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We're a team of eight artists, curators and critics with a broader network of art professionals on the post-soviet, post-communist and diasporic spaces. With our ability to grasp, to describe and to invert the sensable, we might be your best collaborator.
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Mission

 

TransitoryWhite is a journal of overlapping, multi-voiced accounts documenting peripheral artistic productions.

The project was launched in 2017 by a group of curators, art specialists and artists from Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia living in Berlin/Vienna. 

We aimed to create an intersectional platform for discussing decolonization, post-neoliberalism trauma and the possibility of dispersive views on the so-called post-communist territories.

Since 2019, the platform has also operated in the trajectories of migrant and post-displacement discourse, expanding its activities from the geographical pole "East" to the global. In response to the growing nationalistic discourse, it is crucial for our investigation to represent artists and theorists with different identities and ideas for the future. In this way, TransitoryWhite emphasizes the productive interaction between different multitudes rather than dualities. 

TransitoryWhite understands whiteness as a metaphor for colonialism, or as a white, self-contained exhibition space where the hierarchy of discourses and images is prejudiced. Instead, we turn to the idea of White Noise; a signal or constant disturbance, something cacophonic, turbulent and restless which fluctuates and transforms our perspectives.

Contributors

Laura Arena

Laura Arena is a Level 3 Reiki practitioner certified and licensed in the state of New York. She's a graduate of the Art of Energetic Healing School located in Manhattan with spiritual teacher and master healer Suzy Meszoly. Next to being a Level 3 Reiki practitioner, Laura is a multidisciplinary artist, activist, designer, and curator based in Brooklyn, New York. Arena’s work encompasses photography, video, installation, writing, and social interventions with a focus on storytelling, human rights causes, gameplay, race, and identity. She has exhibited in galleries and festivals worldwide and has participated in events in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Arena has attended residencies and workshops in Greenland, Iceland, Romania, Hungary, Palestine, Turkey, and the United States. 

In 2021 she will be mapping the Chakras of Berlin as an artist in resident at Z/KU (Center for Art and Urbanistics).

Read her article: CHAKRAS OF TBILISI

Mariya Dmitrieva

Mariya Dmitrieva is an artist, independent curator, and cyberfeminist. She is a co-organiser of Studiya 4413 in St. Petersburg, Russia, a self-regulated, artist/activist-run platform functioning as an intersection of diverse social strata, queer-crip optics, artistic mediums, contemporary critical thinking, and adequate political action; Maria is a member of N i i c h e g o d e l a t ‘ (Donoothing), a network of flickering, horizontal laboratories of political imagination researching and redescribing ideas around work ethic, machine vs human relations, and connectivity between utopian and real, and initiator of Free mapping project, a digital platform calibrating alternative culture-political landscape of self-organised liberal associations/projects, and coordinator of p2p&hackercare, a translocal agency.

Read her articles: TRANSBOUNDRY MIGRATION OF CARE: PANDEMIA AFTER 8TH OF MARCH (EN), ТРАНСГРАНИЧНАЯ МИГРАЦИЯ ЗАБОТЫ: ПАНДЕМИЯ ПОСЛЕ 8 МАРТА (RU)

Ina Hildebrandt

Ina Hildebrandt is an art historian and cultural journalist.

Read her articles and interviews: ON THE LOOP

Ivan Isaev

Ivan Isaev is an independent curator, based in Moscow. He curated platform Start, Winzavod, season 2014-15, and “Leaving Tomorrow” exhibition (2015, Moscow), participated at Infra-Curatorial Platform at 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016). He is a co-founder of «Triangle» curatorial studio (Moscow, 2014-2016) and later initiated platform blind_spot. Ivan Isaev is now a curator of Garage Studios program at Garage MCA, Moscow.

Read his article: THE LAST SPARKS

Anna Kamay

Anna Kamay is an independent curator and cultural manager hailing from Yerevan, Armenia. Anna organizes community-based art projects with the goal of using public space and art to meet local needs and manages Nest Artist Residency and Community Center at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Yerevan.

Read her article: JUGGLING DINOSAURS, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, (IT WOULD BE) NICE TO MEET YOU, TOO

Victoria Kravtsova

Victoria Kravtsova has studied International Relations in St. Petersburg and Berlin. In Berlin she is active in NGO projects in Eastern Europe, co-organizing seminars and exchange programs in the fields of environment, human rights, gender equality and civic education. Victoria receives a scholarship from Heinrich Böll Foundation and is engaged in writing her thesis “Between the ‘posts’, out of the void” where she traces the travels of the contemporary feminist discourses to and from Central Asia.

