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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.

How to contact us

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

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. 

Read her articles and interviews: ON THE LOOP

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

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

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. 

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

Thibaut de Ruyter

Thibaut de Ruyter is a French 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 Frontier that calls into question the dividing line between Asia and Europe in the former Soviet states. Since 2017 this exhibition has been exhibited in St Petersburg, Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Krasnoyarsk (u.A.) and will open in Erevan in May 2019. His areas of interest range from new media to spiritualism to "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.

Read his articles: EAST WIND - ART IN THE FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS, UNFORTUNATELY, WE CANNOT PAY FOR YOUR FLIGHT AND ACCOMMODATION, ARTIST PORTRAIT: ALISA BERGER

Asli Samadova

Asli Samadova is a Milan/Baku-based curator and museum specialist experienced working with leading cultural institutions in Europe and the USA on cultural diplomacy, education and exhibition projects. She is the founder of Ta(r)dino 6 alternative art space that promotes contemporary art from Azerbaijan and beyond and is a platform for experiments. Ta(r)dino 6 Venice project brought Turandokht. Radio Riddles to Venice and was the first to present contemporary art from Azerbaijan in a non-institutional environment during the 58th Venice Biennial 2019.

Read her articles: WHEN THERE ARE NO OPPUTURNITIES, CREATE YOUR OWN GIARDINI, INTERIORS, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

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

Julia Sorokina

Yuliya Sorokina is freelance curator of contemporary art, lecturer, tutor, author of texts, lives and works in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Born in 1965 in Shchuchinsk (Kazakhstan) In 1987 graduated from the Artistic-drawing faculty of the Kazakh Pedagogical Institute named after Abai (Almaty). In 1992 she also completed post-graduate course in cinematology at the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (Moscow) and courses in art-management in 1998-1999 at European Summer Academy for Culture & Management (Salzburg) and at Institut fur Kulturwissenschaft (Vienna) Austria. Since 1999 she is chair-person of the Board of “Asia Art+” Public Foundation, which she co-founded in 1996. Major exhibitions & projects 2007 - “Muzykstan: Media generation of contemporary artists from Central Asia”. Central Asia Pavilion at the 52. INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA. Associazione Culturale Spiazzi, Venice, Italy (Commissioner and curator) 2007 – Central Asian Project.

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

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

Lolisanam Ulug

Lola Ulugova (Lolisanam) has been an activist in Tajikistan since 2000. Her last working assignment as an Arts and Social Activism Program Coordinator at Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation (OSIAF) in Tajikistan, 2014-2019, was a recognition of her skills and passion towards development of the Tajik youth, arts and activism at a professional level. She also 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, an important musical instrument museum in Dushanbe; has been involved in the administration of multiple government and NGO research projects and publications in Tajikistan; and has been the organizer of several important art exhibitions. 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 during academic year 2017-18 and participated in Central Asian-Azerbaijan (CAAFP) fellowship program at the George Washington University at Elliott School of International affairs for Fall 2019.
She has co-produced “After the Curtain” documentary along with Emelie Mahdavian (USA), covering the intimate stories of a few Tajik women dancers, also a “Youth for Laws Supremacy” performance that indicated her protest torture and violence.

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

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

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. 

Irina Konyukhova

Ira Konyukhova is an artist, writer, curator, feminist activist and the founder of TransitoryWhite. In her practice, she explores the connection between female sexuality, pop-resilience, death as well as colonial technological practices. As an artist, her works have been presented on various international festivals and exhibitions, including DocLisboa, Athens Biennale, Teneriffa Espacio del Arte, Exground Film Festival e.t. Her latest article on the early 2000s Russian lesbian stars T.a.T.u. And their influence on queer politics has been recently published by Pop-Zeitschrift by University Siegen. Ira was a grantee of BS Projects Artist-in-Residence scholarship Programm and lives and works in Berlin.

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.

Kundry Reif

Kundry Reif grew up in Vienna, Austria. Whilst studying cultural studies at university in Berlin she started to work in art collectives and galleries. Last year she went to work at the Goethe Institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for a year. Having never heard a lot about Central Asia before, this year abroad sparked her interest. Being back now, she misses Central Asian Kurt, and has decided that her favorite museum of all times is the Sawitsky Museum in Nukus, Uzbekistan. 

