Blue Noses Group is an art duo, considered as one of the most famous Russian contemporary provocateur art groups, best known for its satirical and provocative videos, photographs and performances which parody and critique Russian society, art, politics, and religion.
The duo was founded in 1999, and consists of two Siberian artists – Alexander Shaburov and Viacheslav Mizin. They often work in cooperation with two other Novosibirsk artists – Konstantin Skotnikov and Alexander Bulnygin and photographer Evgeny Ivanov. The group was born when Shaburov, Mizin and friends, in an attempt to avoid the promised year-zero computer apocalypse on the eve of the new millennium, shut themselves in a bomb-shelter in Novosibirsk to experience life as it might be after a nuclear disaster. Without clocks, alcohol, or contact with the outside world, they only brought a video camera with them and spent three days filming ‘absurdist video gags’, which included placing blue bottle caps on their noses. The epithet Blue Noses was then coined and stuck to Mizin and Shaburov, although they wanted to shake it off. They finally gave up trying to get rid of the brand in 2003, when they arrived at a hotel to find that they were booked in with the surname Blyunosez.
Sasha Shaburov was born in Sverdlovsk Oblast in 1965, and graduated from Sverdlovsk Art School in 1985. After graduation, he worked for a time as a mortuary photographer, but later shifted his focus in creating art, due to his conviction that art should flow from the everyday situations. This is expressed in works such as My daily route from home to the bus-stop, in which he photographed his usual 15 paces, or in project Tooth Repair, documenting a trip to the dentist – and according to pictures, it may well have been his first trip to the dentist ever.
Slava Mizin was born in Novosibirsk in 1962. He graduated from the Novosibirsk Architectural Institute in 1984, and as his fellow artistic buddy, he also saw his body as an artistic canvas. He created a series of works known as Fate, in which he placed his penis on various objects and photographed it, creating a ‘mythological life cycle’ for it.
The duo calls their work ‘hooligan improvisation’, delightful in poking fun at the self-important and pompous, often marked by black humor. With unique talent for livening up art scene with a brand of humor that everybody understands, they became the voice of a common man and expressed his point of view on reality. Blue Noses are laughing at humanity, reducing its many activities to the bare functions of consumption, copulation and defecation. They have found themselves at the center of several controversies, the most well-known of which is undoubtedly that which surrounds the work Era of Mercy, a photograph which features two Russian policemen locked in a passionate embrace in the midst of a snowy birch forest. Although set to be displayed in Paris at a SotsArt, Era of Mercy was detained by then Culture Minister Alexander Sokolov, who labelled the photograph erotic and a disgrace to Russia, perhaps garnering more global attention than it would have had it been displayed without fuss in Paris.
After several authority problems, they have turned their focus to less politically charged themes, continuing to create low-tech, populist art. In the series Kitchen Suprematism from 2005, abstract compositions of major importance to Russian art historians are reduced and reenacted in humble arrangements of rectangle-shaped meat, cheese and bread that echo Kazimir Malevich’s works.
Frequent problems with authority and the confiscation of several of their works has prompted a debate about intolerance of modern art in Russia. They live and create in both Ekaterinburg and Moscow.