If you can’t make it to Venice for the Biennale, you can still experience the floating radio – listen as you read this personal essay about the political highlights by Maura Reilly. Alternatively, J J Charlesworth tears apart the moral contradictions of the jet set global art world in this article Playing Politics.
Venice Radio! Safina Radio Project is an itinerant space, a boat transformed into a recording studio navigating the Venetian waterways and transporting passengers from one place to another whilst serving as a platform for exploration and exchange. The project creates transitory and transient communities with each journey, bringing focus to collective experience and targeting an investigation into how we locate ourselves and how we mediate our human and historic commonality. The online portal includes the full program in Venice from May 6 to 8, presented alongside a range of content commissioned only for the site itself, from written interviews to audio projects, playlists and sets. Contributors of online-specific content include: British artist Scanner (Robin Rimbaud) whose work experiments with sound, space, image and form; Emirati conceptual artist and writer Hassan Sharif; Wael Hattar in conversation with artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji; Rahel Aima and Ahmad Makia from The State; artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Karim Sultan; music contributions from UAE based Analog Room and Kamal Rasool (Flamingods); and MENASA music specialist Neil van der Linden. The Safina Radio Project builds on Alserkal Avenue’s expanding homegrown programme which aims to support performance, social practice and public-forms of art, by providing a unifying public forum amidst the Venice Biennale to engage with questions and concerns important to the region. The project is realised through the kind support of Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal Avenue. A broad spectrum of artists, writers and curators, whose practices draw from a variety of contexts, will participate in Venice through conversations and happenings on the boat, including: Raqs Media Collective, comprised of media practitioners Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta from New Delhi; British artist, writer and film director John Akomfrah with writer Coline Milliard; artists Mohammed Kazem and Cristiana de Marchi; artist Rabab Ghazoul in conversation with her father; artists Haig Aivazian, Rene Gabri, Ayreen Anastas, Hrair Sarkissian and filmmakers Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi with curator Adelina Cüberyan von Fürstenberg; collaborative artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige; artists Wafaa Bilal and Sara Raza; and performance artist Alex Baczynski Jenkins with curators Louise O’Kelly (Block University), Ben Roberts (Modern Art Oxford), Rose Lejeune and Fatos Ustek. An audio recording of each live event will be uploaded to the website safinaradioproject.org within 24 hours of it taking place, opening up experiences and events in Venice to a wider audience.
In a practice that poetically blends documentary and fiction, Bertille Bak is developing a unique way of thinking about her contemporaries. As an observer of communities forming and breaking up within delimited territories, she works less like an entomologist pinning down species than with the dreamlike recreation of rituals considered as bearing witness to forms of collective living.
Whether it concerns her own community in the mining areas of Northern France or groups that are unfamiliar to her, she never chooses to distance herself or look on from afar. On the contrary, it is all about sharing a passage of life, a struggle, a resistance. For Bertille Bak, the projects are therefore set in a period of time, several months in general, during which she immerses herself in a reality and in everyday life, establishing herself there and making connections with groups who often live in precarious circumstances close to disintegration.
This is how she came to be interested in the inhabitants of an area of Bangkok under threat from a shopping development, staging the implosion of one of the apartment blocks at the end of a revolutionary swan song in Morse code light flashes. Or again in the Roma encampment of Ivry-sur-Seine in the Parisian suburbs, their forced silence and the inevitable dissimulation that awaits them.
Together with members of the communities, she elaborates a scenario in which people who are ordinarily constrained to passive resistance, and a sort of invisibility, become the actors of their own stories within their usual environments: the everyday replayed, amplified and redirected blending with the fiction imagined by the artist.
In Saint-Nazaire, where she has been a resident artist at Le Grand Café over the last two years, Bertille Bak has also formulated a locally anchored project that seeks to reveal sometimes hidden realities. She is interested in the shipyards, by the mechanical ballet of the machines, and she wishes to accentuate the people who work on the construction of the most sumptuous cruise ships and the crew on board these sea-going giants.
Their community is no longer bound by a common history and is first of all defined through work and the sharing of limited time and space, in which everyone has to find their place.
