(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
Historical postcard of the so-called "Palais impérial", Peterhof, erected by court architect Nikolai Benois in the mid-19th century. The building originally offered premises for the royal kitchen. It is also known as "Minister's House" or "Upper Garden House". Located on the eastern border of the Upper Garden of the Grand Palace, the view is from Pravlensky Street.
During the (late) Soviet period, the Petrodvorets Canteen Combine had its offices and workshops in this building.
Chapter 11. The Petrodvorets Canteen Combine
Although political propaganda did exist in Peterhof, yet it existed in a more secluded manner. When Kozlov went to see his friends in Leningrad, he took the train at the “Novyi Petergof” (New Peterhof) station, Nikolai Benois’ famous neo-gothic landmark from the mid-19th century, decorated with arcades inspired by the Orvieto Cathedral in Italy. Now the huge hall, where members of the Russian imperial family had once received their guests and celebrated balls, was almost empty, except for the ticket office and a six meter oil portrait of Lenin, located between the entrance doors to the ladies and gents toilets. The portrait, resembling a tremendous blow-up of a poster, might have compensated the fact that unlike other Soviet towns, Peterhof did not host an outdoor monument to Lenin.
Political propaganda wasn’t absent from Evgenij Kozlov’s everyday life in Peterhof either, last but not least through his jobs: he often worked as a graphic designer, and his tasks included the production of visual propaganda (“наглядная агитация”), which could be political propaganda (signs and banners) or simply sign-boards for particular places – doors, canteens etc. Among his workplaces were Peterhof Grand Palace, a supermarket, a hospital, and some other, mostly local places.
E-E Kozlov didn’t have much choice. Lacking an official art diploma, he was obliged to join the proletarian workforce, as Soviet law required the population of working age to do something useful. Being an “unofficial” artist put him into the category of amateur or non-professional artist, which meant that he couldn’t just dedicate himself to art (or sell his works) without risking being charged with social parasitism . There are in fact considerable gaps in E-E’s labour book, since he tried to keep the time spent at his jobs to a minimum – and the periods between employments to a maximum.
The cause for his lack of enthusiasm gets quite clear when we read his journal entry from 23 January 1983, where he writes about a job he had for two months, from 15 December 1982 to 14 February 1983, at the House of Culture at Nizino, a village next to Peterhof.
Art has lost its pace, the number of paintings and graphic works has dropped so much that I’m constantly worrying about the future, feeling guilty about myself and in front of people.
Kozlov remembers running to the bus stop early in the morning at minus 30 degree Celsius – in case he missed the bus to Nizino, he had to wait for another forty minutes. He was happy when he quit the job, although it is not impossible that Nizino inspired him to his first works carried out with the help of stencilling techniques, Sit Venia Verbo and Commissars. I described these works in Chapter 4.
Kozlov’s next job as a guardian gave him more opportunities to carry out meaningful activities: he spent the long hours inside a security cabin translating a Marc Chagall art book (see Chapter 5).
Shortly afterwards, he received a job offer as a “construction’s group third class painter” (маляр 3-разряда в Стройгруппу) at the Petrodvorets Canteen Combine (Трест столовых г. Петродворца), which he signed in September 1983. It was to be the longest job he ever held in his career as an “unofficial” visual propaganda designer: he remained there a full three years.
The Petrodvorets Canteen Combine coordinated the work of a large number of cafés, restaurants, snack stalls and canteens in the Petrodvorets (Peterhof) district, including those at the Palace gardens. It had its main office near the Grand Palace, in the Upper Garden House or Palais imperial, another one of court architect Nicholas Benois’ projects.
Kozlov’s small workshop was on the ground floor, and below, situated in a semi basement, was the Bar Petrovsky – the only pub in town. It had a separate entrance from the courtyard where visitors would queue up patiently to be let in, one by one. The pub had two sections, a fashionable bar serving champagne and cognac, and a beer pub, where Kozlov’s friend Viktor was working as a waiter.
Whenever Kozlov felt like playing a game of chess with Viktor, or just having a beer, he would leave his office through the main door, and, standing on the sidewalk, bend down to the pub’s window to announce his coming to Viktor, who kept the chessboard at the bar counter, on top of a tray with beer glasses, so that he could make the next move in between serving his customers. Occasionally, Kozlov would sit at cocktail bar instead, fixing his inspirations to small pieces of paper taken from stacks of napkins; Viktor Ivanovich, the cocktail bar’s boss, respectfully called him “Leonardo”. Some of these drawings became the sketches for larger works.
