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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

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.

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
Dilyara Kaipova, Exhibition Severnoye Siyanie Yuga (Northern Lights of the South), 2019
Courtesy of the Gallery
Vyacheslav Akhunov, Live Quietly, 1975, ink on paper
Courtesy of the Gallery
Umida Akhmedova, exhibition Smirnoye Nebo (Still Sky), 2017
Courtesy of the Gallery
Documentation of gallery's broken front windows
Courtesy of the Gallery
Steklo/Vata (Glass/Cotton), 2017 Exhibition View
Courtesy of the Gallery
Art Collective Sprivetom, exhibition Steklo/Vata (Glass/Cotton), 2017
Courtesy of the Gallery

Zero Line Of Sight

Interview with Bella Sabirova

Tamara Khasanova

21st May 2020

Would you play by the rules or would you dare to create your own? Running a gallery is never easy, but what does it mean to run a gallery in the country where the socio-political climate can hit you hard? Bella Sabirova, an owner of Tashkent based gallery Zero Line, which focuses on controversial and politically charged art of Central Asian artists, have some thoughts to share. We discussed with her the changes happening in the art scene in Uzbekistan and what Tashkent's architecture has to do with that.

Tamara Khasanova

Your gallery has been part of the Uzbekistan art scene since 2016, and over this period you have managed to organise a considerable number of cultural events and exhibitions - from your early exhibition Hlopok Odnoy Ladony (Clap of One Hand) in 2016 to the recent one Severnoye Siyanie Uga (Northern Lights of the South) in 2019. What has, in your opinion, changed in the cultural scene of Uzbekistan owing to the presence of Zero Line over the course of these four years?

Dilyara Kaipova, Exhibition Severnoye Siyanie Yuga (Northern Lights of the South), 2019
Courtesy of the Gallery

Bella Sabirova

Upon opening the gallery, I was guided by a particular motivation. For a long time, I attentively followed the processes surrounding the Uzbekistan art community. Eventually, I noticed that there are artists for whom the access to all art spaces stays open due to their loyalty to the political elite and lack of critical civic engagement, meanwhile, there are others, unspokenly forbidden, for whom the access to the same exhibition spaces remains restricted. “Others” are chiefly an artist-conceptualist Vyacheslav Akhunov and a photographer Umida Akhmedova. So for me, this whole situation was unjust. Hence, despite the repeated cautionary remarks coming from respected people affiliated with the official art institutions, we concentrated our practice on organising exhibitions of our oppressed art scene. Eventually, as a result of our cooperation with such artists like Vyacheslav Akhunov, we proved that “forbidden art” could feel comfortable in the realm of private exhibition spaces. Besides, Akhunov is currently a curator at Zero Line. 

Vyacheslav Akhunov, Live Quietly, 1975, ink on paper
Courtesy of the Gallery

 

In 2017, together with Vyacheslav, we invited Umida Akhmedova to hold a solo exhibition Smirnoye Nebo (Still Sky) in our gallery, which was her first exhibition in Uzbekistan over the preceding nine years. Umida Akhmedova was convicted with criminal offences in 2010 under articles 139 “Defamation” and 140 “Insult” of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan. According to the accusations, with her works, Umida insulted the Uzbek people and their traditions tarnishing the image of Uzbekistan (in a photo book Women and men: from dawn till dusk, published in 2007, and a short film The Burden of Virginity, 2008). Later on, she was granted an amnesty and released from the courtroom. 

Umida Akhmedova, exhibition Smirnoye Nebo (Still Sky), 2017
Courtesy of the Gallery

Documentation of gallery's broken front windows
Courtesy of the Gallery

Tamara Khasanova

What goals did you have in mind when opening the gallery?