For this exhibition, the artist has produced a film in which the cruise liner, the recreation of a territorially delimited microcosm in the middle of international waters, is chosen as one of the background elements. With its set of spaces reserved for tourists and forbidden to employees, the cruise ship universe engenders a kind of regimented choreography, where zones reserved for some are forbidden to others.
Elegantly titled The Tour of Babel in reference to these partly invisible communities of different nationalities and individualities, this presentation will very certainly mix objects that evoke the rituals of seamen and women, as well as their voyages and their occasionally absurd comings and goings.
Bertille Bak The Tour of Babel 6 June–31 August 2014
Le Grand Café, Contemporary Art Centre, Saint-Nazaire Place des Quatre z’horloges
44 600 Saint-Nazaire
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–7pm Curator: Sophie Legrandjacques, director of Le Grand Café – Contemporary Art Centre Press contact: Alexandra Servel, firstname.lastname@example.org / T + 33 2 44 73 44 05
Text: Camille Paulhan
Rampa’s first group exhibition this secret world that exists right there in public brings together the works of Etel Adnan, Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Francis Alÿs, Otto Berchem, Attila Csörgő, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Cengiz Çekil, Nilbar Güreş, Berat Işık, Çağdaş Kahriman, Yasemin Özcan, Funda Özgünaydın, İz Öztat & Zişan, Kiki Smith, and Ali Taptık.
Co-curated by Lara Fresko and Esra Sarıgedik Öktem, the exhibition takes its inception and title from a scene in Noah Baumbach’s 2012 film Frances Ha, in which Frances, talking to strangers in semi-drunken fervor, points out a fleeting moment when the transformative potential of love as well as the miracle of unmediated communication is rendered possible and visible. Focusing on the potentials of interpersonal relations and social movements to envision alternative worlds, the exhibition brings together works from different histories and geographies.
Three central works explore the many facets of travel, crossing borders, creating channels of communication, instituting solidarity, storytelling and imagining utopian and dystopian alternatives through a cartographic approach. In The Loop (1997) Francis Alÿs takes an unexpected route to go from Tijuana to San Diego without crossing the Mexico/United States border. In a similar vein, Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin’s diptych piece Black Sea Map / Kéraban Lé Têtu (1999) follows Jules Verne’s stubborn tobacco merchant in a journey all the way around the Black Sea in order to get to Istanbul’s Asian coast without crossing the Bosphorus. A remnant of what became an unfinished project of the artist to forge networks of communication among the contemporary art scenes of Turkey with its northern neighbors is not only a vision of alternative routes but also a cultural project of solidarity formation. İz Öztat & Zişan’s collaboration consists of a drawing of the Island of Paradise/Possessed (1915–17) by a fin de siecle avant-garde artist Zişan, that takes the form of three letters that spell both Paradise and Possessed in Ottoman script. Within their cross generational relationship, Zişan’s departure point for the map draws İz Öztat into a journey through the absent Island of Adakale on the Danube, which materializes in a publication and a video work titled Constituting an Island (2014).
A preoccupation with space and place are treated formally in two of Etel Adnan’s abstract paintings, which evoke landscapes, Untitled (Beirut) #077 and Untitled (Beirut) #132, and verbally in Ergin Çavuşoğlu’s “Place Series” (2008). Attilla Csörgő’s sketches, Squaring the Circle (2012) are geometric studies evocative of the great architect Sinan’s fascination with placing a circle on top of a square in building a space of community as well as divine communication.
Otto Berchem’s tent-like structure invokes a traditional ritual of community with May Pole (2013), a sculpture piece on which he projects the color abstractions he blocks out from protest signs on black and white photographs of social mobilization across the world through recent history. Cengiz Çekil takes one of the most popular media of the 20th century, and strips it to its bare imagery in his newspaper collage from the series “Unwritten” (1977), opening up alternative readings through images as well as questioning the very credibility of the image itself. Yasemin Özcan’s Soap Opera Synopses, an installation dated 1997, is reconstructed in the back of the gallery space, standing in as a relic from our near history, with a sound that haunts our psyche. Özcan’s intervention into the text, which reflects the socio-political agenda of its time, gives a wonderous contextualization, and a glimpse into the machinations of repetition and change.
