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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
The Plague Column at Hlavná ulica in Košice, Slovakia.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, user Scotch Mist, own work. Created: 2016-07-15
The Naxian Sphinx on its 12.5 meters Ionic column (reconstitution).
Source: Wikimedia Commons. Created: 28 June 2018
A note in the notebook
photo by the author

«Hold your tongue!» said the Queen turning purple.

 

«I wo’n’t!» said Alice.

 

«Off with her head!» the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

 

«Who cares for you?» said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time.) «You're nothing but a pack of cards!»

 

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face. 

 

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland



I

 

I have mixed feelings about writing in the first person, and yet locating the narrator is precisely what is indispensable for this text. It would be quite beneficial to do it as rare as possible: saying ‘I’ requires strong ethical reasoning and should come with a full acknowledgment of the fragmentedness of whatever ‘I’ is. But as soon as I was invited to offer a piece of writing around the motifs of colonialism and decolonization, it was clear as day that I would need to describe the whereabouts of ‘I’ and, consequently, I would have to write precisely this. The text that I don’t really need to write, and therefore can. ‘I’ is but a line segment ‘⟷’. I’m going to use it here just to show how it grows shorter and shorter until it becomes a point, a singularity.

 

(De)colonization certainly has a common root with columns — with Cristóbal Colón 1 — as well as colons and colonoscopy.

 

As a triumphal column, ‘I’ can be the mark of imperial glory, like Pompey’s Pillar in Alexandria. And it can also be the mark of defeating an invader, like the Serpent Column at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which the Greeks had built to celebrate their victory over the Persian Empire, long before Byzantium, the Greek colony, became Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, and then the Byzantine, the Latin, and the Ottoman Empires, long before Constantinople became Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. 

 

But there are other types of triumphal columns too. The ‘I’ of the baroque Immaculata in Slovakian Košice commemorates the gratitude to Saint Mary for ending the plague epidemic that was raging in 1709–1710. In the shape of Immaculata one may distinguish the Cyrillic ‘Я’: haloed Mary standing on a golden globe on top and a wave rising from the stereobate to hold Saint Joseph, Saint Sebastian or Saint Ladislaus, depending on the side you are looking at. The column itself is covered in the folds of soft clouds, with angels peeking out from them.

The Plague Column at Hlavná ulica in Košice, Slovakia.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, user Scotch Mist, own work. Created: 2016-07-15

And in the center of Kiev, the city where I happened to be born, there’s a highly postmodern column topped with a female figure allegedly representing a Slavic tutelary deity allegedly representing the independence of Ukraine. 

 

I do prefer to spell it ‘Kiev’ rather than ‘Kyiv’. And the first written mention of this city comes from a letter written around 930 CE — in Hebrew — by the members of Khazar Jewish community asking Jews of other cities to donate money for a poor man’s ransom. And so, in this letter, which contains, in Turkic runiform, the one and only known record of the Khazar language, the phrase okhqurüm, «I have read it», — in this document, which is the oldest scripture coming from Kievan Rus’, the name of the city is spelled as קייב — Qiyyōb. In fact, there are researchers, namely, Omeljan Pritsak and George Vernadsky, who did suggest that this toponym was of Khazar rather than Slavic origin. Multiethnic Khazars lived here quite long before and quite long after the city’s conquest in 882 by Oleg, the Varangian, or Viking, konung — who created, no more no less, the state of Kievan Rus’. Oleg (in Old Norse, Helgi) was authorized to do that by Rurik (in Old Norse, Hrøríkʀ). These events were all described in the early XII century document, written in Old East Slavic language — long before Russian and Ukrainian existed as separate phenomena at all. In this document, called The Tale of Bygone Years, the name of the capital is spelled Києвъ — Kiev. It’s hard to insist that this spelling is colonial and was imposed by the Russian Empire.  

