece. Attempting to justify, this would be like claiming all art fits under one catagory. One giant art piece.

Again in 2012, Vladimir Umanets, was arrested for defacing Black on marron, 1958, by Rothko at the Tate gallery, London. Vladimir’s justification for this act was to promote his own art movement entitled, Yellowism. When entering the gallery, Vladimir claimed he had no idea on what Rothko painting to write on, but feels he picked the right one. As well as that, Vladimir believes that his act of iconoclasm will enhance the value of the painting as well as helping promote yellowism. The idea of the yellowism movement is vauge and fails to explain what yellowism stands for. It has been said that vladimir umanets philosophy and understandings of art, are different compared to those involved in the art community.

“I believe that Umanets was motivated by a strong force and the question “What Is Art For?” is still a valid pursuit. He showed courage and commitment to do what he did but I’m not convinced by his philosophy at this stage."1

These shallow acts of iconoclasm are not rare. In 1974, Tony Shafrazi defaced, Guernica, by Pablo Picasso and In 1975, William De Rijk slashed Night watch, by Rembrandt. It could be argued, that the reasons behind some of these acts of vandalisms were not for attention, but for a message or purpose. Pierre Pinoncelli urinated on Marcel Duchamp’s "the fountain” in 1993 as a performance piece. While in 1997, Alexander Brener, spray painted a green dollar sign on Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematisme. In the court case Brener said in his defense:

“The cross is a symbol of suffering, the dollar sign a symbol of trade and merchandise. On humanitarian grounds are the ideas of Jesus Christ of higher significance than those of the money. What I did was not against the painting. I view my act as a dialogue with Malevich."2

One of the most famous forms of iconoclasm is Robert Raushenberg’s Erased Re Kooning 1953, in which Raushenberg received an original Willem De Kooning and erased it and presented it as his own. This was seen as an act of vandalism and an insult to De Kooning. Rausenberg and De Kooning had different views and understanding, but the work was continued under a mutual agreement. Another way to understand Raushenberg’s Erased De Kooning is to understand the question of, "What is art for?” It could be said that Raushenberg’s Erased De Kooning was based purely on this question.

Another famous form of iconoclasm was presented in 2003 by Jake and Dinos Chapman. After purchasing the 80 original Francisco Goya etching collectively known as disasters of war, Jake and Dinos started their new project entitled “Insult to Injury”. This new project involved Jake and Dinos Chapman drawing on the original Goya etchings. Clown faces, happy faces, sad faces and bunnies swarmed on Goya etchings. Again this was seen as a huge insult to Goya and his works. Jake and Dinos Chapman explained that even before purchasing them, their intentions were to “rectify” them.

Does Vladimir’s understanding and philosophy of the arts excuse him from vandalism? No. Clearly Umanet’s intentions on marking the Rothko painting was meant to turn heads. Writing on the original was obviously the idea of the whole purpose to make his message loud and clear, otherwise he would have purchased a print to write on. But what is Ulmanit’s message? Attention seeking? Advertising Yellowism? Or both?

“Manifesto of Yellowism. Yellowism in not art or anti-art. Examples of Yellowism can look like works of art but are not works of art. We believe that the contexts for works of art are already art. The context of Yellowism is nothing but Yellowism. Piece of Yellowism are not visually yellow, however sometimes can be."3

If Vladimir’s Yellowist manifesto claims it is not art or anti-art, then what exactly is it? A philosophy? A thought process? A way of life? Umanet’s mentioned in an interview that the main difference between art and yellowism, is that within art, the artist has the freedom to express using any colour on his palette, while yellowism contains no freedom at all. Yellowism is based on yellow, nothing more, nothing less. The manifesto does well to dance around raised questions without any answers. As well as the "art, anti-art” riddle, Vladimir’s manifesto insists that pieces of yellowism are to be shown on in “Yellowistic chambers”

“Yellowism can only be presented in Yellowistic chambers. An Yellowistic chamber is a closed room that is not an art gallery and because of its nature cannot exist or be presented in an art gallery. An yellowistic chamber serves only to show pieces of yellowism. Violet walls of an Yellowistic chamber are the only neutral background for pieces of Yellowism."4

The only things that Vladimir and Marcin have made clear within their manifesto, is that yellowism is neither art, or anti-art and as a result, the works compiled under yellowism are to only be presented in yellowistic chambers. These set of guidelines are the only laws that seem to make sence. The idea of a movement is to show progression and evolution, yet, Vladimir’s Manifesto resists any form of evolution. To present bodies of work, that are about nothing more than the colour yellow seems strange. Why yellow? Why not blue, or red? It could be argued that the colour is important to the movement but not relelvent to disscution. The act of producing is relevent, the momentum of expantion is key.

