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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 eine Kuratorin und Forscherin. Studium der Bild- und Kulturwissenschaften an der European Humanities University (Vilnius, Litauen) und an der School of Engaged Art der Kunstgruppe “Chto Delat?” (Sankt Petersburg, Russland). Sie ist Mitglied der Künstlergruppe #damaudobnayavbytu (“Frau, die bequem im Alltag ist”), die die feministische Agenda im russischen und weisrussischen Kontext untersucht. Sie war Kuratorin einer Reihe von Ausstellungen in Belarus, Russland, Polen, Frankreich und China. Ihre Forschungsgebiete und kuratorischen Interessen sind: Gemeinschaft, Um-Zusammenstellung alltäglicher Praktiken, feministische Kritik, neue Sensibilität, Basisinitiativen.

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

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.

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.

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.

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. During 2013-2015 she curated online-platform & collective of artists, curators and writers  (wo)manorial, who contemplate the ever-changing concept of femininity. Her latest research is focused on love and intimacy in the context of emotional capitalism. Originally from Kyiv currently she lives and works in Berlin. 

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.

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.

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.

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
Medina Bazargali, Talaq, Digital photo, algorithm, red cloth. 2018- 2020
Courtesy of the artist
Medina Bazargali, Talaq, Digital photo, algorithm, red cloth. 2018- 2020
Courtesy of the artist
Alexandra Sukhareva, Comb in the Grass (Small Descriptive Models That Have Turned Into Action), Mixed media, 2017 in Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II, exhibition view, Moscow, 2017
Photo: Dmitry Shumov, courtesy of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Alexandra Sukhareva, Comb in the Grass (Small Descriptive Models That Have Turned Into Action), Mixed media, 2017 in Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II, exhibition view, Moscow, 2017
Photo: Dmitry Shumov, courtesy of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Katia Khasine, a — died-off nacre, a hollow riddle, 2020, paper, liner
Photo: Kristina Matvienko, courtesy ISSMAG Gallery
Katia Khasine, a — died-off nacre, a hollow riddle, 2020, mixed media
Photo: Kristina Matvienko, courtesy ISSMAG Gallery

In this text I intend to discuss the work of three female artists from Kazakhstan and Russia using the concepts of refusal and opacity. Firstly, I will discuss the artwork by Medina Bazargali from Kazakhstan. While revealing some of the operations of power, it acts as a refusal to follow the logic of the Russian or Western colonial gaze. Then, after a short walk, I will move on to discussing partial visibility and opacity. Like refusal, opacity is a way of turning one’s back to extractive logic of complete visibility. I will look at the work of two artists from Russia – Alexandra Sukhareva and Katia Khasina and discuss the ways in which opacity operates in their works.

 

Refusal

 

The work Talaq by an artist from Kazakhstan Medina Bazargali is about the “triple talaq” – Islamic law which allows men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq” three times either in person, on the phone or simply in a form of  a text message, while the only way a woman can divorce her husband is to go through a complicated system of asking for permissions. In an interview, Medina Bazargali describes the reasons of this situation “that became increasingly popular, not only as a consequence of Islam spreading aggressively in Kazakhstan since its independence but also because of the absence of age restrictions for marriage.” Therefore, she connects the existence of the oppressive practice to the way it is used by the state and supported by the local legislation.

Medina Bazargali, Talaq, Digital photo, algorithm, red cloth. 2018- 2020
Courtesy of the artist

Thus this work criticizes the "return to the traditions" within the supposedly secular nation-state. In Kazakhstan reshaped traditions assert hierarchical gender relations, where the male and masculine have pre-eminence over female and feminine. “The return to the traditions” in Kazakhstan is not so different from similar processes in Russia, which tend to privilege the “traditional values” of an orthodox Christian patriarchal family. The “traditional values” are universal machines for the reproduction of the oppressive states apparatus. 

 

Medina Bazargali’s work, while acknowledging the clearly sexist nature of the practice of Talaq, emphasizes the agency of the state, which renders a woman as completely invisible the moment she gets married. The installation is interactive: once  a visitor enters the space and covers her head and face with a red piece of cloth, which is of the same colour as the traditional wedding dress, she is photographed. After the photo is taken, in a picture one can only see her eyes, while the whole body is morphed with the wall.  The perspective of a camera mimics the gaze of the state: it is not the red cloth that conceals a woman after she gets married, it is the algorithm inscribed in the camera, that renders her invisible. Similarly, the laws of a state (which does its best to return to the “traditions”, while rendering invisible the women, who are affected by certain traditions that are oppressive) not the abstract Islam itself. I am clicking through documentation pictures, showing only the eyes of the installation-visitors, when I scroll too fast it feels like the eyes were also bricks in the walls. Even though in this I process I occupy a position, which might seem like the one of an outside observer, my position is situated as I am repeating the patriarchal gaze, which renders a woman invisible. By making the artwork participatory, the artist refuses the viewer any outside perspective, which tends to concentrate on the images of suffering but not on what produced them.