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 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 Frontier that calls into question the dividing line between Asia and Europe in the former Soviet states. Since 2017 this exhibition has been exhibited in St Petersburg, Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Krasnoyarsk (u.A.) and will open in Erevan in May 2019. His areas of interest range from new media to spiritualism to "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.

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

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

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

16th October 2019

Interiors

portrait

Exhibition by Xenia Fink In Ta(r)dino 6 Baku
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

12th July 2019

When there are no opputurnities, create your own Giardini

article

Asli Samadova
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
Untitled #1, film, 2005
Masha Godovannaya
Countyless and Queer, film (in progress)
Masha Godovannaya
Who said there will be a walk in time?, film, 2018
Masha Godovannaya
Countyless and Queer, film (in progress)
Masha Godovannaya

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

Masha Godovannaya and Katharina Wiedlack

6th September 2019

Katharina Wiedlack spoke to visual artist, queer-feminist researcher, curator, and educator Masha Godovannaya about her artistic practice, queer-feminist approaches and community building.

 

Katharina Wiedlack

Masha, you are currently working on issues of queerness, belonging and community building. Why did you choose the avant-garde film tradition to approach these topics?

Masha Godovannaya

The avant-garde tradition in filmmaking allows me to open up a cinematic space for experimentation, not looking for results, but focusing on the process, on open ends, and in search for new ways of relatedness to the films’ participants and social contexts. It gives me a sense of belonging to cinema, a point of reference and at the same time – of departure. You can say that I try to queer the cinematic language and the elements that are expected of a film: rethinking the camera work in its construction of filmic space; transformation of time; re-approaching stories through montage; creating opaque narratives through raptured sonic sound-scapes. Importantly, I make visible and queer the relationships between me as the person behind the camera and person(s) or phenomena in front of it.

Katharina Wiedlack

Looking at your oeuvre, it seems that you have consistently developed a queer and feminist voice in your works. Untitled #1, for example, is a poetic critique of gender representations, filmed in the streets of St. Petersburg. The film you are working on right now Countryless and Queer equally brings up questions of gender and sexual belonging. Both use a distinctly feminist and queer lens, yet in a very different tone. How would you say has your gaze, and with it your cinematic language changed over the years?

Untitled #1, film, 2005
Masha Godovannaya

Masha Godovannaya

What has drastically changed since 2005 is the relationship between how I approach my camera and how I engage with and relate to what I see in front of it. In “Untitled #1” I inhabit the position of the observer, who is capturing the reality without actually questioning my own position towards it. It is a quite common position for a filmmaker: the artist has the right to use the camera freely and capture what is in front of it without questioning her_his positioning.

Now I am much more aware that the camera could be a violent actor, no matter how experimental one wants to be with it. There is a long tradition in cinema of how the camera and its gaze were non-consensually directed at certain communities playing a deadly role in their objectification, and exotization. The camera gaze is not innocent and has to be always questioned, including within the avant-garde and experimental film traditions. I aim to bring forward issues of ethics and the process of filming, to question and redirect the camera and its gaze. This reexamination of the camera’s role in my artistic practice has lead me to the point of treating my cameras as almost living entities, and allies, with their histories, subjectivities, and personal behaviors.

Katharina Wiedlack

“Countryless and Queer” illustrates beautifully what you just said. You bring yourself into the story as the filmmaker and the process of filming and the actual camera work becomes part of its theme. By handing the camera to your participants, you draw the audiences’ attention to the gaze and its violence, and queer it at the same time, by sharing with others the power over the gaze. In connection with the stories about gendered, sexualized and racialized experiences of [queer] migration and flight, the topic of viewing and the gaze transgresses multiple layers of meaning; it is a discussion of art production, filming and recording; at the same time it is a discussion of solidarity and non/belonging in a new and unfamiliar space, queer bonds and kinships.