The exhibition explores the momentary encounters Frances imagines, in geography, history, and popular media as well as in quotidian and fantastic imaginaries of nature. Ali Taptık’s photographs depicting the urban flora arise from his practice of walking and documenting the minute details of urban landscape. His survey of a variety of frail potted plants scattered throughout the city resonates with Çağdaş Kahriman’s lament for an urban tree in Fenêtre sur cour. Berat Işık’s video duo, Butterfly Effect (2012) and Falling (2013) were produced as two separate pieces. Shown in this exhibition together, the duo explores the transformative potential of breath as the source of human voice. This potential is explored in the breath that is held and let go in Butterfly Effect and the gas filled balloons that are left to roam the skies.
Kiki Smith’s animal drawings from the series “Everywhere” (2010) explore a world which is accessible only through the perception of animals, and remain closed to human beings. Funda Özgünaydın’s human-animal collages depict the hybridization of the species, a strategy that aspires to glimpse into the perceptive range of our co-habitors. Nilbar Güreş’s Spider Woman; Mother (2006), a barely visible piece hanging uncannily from a corner harbors a quiet and unexpected strength, opening up a world not visible to those outside her web.
Bringing together works that twist, open up or change our perception, the exhibition aims to create a space where the secret world that exists right there in public appears as a possibility. The exhibition hails the social movements that will surely leave a mark on the 10s of this century by taking a fresh look at history, geography, architecture, and nature.
Le Mouvement – Performing the City The 12th edition of the Swiss Sculpture Exhibition in 2014, curated by Gianni Jetzer and Chris Sharp, continues the innovative spirit of the format by offering the most radical edition yet. True to its provocative legacy of 60 years, Le Mouvement will challenge the very definition of public art by creating no sculpture at all. The 12th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition in Biel/Bienne will be solely dedicated to performance.
Symposium with the participation ofJean-Luc Nancy, Bojana Cvejić, Gianni Jetzer, André Lepecki, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Hans Rudolf Reust, Peter J. Schneemann, Chris Sharp, Thomas Strässle, Jan Verwoert, as well as the artists Alex Cecchetti, Christian Jankowski, Marko Lulić, and Ariana Reines
Le Mouvementis a multipart exhibition, which investigates the nature of sculpture and public space by hosting multiple performances in the town of Biel/Bienne. The show touches upon a variety of inter-related topics and issues, which include:
–The nature and uses of public space
–Art in public space
–The individual and collective body in public space—both static and in movement
–The relationship between the fleeting materiality of the body and the more permanent materiality of sculpture
Uniting a heterogeneous group of art historians, theorists, curators and artists to discuss these points, the symposium intends to harness the knowledge of these different disciplines in hopes of gaining a greater and more nuanced understanding of performance in public space and the current nature of public space itself.
In co-operation with the Contemporary Art History Department of the University of Bern, Bern, and Y Institute of the Bern University of the Arts (BUA), Bern
Symposium in English
French translation provided / Admission is free / Limited seating, please reserve email@example.com
Upcoming programming: Saturday, August 30 and Sunday, August 31, all three movements in parallel
Mouvement I – Sculptures on the Move
July 4–August 31
With reconfigured sculptures by Olivier Mosset, Franz Eggenschwiler, Carl Burckhardt, Max Bill and performances by Alex Cecchetti, Christian Jankowski, Marko Lulić, Ariana Reines
Mouvement II – Performing the City August 26–31
With performances in public space by luciana achugar, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Nina Beier, Trisha Brown, Pablo Bronstein, Eglè Budvytytè, Willi Dorner, Douglas Dunn, Simone Forti, Alicia Frankovich, Maria Hassabi, San Keller, Köppl/Začek, Jirí Kovanda, Germaine Kruip, Liz Magic Laser, Myriam Lefkowitz, Jérôme Leuba, Ieva Misevičiūtė, Alexandra Pirici, Prinz Gholam, Lin Yilin
Mouvement III – The City Performed August 30–November 2 Opening:August 30, 5pm
Kunsthaus CentrePasquArt, Biel/Bienne
Vito Acconci, Francis Alÿs, Pablo Bronstein, Stanley Brouwn, Trisha Brown, Paulo Bruscky, Martin Creed, Felipe Ehrenberg, VALIE EXPORT, Dara Friedman, Gelitin, Tomislav Gotovac, Alberto Greco, Anna Halprin, Maria Hassabi, Noritoshi Hirakawa, Sanja Iveković, Christian Jankowski, Jirí Kovanda, Liz Magic Laser, Klara Lidén, Marko Lulić, Babette Mangolte, Rachel Mason, Dave McKenzie, Dieter Meier, Ocaña, Neša Paripović, Ewa Partum, Alexandra Pirici, Miervaldis Polis, Kim Sooja, Mladen Stilinović, Beat Streuli, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Ulla von Brandenburg, Ai Weiwei
The New York School of Visual Arts is pleased to present two innovative summer residencies in public art, which introduce artists to the conceptual and practical considerations of expanding a studio practice into the public realm. Both programs are open to artists interested in moving from the traditional studio, gallery and theatre space into the urban arena. Visual artists, writers, architects, designers, performance artists, urban planners and social activists are invited to apply.