Medina Bazargali, Talaq, Digital photo, algorithm, red cloth. 2018- 2020
Courtesy of the artist

Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang theorized refusal as the turning back upon power, specifically the colonial modalities of knowing persons as bodies. Another work of refusal, according to Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang is to “set limits to settler-colonial knowledge”. Talaq sets limits to the knowledge that see Muslim women as the victims of the abstract patriarchy and does not consider the agencies of nation-states and colonialism. As Talaq shows, the refusal requires positionality and the understanding of the absence of outside perspective, I will look at this more as I will discuss opacity.

 

A short walk

 

“Look there are frog-eggs in there!” – my sister Sonya screams while standing near a muddy puddle on a forest road. I can hardly see anything from a distance still holding our dog. The sun shines through the pine-needles and leaves and disturbs the calm opacity of frog-eggs, concealed by the mud from human and dog gaze. I am led by the sense of wonder and city-person curiosity so I come closer to look at what Sonya has found.  Sonya is led by a need to reveal every hidden aspect and the absence of respect for the opacity of the other. She takes the longest stick she can find and causes as much disturbance to the puddle as possible so that she can see the eggs. (Who hasn’t done something similar in their pre-teen years?). After a while, we finally agree to leave future frogs alone. Hoping that they have survived our intervention, I keep thinking about the mud covering the eggs, and my thoughts keep rolling back to the opacity the mud created.

Alexandra Sukhareva, Comb in the Grass (Small Descriptive Models That Have Turned Into Action), Mixed media, 2017 in Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II, exhibition view, Moscow, 2017
Photo: Dmitry Shumov, courtesy of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

 

Towards the opacity

 

In one of the key texts on opacity, Eduardo Glissant discusses the solidarities, which could be formed with respect to mutual opacities. He sees the opacity as the impossibility to reduce anyone to the truth he would not have generated on his own. In a trialogue on Nervus Rerum following Glissant’s insights Kodwo Eshun proposes the definition of opacity as intimacy without transparency. We completely failed this opaque way of relating to the frog-eggs. Yet it is hard to abandon the idea of opacity after the first failure. Opacity is a way of relating, which does not privilege the full knowledge or a complete understanding of the other. Zach Blass contrasts Glissant’s concept of opacity with "identity politics" claim to visibility as a political platform and proposes seeing opacity as a tactic and a material condition. I will look at the production of opacities in two artworks, thus calling for a situated and differentiated approach to opacity.  

 

Opacity of the document

 

Comb in the grass (small descriptive models that have turned into action) by an artist from Russia Alexandra Sukareva was the first presentation of the archival research of spiritual practices during the Siege of Leningrad (September 8, 1941– January 27, 1944) in Garage Museum of Contemporary art.   

Alexandra Sukhareva, Comb in the Grass (Small Descriptive Models That Have Turned Into Action), Mixed media, 2017 in Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II, exhibition view, Moscow, 2017
Photo: Dmitry Shumov, courtesy of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Sukhareva’s work makes partly visible ways of life, which escaped the official narrative due to the fact that any spiritual practices were legally banned in the USSR. They were located outside the Soviet modernity both on the legislative level, but also on a discursive one as it was impossible to even describe those practices in terms of the language, sanctioned by the Soviet Empire. The project narrative begins with the description of a common settlement of members of several spiritual societies - the Tolstoyan agricultural communes, theosophist collectives, anthroposophist and anarcho-mysticist groups – in the village of Guarek, near Sochi in the south of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. According to the project-text, it was possible because of common living practices mixed. It all ended abruptly:

 

In the 1930s, over 40 people were accused of promoting a boycott of the Soviet way of life, as part of the so-called Sochi case. As a result, the story of a common undertaking broke into a number of personal histories. 

 

Sukhareva’s work consists of six volumes, each tells a singular story – about a person, a family or an object. However, during the initial presentation of the project, only four volumes were open for the viewers, the other two stayed closed and it was impossible to tell what was inside them. The viewer encountered a container with evidence, however, it could tell absolutely nothing.

 

Katia Khasine, a — died-off nacre, a hollow riddle, 2020, paper, liner
Photo: Kristina Matvienko, courtesy ISSMAG Gallery

Each of the volumes has its own time and space, the gaps between them were highlighted physically: in the exhibition space, the boxes with volumes didn’t touch each other’s sides. That way of installing was a materialisation of the principle of  nontotalising empathy, described by T.J.Demos, the volumes were co-present but didn’t suppress each other.