Read her articles and interviews: EMBRACE YOUR ANTITHESIS, WANDERING POETICS OF CENTRAL ASIAN MESTIZAS, WHERE THE ROSES GROW, Interview with Madina Tlostanova Part I and Part II, БУМЕРАНГ КОЛОНИЗАЦИИ

Melikset Panosian

Melikset Panosian is a writer and translator from Gyumri, Armenia. He participated in artistic projects focusing on the troubled past of Gyumri, borders, conflicts and consequent traumas since 2012. Panosian contributed to a number of literary magazines in Armenia such as Queering Yerevan, Gretert and Yeghegan Pogh. He also participated in the translation of Hannah Arendt’s “We refugees” into the Armenian language. Melikset Panosian’s published works include art book “Out In Head” (2012), “Silent Stroll”, a novella he authored in 2014, and the Armenian translation of Kardash Onnig’s “Savage Chic: A Fool's Chronicle of the Caucasus” published in 2017.

Read his article: (IT WOULD BE) NICE TO MEET YOU, TOO

Leah Peirce

Leah Peirce (b. 2002 in Berlin, Germany) is a Berlin-based poet, with Georgian and English background.  She works with words, sound, images and performative art. Her multilingual poems explore the fluidity of languages, the barriers they bear, how language holds culture and visa versa.

Read her poetry: LEAH PEIRCE

Daria Prydybailo

Daria Prydybailo is a curator, researcher, founder of the TRSHCHN platform and co-founder of the NGO Art Matters Ukraine.

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, ВАГІТНІ РЕВОЛЮЦІЄЮ, ВЗАЄМОПОВ'ЯЗАНІ ТА ВЗАЄМОЗАЛЕЖНІ

Thibaut de Ruyter

Saltanat Shoshanova

Saltanat Shoshanova is currently pursuing her Master's degree in History of Arts at the Free University Berlin. Her research interests include art in connection to queer and feminist theory, queer migration, decoloniality and post-Soviet space. She is an activist and co-organized several queer feminist conferences in Vienna and Berlin.

Read her article: ON LANGUAGE OF SUPREMACY: MEDINA BAZARGALI IN CONVERSATION, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, ÜBER SPRACHE DER VORHERRSCHAFT: GESPRÄCH MIT MEDINA BAZARGALI (DE)

Julia Sorokina

Yuliya Sorokina is freelance curator of contemporary art, lecturer, tutor, author of texts, lives and works in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

Antonina Stebur

Antonina Stebur is a curator and researcher. She studied visual and cultural sciences at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania) and at the School of Engaged Art of the art group "Chto Delat? (Saint Petersburg, Russia). She is a member of the artist group #damaudobnayavbytu ("Woman comfortable in everyday life"), which examines the feminist agenda in the Russian and Belarusian context. She has curated a number of exhibitions in Belarus, Russia, Poland, France and China. Her research areas and curatorial interests are: community, re-composition of everyday practices, feminist critique, new sensibility, grassroots initiatives.

Read her articles: ICH LIEBE DICH!, ANOTHER PRODUCTION DRAMA, МЫ СЁННЯ ЗНАХОДЗІМСЯ Ў ІНШАЙ ВЫТВОРЧАЙ ДРАМЕ, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

Annika Terwey

Annika Terwey is a German-Italian new media designer & artist. She studied visual communication at the Berlin University of the Arts and graduated from the new media class. In her work, she is exploring new forms of communication through interaction design, video installation and exhibitions. Her interest range from environmental science, new technologies and human perception.

Read her article: ON LANGUAGE OF SUPREMACY: MEDINA BAZARGALI IN CONVERSATION, ÜBER SPRACHE DER VORHERRSCHAFT: GESPRÄCH MIT MEDINA BAZARGALI (DE)

Alex Ulko

Alexey Ulko was born in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in 1969. After graduating form Samarkand University with a diploma in English he obtained an MEd TTELT degree from the University of St Mark and St John (UK). Since 2003 he has been working as a freelance consultant in English, Culture Studies and Art for various cultural organisations. Has been making experimental films since 2007 and is an active writer about Central Asian contemporary art. His current artistic interests: experimental cinema, photography, visual poetry. Member of the European Society for Central Asian Studies, the Association of Art Historians (UK) and the Central Eurasian Studies Society (USA).

