Елена Окунева
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FRIPULIA: Fedir Tetianych. Freak or wizard?

FRIPULIA: Fedir Tetianych. Freak or wizard?
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Photo: Fedir Tetianych against the background of the biotechnosphere, the village of Knyazhichi, Kiev region, 1980s / birdinflight.com


Researchers do not get tired of revising the history of art, making new conclusions, inviting us to look at certain concepts from a different angle. One of such phenomena is the so-called “outsider art”. Discussions about the meaning and content of this term, about its ethics and correctness continue both in Ukraine and abroad.

As a rule, outsiders mean either self-taught people who have no art education, or renegades who do not participate in specialized organizations, institutions or simply hangouts, and do not fit into the framework of accepted ideas about art or about the personality of an artist.

Fedir Tetianych, of course, was an outsider, who, although he received an education, was a marginal and did not fall under any definition. By the way, art critics have not come to an unambiguous conclusion about his role, significance and heritage yet.


FRIPULIA: Fedir Tetianych. Freak or wizard?
History of Ukraine, 1966


Tetianych led an eccentric lifestyle, subordinating it to the philosophy of his own authorship. Fripulia became the key concept in this philosophy – an idea that does not have a precise designation, but combines the most important categories for an artist: striving for space, boundlessness, upcycling (as we would say today).

Fripulia became a code word describing both Tetianych and his artistic mythology, within the framework of which its author didn’t only create paintings, monumental mosaics, architectural projects, but also carried out performances, happenings, and in general, turned garbage into art installations.

Today we know trends in art to which Fedir Tetianych could be attributed according to one criterion or another, but he could not know about them, but acted intuitively, very apart, and this individualization gradually led him to marginality.

As a young artist, Tetianych received orders from the state and in an amazing way combined, portraits of officials and elements from the Fripulia universe, or even subordinated the formation of the ordered object to his own designs, also, of course, from the Fripulia system.

For example, the biotechnosphere is the invention of Fedir Tetianych, which is the prototype of a special capsule for the autonomous existence of a person. Tetianych fulfilled the order for the design of the bus stop, making it in the form of a biotechnosphere.


FRIPULIA: Fedir Tetianych. Freak or wizard?
Biotechnosphere, the village of Pobeda, Kiev region, the design of a bus stop, 1984


Eventually, in codependency, the artist’s obsession with the ideas of Fripulia intensified, and the number of orders decreased. Tetianych wore garments collected from foil, made hats from cake boxes, the artist’s accessories were beads from empty cans, pieces of pipes, or everything found in a landfill.

He turned his whole life into a solid Fripulla, which, by the way, to some extent corresponded to the philosophy of Albert Camus about absurdity and rebellion. And if Camus spoke of absurdity as the meaninglessness of human existence and rebellion as a means of combating absurdity, which consists in creating meaning [1], then Fedir Tetianych closed this circle, rebelling against absurdity, with absurdity.

It is a good luck that the artist had friends and associates who were able to appreciate the purity and strength of his work. And even they admited that it could be difficult to distinguish Tetianych from a city madman. However, his unshakable faith in his own ideas, and most importantly, in the fact that he is an artist, his courage to speak openly about his sometimes insane convictions inspired many “ordinary” colleagues. It follows from their recollections that Tetianych did not get to specialized “health-improving” establishments, literally due to a happy coincidence [2].


FRIPULIA: Fedir Tetianych. Freak or wizard?
Fripulia – a miracle of the Universe, 1970s


Now, in the wake of heightened interest in Ukrainian art of the late Soviet Union era, the work of Fedir Tetianych has been rediscovered, and Fripulia is called the ancestor of Ukrainian performance and happening, and his legacy and influence is being explored and revised.

To look back at Fripulia’s work, when there is a free, open country around, market relations in the world, the concepts of recycling, tolerance, performance are firmly fixed on the agenda, and the artist is no longer alive, is obviously much easier than it was then to perceive Tetianych’s art to his contemporaries.

Now we can interpret his ideas in accordance with our new ideas about art and knowledge about it. It is now the main researchers and institutions of the country who are trying to “conceptualize” the creative work of Tetianych [3].

But the big question remains whether the same people and organizations would have discerned the artist’s talent then, within the conserved system, and behind the exalted, freaky image of the author, who, for example, “inappropriately” appeared at official events in his garbage outfits.

In any case, such extraordinary people as Tetianych expand the boundaries of our ideas about the world and about approaches to life, and if they also do it with talent like Fripulia, they certainly deserve our attention and, moreover, recognition.



[1] Albert Camus – The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942

[2] From a conversation between art critic Tatyana Zhmurko and Alexander Dirdovsky, a colleague of Fedir Tetianych

[3] Art critic Tatiana Kochubinskaya in the text of a conversation with Valery Sakharuk – Fedir Tetianych’s colleague and curator of his (posthumous) exhibition at the PinchukArtCentre

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