City as Site: Public Art as Social Intervention June 16–27, 2014 City as Site is a nomadic summer residency that explores the diverse communities that define New York City with the aim of creating site-specific public works and brings together artists, scholars and community members to think about the role of art in constructing space for civic dialogue. Participants will develop experimental models for an artistic practice that combine methods from the arts, activism, and other fields in order to cultivate innovative approaches to the construction of social spaces as works of art.
The residency will use New York City’s five boroughs as its classroom, engaging with its communities, histories and stories as materials for final projects. Interventions may take the form of tours, temporal installations, video or sound projections, performances, community involved projects, peer-to-peer platforms, print or online publication, or a one-time street event.
A faculty composed of leading artists and social entrepreneurs will help artists originate projects that reflect current social issues and guide collaborations with local businesses and neighborhoods, as well as cultural and governmental partners.
Faculty and guest lecturers will include Ofri Cnaani (visual artist), Kendal Henry (public art, urban design consultant; visual artist; curator), Ed Woodham (artist, founder and director, Art in Odd Places), Rachel Falcone & Michael Premo (Housing is a Human Right), Tom Finkelpearl (Queens Museum), Lisa Kim (Two Trees), Micaela Martegani (More Art), Jenny Polak (artist and activist), Todd Shalom (Elastic City), Radhika Subramaniam (Parsons The New School for Design), Charlie Todd (Improv Everywhere), Risë Wilson (The Laundromat Project & Robert Rauschenberg Foundation), Caroline Woolard (Our Goods & Trade School).
Reconfiguring Site: Art, Architecture and Activism in the Public Realm July 14–26, 2014 Making art in the public is no longer just placing an object in a public plaza, a monumental sculpture in a park or a memorial sculpture. Public art can be integrated into the landscape or digitally into the fabric of a building. It can be performative, ephemeral, digital or permanent. Many artists would like to make art in the public but feel overwhelmed by its challenges or by what is often seen as a compromise of one’s creative freedom. The restrictions imposed by a commissioning agency, as well as limitations of liability, money and recognition can also be confining for an artist.
This program is structured as a think-tank for public art. Participants will learn how to read from architectural plans and create an ephemeral work in the streets or a temporary work at a site suggested within NYC. Perfecting an existing proposal or developing one that can be realized at a later time will also be fundamental. In acknowledgement of the increasing threat of global warming, this summer’s residency will focus on the waterfront. Art and architecture serve integral functions in the redevelopment of waterfront areas, which have been affected by climate change. Residents will be encouraged to develop professional proposals, which engage a New York City-based waterfront site under the guidance of faculty members and guest lecturers.
Core faculty will include an artist, a public art curator/administrator and an urban planner/architect. Leading public art administrators will be among the guest speakers in the residency. Faculty and lecturers have included Charlotte Cohen, Craig Dykers, Eiko and Koma, Wendy Feuer, Anita Glesta, Kendal Henry, Barry Holden, Meredith Johnson, Anne Pasternak, Lauren Ross, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Nina Yankowitz.
The 12th Bienal de Cuenca is conceived as an open thought process, in which the artworks form a constellation of independent yet deeply interrelated concepts. Informed by Édouard Glissant’s (Martinica, 1928–Paris, 2011) understanding of knowledge as stemming from movement and relation, the Bienal addresses the suspension of the privileged condition of the artist.
