Last update07:54:46 AM GMT

Back 2013: Screen 2013: Results


On Critical Distance between…

Nelya Korzhova

Today we are in that very special point, where the world around us loses its habitual frame of reference, where the screens of mind increase infinitely in number. Quite unexpectedly we found ourselves in the epicentre of light. All that was earlier hidden in the twilight of shadow has been highlighted to such a degree, that the smallest details are seen, they cling to the mind, mixing the composite dominants. The concept of integrity has been substituted by multipolarity. It looks strange that – born in the postmodernist epoch – we still feel uncomfortable in that bud, regardless of the unrestrained-and-volatile ‘interface’ continually offering new convenience. We feel nostalgic for the lost paradise of simple and clear notions, though we accepted the new global net rules – maximum openness, accessibility, information value. Everything to everybody and without delay. The global and uniform wireless and free Wi-Fi has been already promised to appear tomorrow, it may well be that it helps in understanding ‘the others’.

The performance by Swetlana Heger from Austria ‘The Lost and the Found’ is dedicated to matters ‘lost in translation’, perception or misperception of the ‘author’s’ language. Swetlana proposed to settle the issue of two unclear parties resorting to the third unknown.

In the work, one can trace typology of contemporary mind as well as sophisticated ways-and-patterns of the artist herself who speaks many languages, who was born in Czechoslovakia, who lives in Berlin and who works in Sweden. She offered to participate in the first action of the ‘Nomadic Show’ developed right near the Volga landing pier. Ten spontaneous volunteers were asked by Swetlana to put on T-shirts with some words written in the international English, which finally produced national Japanese hokky tercets (which in their turn originate from contextual rearrangement of words). Inquiring into the content of those verses the author relies on the historical-conceptual works of the ‘Art & Language’ movement as well as on the present-time positions. On the T-shirt front of the coloured art-formation poems of the Moon, water and stones was developed. On the reverse side – of birds, storm and rainbow. Randomly chosen participants represented a typical membership of visitors attending art events (vernisages) in the Russian province; the male community was represented by two teenagers, the female majority consisted mainly of students and ladies in their pension age. Probably not all of them could speak English and were aware of hokky originals, but the thrilling atmosphere of the vernisage, freshness of the morning-time river, the sun and laughter made it possible for them to be inspired with the poetry spirit, with the creation play. The people swapped places and the shades of meaning shuffled together with them. We all watched reflection of complexity of penetration of ideas through the language cloning filter. Temporal and national frameworks shifted. Quite possible that we are absent, that we are merely a set of quotations, the billion in succession alternative of representations from some unknown source.

Mental shifts within the framework of specifically given human life are depicted in the installation ‘Somewhere’ produced by artists from Italy – Pier Paolo Patti and Ciro Vitale. They placed on the roof of an old house a huge photograph of an elderly man’s naked breast with a tattoo depicting Lenin and a cross – just right near the heart. The sitter for this photograph was Nicolai, a dweller of the Shiryaevo village, who was farther of the owner of the house in which the Italian artists stayed. The tattoo was made in the 1960-s in Cuba during the army service as part of limited contingent of the USSR troops. The tattoo was a kind of identification mark of a Soviet serviceman in the case of its host’s death because the soldiers wore civilian clothing. In his young years Nikolai was proud of the tattoo, later wanted to get rid of it because he began devoutly believe in God. The roof that combined the breast of a ‘simple Russian man’, ‘Lenin’ and ‘the cross’ was most actively discussed in communities and in the mass media – as a successful attempt to find out ‘the roots and fundamentals of the specific Russian traits and their counteraction to the West’. The discovered paradoxical vicinity in the Russian mentality of the Orthodox Christianity and the communist utopianism (reconciled by patriarchal worship of spiritual authority) partially discloses this ‘mystery of the Russian soul’ – that was the opinion of the ‘Kultura’ newspaper. The described installation became the climax of the ‘East Memorial’ project implemented by Pier and Ciro as a trip from Italy to Russia via Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, Moldova and Ukraine and back. It was an independent West-East artistic investigation conducted by authors whose mind has been appropriated by a special political discourse illustrated by numerous photo-reports covering the trip as well as the project’s manifest containing a statement that ‘the goal was to emphasize the danger of the westernization process, in the first place – transition to the capitalist system that had always been ready to develop into heavy financial crisis’. Commitment of the artists to the ideas of equality, idealization of the communist ideals, but at the same time – criticism of repressive time periods of personality cult, singled out the social changes pain spots from the surrounding world. It is significant that they found the project-related financial support also through the Internet – openly addressing the global community. Pier Paolo Patti and Ciro Vitale – members of the independent artists’ union ‘Ferro 3’ from a small town of Scafati, near Naples – represent the point of view of the majority of artists from the south of Italy, who most commonly fail to have access to grants of international profile-specific institutions.

