ESCAPE programme (used to be called ESPACE till 1999) was created by an artist Valeriy Ayzenberg in 1999. In the same year the artists Bogdan Mamonov, Anton Litvin and Liza Morozova joined him.

In the activity process the programme structure was defined, it included joint projects of the programme members (ESCAPE group) and ESCAPE gallery (exhibitions and performances of the group members and some invited artists arranged within the gallery area or on some other grounds).

In typological terms the gallery activity can be attributed to the international practice "artists run spaces", and besides it sort of revives in a new context the Moscow tradition of Apt-Art (Apartment Art). All the four programme members are curators of gallery exhibitions.

The gallery ESCAPE is located in the studio apartment of Valeriy Ayzenberg (Nagornaya St., building 23 / 2). This is the place where the first programme actions were held. Over five years there were arranged 25 exhibitions altogether. With few exceptions these are mostly experimental individual exhibitions of invited artists.

ESCAPE was originated as a response to monopolization of the present-day art by a particular narrow circle of gallery owners, curators and critics: new ways of competition inevitably encourage development of new strategies. In this case the activity of an artistic group proves to be more effective than an individual work of one artist. But it should be mentioned that to the same extent the programme was caused by the need for collective creative work experienced by each group member.

The programme status allows to ESCAPE members to present themselves irrespective of any institutions, to be a mobile unit and exhibit their projects simultaneously in different areas.

The progamme strategy is based not on the search for an unoccupied niche in the completely filled territory of post-modernist art, but on closing up gaps between the existing niches. The aim is to commit sort of communication "acts of terrorism" on the area of Art, such meta-activity is similar to a computer virus operating in the network.

The programme performance illustrating its name became "Escape" (B. Mamonov, V. Ayzenberg, 2000). The performance was built on an emphatic rejection of any contacts and consisted of a number of "escapes" thus encouraging the spectators to more intimate communication.

In August 2000 the ESCAPE gallery presented a new exhibition called "Liza and the Dead" which initiated a new trend - none-spectacular art. This practice as the last spark of Russian 20th century avant-garde was a response to the art of 1990s which was seized hostage by "mass media invocatory and indecent patency". While denying visual and spectacle characteristics ESCAPE doesn't deny figurativeness and shape. The task of the programme is not to criticize the mechanisms of capitalistic society but to escape to the maximum the representation as a type of faschizoid activity.

The programme members regard the Artist and his life as the only value of the Art world, that's why favorite ESCAPE genre is a performance as "The Art of Life", and one of main themes of their creative work is an analysis of programme members' roles within the group and in the society, their images and relationships ("XI.IX", "Beauty Free"). The analysis is full of serious content but at the same time has sort of a self-mocking character.

One of ESCAPE aims is to achieve new and very personal relations between the artist and the spectator. Such relations are being achieved by having tea together with a spectator (project "Liza and Dead"), playing football with him ("Zverev and Chirik"), driving a spectator in a trolley around the exhibition hall ("Everything you saw, but could not stop") or leading him by his hand with his eyes blindfolded ("Motherland Exchange"). Here the form of an artist existence almost merges with the reality.

The most important ESCAPE peculiarity consists in constant changing of social function. Over 5 years it has performed not only as a non-profit gallery, but as a store, a travel agency, a repair shop and even as a Motherland acquiring office (" Motherland Exchang"). For example at the International Art Fair "Art Manege 2000" the programme members launched the stand repairing straight in public. And at the fair "Art Moscow 2001" they exhibited their personal belongings as works of art. In the project "ESCAPE Travel Agency" the artists were selling real tours to various parts of the world during these tours they having taken the role of guides together with the spectator-tourists held initiation performances opening a hidden reality thus trying to turn a spectator into an artist.

The programme strategy keeps on developing. The variety of themes is rather wide thus on one hand there are projects containing some provocative elements (the projects "Interview" 2001, " "They Know and They Like", 2002, "Pirates", 2003), but on the other hand there are projects that can be called lyrical they center round the themes of human values and their place in present-day society and culture (projects "Peace is but a Dream", 2002 and "Quartett", 2003 shown at "Art Moscow").

Today ESCAPE is one of the most active forces operating at the Moscow art scene. The acknowledgement of its ascendancy has manifested itself in a form of award "For achievements in the field of present-day art". The award was presented to the programme at the Workshops "Art Moscow 2003".

Thus success was attained by the group which has never worked with any Moscow gallery, which has not enjoyed support of any large institution and has not had any significant financial possibilities. Nevertheless the programme participants have proved that today an artist is able to attain success while remaining independent. Probably this is the major ESCAPE achievement over the 5 years of its activity.

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