Read his article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, THE SHIFT OF THE PARADIGM IN MODERN CENTRAL ASIAN ART, THE OTHER EAST

Lolisanam Ulug

Lola Ulugova (Lolisanam) has been an activist in Tajikistan since 2000.  She was the founding director of Tajik Bio-Cultural Initiatives a non-governmental organization dedicated to Tajik arts and environmental issues. In 2013, she wrote and produced the nation's first 3-D animation film, a short designed to promote awareness of environmental issues among children. Previously, she has produced several cultural DVDs archiving Tajik dance and biocultural diversity; was a Field Production Manager on the documentary Buzkashi! By Najeeb Mirza (Canada); from 1999-2005 was the manager of Gurminj Museum. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Turin, Italy and an undergraduate degree in Russian Language and Literature. She was a Global Cultural Fellow at the Institute for International Cultural Relations of the University of Edinburgh in 2017-18 and participated in Central Asian-Azerbaijan (CAAFP) fellowship program at the George Washington University at Elliott School of International affairs in 2019.

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, NUDE ART AS A MIRROR OF SOCIETY

Katharina Wiedlack

Katharina Wiedlack is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University Berlin. Her research fields are primarily queer and feminist theory, popular culture, postsocialist, decolonial and disability studies. Currently, she is working on a research project focused on the construction of Russia, LGBTIQ+ issues and dis/ability within Western media. http://katharinawiedlack.com

Read her article: IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO MAKE FILMS QUEERLY THAN TO MAKE QUEER FILMS

Олексій Кучанський

Олексій Кучанський - дослідник і критик експериментального кіно та відео-мистецтва, есеїст. Живе і працює у Києві. Цікавиться політиками комунікативного експериментування, екософією Ф. Ґваттарі, не-есенціалістською екологічною теорією, постгуманістичним фемінізмом, процесуально-орієнтованою філософією. Колишній учасник активістської ініціативи Occupy Kyiv Cinemas - руху проти комерціалізації і знищення комунальних кінотеатрів Києва. Співавтор художнього проекту komaxa. щоденник резистентності - лабораторії молекулярного страйку в умовах цифрової праці.

Читайте його статтю: КАМУФЛЯЖ. ПЕДАГОГІКА КСЕНОФІЛІЇ

 

Kundry Reif

Kundry Reif is an aspiring curator, artist and cultural sciences academic.

Read her articles: I am not toilet paper, ARTISTS FROM CENTRAL ASIA (EDITORS PICK)

People

Ira Konyukhova

Ira Konyukhova is an artist, writer and instagram feminist activist. She studied Physics in Moscow and fine art in Mainz, Reykjavik and Media Art and Media Theory at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HFG), which she finished with diploma in 2017. In her practice, she explores the connection between female sexuality, pop-resilience and colonial technological practices which are embodied mainly but not only in video, sculpture and installation. Her works have been presented on various international festivals and exhibitions, including DocLisboa, Athens Biennale, Teneriffa Espacio del Arte, Exground Film Festival e.t. Konyukhova was a grantee of Rhineland-Palatinate Media and Film Promotion Prize, BS Projects Residence Program as well ifa travel grant.

Ina Hildebrandt

Ina Hildebrandt is an art historian and cultural journalist. Born in Kazakhstan, she grew up as a so-called Russian-German in the south of Germany. After spending years of total assimilation she developed a strong interest in her cultural roots. Several long travels and stays took her to Easter-Europe over Russia to Central-Asia. Thereby she started to focus more on those regions also as art historian and journalist. She lives and works in Berlin. 

Tamara Khasanova

Tamara Khasanova is an emerging art professional and aspiring young curator. Born in Ukraine into a Ukrainian-Uzbek family, and later moving to the UK and the US early in life, she was exposed to various social dynamics while perceiving everything through the lens of her cultural legacy. This experience led her to question ideas surrounding cultural hegemony, national identity, and globalisation in the context of Post-Socialist states. In her professional and academic practice, she is concerned with a lack of representation of Eastern European and Central Asian regions on a large scale and committed to developing a sustainable dialogue between parts of the world so dear to her heart. Currently, she is doing a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Studio Art in San Francisco, CA. She starts her M.A. program in Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Arts, New York this Fall.

Pavel Metelitsyn

Pavel Metelitsyn is a software engineer and developer focusing on interactive data presentation, user interfaces and web technologies. He is driven by the idea of making the information more accessible through interactivity and gamification. Working together with creative agencies he implemented interactive multimedia stations for Neues Historisches Museum, Frankfurt/Main, made a kiosk app for a permanent exhibition at Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Frankfurt/Main. Besides that, he works with a wide range of clients from FinTech Startups to national research institutions, helping them to collect, process and present the business information. Pavel holds an M.Sc. in Mathematics.