In this connection, it is interesting to have a closer look at the interactive object ‘Social Democracy of the Landscape’ by the Italian Vito Pace. This project travels across countries and each time the author ironically hints that the vision’s dividing strip passes not between geographical boarders. Spectators are offered to limit their sight – put their heads into a round tube inside a box. In that fashion, the person is kind of packed between his own look and the look at him. ‘Landscape instrument for observation’ serves to facilitate understanding of nationality of the opening up landscape. You can see any landscape… For example a Russian one if you are in Russia. This is your view. Your joy of recognition.

Aren’t we eager to experience joy of recognition? Aren’t we ready for recognition of customary nature?

One bygone event comes to my mind. Once upon a time, during preparation of an exhibition, the author suggested to title it ‘Different View’ and asked for my opinion. I said that it was a very commonly encountered name. My guess was that he was offended because it was an exhibition of contemporary art in a traditional Russian museum. And in reality it was one of the first exhibitions of that sort in that venue. Although for a traditional European site it would be an absolutely conventional event. The title was left unchanged realizing that the local community would perceive a ‘different’ event with a major enthusiasm.

To a large extent, these missionary-style frames of mind made up potential for disseminating contemporary art. Spectators are interested in familiarizing with new knowledge; they want to be forward-minded. But gradually this trend was not making artists happier anymore, because there are endless numbers of new things’ edges, consequently – it is not possible anymore to represent this or that work ‘in a habitually unique style’ as something really ‘new’. Presumably, the problem under consideration is not very acute inside the professional community (where the new visual language is understandable) in which important is the plane of contact of the author’s message and the broader audience.

I pay special attention to this because the key project of the Shiryaevo Biennale is built directly on the contact with the audience – during the ‘Nomadic Show, when the ‘horde’ of viewers follows the artists.

With the purpose of uniting with the audience, the Swedish artist Gustav Hellberg used the terminological concept ‘they’. In the middle of an ordinary village street the people – quite unexpectedly – encountered a huge banner ‘They are here’. Stretched between the houses roughly cut inscription seen against the black background, makes one shiver, immediately uniting the crowd by electric shock of recollections of the place’s origin, yawning cave holes afar, something from the other world. The question ‘Who are they?’ perplexed everybody by the storm of emotions with regard to unexpected encounter of the ‘them’ ‘here’. It not impossible that in a different place – like Berlin, for example, wherefrom the artist came – that sort of implication would have mainly political perception. But dissolved in the landscape, captured by the site-specific situation ‘we’ definitely pooled together in a small vulnerable community of people rambling in the cup of ancient Zhigulyovskiye Hills. Flyers with that very mesmerizing word ‘they’ many of us fastened on clothing – as a token of involvement.

The story told by Ann Edholm and Tom Sandqvist in the installation ‘Shiryaevo’ can be considered as a counterbalance to the abstractly understood ‘they’. The artists used the name of the village because this trip to the Biennale turned into one part of narration about interweaving of life facts. They presented a seven-part collage on the gates of Repin’s Memorial House in Shiryaevo thus telling the story of how Tom’s father participated during WW II in demolishing Repin’s dacha in Finland, where he managed to make a photo of the last still-life painting with a skull in his studio, of how that reconstructed place had become a museum, while before the bolshevist revolution it had been a top-class resort (regularly visited by Malevich and his colleagues). The mentioned installation also includes a small replica of the work by Ann Edholm from her monumental art cycle, where one can see ‘The Red Horse Cavalry’ by Malevich and the work by Barnett Newman ‘Who is Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?’ (1966). Then – participation in the workshop in the town of Verkhny Volochek (2001), where they got to know the new Russian leaders of contemporary art. And here we could continue the ‘Fibonacci series’ recollecting that it was the year when we conducted the second Shiryaevo Biennale and started discovering common acquaintances of the past…