 

So can we, can we just agree that — coming from the land where the letter written in Hebrew was registered in Khazar in the times when the pagan descendants of Norse rulers were taking care of foreign and domestic policy by marrying Byzantine princesses and implementing forced Christianization of local Slav tribes, the land to be later called Ѹкраина, Oukraina, ‘Borderland’, different parts of it to be associated in different centuries with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Poland, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria within the Habsburg Monarchy, or, later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Tsardom of Russian and the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and, for centuries, the Khanate of the Golden Horde and the Crimean Khanate of the Ottoman Empire — can we agree that in this eclectic dynamic I opt for Russian language not exactly because I’ve been colonized by Russia. No Oedipus, we don’t go there. In this case, I’m the Sphinx and I am the one asking questions. Check it out, the Sphinx is ‘Я’ on the pedestal of ‘I’.

The Naxian Sphinx on its 12.5 meters Ionic column (reconstitution).
Source: Wikimedia Commons. Created: 28 June 2018

After Oedipus answers her questions, the Sphinx presumedly kills herself, but that is just her last riddle he will never be able to solve: she says, «Look, no more ‘I’-s.»

 

I’m not speaking for anyone anymore. It’s over and done with. I did go to Maidan during the protests and later took part in organizing several projects dedicated to these events and the ensuing situation. I saw way too many power-hungry little creatures telling other power-adoring little creatures what to take pride in and at whose expense. State bureaucrats, militant macho leftists, mediocre patriotic businessmen, nazi boys — in that, they all become indistinguishable from one another. 

 

I do not represent any nation-state. I do not identify with any borders. I represent everything, nothing, myself, a body, a nobody, a somebody. Okhqurüm.    

 

The School of Qiyyōb

 

So, Kiev it is. 

 

In 2015, I got into a mess. I was taking part in the work on a very ambitious, megalomaniac venture. It was co-organized by a couple of Austrian curators and a rather prominent leftist Ukrainian NGO — they invited me to be the head of projects, something like an executive director in corporate terms, with some conceptual and public appearance functions.

 

The founder of the NGO, to this day a celebrated left-wing intellectual, was my former university professor, V. — I was the only student allowed to address him in the informal second-person singular. After I graduated, we practically lost contact. I tried to pursue a certain art managerial career, which led me eventually to meeting the Austrian curators, and then, surprisingly, to close cooperation, now on supposedly equal terms, with my old friend V. 

 

He was doing drugs, and I, having suffered certain losses and recovering from the previous year’s post-Maidan marathon, didn’t hesitate too long before accepting the invitation to join in. And then I made a lot of other mistakes. 

 

«Don’t worry about anything,» V. would say. 

 

He would tell me all kinds of disagreeable things about our colleagues behind their backs, the young women who were doing all the most tedious tasks, the men who were enacting each his own power scenario — and I did defend them, the people who would keep working with V. on their projects later on. When these power scenarios were crushing me, V. would say, «You have no reason to be upset, I’m your friend». It wasn’t long before he made me find out what gaslighting was, it’s many types and styles. 

 

By the end of the project, the hell was gaping open. V. was ignoring all my questions, inverting all my attempts to communicate. At group meetings, to prove me stupid or wrong, he would go as far as denying the ecological crisis. When I ultimately realized I was starring in Dogville, it was, just like in Dogville, way too late. And, as you know, there is only one way out of Dogville

 

N

 

Certainly, we need to take into account that the cinematic language and temporality have nothing to do with the course of life. In spring 2016, after a major breakdown and a bad psychic crisis — I moved to the provincial town of N., an hour and a half away from Kiev, where Gogol went to school, where Olga Khokhlova, a dancer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, was born, and where my mother’s family comes from. N. has always been an important infrastructural point, with a mixed population. This is where I’m based in as I’m writing this, commuting to Kiev for dinners and walks, and traveling abroad for residencies and talks. The friends who were helping me the most when I needed it were the ones who never belonged to any righteous groups and never proclaimed any ambition to save the world.

