THE COLA WARS
28 March 2014, Cervera de los Montes
Andy Warhol said that you can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.
Coca-Colonization has seduced the world with its ideographic values – freedom, happiness and the American Way of life. We know that president Obama drinks Coke but in the past Coke wasn’t black but very white. In 1940’s its competitor PepsiCo started to promote their soft drink in African-American communities when most of the corporations feared backlash from conservative whites if they merely advertised in the black press. Coca-Cola Company opposed racial mixing both on the job and in society, writes Stephanie Capparell in the book Pepsi’s Challenge in 1940’s: The Color Barrier. Ku Klux Klan sabotaged Pepsi and terrorized its retailers.
I never consumed regularly cola drinks but last fall in Beirut I switched from beer to Pepsi. Alcohol was scarcely available in my Muslim neighborhood and Pepsi was sold everywhere. Only McDonald’s and Burger King serve Coke in Lebanon. I was going to gym trying to lose some weight and Pepsi Diet with its one calorie per can was a perfect company for protein rich shawarmas.
I started to collect the soft drink cans in the studio and modified them slightly cutting out the letter T from the word diet. I actually wanted to use a gun to shoot the letters out but Zena couldn’t get me one although she had said that everybody has a firearm in Lebanon as the civil war never really ended but just ceased transiently.
The militia men in the streets of Beirut drinkPepsi, never Coke. Coca-Cola opened a bottling factory in Israel in 1968 after a long controversy. As a result, the Arab League boycotted Coca-Cola until 1991. Maybe the Christian militias drank Coke when they were allied with the Zionist entity in the civil war. However, cola drinks have been part of the Middle Eastern conflict.
The Cola Wars refers to a campaign of mutually-targeted television advertisements and marketing campaigns since the 1980s between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Both hired singers and actors to promote their products. Do you remember Michael Jackson in the 1983 Pepsi’s TV ad? During the filming, his hair caught fire dangerously. All his hair was gone and there was smoke coming out of his head, told the pop stars hairdresser.
There was more fire between the brands in the times of the Cold War. Coke was established as the symbol of capitalism and the Free World but Pepsi ventured to the other side of the iron curtain – it was introduced to the Soviet Union in 1972 and the agreement included exchange for importations of Stolichanya Vodka to the United States. Pepsi was the first capitalist product sold in the Communist super power.
Already in 1959, during the historical US national trade show in Moscow, Khrushchev tasted Pepsi. The press went insane with photographs of the Soviet leader enjoying American soft drink, and newspapers around the globe displayed headlines like Khrushchev wants to be more sociable. The slogan for Pepsi in those years was Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi!
I visited Leningrad in 1986 when I was ten years old and I can remember the presence of Pepsi, the only familiar brand around. It was the same year when Pepsi was the official sponsor of the Goodwill Games in Moscow and became the first Western firm to have placed advertisements on Soviet television. More importantly, it was also the year when Gorbachev announced perestroika. Pepsi and its relation to the Soviet system had turned it into an icon and the word Pepsi-stroika appeared as a pun.
In the 1989 song We Didn’t Start the Fire, Billy Joel lists events of the Cold War, finishing with the line Rock and Roll, Cola Wars, I can't take it anymore. Curiously, Joel had been the first American artist touring in Soviet Union in 1987. After the Cold War, Pepsi entered to the Israeli market but still it has conserved a reputation of being anti-imperialist compared with Coca-Cola Many Arabs think that Coca-Cola supports directly the government of Israel. Some Americans still see Pepsi as supporter of socialism.
Victor Pelevin's novel Generation P is a satire of contemporary Russia and the children of Marx, Pepsi and TV, who in fact chose Pepsi precisely the same way as their parents chose Brezhnev. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Coca-Cola was introduced to the Russian market. As it came to be associated with the new system, and Pepsi to the old, Coca-Cola rapidly took the biggest market share. Coca-Cola's dominance in Russia was confirmed with its sponsorship of the Winter Olympic Games held in Sochi.
Maybe Pepsi should take now advantage of the Neo Cold War? If I were PepsiCO’s CEO, I would ally with Russia, China, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Two years ago Pepsi used the advertising slogan Change the game.
MuNA - Museum of No Art
22 March 2014, Cervera de los Montes
Now I can finally speak about the secret project that we've been preparing almost two years. Next June the new Serlachius Museum opens in Mänttä, Finland, and one of the inaugural shows is MuNA - Museum of no Art.
Pauli wanted me to do something about museums which is against my ideas of art. In my opinion, art should not be about art, art world or art institutions. Finally he convinced me and the result is a dystopic museum where only money and power matter. I feel that in many museums the core is not the art which is used just as a pretext for other kind of activities - which doesn't mean necessarily that those museum show bad art. This is why my museum is "no art" but has invited 12 great artists to do posters that are used for marketing purposes, not in an exhibition. We'll build the MuNA inside the Serlachius Museum and it will house a gift shop with MuNA branded items, nothing else. The posters are on the walls of the Serlachius but outside of the MuNA.