‘It is exactly here where fascination of history is concealed. Not the science that precisely exploits that fascination and emasculates it transforming beyond recognition (historical-sciences presentations on interesting topics can often be extremely boring), what is meant here is the fascination, which is so to say earlier than any science and is encountered everywhere: it looks as if we by default start listening carefully to this or that story told by absolutely unfamiliar people…’. This is the explanation given with respect of that subject-oriented world by philosopher Mikhail Bogatov.

To personality-related comprehensions of the narrative one can also attribute the video-work by Pia Maria Martin ‘Signs and Ghosts’. The core part of this works was edited by the artists only after the Biennale due to difficulties in processing the 16-mm film on which the film was shot. It is important for Pia Maria to work with an old camera. And this complicated technique is rather popular among the new generation of video-artists; they try sort of to be outside the hours.

In this context and within the framework of the philosophical workshop, an interesting idea that the present cannot have its own face was articulated by Dmitry Kleopov. He set the time dimension to the screen topic comparing it with the two-faced Janus, whose face can be found only as the past and the future. The present is represented as a screen reflecting and concealing something.

The action ‘Invisible’ undertaken by Magnus Petersson from Sweden was exactly an attempt to link the past and the future. He buried treasure under the colourful walls of the local ruins. On finding out that a park would be laid out on that place he made up his mind to make the progeny happy. Brought from his native land Sweden inexpensive little things, like sherbet glasses and bottles with authentic drinks, were earthed and topped with seedling of a local tree. In that fashion, quite in line with Boyce’s oak trees, the artist hoped to lay something mysterious, growing into the history of the location.

Within the framework of the topic ‘Screen: Between Europe and Asia’, it was proposed to investigate – where and how the communication field is transformed into the demarcation line. Consider the situation when artists create new products, which are instantly copied on infinitely many displays. How – after passing the sieve of social clichés – an author’s product loses its authentic contour, which creates overall wave of unsatisfaction? Why development of artistic products goes on with permanent caution as for political discourses? Admit that this new dependence on social rating (evaluation), willingness to interpret a work of art in an understandable way damages significantly the artist’s self-expression.

When did it originate? If we consider the avant-garde phenomenon, which preceded contemporary art, then it is possible to state that the language expressed in non-figurative vision became the most incomprehensible version of visual embodiment for the broad audience. For example, ‘Black Square’ by Malevich ‘performs’ only if surrounded by the initiated, for the rest it remains mysterious black hole; and indeed the specialists state that they do not understand Rothko because it is not worth while understanding a set of coloured stripes…

On the one hand, collapsing of the non-figurative wave has happened because understanding is difficult. On the other hand, that sort of non-articulateness facilitated movement in the field of decorativeness that generated multiple academic clichés, which did not suite the new generation artists and demanded new forms. It is not unlikely that here is the development crucial point. Even if the audience felt intensity of emotions, coming from combination of colour and form, nobody could logically explain this phenomenon. Generally permissible perceptional fundamentals being welcome in other types of art (e.g., in music and dance) began to be pushed into the omission zone in pictures. Conceptualism became kind of response to the imperative request on the part of the society to explain author’s positions. The new movement based on philosophical investigations partially compensated the need for dialogue. Despite the declared openness to society, the considered direction is maintained among the initiated enjoying all the bohemia’s rights, which includes the right to be not properly understood, the right for experiment.