Sascia Reibel

Sascia Reibel is a graphic and product designer. Her focus lays on printed matter, especially books and posters, with a strong dedication for typography. She engages in projects within the field of culture, art, and education. She studies communication design at the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe and has also studied in the design master program of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. Her work has been honoured with several awards, including «Most Beautiful Swiss Books», «Most Beautiful Books from all over the world», «Bronze Nail, ADC», as well as the «Badge of Typographic Excellence, TDC New York.

Thibaut de Ruyter

Thibaut de Ruyter is a French architect, curator and critic who lives and works in Berlin since 2001. In the last ten years, he has organized exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Bochum, Museum Kunstpalais Düsseldorf, Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt, HMKV in Dortmund, EIGEN + ART Lab and CTM in Berlin, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź and CRP/ in Douchy-les -Mines. One of his latest projects is a travelling exhibition co-curated with Inke Arns for the Goethe-Institut: « The Border », that calls into question the dividing line between Asia and Europe in the former Soviet states. Since 2017 this exhibition was exhibited in St Petersburg, Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Krasnoyarsk (u.A.) and ended its trip in Erevan in 2019. His areas of interest range from new media to spiritism via "exhibitions that are not exhibitions". Most of his projects are related to everyday, pop or underground culture. He has been the German correspondent for the French magazine artpress since 2003.

Iryna Dzhava

Iryna Dzhava is a teacher, translator, cultural project manager and marketing specialist. Her vision is better and accessible education to everyone. She is emphasizing the importance of the Humanities in our education. Iryna is interested in art and literature. She is the one to show you, how to create your very first etching picture and to inspire you to look deeper into the biographies of some famous people of the last century. Iryna was collaborating with TransitoryWhite as a UX- and marketing adviser between January and October 2020.

 

Chinara Majidova

Chinara Majidova graduated from the International Law Department of Baku State University in 2010 and has since worked as a writer, painter and video artist. She has been a contributing photojournalist and writer for the Ajam Media Collective, working on projects such as Mehelle charting the disappearance of the historic Baku district called Sovetski, and for Chai Khana, a multimedia platform covering diverse events and issues in the South Caucasus. She has also participated in a number of local and international group exhibitions spanning art and journalism and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Policy and Management at the Central European University in Vienna. Chinara was doing an internship at TransitoryWhite in July 2020.

Daria Prydybailo

Daria Prydybailo is a curator, researcher, founder of the TRSHCHN platform and co-founder of the NGO Art Matters Ukraine. Her background includes +7 years in leading cultural institutions of Ukraine such as National museum complex Art Arsenal and CCA PinchukArtCentre, as well as independent curatorial practice with a strong focus on the body in contemporary art, sensual turn, sound art, and in-situ projects. She worked on large-scale international projects such as International forum Art Kyiv, the First Kyiv Biennale of contemporary art ARSENALE 2012, and Ukrainian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. Daria was working with TransitoryWhite as an editor and advisor on Ukrainian art scene since December 2019 till October 2020.

Willi Reinecke

Willi Reinecke is a film director, writer, and researcher on Lev Vygotsky's Psychology of Art at the Institute for East European Studies (Freie Universität Berlin). He is teaching at Szondi-Institute for Comparative Literature and Institute for East European Studies. He worked as assistant director of the documentary film "Familienleben" which premiered at Berlinale 2018. The film was nominated for German Documentary Film Award and was awarded prizes at Saratov Sufferings Festival (RU) and Neisse Filmfestival (GER). He's currently working on documentary films for Institute of Contemporary Art Yerevan and Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V. Willi was collaborating with TransitoryWhite as editor and adviser since March 2019 till July 2020.

Sholpan Zhanuzakova

After a 20 year career in the global corporate sector, Sholpan gained an MA Degree in Contemporary Art in 2017. She is based in London and is currently an independent researcher. Her trans-disciplinary research interests include Industrial Colonization of Kazakhstan and The Effects of Colonialism on Language. Sholpan holds an MBA Degree and consults in Art & Business Strategy & Communications. She worked at the Education Department of documenta 14 in 2017. Sholpan holds a university degree in Language Studies as well. Sholpan was helping with sales strategy in November 2020.

