Kavka /About /Events
Learned Helplessness.
Utopia Shopping Centre.
Episode IV

Introduction
In 1975, an American psychologist Martin Seligman carried out a series of experiments with dogs and found that under certain conditions, dogs lost the power to resist, ceased trying to change their unenviable situation, threw up their paws, and fell into
deep depression. He named the condition "learned helplessness".
Epigraph 1
I can see how imperturbably my dog deals with hardships of life. It gives me the strength to live on and approach difficulties with optimism.
Epigraph 2
Now take any object you like, no matter how plain or ugly —
say a heap of street sweepings awaiting the return of the street cleaner. Certainly we want to say that it is lacking in aesthetic value. But suppose someone whose consciousness is rapidly expanding under the influence of LSD or some other hallucinogenic drug happens to look at this heap and it gives him exquisite aesthetic gratification. Then it has the capacity to do
so, and so it has high aesthetic value. (Monroe Beardsley)
Note
Utopia Shopping Centre is an imaginary bedroom suburb of Moscow, simplified down to just one long self-contained house integrated with a shopping centre. The house is where people simultaneously live, work, go shopping, and rest after work. This one house-town stands in isolation from other urban areas, it's surrounded by a forest, and all its windows face its own inner courtyard. The courtyard contains a football field, a cemetery, a park and a local dump. The exhibition displays the collective work of non-existent artists, typical representatives of Helpless Art. Helpless art or the art of the helpless is a new trend in modern culture. It reached the height of its development
in the late 2010s, mainly in the bedroom suburbs around Moscow.
Helpless art:
1. Calls itself art only out of helplessness.
2. Creates art from what can be purchased in the nearest store or found in the nearest landfill.
3. Is not critical towards the art world (institutions, markets, history of art, dead, alive and yet unborn artists).
4. Refuses to adhere to any school, movement, or style.
5. Is not interested in either the form or content.
6. Does not create concepts, is incapable of nourishing any theory of itself.
7. Does not distinguish painting from performance, sculpture from text, social protest from psychotherapy sessions.
8. Its production can stop at any moment or continue in perpetuity.
9. Does not seek completeness in terms of either the form or meaning.
10. Finds meaning only in the artist's internal urge to produce art
and desire to do it endlessly.
11. Sees its purpose in the uncertain assertion, adulation, and dissemination of itself.
12. Cannot be understood by the viewer.
13. Loves animals and humans.
14. Trusts the accidental and imperfect.
15. Is not trying to be clever or successful.
16. Is jealous of itself and unsure about itself.
17. Is doomed to oblivion.
Helpless artists:
1. Call themselves artists only out of helplessness.
2. Carry out their work covertly.
3. Face disapproval for what they do from people around them.
4. Feel shame about what they do.
5. Are engaged in meaningless activities.
6. Damage valuable objects and materials.
7. Cannot explain to themselves or anybody
around their goals and actions.
8. Are unable to resist the internal want to produce art.
9. Are primarily motivated by liberation through
the making of art.
10. Do not eat meat.
11. Consider computer games to be art.
12. Consider death a work of art.
Explanatory Note
Artist 1
Every day I walk around an urban landfill and find there some material for my construction. I remember how difficult it was for me to get started because of my inability to build in straight and exact lines. I derided myself for this innate inability. But once,
during a sleepless night, I felt a burning desire to start building crookedly. I could barely wait until the next morning. I found in the dumping ground a few boards and a couple of small parts from an old table and nailed them up together. I was building and felt liberated. I enjoyed how wobbly, badly and ineptly done the thing I made came out to be. Ever since, I cannot stop. Sometimes, certain parts of a construction fall into a void, they look like chaos, and sometimes all details crystallize, and I begin noticing that the building has some resemblance to a living room, a bedroom, or a library. My construction cannot be finished, cannot have any meaning, what I build cannot be of any use for anything or anyone. It's all about liberation and the will to build.