 

My detachment brought me closer to reality — and to myself. I got clean, quit smoking, quit alcohol and caffeine, and (yeah, of course) took up yoga, moving more and more in the direction of severe gwynethpaltrowfication. I preach care and the Audre-Lordian care for self — because that how you keep going. For three years now I’ve been trying to ultimately emigrate, but every time I think it might work there is something that forces me to take a step back and keep recovering, as well as discovering. The more intently I’m looking inwards, the further I can see outwards. The slower I’m proceeding, the more punctual I get. By forgiving myself, I forgive.

 

Liberation comes from letting go. Stillness enables movement. Every limitation, including my passport and poverty, opens the world to me more and more as I choose to learn from it. Peace of mind is the most radical politics. Simple things can teach you more than all the anticapitalist books ever written. Staring at an ivory-coloured wall can be the most decolonizing activity you have ever engaged in, more benevolent than any anarchist demonstration you’ve ever attended. A singular affect of fury can be cleansing and transformative — but perpetual hate is what, according to Leibniz, turns one into the damned, someone whose soul is so tight it contains nothing but the hate towards the universe. The damned suffer incessantly, and there’s just this one thing they have to do in order to stop suffering: they have to stop vomiting the world, says Deleuze 2 How beautiful is that?

 

The more I’ve been embracing the rundown town of N., the further I’ve been finding myself from Ukrainian cultural milieu — and the more I’ve been coming to terms with my Ukrainian passport, with all my Eastern Europen Slavic features and troubles, even with my love for the Russian language. The more I’ve been coming to terms with all of this, the less it’s been getting of an issue at all, and the further my disidentification with state borders has been reaching. The further my disidentification with state borders has been reaching, the keener I’ve started recognizing the beauty of some things inherently Slavic, things that appeal to some pre-national yet culturally distinctive aesthetics — rendered so elegantly by Natalia Goncharova and Igor Stravinsky. I found or revisited my admiration for Ukrainian baroque, for Russian monasteries, for medieval icons, for half Orthodox, half pagan religious celebrations. Not in any sort of nostalgic or identitarian manner at all — but with general curiosity that comes from defamiliarization, from Shklovskian ostranenie.

 

In real life, leaving Dogville doesn’t take place overnight. And so, the male power figure for a coalition of convenience who would hand me the gun (as required by the screenplay — hope you don’t find it too, um, ‘reactionary’?), was to be found — only in summer 2018 — in my maternal lineage. Had I been, just like Grace, too silly and arrogant? I went through an old little notebook that belonged to my great-grandfather, who had been the head of the Gosbank in N. for decades. I’ve never met him — he died in the 1970s. Written amid telephone numbers and calculations was the following: “A person who doesn't claim to be saintly would never commit a crime”. 

 

Which reminds me

 

If you want to become whole, first let yourself become broken.

 

If you want to become straight, first let yourself become twisted.

 

If you want to become full, first let yourself become empty.

 

If you want to become new, first let yourself become old.

 

Those whose desires are few gets them, those whose desires are great go astray.

 

For this reason the Master embraces the Tao, as an example for the world to follow.

 

Because she isn’t self centered, people can see the light in her.

 

Because she does not boast of herself, she becomes a shining example.

 

Because she does not glorify herself, she becomes a person of merit.

 

Because she wants nothing from the world, the world cannot overcome her.

 

When the ancient Masters said, “If you want to become whole, then first let yourself be broken,” they weren’t using empty words. 

 

All who do this will be made complete. (1)

A note in the notebook
photo by the author

Perpetual Peace

 

As a matter of fact, I do have faith in humanity, no matter how problematic this may sound today. In «humans» that, according to Karen Barad, «are neither pure cause nor pure effect but part of the world in its open-ended becoming.» 4 We are all transitioning, never not transitioning. «We are all little colonies and it is Oedipus that colonizes us.» 5 Every colonizer is also colonized — by the modern dichotomies and prescribed psychic scenarios that claim to be universally valid. But as Xiang Zairong suggests in his exquisite text Transdualism. Toward a Materio-Discursive Embodiment, «while foregrounding non-Western, nonmodern cosmologies as part of an ethical commitment to epistemic diversity a decolonial approach does not mean to overthrow “Western” thinking» 6 — it is a matter of seeing how, in the process of its own evolution, continental philosophy has been decolonizing itself, a matter of taking down the imposed hierarchies of this thinking and reappropriating its fruit. 