26th October 2020

Тайный музей профсоюзного и рабочего движения

article

Алексей Борисёнок
ru

8th October 2020

Надия Кааби-Линке. Возвращение к себе

interview

ru

1st October 2020

Aqil Abdullayev ilə müsahibə

interview

az

28th September 2020

Snap Out of The Past

interview

Interview with Agil Abdullayev
en

24th September 2020

Unfinished protest

interview

en

8th September 2020

День имеет право на конец

article

Вика Кравцова
ru

26th August 2020

Центр постсовесткой реабилитации

interview

ru

18th August 2020

Belarus streikt - Brief an die Arbeiter*innen

article

Anatoli Ulyanov
de

15th August 2020

Зварот культурных работніц і работнікаў Беларусі

article

by

14th August 2020

Within the borders

article

Olga Davydik
en

13th August 2020

Спусковой механизм

article

Антонина Стебур
ru

6th August 2020

МОЯ ВАГИНА. СВОБОДА ЕЕ ГОЛОСА

article

Галины Рымбу. Алина Копица.
ru

23rd July 2020

Adieu, Utopia

interview

Interview with Diana U
en

14th July 2020

Solidarity Asunder

article

Alex Fisher
en

8th July 2020

The Presence of Absence

article

Nadia Tsulukidze
en/ge

1st July 2020

The reality of real bodies

article

Sasha Shestakova
en

30th June 2020

THERE IS MORE THAN ONE GARAGE IN THE WORLD

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en

26th June 2020

18 мая

article

Рух Зильберштерн
ru

18th June 2020

The Other East

article

Alexey Ulko
en

15th June 2020

Бумеранг колонизации

article

Виктория Кравцова
ru

9th June 2020

Hiding in a plain Sight

article

Sasha Shestakova
en

7th June 2020

Не-чужеродность чужих

article

Ира Конюхова
ru

6th June 2020

Аварийное оповещение

article

Тамара Хасанова
ru

5th June 2020

Вагітні революцією, взаємопов'язані та взаємозалежні

article

Дар'я Придибайло
ua

28th May 2020

ARTISTS FROM CENTRAL ASIA

text-only

our very special and very well selected editors pick
en

21st May 2020

Zero Line Of Sight

interview

Interview with Bella Sabirova
en

14th May 2020

PULLING OURSELVES OUT OF THE SWAMP

article

By Meder Akhmetov, Darina Manasbek, Philipp Reichmuth
en

5th May 2020

SLIT YOUR THROAT IN A SEMI-FICTIONAL FOG

article

Alex Fisher
en

30th April 2020

I am not toilet paper

interview

Conversation with Moldavian artist Tatiana Fiodorova
en

21st April 2020

Nude Art as a Mirror of Society

article

Lolisanam Ulugova
en

17th April 2020

Exit from the Colony Farewell to the Empire

article

Lesia Prokopenko
en

14th April 2020

Камуфляж. Педагогіка ксенофілії

article

Олексій Кучанський
ua

7th April 2020

The last sparks

article

Ivan Isaev
en

6th April 2020

Leah Peirce

article

en

29th March 2020

Трансграничная миграция заботы

article

пандемия после 8 марта
Мария Дмитриева
ru

25th March 2020

Transboundary migration of care

article

pandemia after 8th of March
Mariya Dmitrieva
en

9th March 2020

(It would be) NICE TO MEET YOU, TOO

article

Anna Kamay and Melikset Panosian
en

5th March 2020

Open Letter by PinchukArtCentre Trade Union members

article

en

26th February 2020

The shift of the paradigm in modern Central Asian art

article

Alexey Ulko
en

4th February 2020

Embrace Your Antithesis

interview

Interview with Slavs and Tatars
en

1st February 2020

Chakras of Tbilisi

article

Laura Arena
en

29th January 2020

2019 Curator's choice

article

en

17th January 2020

On the loop

interview

Interview with Gago Gagoshidze
en

23rd December 2019

"Мы сёння знаходзімся ў іншай вытворчай драме"

interview

Работай Больше! Отдыхай Больше!
by

5th December 2019

Another production drama

interview

Interview with WORK HARD! PLAY HARD! working group
en

20th November 2019

Wandering poetics of Central Asian mestizas

interview

Interview with Krëlex Zentre
en

6th November 2019

Conversation with Julieta Aranda and Anna Kamay

interview

en

1st November 2019

Über die Sprache der Vorherrschaft

interview

ein Gespräch mit Medina Bazargali
de

29th October 2019

Where the roses grow

interview

Interview with Almagul Menlibaeva
en

25th October 2019

On language of supremacy: Medina Bazargali in conversation

interview

en

10th October 2019

Madina Tlostanova on decolonizing the post-Soviet, exotization and political imagination(s)

interview

part two
en

1st October 2019

There Is Sex After Soviet Union! (German)

article

Ira Konyukhova
de

26th September 2019

Madina Tlostanova on feminism, coloniality, returned pasts and reimagined futures

interview

part one
en

6th September 2019

It is more important to make films queerly than to make queer films

interview

en

1st July 2019

Juggling Dinosaurs

article

The precariousness of motherhood in arts
Anna Kamay
en

24th June 2019

Interview with Elene Abashidze

interview

en

14th June 2019

Unfortunately, we cannot pay for your flight and accommodation

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en

28th May 2019

Ich liebe dich!