It could be argued that yellowism is nothing more than a mirrored image of art, It looks exactly the same art, but it is not art. A persons mirror reflection doesn’t feel like the person, doesn’t think like the person, is flat, is… lifeless. Yellowism looks like art but is not art…then yes, philosophically speaking, Yellowism can be a mirror of art - when entering an yellowistic chamber, you literally cross the gap of the art world and the reflectioned realm of yellowism. The audience is like Alice, but know this, yellowism is far from being an illusion. It is very real.

When asked if artist’s can create art based on yellow, Vladimir and Marcin explained that you can, but you will do this only in the context of art; in which you can make work about red, yellow, blue, surface, war, line, shape, space, religion, politics, globalisation, the human condition, sex, love, art itself etc. Artists can refer to all these things separately or they can mix them as they like. In art we have a wide spectrum of stories, private mythologies, themes, references, points of departure, metaphors, messages, interpretations etc. In the context of Yellowism, yellowistic works are only about yellow and nothing more. In Yellowism everything has to be flattened to yellow. The metaphorical rock, large and heavy, fell down and now all emotional and intellectual possibilities are deducted to one, and that one is yellow. Only the visual form continuously changes within the “image” of Yellowism. Veriations of materials desplayed in different configurations appear on one still yellow surface. It does not matter how the piece of Yellowism looks, it only matters what kind of medium they choose to use to make a certain piece, The materials used are not relevent, it does not matter how the yellowists arrange the elements within the space, it does not matter what it is title as. Every piece of Yellowism has been about, and always will be about yellow and they will always express exacly the same thing. If you were to ever go to visit “an yellowistic chamber” you would see that the exhibition presented there, is about yellow and you should expect no intellectual struggles. As Vladimir and Marcin understand it, the message of yellow should be enough. If you fail to understand their context of yellow as followed within their manifesto, then you seem to be out of the loop. There is only one message to ponder on, an unlimited, universal information for every yellowistic installation.

During Vladimirs arrest, he compaired himself to Marcel Duchamp. Umanets and lodyga insist that Yellowism is not a remake of Fluxus or Dada, as they are neither art or anti-art. Marcin explained in the Yellowism FAQ section of his website that Yellowism is a new installment of what Dada could have been if Marcel Duchamp continued to create works.

“Duchamp was playing with two contexts: reality and art. Yellowism is a third context. Duchamp resigned from art…but in the end we have "Etant donnes” in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We resigned from art and at the same moment, with Vladimir Umanets, we defined a new territory for our practices.“5

Yellowism is not art, it is not even a form of creativity. Vladimir and Marcin resigned from art, but not like Marcel Duchamp. Unlike him, after resignation Vladimir and Marcin defined a new context, both physical and mental, and it was their last creative move. They didn’t reduce their activity to the domain of reality. But now, after their decision to give up any kind of artistic practice, the "Manifesto of Yellowism”, is a better way of saying that they do nothing more than “arrange pieces of Yellowism” or even “they produce” rather than “they create.”

Piece of Yellowism - Number one, Piece of Yellowism - number two… These are just small examples of how yellowism expands. There is no evolution of Yellowism; Vladimir and Marcin, do not develop any idea. No new messages. No hidden meaning. The final message is the final message, context has already been defined. Examples of Yellowism can look like works of art, but are not works of art. Why are they not works of art? The answer is very simple: because these pieces exist only in the hermetic context of Yellowism which Vladimir and Marcin defined in the Manifesto of Yellowism. And… even if someone doesn’t agree or approve of this new context, it still clearly exists. As unclear as the Yellowism manifesto is, it is hard to pin point what exactly yellowism is, but with the rules within the manifesto, it is clear that yellowism is here to stay.