 

«Walking on beaten paths, she may laugh, and laugh at herself for she may realize she must and she can, at any moment, stray from the itinerary chosen, get rid of many of her fears, and take pleasure in making abrupt turns and repeated detours, so as to outplay her own game, rendering impotent the master's world of refined dissections and classifications,» writes Trinh T.  Minh-ha. 7 

 

After all, did you know that Kant spoke against colonization? Literally. Here’s what he wrote in his work Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch published in 1795:

 

«At how great a distance from this perfection are the civilized nations, and especially the commercial nations of Europe? At what an excess of injustice do we not behold them arrived, when they discover strange countries and nations? (which with them is the same thing as to conquer). America, the countries inhabited by the negroes, the Spice Islands, the Cape, etc. were to them countries without proprietors, for the inhabitants they counted for nothing. Under pretext of establishing factories in Hindustan, they carried thither foreign troops, and by their means oppressed the natives, excited wars among the different states of that vast country; spread famine, rebellion, perfidy, and the whole deluge of evils that afflict mankind, among them. [...] The Chinese and Japanese, whom experience has taught to know Europeans, wisely refuse their entry into the country, though the former permit their approach, which the latter grant to one European nation only, the Dutch; still however, excluding them like captives from every communication with the inhabitants.» 8

 

What are we to do with this? Yes, Kant’s positions did change drastically within less than a decade after he had published his overtly racist considerations in the works of the late 1780s, and further on he did elaborate his anticolonial and antiracist positions in Metaphysics of Morals, published in 1797 9. Is it efficient to see Kant and all his work as a strict opposition, an enemy to what Denise Ferreira da Silva described as ‘black feminist poethics’, particularly in her intriguing text In the Raw? 10 Or, can we decolonize Kant by deciphering his own transdualism, by clarifying through complicating, by using his letters to serve a black feminist? Can we schizoanalyze Kant? «Schizoanalysis, rather than moving in the direction of reductionist modelisations which simplify the complex, will work towards its complexification, its processual enrichment, towards the consistency of its virtual lines of bifurcation and differentiation, in short towards its ontological heterogeneity». 11

 

As Luciana Parisi stated in an interview several years ago, «[...] there is a lot of work to be done in order to actually say: we shall be going back to the Enlightenment project of reason so as to claim back alien versions of reasoning. But to claim it back requires taking into account the historical moment in which, in the name of reason, patriarchy and colonialism became enterprises of domination. The legacy of reason and the history of instrumental reason need to be debunked and reconstructed, and not just adopted.» 12

 

«And thus it is necessary to begin again, and again, in the middle of things»  13

 

«She can only build from the visible as she unbuilds the invisible, and vice versa. For when she builds and builds only (positivist affirmation), she runs the risk of expanding his property at her own cost; and when she unbuilds, and unbuilds only (nihilist negation), she tends to fall into the habit of negating for the sake of his alter ego. The space of creativity is the space whose occupancy invites other occupancies. To return to a denied identity and cultural heritage is also to undermine the very notion of identity and ethnicity. Thus, if she negates, it is also to refute negation joyfully.» 14

 

When I speak about decolonization, it comes from the borderland, and my borderland is very different from Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands: I’m not aiming to be «a crossroads» (of identities) — I’m interested in «an “unclean,” non-identitarian, undifferentiated deep» 15 When Rosi Braidotti ponders (via Alice Walker on Virginia Woolf), «is this nonchalant detachment not the privilege of caste and whiteness?» 16 — all I can say is, well, no. Coming technically from the European continent, the place I come from is not ‘the West’. 