An outstanding work at the VIII-th Shiryaevo Biennale became the installation ‘Initiation’ developed by Johanna Karlin from Sweden. ‘To the new wall an object of thrown out branches, plank and furniture scrap found in Shiryaevo. These objects can be treated as the starting state of decay’, - says the artist. But it is equally possible to treat it as the shape-development work, in which constructive basis captivates by its precision. Space-balance of objects that are transpierced by internal movement – in combination with desolation – raises the underlying layers of meditativeness. We face not just a project incorporating ‘discharged’ and ‘outcast’ part of the world, but a search of new vision of art itself. Perception of ‘end’ as forerunner of ‘beginning’ is opposed to the consumption-driven vision. Attempting to examine the unacceptance of global cultural trends of the market, the artist discovers the track of reasonable symbolic beginning.

Openness with regard to new code signs of marketing is characterizing the installation by Calle Holck, a young artist. In the village of Shiryaevo, on the slope of the Monastyrskaya hill, he laid a huge motto ‘Smile’ – in a way very well seen from the boats cruising on the Volga River. This ‘major’ appeal was reinforced by video-addresses of Samara Volunteers to the audience (in which they invite everybody to smile) and additionally – by 500 distributed letters. In spotlights of the journalists the artist assured everybody that his goal was just to inspire another smiles chain. Generally, everybody liked this invitation and reached the end consumer – despite the deeply rooted in the communal mind negative attitude to obtrusive and deceitful advertising. Even the old resident women, who usually prevent any penetration into the local landscape, friendly smiled at the curly-headed and rosy-cheeked blond guy (despite the fact that the inscription was situated near the cross) and were sad when the author removed it the next morning.

Interestingly, already in September this inscription appeared again on the Samara billboards with the ‘ecco’ advertising.

On the field of positive social cliché played also Astrid Nylander, a young Swede, with her performance ‘Pole’. According to her, Shiryaevo lacks some kind of Public Square for people’s meetings. Astrid decided to launch this tradition by erecting a huge wooden pole in the middle of waste plot of land and organizing folk amusement with twisting coloured ribbons around it. For the round dance she chose the Russian tricolour because these three colours are present on the majority of world flags. In this way, folk-and-ritual games received a new code and were fully accepted by the community and the audience as contemporary art.

Legitimate use of social-advertising techniques cheers up and fascinates, even though practices of expropriating the expropriated undoubtedly troubles by losses in the history of redivisions.

The issue of accepting and not accepting cultural trends of consumption is critical in the context of ‘screen’ because it highlights dissatisfaction with the social style of life, provokes political dislocations. Experiments in the revolutionary-social realm moved over to the search of a new figural language. At the time of transfer to the global system ‘the market’ equated to ‘the power’, exposed and began actively using the contemporary art’s potential as a resource for modernization. At this moment, the social started prevailing over everything driving the artist to the political discourse.

Immediately after, the PR role strengthened, wave of new media rushed promising success to the exhibition if you intelligibly explain who benefits from that. The notion of benefit narrowed to struggle for somebody’s rights, to political benefit. Subsequent to this compromise of ‘being understandable’ the society demanded an understandable language. Let it be wild and horrible but understandable. Radical language of fighters is terrorist attacks, and nothing can be in competition with the 11-th of September. These changes have been taking place right before our eyes. And chiefly political art is in the grip of the totalitarian marketing. After turning into the main supplier of prime-time it coalesced with the media-system where authenticity is chewed over in the news feed, while political cliché are squeezed out onto the screen. Naturally, contemporary artist continually returns into the audience’s rating, but it is exactly here where the issue of critical distance between them can be put.

Hanns-Michael Rupprechter dedicated his performance ‘Screen without Projection – Nothing’ to merger of art and politics. Dressed in silk silvery pyjamas purchased in Las Vegas in unbeknown year and resembling elite garment of an art-rascal, accompanied by a charming lady-interpreter, the actionist dexterously clambered the hill and laid there revolutionary slogans written on inflated wine bags: ‘Liberty’, ‘Equality’ and ‘Fraternity’ (in that case ‘Bratskost’ – the word not actually existing in the Russian language, but borrowed from some Russian mass media). Having delivered his speech containing his election agenda (not forgetting to command services of the young girl) he distributed flyers with his photo behind the bars and slogan in three languages: ‘For liberty, equality and fraternity they chose me ‘. In commemoration of dangerous struggle, ‘the figure’ burnt a hole in a balloon with a cigar, joyfully bowing under applause of sympathizers. The head of the ‘cultured politico’ was crowned with baseball cap with his own name.