MuNA Museum of No Art
Director: Riiko Sakkinen
Chief Curator at Large: Charlotte York Goldenblatt
Architect: Nobuyuki Masaki
Board of Trustees: Patrick Bateman, Charles Montgomery Burns, Gordon Gekko, Lex Luthor, Scrooge McDuck, Cruella de Vil, Willy Wonka
Supporters: Cyberdyne Systems, Omni Consumer Products, Tyrell Corporation, Umbrella Corporation, Weyland-Yutani
Poster Artists: Judas Arrieta, Nisrine Boukhari, Erika Harrsch, Herman van Ingelgem, Eemil Karila, Zena El Khalil, Jani Leinonen, Shunsuke Francois Nanjo, Rivane Neuenschwander, Erkka Nissinen, Katja Tukiainen, Abdul Vas
NUMBER ONE DISSIDENT
17 March 2014, Cervera de los Montes
I'm back in my normal life in the village, the art world is far away again. Last week's operation in Helsinki was perfect in many ways , I'm happy with the show at Korjaamo Galleria and I confirmed my position as the number one dissident intellectual in Finland. While I was boarding my homebound flight, Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper of the country, phoned me and interviewed me about Ukraine and the Neo Cold War. The russophobic media asked me if my opinions are a provocative art project or is it really possible that I'm against the West. The journalists are brainwashed and unable even to question the propaganda they are transmitting. I had to stop answering when the aircraft was moving. When I swtiched my telephone on in Madrid the article was already online.
RIIKO SAKKINEN PAINTED HIMSELF INTO A CORNER
13 March 2014, Helsinki
It's the opening day morning and I'm relaxing in my mom's sauna. Soon I go to Korjaamo Galleria to check the lights and other details. In the afternoon I give an interview for Tiedonantaja, the publication of the Communist Party of Finland. It's going to be a soft drink opening this time because I have to cab directly from the gallery to Sarasvuo's talk show. I'm live on TV at 10pm.
It has been a busy week installing the show and, in addition, I participated in a round table discussion about Instagram and talked in the press conference of the new Serlachius Museum that opens in June with solo shows of Eija-Liisa Ahtila and your truly. Timo curates there a pop art exhibition that includes works of Warhol, Hamilton, Hirst and also younger Finnish artists like Liisa, Jani and me.
Yesterday, Carlos Urroz, the director of Arco Madrid art fair, flew in just for my show and the gallery gave him a dinner party. I still don't understand very well why he came - is it possible that I'm that important? And why am I asking this? Is it that I'm becoming humble?
COLD WAR WAS COOL
10 March 2014, Helsinki
A collector of mine organized a party at his home to celebrate the acquisition of my painting Cold War Was Cool. The work was executed in 2007 before Russia had gained back the status of a geopolitical global player. I hadn't seen the big picture since the Kosmostars show at Korjaamo Galleria in 2009. I like rendezvouses with old works - they have an independent life transforming their meanings beyond my control. The greatest art works are images of their times but at the same time grow even larger in the course of the history.
Seven years ago we lived in the post 9/11 world where the sole narrative was the American asymmetric war against terrorism. Now the rivalry is again between Moscow and Washington but it's nature is not ideological - or camouflaged in ideology - like in the old days. Both entities are capitalist and corrupt. The difference is that Russia is at least logic - they fight against fascists and islamists everywhere. Americans are more opportunist, they unite with any madmen that fight against Russia or its allies like Al Qaeda in Syria or Svoboda in Ukraine. I don't sympathize with Vladimir Vladimirovich's politics but without his government the world would be unbalanced and freely bullied by the U.S. backed corsairs and terrorists.
03 March 2014, Cervera de los Montes
Sometimes I wonder how it's possible to be so busy and earn no money. I think I'm doing something terribly wrong or the capitalism just doesn't work.
Too often the amount of office work is so overwhelming that I forget that the core of my job is the studio. Sometimes I daydream that if I had money, I'd hire a person to work with me - but I can't decide if he were a secretary or a studio assistant. I have an artist friend who has staff to do everything and he spends time in tropical island resorts. That's not my dream, I love my job.
On Thursday I travel too but not to any hot paradise. I'm off to the polar Finland for a couple of shows. This Friday we install and inaugurate Used Panties and Dirty Bombs at Galleria Ville, Nurmijärvi. It's a small exhibition space adjunct to a public library, where I'm going to do also a little intervention. Next week my momentous Riiko Sakkinen Painted Himself into a Corner opens at Korjaamo Galleria. If this show doesn't sell, I send myself to a corner as a punishment.