Countyless and Queer, film (in progress)
Masha Godovannaya

Masha Godovannaya

Between the two films lies a long process of finding myself as a filmmaker, in a relationship with the subjects of my films, and the process of allowing myself to be seen and heard, not as an “objective” gaze but as a vulnerable, sometimes physically unpleasant and clownish character, not an actress but myself, a living queer subject from a post-soviet context. I learned in film school that you were supposed to follow a certain tradition that positioned you as a gaze, restricted or unrestricted, but always remaining unseen behind the camera. You are supposed to be on the other side of the screen, as the demiurge, manipulating space and time in order to create the world. It took me a while to question this position, to step out from this safe space “behind the camera/screen” and enter my films as a body, thus, opening up and drawing attention to questions of positionality, subjectivity, procedures, engagements, affects and etc. And to pass the camera – the sacred tool in filmmaking – to others - is also a way to dismantle the unquestioned power of the filmmaker/artist and to create a new form of a community through dialogue. Basically, it is about the creation of queer kinship within this particular space of the film production. Thus, cinema for me is a process of transitioning: always moving and becoming a space for practising queer communities, kinships and intimacies, and queer diasporic relationality.

Katharina Wiedlack

Do you remember how this process of reexamination started?

Masha Godovannaya

I think it started with my film Hunger about my experience with motherhood and the inscribing of a child to my life as an artist. By the time of my son’s birth in 2002 the camera had become an extension of my hand, always very close to me, on a table or in my bag. I was shooting constantly, developing a practice that I later would call “compulsive archiving.” Many young filmmakers and artists living in NYC, shared and adapted this particular diarist approach at the end of the 1990s: capturing daily [in]significant brief moments of our lives on 16mm or video cameras, the “life-on-the-run.”

The experience of the first months of motherhood were transformative and at the same time alienating. All the new practices of care, breast-feeding, child bathing, putting it to sleep, etc. were strange and confusing. I really wanted to see how the two of us, me and my son, appeared together during these activities; how we formed relations, a bond, while still being strangers to each other. So, I started to shoot us, just for this mirroring effect, during these mothering practices. It was a turning point when I allowed myself to enter the screen for the first time.

My first 8 mm video camera had only a viewfinder, so I had no control over the camera’s frame, its gaze. I just put the camera arbitrarily on a table, pointed at me in the process of breast-feeding, guessing approximately what could appear in the shot. The result showed a half-naked maternal body in a very strange composition: not an appealing image, but a long uneventful shot of a tired and bored woman immersed in a labor essential for the child’s well-being. For me, the way the camera constructed me as an object, talked back to the entire history of representing women and motherhood through art and cinema. When I started to edit the material for the film “Hunger” several years later in 2009, this “accidental” shooting provoked me to rethink and revaluate my perspective on filming. Stepping out of the safe space behind the camera and entering the film as a body exposed to the camera’s gaze had brought me to the point where the camera became an active living participant in my films, not just a tool. I gave the camera agency, a subjectivity, a female gender.

Katharina Wiedlack

Only recently, in “Countryless and Queer” your actual voice appears. While you make your statement through the montage in “Untitled #1,” and the camera perspective in “Hunger,” “Countryless and Queer” positions you as a queer body within time and space through your voiceover commentaries.

Who said there will be a walk in time?, film, 2018
Masha Godovannaya

Masha Godovannaya

Yes, it was another long process of allowing myself to vocalize my thoughts and reflections in my films. Before, I was always doubting the quality of my texts, questioning my pitch, the way I sounded and etc. During the 1990s, I was strongly influenced by the mainstream film history, which presented mainly male directors as social actors behind and in front of the camera. So as a female filmmaker, I had to unlearn this history and discover others, to unlearn one filmmaking approach and practice several others. Agnès Varda, Chantal Akerman, Julie Dash, Barbara Hammer, Kira Muratova, Věra Chytilová, Martha Colburn, and many other women film directors and artists have been offering me alternative ways to approach and engage with cinema, with female bodies and voices. I learned to trust myself and appreciate my writing, to occupy space through texts, and to speak in my films.

Katharina Wiedlack

What does your production process look like? How do you approach your subjects and topics?

Masha Godovannaya

One of my defining practices is the mentioned method of “compulsive archiving:” I create a lot of images and sounds which constitute my affective archive and to which I return to in the process of editing. Over the years my rules of engagement - how and in which way I approach social phenomena and engage with the participants of my films – has been strongly influenced by the writings of feminist, queer-feminist authors and decolonial scholars. Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, José Muñoz, Octavia Butler, Eve Tuck, Saidiya Hartman, Tina Campt, David E. Eng, Meggy Nelson, and others have helped me to transform the way I position myself and to develop ethical practices of doing my artistic research projects.