In support of this, with reckless directness of the apolitical post-Soviet bohemia, a team of authors (Mikhail Lezin, Victor Gurov and poet Ivanhoe) came up with the music-poetical happening ‘Rubbish’ [‘Dich’] from the ‘Boiled up’ [‘Nazrelo’] project.
The following motto stood conspicuously over the stage:
‘Create, creator,
your creation -
for the audience
to burst out suddenly: holy cats!’

Andrus Joonas tried to examine – to what extent the art must be in favour of the audience’s majority. His performance was titled ‘Estonian National Traditions. Part 3. Day of Europe’.

As the stage for performance a hillock was chosen – small, detached, with river view. Hoisted on it was a small table with vodka and kilka tinned in tomato marinade – the most popular snack of our common Soviet time. After drinking vodka and opening the tin the artist suddenly began battering the fish like crazy, mercilessly splashing his golden armour with bloody medley. This is personified comprehension of contemporary art of the last two decades in the independent Estonia. Andrus has a special vision of an artist belonging to the cult generation of mutineers whose vision coincided with collapse of the Soviet system. He was in the first string of the ‘Non grata’ group. This astounding as to power-impact strength association of free artists swept across the world in the 1990-s and 2000-s. At that time, self-identification of these artists was filled with enthusiasm of struggle, idea of social fairness coincided with their artistic radical quest. The group still exists – in its second and even third string. The most valuable that was preserved since those times is a special author-tailored language. There is no demand for it though. The pioneering generation feels deceived, crushed in the common marketing machine. Ordinary sad story of artists who spent their creative energy (required for revolutionary transformations in the society) but became later an obstacle in the new rearranged system. They forecasted changes that never happened. This creates affinity between parts of the whole post-Soviet space and its new generation.

This year in Shiryaevo spectators managed to see the most vivid continuer of the ‘Non grata’ movement – Sybille Neeve. The same strategy of forcing once way, belief in charisma, body-oriented practices. But the world-look still through shield – apparently collective wounds of elder comrades played their role. For her, costume, special mask (separating her from the world) make up the translation screen and protection means at the same time. She always wears redundant white mask-and-costume, often shocking, she has always greasepaint. For each day, for every minute she lives through her image as a painter. But this incessant bravado with change of clothes exposes vulnerability of her very being. Her appearance is sort of crying: ‘Look at me! I’ll save you with my invented reality’. By today Sybille has deviated from working with naked body, which was characteristic of her earlier works; now she packs herself like a freak – in order to liberate internal content. Her work in Shiryaevo was titled exactly in that spirit: ‘Liberate your Soul!’. The whole performance day, in her next ‘full-dress white’ she was walking with a white hen in her hands – as a diva with a tiny dog, for public ‘photo-usage’. At some moment she disappeared in the crowd and all of a sudden appeared on the road leading to the hill, stopped framed by spectators’ rows and putting the hen on the ground tied the bird to a silicon brick stone. Uncorked a bottle of red wine, atrociously poured it into herself directly from the bottle, bottom up, and whirled in a ritual dance. Stopped and tormentingly disgorged the wine from her body. That red stuff resembled her blood now. Exhausted she suddenly thought of the hen. There was a pause, the public evidently expected radical outcome. But the white bird was simply untethered and handed to the lady journalist who interviewed her. Why? Because you know, earlier we discussed that she would make performance with killing the hen. And the audience apparently wanted that – to be given an immediate opportunity of explaining the respective attitude, be ‘pro’ or ‘con’. Sybille’s reluctance to indulge the public actualizes the issue of degree of the suppositum’s importance and how is it possible today?

If the contemporary art has only a political face, this cannot be accepted as sufficient. Pressure of the society becomes apparent in the most inoffensive things. Superficially grasping a new representative form the spectator hurriedly declares ‘I can also do like that’ and ‘I have the right to’. As a response to that, proposed can be the strategy of articulating objects made for the household use as products of art. Vladimir Arkhipov carried out search-and-research work as to finding self-made domestic objects belonging to the villagers – within the framework of the ‘Useful Forms of Shiryaevo’ project.