article

Antonina Stebur
de

17th May 2019

Interview with Anna Vahrami

interview

en

23rd April 2019

Artist Portrait: Anastasia Akhvlediani

portrait

en

13th April 2019

Artist Portrait: Alisa Berger

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en

21st March 2019

Faig Ahmed

interview

de

18th March 2019

There Is Sex After Soviet Union!

article

Irina Konyukhova
en

11th March 2019

Interview mit Samvel Saghatelian

interview

de

8th March 2019

Artist Portrait: Salome Dumbadze

portrait

en

4th March 2019

Interview mit Chinara Majidova

interview

Klang des Brunners vor einer Fassade
de

26th February 2019

East Wind - Art in the Former Soviet Republics

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en
Bicephalic, 2018, digital print on polyester, 200 × 300 cm. Installation view at Museum of Moving Practice, Ghent
Photo Slavs&Tatars
Bicephalic, 2018, epoxy resin, fibreglass, flag, acrylic paint, 94 × 118 × 12 cm. Installation view at Albertinum, Dresden
Photo Klemens Renner
Gut of Gab (Ha’mann), 2018, resin, steel, 160 × 60 × 50 cm. Installation view at Kunstverein Hannover
Photo Raimund Zakowski
Weeping Window (Morgenländer), 2017, rear windshield, acrylic paint, LED lights, 53 × 93 × 3 cm. Installation view at SAVVY, Berlin
Photo Hannes Wiedemann
Open Mic, 2018, Plexiglas, digital print, LED lights, stainless steel, aluminium, 95 × 29 × 20 cm. Installation view at Kunstverein Hannover
Photo Raimund Zakowski
Königsberger Gitter, 2018, stainless steel, faux leather, foam, pickle juice, 120 × 208 × 88 cm. Installation view at Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster
Photo Thorsten Arendt

Victoria Kravtsova

In a 2013 Colta.ru article, you were attributed “a revolutionary spirit that is then however defeated”, turning you into “idealistic dreamers”. A quote from another article says: “all-pervading pessimism with the irreversibility of changes taking place in society is characteristic of “Slavs and Tatars”. At the same time, another quote from the same text gives you a very aspirational air of “giving voice to the defeated”. Who, would you say, are you – pessimistic dreamers? Those aspiring to breathe hope into the most marginalized?

Slavs&Tatars

We are not pessimistic – that’s certain. The question of defeatism... it is an interesting way to rethink and question the positivism which underlies a positivist Anglo-American order. And this defeatism, it is not an ethnic quality of Slavs, of course, it is a provocation to say this, but it is definitely a cyclical view of time. First, there is no teleology, there is no immediate or necessary march towards progress. And you can see this in anything. Let me give you one example: in the 17th century Poland there were more elected Muslim representatives of the Sejm, of the Parliament, of Duma than there are in any European country today. So, that already deflates an idea that we are now making progress, or we are more emancipated. We don’t believe in this.

Victoria Kravtsova

One of the main feelings that one gets when engaging with your texts and your art is the feeling of ambiguity, as all the narratives and cultural codes are products of hybridization. If we relate your work to my context, the most Russia-related piece of your exhibition Made in Dschermany is the piece called Bicephalic where you combine the Russian schizophrenic geopolitical identity with gender binarism. The question would be – if we would not have to choose between either or - self or the other – what would such reality look like? And is such reality possible - where we do not fall into binary thinking?

Bicephalic, 2018, digital print on polyester, 200 × 300 cm. Installation view at Museum of Moving Practice, Ghent
Photo Slavs&Tatars

Bicephalic, 2018, epoxy resin, fibreglass, flag, acrylic paint, 94 × 118 × 12 cm. Installation view at Albertinum, Dresden
Photo Klemens Renner

Slavs&Tatars

Absolutely. What is so liberating about the discourses of transsexuality or transgender is the idea of, whether it concerns you personally or not, the possibility of blowing up this whole epistemological framework of Enlightenment’ binary thinking – like you said, either or, one or the other. And we believe in this kind of accumulation, cause accumulation is the best way to resist this kind of binary thinking. Even with identity politics, it is about taking on a certain identity – not a certain kind of mask. But really, if you devote yourself to different cultures or to different affinities, they will eventually be in conflict. That’s a fact. For me, it is Iranian, and Russian, and American. And they all are in conflict and you have to resolve those conflicts. You can only do it by imploding the idea of a single identity or a single subjectivity. You have to transcend those sorts of conflicts.