Bella Sabirova

Only one goal - for there to be no such notions like “forbidden art” or “forbidden artist” in Uzbekistan. In just under four years, we have organised 24 exhibitions with various artists regardless of whether they worked with classical forms of representations or conceptual art - we have strived to highlight the topics that presently concern our society, to reflect upon the ways art influences our existence, to discuss the problems of social character, and to this day we try to reconsider the present moment through the prism of a philosophical and critical approach to reality.

Steklo/Vata (Glass/Cotton), 2017 Exhibition View
Courtesy of the Gallery

Art Collective Sprivetom, exhibition Steklo/Vata (Glass/Cotton), 2017
Courtesy of the Gallery

Tamara Khasanova

In one of your interviews, you have mentioned that your mother is a well-known architect in Tashkent and that she supported you in opening Zero Line Gallery. What is her contribution to the project?

Bella Sabirova

My mother, Sabirova Svetlana Konstantinovna, was a leading architect of Uzbekistan and dedicated 40 years of her life to this profession. While working at the “TashkenPlan”, “UzNIIP Urban Planning” (now GUP “Uzshakharsozlik Liti”) together with team members, she designed architectural sites such as Turkistan Palace, which was originally intended to become the M. Gorky theatre, the Republican Puppet theatre, Golubye Kupola (Blue Doms) Square (earlier - Lenin Boulevard), iconic fountains on the central square of Tashkent Mustaqillik Maydoni (Independence Square). Her contribution to the formation and establishment of the gallery is immense and invaluable, however, it extends far beyond professional help from an experienced architect and designer. Rather, she is fully involved in the life of the gallery, in everything that’s happening in our art-space, where she relentlessly continues to share her rich life experience with me.

Tamara Khasanova

Could you tell us about the dynamics on the Tashkent gallery market, and whether you sense any potential prospects in it? Is there any legislative foundation for the development and support of gallery businesses in the country?

Bella Sabirova

The Revenue and Tax Code of Uzbekistan does not provide for any legal foundation related to the ownership and operation of gallery business, so in our case, we are registered simply as a retail business and pay taxes like any other business entity of this category. We do not hold any privilege over others, we do not receive any subsidies, and the government does not see us as a socially responsible business. Fundamentally, in order for us to fund and support our exhibitions and programming, we have to engage in retail, which is why we opened our store, and also provide services like art history lectures, creative evenings with entrance fee. However, we hosted a lot of events free of charge as well.

Tamara Khasanova

Due to the quarantine, the entire art world froze for a millisecond but then swiftly started looking for ways to escape from this critical situation by actively utilising social media platforms, and trying to attract as many potential audiences, buyers, donors as possible - what is your approach in this case?

Bella Sabirova

I haven’t noticed any “swiftness,” rather it reminded me of agony and impotence. All art institutions, irrespective of their form of ownership, have been suffering from enormous losses and this will last for a long time, we have to admit it. When the quarantine was announced, I immediately closed my gallery without any shadow of regret. I cannot think of my gallery as being a source of an outbreak of the fatal disease; thus I won’t be looking for ways to open the space at this point - I do not have even the slightest bit of interest in this. We will hold online lectures and events, and possibly I will consider organising an artist residency. We already have all the conditions for this in a picturesque suburban area, therefore, once the borders reopen, we are ready to take this conversation further.

Tamara Khasanova

Are there any opportunities to partner with galleries outside of Uzbekistan? Establish and maintain relationships with international cultural organisations and institutions, for instance, in China or the Middle East?   

Bella Sabirova

Overall, we have managed to maintain relationships with international cultural institutions and organisations aimed at supporting initiatives protecting human rights. The Goethe-Institut has a Cultural Academy programme with which we had a chance to work together, they offered courses and trips abroad; Creative Central Asia, a platform for development and promotion of creative economy in the countries of Central Asian region, had held a large conference in Tashkent under the auspices of the British Council where we had delivered a report; Under the Prague Civil Society Centre initiative, I was invited to visit Yerevan, where I met wonderful people from the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe, who also chose to follow an arduous path in the development of social businesses in their home countries starting from projects in the field of inclusion, ending with the organisation of co-working spaces.

