Born in Siberia, Slava Mogutin is New-York based multimedia artist and writer. Known for his outspoken journalism, activism and art addressing gay rights, Mogutin left Russia for political asylum in the U.S. in 1995. Mogutin’s work continues to have a strong focus on queer identity, displacement, masculinity and gender crossover, youth subcultures and sexuality, social norms versus individuality, and the tension between love and hate.
Born on an American military base in Heidelberg, Germany, Brian Kenny is an American multimedia artist. Kenny has also worked in fashion for brands such as Walter Van Beirendonck, Petrou\Man, Max Kibardin for Bruno Magli, etc. His work has shown in the US, Canada, Russia, Israel and Europe.
The brainchild of artists Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny, SUPERM is an international multimedia art team. SUPERM installs multimedia gallery and museum shows in multiple countries using any and all mediums, materials and performers to create unique, site-specific experiences. SUPERM responds to war propaganda, censorship, media brainwashing, state-induced paranoia, and infringement of personal freedom.
Please Do Not Enter
Please Do Not Enter is a progressive men’s luxury retail and exhibition space in downtown Los Angeles. Its collection of contemporary goods is curated by founders and veteran art collectors Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird, who recently relocated to LA from France.
Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny became partners in love and art the day they met ten years ago. Together they founded SUPERM, a multimedia art team whose work fuses the private and public – reveling in gay identity and sexuality while exposing the irony of modern politics and social injustice. Multimedia, in SUPERM’s case, is to say any medium available including themselves and friends to create a chaotic, transgressive, and deeply symbolic body of work. Their site-specific installations have appeared in galleries and museums internationally.
We had the chance to sit down with Slava and Brian to talk about their first West Coast solo show, SUPERM FRUIT, at Downtown LA’s Please Do Not Enter (July 17–August 15). During their time in LA, SUPERM has also been producing a collaborative video project commissioned by Please Do Not Enter, premiering at the gallery July 31 along with a special event of poetry, drawing, and performance.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) was a French poet whose work prefigured surrealism and influenced modern literature and the arts. A poet from a very young age, Rimbaud ceased writing by the age of 21. Rimbaud spoke often of becoming a “seer”, of reaching one’s thoughts into the unknown. He explained his thinking method as a “derangement of the senses”.
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist, and actor. As a teenager, he was passionate about Marxist Literature and joined in the activities of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, which he would later join (as a Bolshevik). His poetry was influential both in its Soviet themes and also in establishing him as a pioneer of early 20th-century Russian Futurism.
Peter the Great
Peter the Great (1672-1725), or Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich, was the Tsar of Russia and later the Russian Empire. His physical presence and mannerisms were described as very powerful, loud, and ruthless. Peter the Great, a self-given title, was always eager to learn and be active. Under his rule, the Russian Empire expanded and became a major European power. His reign led a cultural revolution introducing more modern, scientific, and European social and political methods based on The Enlightenment.
Gio Black Peter
Born Giovanni Paolo Andrade in Guatemala, Gio Black Peter is a New York-based musician, performer and visual artist. His paintings have been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally. As an actor he appeared in the films “Eban and Charley” (2000) and “Otto; or Up With Dead People” (2008). He has collaborated with SUPERM on several shows under the name Sputnik3.
Luke Gilford is a photographer, filmmaker, collage and installation artist from California. Gilford’s work is equally interested in digital and analog creation. Gilford has made music videos and has collaborated on short films with brands such as Prada ad Dom Perignon.
Issue: Where are you from?
Slava Mogutin: I was born in Siberia, in the big industrial city of Kemerovo, the Detroit of Russia. It’s mostly known for a series of deadly chemical explosions and massive coal mining disasters.
Brian Kenny: I was born on a US military base in Heidelberg, Germany. Both of my parents were in the Army, so I had a nomadic upbringing living on and off base all across America—Tennessee, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey— before landing in New York.
Issue: How and when did you guys first meet?
Brian: We met nearly ten years ago in the East Village at a nightclub called Opaline. At the time I was living in New Jersey and Slava in Brooklyn…
Slava: It was a perfect bridge-and-tunnel romance at first glance!
“He was a terrible dancer and
it totally turned me on. ”
— Brian Kenny
Brian: I remember first seeing him when I went outside to smoke and here was this hot Eastern European guy in a yellow tank top and a blue hat nearby checking me out. When he went back inside I followed him and asked him to dance with me. He was a terrible dancer and it totally turned me on. Before long we left the club together. The rest is history…
Issue: When did you start SUPERM? And what is it?
Slava: SUPERM is our lovechild. It’s the name we give to our collaborative work. We both have our independent pursuit— mine being photography and text, Brian’s drawing and sound— and together we create everything else: film, sculpture, painting, installations, etc.
Brian: SUPERM is also an open art platform— it’s not only collaborative efforts between Slava and I, but also working with fellow artists and creatives that we meet and collaborate with us along the way.
Slava: Yes, collaboration is the spirit of our time and we enjoy working with art stars and newcomers alike!
Issue: How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?
Slava: The name SUPERM came after some deliberations, but the artwork happened immediately. I never let beauty go to waste.
Brian: The morning after (a sexy sleepless night) we met, this sexy guy told me that he was going to film a friend lying on the street in the middle of a black Muslim neighborhood in Brooklyn, wearing only boots and a diaper, covered in broken eggs. He asked me if I wanted to join in and be the guy throwing the eggs at his friend. I thought this was the weirdest thing I’d ever been asked and, of course, I agreed! I later made the soundtrack for what would be our first film and project we made together.
Slava: 10 years later, SUPERM has become the glue that keeps us together.
Issue: What’s the story behind getting started and the name?
Brian: The name is inspired by a tattoo on Slava’s back in Cyrillic that reads SUPERMOGUTIN….
Slava: My last name means “mighty” in Russian, so I turned it into SUPERMIGHTY, as a sort of an updated queer version of Nietzsche’s Übermensch.
Brian: …so we thought it was funny to shorten it down to the more sassy SUPERM.
Slava: SU & PERM, that’s how they call us these days.
Issue: Who influenced you growing up and who influences you today?
Slava: Growing up I was obsessed with Rimbaud, Mayakovsky, and Peter the Great. I was born on the Soviet Space Day and was dreaming of becoming a space dog.
Brian: And that’s why if we ever have dogs we’re naming them Laika, Belka and Strelka. But yeah, I’m most inspired by the amazing artists and friends working around me today like Gio Black Peter, Luke Gilford, Josh Lee, Woodkid, Erika Keck and Zackary Drucker, to name just a few.
Issue: How would you describe your genre / style / positioning / niche?
Brian: We’re multimedia.
Slava: We’re independent.
Brian: We’re co-dependent.
Slava: But it’s an open relationship.
Slava: From the gutter to the penthouse.
Brian: And back again.
Slava: You’re what you fuck / you’re who you eat.
Issue: What do you feel have been some important accomplishments? What was the process like?
Slava: We’ve been fortunate enough to create some great shows together, like the one we did at MUSAC in Spain with lots of customized school desks and chairs, covered with our fetish gear and graffiti in Spanish, English, and Russian. Or the show at Station Museum in Houston, when we went on a nearby ranch and shot a bunch of Brian’s Target Drawings through the glass and the frames. Some years later, I showed the documentation of that shooting to George Condo, who did a fantastic shotgun painting show with Burroughs back in the early 80’s, and he found it very amusing. What can be sexier than fags with guns, right?