The below article introduced the term “non-aligned” to describe an art-political position-taking within society in the late Soviet and early post-Soviet period. The term has since been developed. It can clearly be seen as a historically-specific positionality, typical of postmodernist attitudes, overcome by a shift towards “re-alignment”.
A “Non-Aligned” Intelligentsia
The Leningrad Neo-Avantgarde and the Afterlife of Nonconformism
This article proposes a hypothesis of the repeated stratification of the Leningrad-St. Petersburg artistic field into an ‘official’, an ‘official un-official’ (or oppositional) and a third ‘non-aligned’ intelligentsia. It describes a logic of double-distinction and succession whereby competing intelligentsia mainstreams were substituted by their avant-garde periphery. This hypothesis is tested in reference to the ‘non-aligned’ groups founded by the artist and ideologue Timur Novikov (1958-2002). Three major shifts are described: from the late-Brežnevite early-1980s to the apolitical radicalism of Novikov’s New Artists;from the latter Perestroika-era anarchistic underground to the playful ‘classicism’ of the New Academy of Fine Arts in the 1990s; and from this postmodern international orientation to an arch-reactionary, neo-imperial posturing at the turn of the 2000s. Lastly, the legacy of this ‘non-aligned’ intelligentsia is described and raised as a possible precedent, or indeed, a model for understanding other avant-garde peripheries seeking to distinguish themselves from (often mutually-exclusive) centres.
Keywords: The field of art, underground, nonconformism, Timur Novikov, non-aligned, distinction, Bourdieu, intelligentsia, Leningrad, St. Petersburg.