 

In regards to partnerships with international galleries, we participated in the First Parabiennial in Astana in 2019. Besides, our gallery hosted many international guests, including the group of artists, curators and collectors from the Garage Museum, Moscow. Don’t want to look far ahead of myself, but in the near future we are pursuing a partnership with a museum in Germany, they are very interested in purchasing a work from the Uzbek artist Dilyara Kaipova. We have recently had an exhibition of her works at our gallery. This is an incredibly invaluable opportunity for us as it will mark the first official sale of the contemporary artwork by an Uzbek artist through a gallery. 

Tamara Khasanova

In the western institutional practice (aka institutional critique) last 20 years were pivotal in the establishment of the critical approach towards organisation and structuring of the galleries, nonprofits, museums etc. Institutions are involved and responsible for the selection of content, and by doing so they set certain power dynamics around them. How is the decision-making process regulated in your gallery and who is responsible for it? 

Bella Sabirova

Nowadays, it is hardly possible to talk about local cultural institutions as structures that set “power dynamics”. All exhibition spaces, in some way or another related to the governmental agencies, are fully regulated. You can barely find art that has any critical nature to it. For instance, prior to recent years, the actionism didn't have a chance to be developed here hence it is almost unknown to the majority of Uzbekistan artists for whom even performance art is rather a theatrical action. Local public, for many years visually stuffed with the art of commercial quality, which has been declared as “traditional therefore filled with sacred spiritual beginning and means of national art”, often does not appreciate neither the forms nor the context of conceptual art. However, owing to the efforts of our gallery, it no longer expresses its acute rejection so flagrantly as it used to earlier in the days.

After all, one time our front windows were even shelled with the non-lethal weapons at night; the perpetrators have not been found to these days, and their motives stay unclear. It was ultimately one of the most distressing events for us, however, we responded with turning the shattered glass into the installation The Shards of Hatred, 2017.

 

Therefore, I would not claim that we are changing the structure of society here. It does not receive us with open arms; rather, it is disposed towards us with restraint and caution. However, we don’t try to please the majority, and we believe it is the right thing to do because this would lead to a banal conformism, which we already have more than enough. But I am happy that nevertheless, we have loyal and benevolent audiences with which we are on the same page. 

 

As for the process of decision making and planning in the gallery, everything is decided within our small team: curator — art historian — gallerist. Generally, a curator is the one generating ideas for the upcoming exhibitions, while art historian stays responsible for texts and partly organisation of a display, and gallerist helps with bringing artists’ ideas into practice. Absolutely standardised scheme. 

Tamara Khasanova

What can you say about Uzbekistan contemporary art these days? What forms of support do young artists receive in the country, if any?

Bella Sabirova

For now, it is clear that the development of the arts is not a priority for the country, although recently there was an opening of the Centre of Contemporary Art, which is gradually gaining traction. Among their first projects is CCA LAB, a research laboratory whose task is to develop contemporary art and cultural practices in Uzbekistan. This centre was formed by allocating private and state funds, it engages in large-scale projects including the support of young artists. So far it is just a beginning. 

Tamara Khasanova

Lastly, what piece of advice could you give to those who eventually would like to start their own gallery business in Tashkent?

Bella Sabirova

First and foremost, you have to find like-minded people. People are the most crucial asset  in any endeavour, which is why right now we are willing to voluntarily self-isolate for those we may not even know. And not to be afraid of haters, their place is in the shadows of fake accounts and hoods covering their true identities. So let them stay there, they are nothing.

 

 

Bella Sabirova is an owner of Zero Line gallery in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, which she has been running together with Vyacheslav Akhunov since 2016. 

 

Tamara Khasanova is an emerging art professional, aspiring young curator and intern at TransitoryWhite. Her professional, academic and research practice concerned with contemporary art and culture from the countries of Eastern European and Central Asian regions. She is based in San Francisco, CA.

 

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