Victoria Kravtsova

Would you say that the main characteristic of the contemporary world you want to confront with is binary thinking?

Slavs&Tatars

That’s one, absolutely. That’s more of a fundamental question, that’s something in art that is not only critical, but also phenomenological. It has a tool that scholarship doesn’t, as scholarship, regardless how you read it, is an analytical process. Art at some point can also be analytical, but it cannot remain analytical. It is really through other practices like spiritual, belief, ritualistic practices, that you can move beyond this binary thinking. And art could be one of them – does not have to, but it is one of many options, in fact.

Victoria Kravtsova

So a way to escape binarisms would be to engage in something ritual or spiritual. Within the framework of decolonial thinking, this escape is found in indigenous spiritual practices. However, fascination with indigeneity is also problematic. How do you find a balance in your practice?

Slavs&Tatars

Other than art there are many affective practices, sensuality is one of them, spirituality is also one way to frame it. The question is: how do we overcome the fetishization of the other?

Victoria Kravtsova

Yes, exoticizing those practices and subjects.

Slavs&Tatars

There are many answers. One, a very basic way is to do multilingual research. As we know, people who read the news in one language are no longer informed by one narrative. It is now no longer enough to read even ten newspapers if they are all in the same language, you are not going to get the all-encompassing information. You also have to do research in more than one language, like any scholar would tell you, ideally, in a primary language, and additionally in the second and the third. Another way is a kind of methodologically doing research, which is the idea of having a very intimate relationship to the material. Intimate in terms of not having a critical distance, but instead establishing a very sweaty, very close relationship to it, almost fucking your material, breaking the material, suffocating the material, but also giving it this swing of respect and disrespect. You have to respect, but to respect is to disrespect, and to disrespect you have to respect – so it is kind of a constant swing between the two, you know?

Victoria Kravtsova

And in this sense, how would you describe your own research? We know that you have cycles when you at first read different academic material and then actually go “into the field”. What do you do there, in the field? How does your stance differ from, for instance, one of an anthropologist?

Gut of Gab (Ha’mann), 2018, resin, steel, 160 × 60 × 50 cm. Installation view at Kunstverein Hannover
Photo Raimund Zakowski

Slavs&Tatars

We ask stupid questions to the very smart subject matter. Scholarly research is either esoteric or remote. And then we take this “high scholarship” and really bring it to a very pedestrian level and try to examine them. That means speaking to people locally which means a lot of practice – for instance, when we were doing research on syncretism in Central Asia, we visited many of the parallel Muslim shrines with pilgrims and practised at the shrines. So you have to engage with the faith if you are studying the faith, you have to do it… in a very lived experience. I mean, as long as it is possible, for a very defined period of time. 

Victoria Kravtsova

The piece “Morgenländer” portrays Germany as an oriental, not necessarily a Western nation. As you said, German Orientalism was different from British or French Orientalism(s), as it had a more academic and esoteric intimate relationship to the Orient. Originating from Russia, I also found it interesting when you said that Russian Orientalism might have been a largely German import. However, for instance, the identity debate has always been more complex and controversial in Russia. How do these Orientalism(s) differ then and what is the connection to the absence of the East/West debate in German society? 

Slavs&Tatars

Of course, there was a difference. It is indeed important to note that German Orientalism was more theological and academic because it was not as instrumentalized as French or English because of the political realities of the German nation-state and its late arrival at imperialism.

Weeping Window (Morgenländer), 2017, rear windshield, acrylic paint, LED lights, 53 × 93 × 3 cm. Installation view at SAVVY, Berlin
Photo Hannes Wiedemann

And what’s for the identity East/West debate, the reason that it is not really taking place in Germany is the fact that that the “Eastern” non-rational side has been tainted by national socialism. So it has been as if they have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Everything which was cursed by national socialism – let’s say philology, Heidegger, non-rationalism in German thought – it was all sort of tainted somehow. We think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that it was instrumentalized, but you can’t say that philology is responsible for national socialism and we can’t discuss it anymore.

Victoria Kravtsova

And how would you compare these history politics? In Russia, it sometimes seems that events from long ago are still with us here and now (like the “Great Patriotic War”). How would you then compare it to, for example, Poland? Or Baltic states? I think they have a more or less similar relationship to history. 