The found and endowed with explications objects rose before the audience’s eyes on the show day, following which they were given back to their authors. In such a manner, totally unknown Shiryaevo self-made things changed their status twice: from household-ware to art objects and the other way round. This transformation represents a successful attempt to present the ‘layman-style’ as artistic-style’ via the conceptual perception screen. The applied nature of the project actualizes the question ‘Being determines consciousness of vice versa?’

Preservation of philosophical distance in the face of brutality of this position is enabled by the installation by Martial Verdier from France under the title ‘Plato’s Cave’, which looks like a chamber-type camera obscura located in a village shed. During several minutes of individual visit of the facility the spectator submerged into absolute darkness and peering into his own consciousness suddenly (before the very end of his belief) sees reversed though but still recognizable picture of the opposite world.

As an absolute opposition to the ‘popularity trip’ looks the performance by Gabriel Feracci ‘Fair Play’. During presentation the author erects a composite sculpture of glass consolidated by an unstable system of balances, and at some moment the structure ‘held on spit and bailing wire’ collapses. Gabriel – working with such notions as critical threshold and tearing – challenges linkage between the artist and the audience. He is interested in creating extreme situations of danger linked to physical feelings; he is attracted by properties of glass resonating in our mind with the notions of cleanness, fragility and injury.

Martin Lewden presented his sculpture ‘Researchers’ in form of two persons looking around from the telegraph pole top. The work was also provided with the following subtitle: ‘In order to obtain freedom, you need to reject it’. Martin produces his sculptures of scotch tape taking copy of concrete peoples’ bodies. Then he gets the transparent figures up in conventional featureless garments. His characters are also between hope and despair – in the attempt to understand the world. Their movements are frozen under mockery because of failure to achieve results; they always find themselves in insoluble situations, their unsteady world tragically balances between fragility and standardization.

The topic of the unrecognized and strange is developed by the environmental sculpture ‘Cactus’ by Alexander Zaitsev. The author demonstrates radical change of the Volga landscape due to introduction into it of an uncharacteristic plant. As a result – artificial change of the situation within the limits of one scenic shot. The installation is introduced into the environment in such a way that – from some distance – might let us think that it is a landscape not characteristic of our places. Spectators are able of participating in the installation and receive new pictures of the environment without actual change in the geographical dimension. Kind of volumetrical screen, one can get into in the event of elimination of the peripheral vision.

Enlarged screens of interrelations between the terrestrial and extraterrestrial become apparent in the performance by Susanna Messerschmidt ‘End of the World’. In the course of the whole ‘Nomadic Show’, in different places, the audience catch sight of fluorescent green Verdants (of the size of a child’s doll) performing as the 25-th shot; they slide along the mind’s ridge, but they are quickly forgotten in the varicoloured crowd. About nightfall, when the fatigued crowd of the pilgrims enters the dark cold of the cave openings, a green latex creature – unexpectedly grown to human dimensions – approaches in jerky fits. Fear of ‘the others’ enables maintenance of critical distance between the artists and the audience. The latter stop picking up scattered manuals designed for persons exposed to atomic radiation.

In order to escape the public cheerfully switches over to the guitar audio-performance by Vitaly Rybakin, who generates a storm of enthusiasm by virtue of making it possible to return to the joy of recognition.

All of a sudden everybody recollected the long way of today – surviving the heat and the thirst and the steep climb – and was sincerely inspired by their own spiritual and physical feat.

Symbolic screen of vision on the part of the contemporary artists’ new generation became the work by Katrin Hornek from Austria. Her installation consisting of three parts investigates changes developing in perceptions of the nature and the culture over a long period of time. The artist challenges linearity of the anthropogenic and natural worlds’ development. In different parts of the cave, where limestone was mined in the past, three installations are located. The first one represents a small bridge of natural stone. The second one – an unexpectedly smooth surface laid with factory-made tile in a dusty natural landscape. And the third one – digital panel with a luminous quotation of the well-known XIX-th century writer of romanticism Heinrich von Kleist, which was selected by the artists as the title of the whole project: ‘It stands because all the components want to collapse at the same time’.

Catalog 2013