 

The first volume is about theosophist Olga Obnorskaya, who received “dictations” (heard voices) during, before and after the siege and included pictures of her.  The dictations, received by Obnorskaya, created an alternative space within the traumatizing one. The second volume includes pictures of some possessions that belonged to the family of the famous Russian spiritual artist Nikolay Roerich; they had left Petrograd before the Revolution and left their possessions with the Mitusovs family. The time of this volume was the fragmented time of the things, which bared witness to the traumatic events, yet, it could tell nothing in the human language. The third volume features a picture titled Future Moscow made by Misha Mironov, who escaped from Leningrad and managed to walk to Moscow, he hoped to then move to Central Asia, where his sister was, or to the North of Russia, where his mother was. On his way to Moscow, he was first captured by the German army, and later by the Soviet one. After his arrival in Moscow, he disappeared. The image presented a model of the future, which was similar to the future of the Soviet propaganda, but its context made the utopian linear time freeze. The fourth volume contains a Masonic watercolour from the beginning of the 19th century, which was acquired into the collection of the State Hermitage in 1941, however, its provenance is unknown. Several times – the early 19th century, the Second World War and the time of the viewer on Sukhareva's work – overlap one another, however, their exact constellation remains unknown. The documents in the volumes don’t contain much information, instead they highlight gaps and absences of knowledge. The perspective fluctuates, making any expertise impossible.

Katia Khasine, a — died-off nacre, a hollow riddle, 2020, mixed media
Photo: Kristina Matvienko, courtesy ISSMAG Gallery

The opacity was weaved by partial bits of knowledge, unresolved uncertainties and partial visibility, which appear from the absence of outside perspective. This way of sensing radically opposes an extractive perspective, which tries to create  “comprehensive” knowledge by seeing everything from a distance.

 

Weaving the opacity

 

Exhibition a — died-off nacre, a hollow riddle by an artist from Russia Katia Khasine discusses illustration. It consists of several texts, mostly black and white images that are hung on the walls of the ISS MAG gallery.

 

The first text of the exhibition says:

 

"There are three ways of reading:

-              The image comments the text

 

-              The text answers to the images

 

-              The pleasure of rapture

 

-              Indifference" 

 

While walking through the exhibition one realizes that the relations between the texts and images are the ones of mutual opacity. Neither of them “makes the other of its image”: there are always gaps between texts and illustrations.  As the text puts it: two twins had the same voice tone and were practicing singing as one. Firstly, there was no way it could happen. Secondly, what for? Images and texts generate its [their] own truth, but also interact with one another. In an image, illustrating the part with singing twins, two figures are holding poles for jumping, partly referring to the part of the text that says “this work is an acrobatic exercise in gloomy weather”, partly creating connections, independent from what the text or, to put it more accurately, the meaning making-making of text and images each went in its own direction, yet their threads crossed.

 

When analysing Katia’s work, I would reread the text and images several times in attempts to make sense in a more or less familiar way. I would scroll the text of the post-exhibition publication back and forth and it seemed that I was walking around sense in circles, but wasn’t able to come near it. The whole process of meaning-making resembled attempts to iron a piece of silk-cloth, slipping away from iron. Following Glissant I focused on the structure of the weave.

 

In the space the reading is embodied: one needs to walk through the process of reading of both images and texts. The moves, required to read the exhibition are:  to come as close as possible, to make several small steps, to bend, to make several more steps and stops, to bend once more, this time a bit lower. Looking at an exhibition had its own specific direction: always clockwise, from the left wall to the middle one, then to the right. As a result one feels the familiar (western) process of reading with one’s body, realising that there is nothing natural about it.

 

The exhibition is rhythmical: the distances between illustrations and texts, the distances between grey canvas holding images and texts, the pearl pins creating micro-cuts on the surfaces. One has to pay the closest attention possible to “small actions” both coming from a viewer and happening inside the artwork: to eye-movements, to “the choreography of pearl-needles”, to the multiple scratches on the found image, to strikes through Ludwig Wittgenstein's quote. The artist writes: Small actions might not stop the disaster, yet they can slow it down; a disaster is a long succession of accidents. In this project, small actions support, one another, while keeping a distance. The rhythms, gaps and small actions in Khasine’s artwork weaved both connections and separations, thus sketching a way towards possible solidarities.

 

The walk continues.

 

As Sonya and I keep walking through the forest, our dog smells the ground, looking for mice. Yet, mice manage to hide in her and our plain sights, concealed by the sick grass. The dog tries to catch a mouse but fails as it escapes to invisible underground labyrinths. 

 

 

Sasha Shestakova is an interdisciplinary researcher currently based in Moscow. She holds an MA Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths UoL. She is a part of research unit Distributed cognition cooperative (with Anna Engelhardt), which aims to disentangle post-soviet space as heterogeneous with specific attention to the materiality of bodies in the work of seemingly abstract machines. DCC projects include lntermodal Terminal, which facilities the dialogue around the possible space of decolonial resistance, using the intermodal terminal in Nakhodka, а port city in Primorsky Krai as an entry point; Caring for the Shaky Ground, performing cognitive cartography of (de) colonial irrigation infrastructures in Crimea. Her other projects include Constructing infrastructures for the futures, the investigation in infrastructures' construction through the agency of material labour; and symposium Alien processes: reproduction and time, which she co-organised as a Certificate student in the New Centre for Research and Practice.

 

Edited by Ira Konyuhova and Tamara Khasanova.

 

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