Slavs&Tatars

Definitely say that history is being shamelessly instrumentalized for national identity’ building in Baltic states or in the Central Asian states, the states that have not had a long history of a nation-state. Poland is more complex because it has a long history of a nation-state and it also was an empire - what we often forget. So Poland’s lack of reconstruction of its own history seems to me more problematic. It was doing it quite well until about 10 years ago when it was even a bit triumphalist and neoliberal. It was really marketing its Solidarnosz revolutionary spirit to the rest of Eastern Europe like “look, how we can do it, we can transform the civil society – let us teach you”. I think they spoke too soon, of course.

Victoria Kravtsova

Quoting you, “The likes of Virilio and Baudrillard would never acknowledge that there are such things as universal values. We have no qualms in embracing this notion, no matter the difficulty or challenges”. What are these universal values? 

Slavs&Tatars

Universal values are values of, for example, comradery and companionship, meaning collective solidarity. Universal values… they are from the larger to the smaller. For example, not splitting the dinner bill in 15 different ways. Universal values are also allowing for questions that are shared amongst different faiths. Questions of hospitality, welcoming the foreigner, both in a literal and in a symbolic way: a foreigner meaning the actual refugee or the migrant, but also allowing the foreigner within oneself – allowing for you to other yourself or for you to be othered. Universal does not mean everyone has to share them. Universal means Cosmic. Whether people share them or not, that’s their loss or gain, but it is not a region-specific, ethnic-specific, faith-specific idea. These are the things you find in Buddhism, in Greek Orthodox Christianity, Islam, or you find them in urbanized people as you find them in rural people. So they transcend these kinds of confines. 

Victoria Kravtsova

What is your way of living these values? How to practice engaging with a difference in a productive way on a personal, not on a metaphysical level? 

Slavs&Tatars

We believe in “embracing your antithesis” – engaging with the things that are seemingly most opposite from you. This means, whether in your personal or intellectual life really engage with those people that a very different from you. Because the distance you have to travel to find a sense of commonality is where the most rewarding experiences come from. I don’t mean enemies, I mean people who are very different from one’s own way of thinking, one’s own way of being. So, it is about a sort of modelling or fashioning a form of relationship with them, cause that’s where dialogue and true engagement comes from – and not from like-minded people. 

Open Mic, 2018, Plexiglas, digital print, LED lights, stainless steel, aluminium, 95 × 29 × 20 cm. Installation view at Kunstverein Hannover
Photo Raimund Zakowski

Victoria Kravtsova

In your practice, do you by any means try to counter the tendencies of contemporary art towards becoming elitist and detached from the general public?

Slavs&Tatars

When you sharpen your point, the problem is that your audience also becomes narrower and narrower, your public becomes narrower. The sharper the language becomes, the more radical it becomes, the more it alienates people. The question is – how can we sharpen our language, but in a different way – widening its scope, allowing for generosity and access, but still radicalizing our position? We are not interested in speaking only to a narrow audience, but neither we are interested in dumbing down, let’s say, to reach a larger one. But what we do here in our space in Berlin – in this ground-floor, retail, Gewerbe space, where you can just step in from outside… we want to engage more in very small steps with the public. We’re in the midst of institutionalizing, if in a rogue sense. Last year we launched a residency and mentorship program for young arts professionals from our region: the first four were from Belarus, then Armenia, Georgia and soon eastern Russia. And we’re opening the Pickle Bar in the summer with KW. As artists based in Berlin, we don’t want to be using the city as a kind of safe haven going elsewhere to make our living and come back to a sort of hideout. We want to actually expose ourselves, have a relationship with the city. So these are the small, but concrete steps that we are doing to move beyond the institutionalization of art. We will always continue to do exhibitions, and we are very grateful to institutions, but I think we all agree that is not enough.

Königsberger Gitter, 2018, stainless steel, faux leather, foam, pickle juice, 120 × 208 × 88 cm. Installation view at Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster
Photo Thorsten Arendt

 

Victoria Kravtsova has studied International Relations in St. Petersburg and Berlin. In Berlin she is active in NGO projects in Eastern Europe, co-organizing seminars and exchange programs in the fields of environment, human rights, gender equality and civic education. Victoria receives a scholarship from Heinrich Böll Foundation and is engaged in writing her thesis “Between the ‘posts’, out of the void” where she traces the travels of the contemporary feminist discourses to and from Central Asia.

 

Slavs and Tatars is a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. The collective’s practice is based on three activities: exhibitions, books and lecture-performances.

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