Usually, a project starts with a vague idea, or an affect – a driving force, which pushes me to new adventures. Then I slowly start to shoot some images and record sounds, creating the project’s affective archive. The writing of texts follows. If there are collaborators in a project, as it was with the recent works who said there will be a walk in time and  “Countryless and Queer,” we define how we work together and make some initial plans for interviews and shootings. And then we just depart together on an open film journey: we don’t know where we will arrive and which form our collaboration will take – a feature-length film, a short, an installation, performance ... Or nothing at all. Ethical concerns define the film’s form. Especially when the project, as for example Countryless and Queer, deals with a lot of sensitive issues such as marginal queer lives in a hostile environment.

Countyless and Queer, film (in progress)
Masha Godovannaya

For me, it’s not about the film per se, it is about what we built between each other during the process. We all agree how we will work together and start a path and, during the “walk,” we can change the scripts, change our working conditions, adjust the process, etc. Whatever will be shown has to be approved by everyone. Especially in the last film I will not show anything without the participants’ consent. No matter how hard I worked on it, I promised to cut out any part that puts the participants in danger or they just don’t feel entirely comfortable with. In the end, it didn’t happen and everyone was supportive about the film. But all of us have been strongly aware about issues of anonymity and visibility in the film, the need for a safe strategy for talking about precarious queer lives.

Katharina Wiedlack

“Countryless and Queer” presents queerness not necessarily as identity politics. It creates opacity for people who live queerly, rather than visibility. I think this is an important queer strategy in the current moment of time, where people have to face violence and persecution in many places for loving and living queerly.

Masha Godovannaya

Yes, for me it is more important to make films queerly than to make queer films. Queerness, for me, is not about normalizing certain queer people’s lives within mainstream cinema, adding them into “meta” capitalist commercial narrative. My question is rather, how we could maintain queerness as a political momentum that continues to problematize norms and works against the pressure of conformity in cinema; How to unsettle normalization processes through audiovisual mediums.

The question of the cinematic form is important, and as I mentioned before, it is inseparable from ethical questions. The experimental, avant-garde cinema is a space where I can insist on creating something not particularly meeting expectations, not transparent, not easily accessible and available to the viewer. The marginalized and clandestine visual tactics, which I have been developing and practicing over the years allow me to search for queerness as a cinematic form.

And then there is the aspect of opacity that you just mentioned: Personally, as an ageing queer from a post-Soviet space, living sometimes within the space, I totally understand that it could not be safe to be in front of a camera. More importantly, it could not be safe to shoot others, because we know how that can be used against them. Of course, I don’t want to be paternalistic, but as a filmmaker and visual artist, I have to be aware of how the visual medium can work and be used. For example, after the 2012 Moscow protests, where people would shoot themselves, participating in the demonstrations and street actions, the police used their personal visual records against them in court. The camera is not innocent. It is a powerful thing and it can turn against the body, which carries it. Visibility can be dangerous and unwanted. As Glissant said: everyone should have the right to opacity. So for me, it’s important to think about other visual and sonic strategies of leaving traces, other than coming out and making visible; to think of different forms that allow for recognition; to think of and practice a cinematic language with which we can write other histories; to resist the erasure. Thinking about queerness as a political strategy and methodology in film-/art-making could encourage us to establish an oppositional gaze of opaque post-Soviet queer subjects, form new alliances and solidarities, and consequently negotiate a space from which we can talk back collectively and queerly.

 

 

Masha Godovannaya holds MFA degree in Film/Video from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College, New York, and MA in Sociology from European University in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Currently, she is a candidate in PhD in Practice at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Masha’s films and visual works have been shown at many festivals, screenings and art venues (such as Rotterdam Film Festival, the Tate Modern, Oberhausen International Film Festival, London Film Festival, Manifesta-10, 7th Liverpool Biennial, Center Georges Pompidou, etc.). https://mashagodovannaya.wordpress.com/

At the end of 2015 together with a group of artists, activists, and social researches from St. Petersburg, Russia, she co-founded a queer-feminist affinity art group “Unwanted Organisation.” https://faagunwanted.wordpress.com/

 

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

 

 

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