 

The place I come from is, for instance, a surrogacy farm: a single officially registered clinic would produce 100–150 babies every month, for parents from the US and EU predominantly. My ‘whiteness’ is a shimmering quality, it doesn’t match the ‘whiteness’ of slave owners and land-grabbers, and yet I am keenly aware of what it’s loaded with. My passport makes most border guards double-check my possessions and in many cases implies tedious visa bureaucracy: wherever I go, I’m ‘other countries’. But my ‘otherness’ is too subtle, too indistinguishable to enter the colonizer/colonized binary relationship — it lies in the uncanny valley, a perfect place to speak from in order to show that this is precisely where all the ‘otherness’ and all the ‘sameness’ belong.

 

This land was never stricto sensu ‘colonized’ by the West (do Greek colonies of the Northern Black Sea in the VIII–III centuries BCE count?). This land used to be part of empires. But a repeated stance — to a certain extent fueled by the post-Cold War Western discourses — that it was colonized by Russia, is quite inaccurate. Ukraine couldn’t be colonized by the Russian Empire — yet in order to make the Russian Empire an Empire enough, it had to be invented and defined as the land that is ‘the same but different’, the uncanny valley (paradoxically, precisely where, as we know, the state that would later become the Russian Empire had been initially founded — by several enterprising Norsemen).

 

This does not mean that the Russian Empire did not exercise colonial politics (in fact, Russian ruthless expansion eastwards started as early as the XVI century), or that the Soviet Union was not ‘integrating’ the nomadic people of Siberia in the most repressive ways, replacing Buddhist monasteries and shamanism with labor camps and cisterns of spirits brought to the settlements. Madina Tlostanova provides a detailed account of Russian and Soviet colonialism in the Caucasus and Central Asia in its connection with gender politics (including a brilliant and subtle demonstration of how the Western feminisms, as the products of Western modernity, fail to interpret Soviet contexts). 17 However, marks Tlostanova, Russia did not belong to «the confident empires with a positive masculine identity». Russia is itself a vivid case when «the caution against the absolute division between colonizer and colonized» 18 is crucial. Russian princely families of the Yusupovs and the Urusovs were the descendants of Edigu, a Turkic Muslim Emir of the White Horde who invaded Rus’ in the early XV century — Yusupovs derived directly from Yusuf Bey of Nogai Horde. And it is impossible to overlook the fact that Stalin, who brought the Soviet imperialism to its extremes, was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in a small town of Gori in eastern Georgia. 

 

Through the Colon of a Cannibal

 

«To listen, to see like a stranger in one's own land; to fare like a foreigner across one's own language; or, to maintain an intense rapport with the means and materiality of media languages is also to learn to let go of the (masterly) “hold” as one unbuilds and builds.» 19

 

To decolonize oneself is not to go back to something that existed before colonization. To decolonize (oneself, a place) is to engage in the non-hierarchical relationship with the universe as a unity of phenomena — of matter. 20 It ultimately implies the need to see through the colonizer/colonized and oppressor/oppressed dichotomies, to acknowledge the multiplicity of ongoing relations. It implies the need to see that violence and injustice have never been the prerogative of the colonizer and the oppressor. After all, the Aztec people did come up with a legend that the Spanish Conquista was a curse upon it: «because for the same order it had subjugated the other people, it will be kicked out and [stripped of] the dominance it had over others». 21 «[T]his death that comes from without is also that which was rising from within».22 Such complexification is not equal to erasing the difference between the victim and the perpetrator — on the contrary, it is what ultimately allows one to distinguish the perpetrator in each particular case regardless of their ideology or mission. 