Artist 2
I have always been interested in transitional states that are hard to define unequivocally. There exist some border areas, but borders between them are blurred, impossible to grasp, and that's exactly what I want to sense and feel. If, for example, we
take some adhesive, silicone or construction foam, we'll be able to see how they ooze out, fill spaces, and expand. At first, they are liquid, but later they congeal, acquire a certain shape and are clearly transformed into something else. Or when I smash toys, their physical shape starts to crumble, turning into a pile of garbage or dust. My sculptures are essentially about liquids acquiring a form and toys losing theirs. As the result, a liquid-solid state emerges, that of destruction and creation at the same
time. These are transitional forms between different objects, or between objects and trash, or humans and things, or between good and evil. I dream of using in my work something larger than toys, for instance, a car, or even a whole house, and of turning
it into a kind of transitional flickering object. But I am unlikely to succeed because people around me think that all I do is damage good materials and things. Nobody is ever going to help me in this.
Artist 3
I've never studied drawing, but in my free time from work, I make portraits of people. Portraits are not commissioned by anyone, so I have to look for models myself and draw them secretly. Portraits I make have almost nothing to do with the people's appearance,
but portray their personalities as a whole, their character and inclinations to certain behaviour, their reactions and hidden motives of the subconscious. I achieve this through building a flowchart of all relative ties that affect the development
of a person portrayed and "infect" the person with their ways of thinking and behaving. Every human being initially is like a pure Kaspar Hauser, but then, as we grow older, we acquire instruments of thinking borrowed from other people close to us.
Every person develops into a kind of Frankenstein monster, only on the inside. It turns out such scheme-portraits may quite accurately predict a person's future. A side effect of my portraiture work is the disclosure of crimes that have not been yet
committed. On many occasions, I reported people whose portraits I had made, to the police, but our police are not yet ready to arrest people for future acts of violence.
Artist 4
I am an old and lonely man, and nearly every evening I sit in my kitchen and do jigsaw puzzles. And every time I scorn and shame myself for occupying myself with a pointless thing, for wasting my time, not doing anything for my life or anything useful for people around me. But it's very difficult for me to give up my pastime. I often think that one day the pieces of the puzzle may come together into something else, entirely different from the image on the box. Or that all the puzzles I have collected may one day merge into one complex and all-encompassing jigsaw puzzle of truth. I fervently wish to find the truth and solve all mysteries of life.
Artist 5
From an early childhood, I loved to build in my imagination immense fantasy worlds. I designed and modelled in my head non-existent cities and countries, but for some reason studied to become an engineer. In recent years, every day in the morning and the evening, I walk a long way, past panel houses indistinguishable from each other, shopping centres, and identical courtyards. Remembering my childhood hobbies, I began to realize that it was by no accident that all these faceless landscapes around me looked the way they did. There are some consistent patterns and a secret purpose in this. I began looking for those patterns and modelling the simplest city-formula
that would describe all that was happening around me. This way I intend to find an answer to the question of what kind of experiment we participate in and what is it they want from us. Many say I am given to utopian thinking, but I'm certain that it wasn't without a reason that all these residential compounds came to exist. They want to tell us something.
Hope
Everyone hopes to find one's hope.
Conclusion
Standing in the forest, there is a twelve-story panel building with six entrances. Its walls were once painted in white and blue. Yellow light is coming from some windows. In the centre of the courtyard, somebody has placed a children's playground with a faded, orange plastic slide, a red brick transformer booth, and several dirty-green garbage containers. Between the house and the yard, cars are densely parked. In front of each entrance, there is a shabby blue wooden bench and a purple-bluish concrete litter bin. Each entrance has a rusty metal sheet door. Everything in the yard and the house itself is covered by a thin layer of dust and dirt. At the nearby shopping centre, you
can buy potatoes, beer, vodka, a blouse, a bra, a glue, slippers, a towel, a garden figurine, a wiping cloth, a flat-head screwdriver, a cross-head screwdriver, cigarettes, boots, an umbrella, a bathroom curtain, a puzzle, buckwheat, and so on. It's late night or early morning now. A dog is barking. It's cold.