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Who are MITKI?

Here are some of the answers:

The Mitki is a group of Petersburg artists well-known in wide and diverse circles. It this good? I'm not very sure about it because in all centuries the number of those who could appreciate genuine art has been rather small, and the Mitki art is genuine.

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The creator of the Mitki mythology, Vladimir Shinkaryov, by no means belongs to the fighters for loud glory or for market demand . The thing is that everything he does is inevitably talented. His "collective image of a Mitki-man" is also talented; and because of its simplicity and accessibility (at least, on the superficial level) it became idolized by the crowd pretty soon. The excessively loud noise and laughter around the Mitki has attracted hosts of entertainment seekers and scared away many serious spectators used to silent communication with art, to contemplation. It took years for the truth to triumph. By their life and work the Mitki has proved that they are not artistic time-servers. If we follow the logic of "stardom" the Mitki should have perpetuated the obtained popularity by drifting along with public demand, by contriving newer and newer sensations (the likely examples can be found in contemporary Petersburg art), The Mitki remained true to art.

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The Mitki's gifts are versatile. Yet, above all, they are artists. Their bright and life-asserting genius spreads into other creative fields, always coming back, to the canvass, enriching the palette with new untested shades. This, actually, is the main quality of the phenomenon called "the Mitki culture" incorporating all the internal heat, abundantly generated by the culture of Russia.

LARISA SKOBKINA
art critic, Chief of Research,
Central Exhibition Hall


It is evident that the name of the group stems from the first part of Shinkaryov's text (which now is seven times thicker) that appeared in 1984. By that time both V.Shinkaryov and D.Shagin were well-known figures of Leningrad "underground". They have been exhibiting their work since the middle of the 1970's within the Association of Experimental Exhibitions (the first group of "the independent"), including the home-shows. They met each other in 1978 in the Kalinin House of Culture on the first (and the last) day of the destroyed exhibition. Shinkaryov's book "Maxim and Feodor", finished in 1981, was widely and avidly read, though, naturally, in manuscript. The only thing known about the author to most readers was the fact that he worked in a boiler room. But to say of a Leningrad poet that he works in a boiler room is trivial to the extreme. A student of the Mukhina Art College Victor Tikhomirov has already read this book aloud in the company of his friends and colleagues Alexander Florensky, Alexei Semichov, Igor Churilov and Andrey Medvedev. Everybody knows each other in Leningrad; sooner or later their ways had to cross with the path of Shinkaryov. Anyway the group was formed and the name, as it often happens in the twentieth century, appeared quite irrationally, out of a funny incident. Andrey Filippov remembers that those of the artists who were already familiar with the text of "The Mitki" began applying this name to all Dmitri Shagin's friends; so the latter had to accept this "christening" proudly. Victor Tikhomirov asserts that the decision to be called "the Mitki" was reached during a bus ride; the artists were returning from Ust-Izhora either after hanging their pictures for the exhibition, or after examining the premises where this exhibition was supposed to take place. According to the version of D.Shagin himself his friends simply extended to themselves the tender nickname "Mityok" (Dmitri Shagin's father used to call him so) and adopted the plural form of this nickname, "Mitki". The reason for this was that all Dmitri's friends considered his father, Vladimir Shagin, a outstanding painter, their father in spirit. Already in the late 1940"s Vladimir Shagin, together with A.Arefyev, R.Vasmi, S.Schwartz, V.Gromov, had laid the first stone in the foundation of Leningrad "underground". "The Elders" - V.Shagin and N.Zhilina-are exhibiting their works together with the Mitki. Besides, the situation of the curiously rhymes with today's situation. Then the Arefyev circle was united by their love to the poet Roald Mandelstam, now the community of artists is structured with the poetic prose of Shinkaryov.

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MICHAEL TROFIMENKOV,
Master of Arts,
Research Fellow
Russian Institute of Arts History


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