 

Decolonization is not the return to non-existent «precolonial» relations — it means waking up from a bad dream, waking up from death, overcoming the rigidity of imposed knowledge structures. «Nothing more than a bit of a relation to the outside, a little real reality. And we claim the right to a radical laxity, a radical incompetence — the right to enter the analyst's office and say it smells bad there. It reeks of the great death and the little ego.» 23
Decolonization implies accepting «the challenge of subjectivity» — Marc Yang presents
constant becoming as a way to overcome the Self/Other dichotomy (as well as a number of binary oppositions deriving from it and produced by the rationalist «static notion of identity» of the Modern Subject) in the context of the postcolonial condition. 24

 

When Félix Guattari described the production of subjectivity in «Chaosmosis», he turned to the experience of his psychotic patients at La Borde, emphasizing that their treatment, based on collective subjectivation, «[is] not simply a matter of remodelling a patient's subjectivity — as it existed before a psychotic crisis — but of a production sui generis». 25 These «complexes of subjectivation», that included a vast variety of activities and responsibilities around La Borde, in Guattari’s understanding «offer people diverse possibilities for recomposing their existential corporeality, to get out of their repetitive impasses and, in a certain way, to resingularise themselves». 26 Similarly, decolonization is the production of subjectivity that gets one out of the repetitive impasses of the Modern Subject’s binary.

  

For Xiang Zairong, «[t]he point of decolonial feminism is neither suggesting to go back to a precolonial, “original” system of embodiment, nor proposing a generalizable remedy or another universalized truth. It urges us first and foremost to unlearn modern/colonial categories with which we operate seemingly inevitably by learning to learn from the diverse experiences of resistance (as sites of continuous repression), which rely on cosmologies and gender systems that do not always presume the universal validity of “binary opposition,” “hierarchical categorization,” “sexual difference found in language,” or “patriarchy”».27

 

There is no ‘before’. Production of subjectivity begins with getting lost. But getting lost also implies losing your adversary, making it disintegrate as an adversary by virtue of your mutual trans-integration, as the constructive undoing of binary oppositions would presuppose. There are no just wars. The only way to win a war is to lay down your weapons, to stop fighting (yourself). 

 

 «I’m not opting for any direct action against representation, but for a micropolitics of disidentification, a kind of experimentation that doesn’t have faith in representation as an exteriority that will bring truth or happiness.»28

 

To decolonize oneself is to stop feeling guilty, to stop enjoying misery. For once, try not thinking about the distribution of objects and ideas, try not thinking about signifiers, try not thinking of yourself as a signifier. Think of those who are alive, who are right there next to you, across the wall, across the street, or, perhaps, miles away, thinking of you — as who? Think of yourself. Think of cleansing yourself from the filth you are processing and spreading on a daily basis. When was the last time you felt envy? When was the last time you felt jealousy? When was the last time you felt fear? When was the last time you lied? When was the last time you cried? When was the last time you died? When was the last time you helped a parent, a friend, a neighbor, a partner, a stranger? Do you hate yourself? Are you ashamed? Do you get high on suffering? Does pain turn you on? Are you alive? What does your body feel like?

 

Now look! 

 

The Empire

 

does not 

 

exist. 

 

«“Then it really has happened, after all! And now, who am I? I will remember, if I can! I’m determined to do it!” But being determined didn’t help her much, and all she could say, after a great deal of puzzling, was, “L, I know it begins with L!29

 

 


Lesia Prokopenko (born in 1988 in Kiev, Ukraine) is a researcher and writer with a background in arts. Since 2013 she has been taking part in the work of the Institute for Public Art at Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. She worked as the head of projects at the School of Kyiv — Kyiv Biennial 2015; curated and co-organized a number of exhibitions; presented talks at Konstnärsnämnden (IASPIS) in Stockholm, Winzavod in Moscow, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the New School University Centre in New York City; was a part of the Curators Workshop at the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018). She has also translated The Three Ecologies by Félix Guattari into Russian.

 

References:

 

[1] Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching, translated by J. H. McDonald.

 

This text was first published in Russian on Intermodal Terminal

 

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