A picture of Kozlov at the workshop from 1986 shows some examples of visual propaganda. The banners were made by one of Kozlov’s colleagues; fortunately, he wasn’t the only one assigned to this noble duty – unfortunately, examples of his own works have not been documented. Some of the slogans and text are:
Внешнюю и внутреннюю политику КПСС одобряем и поддерживаем / We support and approve the foreign and internal policy of the CPSU
Прием стеклотары вне очереди / Please return glassware without queuing.
Спиртные напитки отпускаются с 14 ч. / Alcoholic drinks will be served after 2.00 p.m.
How much time the artist effectively spent at his workplace is now difficult to say. Since the Petrodvorets Canteen Combine was in charge of a multitude of places, Kozlov could easily disappear for shorter or longer periods of time, pretending that he was called somewhere else. “Being busy somewhere else” became even easier when his boss gave him the keys to a second workshop, located on Peterhof’s main avenue – the Red Avenue, now again Saint Petersburg Avenue.
At some point, some difficulties arose because the Combine’s accounts department required Kozlov to deliver his timetable signed by the local directors. But over time, the artist learned how to fulfil such demands without much effort – much in the spirit of article 14 of the Soviet Constitution “By combining material and moral incentives and encouraging innovation and a creative attitude to work….”. In 1986, when his boss was no longer willing to tolerate his creative attitude to work, he quit his job.
Kozlov’s experience at the Petrodvorets Canteen Combine had an unexpected aftereffect on his art: in 1987, the red calico, available in large quantities at the Combine for the creation of propaganda banners, became the material for a series of five large works. In an article from 2020 discussing these works, I determined this series as White on Red, since the motifs are painted with white paint directly on the red textile. Although in terms of their style, these works resemble early Soviet banners, my point is that they are not propaganda art, because the motifs displayed – a star, figures, a hammer and sickle, and the letter CCCP – are no longer signs, but have become images, that is, have been liberated of their earlier function of referring to something else. They have been awarded a life of their own.
 Although the Soviet Constitution of 1977 had removed Article 12 of the 1936 Constitution – “In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” – yet article 14 left no doubts about what was expected from Soviet citizens “Socially useful work and its results determine a person's status in society“. It was more than a threat: In 1964, Joseph Brodsky, Nobel laureate in 1987, was sentenced to five years of banishment from Leningrad for social parasitism.
 23/ I /83 Прошел месяц с момента устройства на работу в Низино. Своя мастерская, много работы, устает спина от постоянного. наклона над столом. Время и силы уходят на шрифты и наклеивание вырезок из плакатов на фанеру – текучка каждого дня, которую в конце концов максимум через год придется выбрасывать – переделывать - даром потраченное время, стиль худ. пропаганды.
Искусство замедлило свой темп, количество рисунков и картин так сократилось, что почти всегда чувствую беспокойство за будущее и вину перед самим собой или людьми.
Kozlov, Evgenij (E-E) Diary III, 32 January 1983
 In her conversation with Maikl Naki, for the programme “Status” (Echo Moskvy) on 28. 1. 2020, Ekaterina Shulman discussed a contemporary version of the formula We support and approve:
Революционная замена слова «одобряет» на слово «утверждает» не очень понятно, каким образом усиливает Государственную думу. … Цель более-менее понятна. Когда мы с вами говорили о референдумах и плебисцитах, мы говорили о том, что автократии обожают плебисциты, потому что они любят такие квазилегальные формы, которые выглядят легальными и позволяют заручиться дешевой ценой — народной поддержкой. Минуя закон, произвести впечатление, что весь народ за вот это что-то.
Web 3 July 2020
 Fobo, Hannelore. “White on Red” 1987, 2020.
Web 20 August 2020 Web 20 August 2020 http://www.e-e.eu/White-on-Red/index.htm
Evgenij Kozlov occasionally used the red calico in the place of canvas, supplying it with an undercoat. http://www.e-e.eu/White-on-Red/index2.htm
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020