In some cases, this results in nomadic artworks, not only because of their physical movement, but also through the outsourcing of creative production to the point of following an almost industrial modus operandi. In other cases, artists recuperate traditional know-how, by working with craftsmen or rescuing fables and forgotten stories, or they reinterpret already existing works and even collaborate with spirits and other-than-human beings. The dissolution of the border between the conceptual and the physical author undermines the bases of economic, geographic and political status quos, often referring, in more or less direct ways, to postcolonial debates and the need to undermine market logic. Problematizing those issues, other artists question the validity of standard and universal measurements of time and space, and point to the impossibility of reducing the world to uniform criteria.
Fundación Municipal Bienal de Cuenca Bolívar 13-89 y Estévez de Toral
T +593 7 2831 778
The title of the exhibition is based on the Ecuadorian expression Ir para volver (Leaving to return), which describes a physical and temporary absence (frequently even without a definite duration). While highlighting the state of movement as the key aspect of many artworks included in the exhibition, this expression also situates the 12th Bienal de Cuenca in the undefined field of speech, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and of the mixture of apparently distant, disparate, and even opposed forms of knowledge. Leaving to Return signals an ongoing dialogue that takes place far away from the rigidity of strict and polished discourses, and ultimately delves into life itself.
Dialogues, the discursive program of Leaving to Return, is structured around four of the main concepts of the exhibition. Nabil Ahmed, Sarah Demeuse, Max Jorge Hinderer and Manuel Segade were invited to organize the four table of discussion. On the final day of the program, architect Paulo Tavares will moderate a session that will explore the relation between the topics and the questions raised in the previous days, and articulate a collective dialogue.
Residency program, September 2013–June 2014: Agency, Helen Mirra, Eduardo Navarro, Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, Jorge Satorre, Marinella Senatore, Sara VanDerBeek
Exhibition, March 28–June 27: Agency, Meriç Algün Ringborg, Armando Andrade Tudela, Julieta Aranda, Martha Araújo, Adrián Balseca, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck, Néstor Basterretxea, François Bucher, Mauricio Bueno, Saskia Calderón, Pia Camil, Daniel Gustav Cramer, Juan Downey, Patricia Esquivias, Mario García Torres, Ximena Garrido Lecca, José Hidalgo-Anastacio, Runo Lagomarsino, Little Warsaw, Maria Loboda, Claudia Martínez Garay, Benjamin Meyer-Krahmer, Ana Maria Millán, Helen Mirra, Felipe Mujica, Eduardo Navarro, Rivane Neuenschwander, Pedro Neves Marques, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Juan Pablo Ordóñez, Bernardo Ortiz, Adrian Paci, Rita Ponce de León, Mauro Restiffe, Manuela Ribadeneira, Julia Rometti y Victor Costales, Jorge Satorre, Marinella Senatore, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Cecilia Szalkowicz, Sara VanDerBeek
Performances, March 28–30:
Saskia Calderón, Juan Pablo Ordóñez, Marinella Senatore
Dialogues, March 29–31: “Table 1—History, Body, and Aesthetic Condition”: Valeria Coronel, Carles Guerra, Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz
“Table 2—Appropriation”: Pierre Bal-Blanc, Christian León, Manuel Segade
“Table 3—Of Men and Measure”: Sarah Demeuse, Fernanda Laguna, Alexander Provan
“Table 4—Material Movement: Forests”: Nabil Ahmed, Mario Melo, Nancy Lee Peluso;
Discussion: Paulo Tavares
How to do things with[out] words March 22–September 21, 2014
The project, a laboratory situation including installations, workshops, and performances, will explore questions of how art deals with reality in a performative way.
CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo Av. Constitución, 23
Spain Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11–21h Intensity days: March 22, May 10, and September 20 www.ca2m.org
Curator: Chantal Pontbriand
With Mathieu Abonnenc, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Brad Butler & Karen Mirza, Geneviève Cadieux, Jean-Pierre Cometti, Adrian Dan, Angela Detanico & Rafael Lain, Carole Douillard, Cevdet Erek, Köken Ergun, Esther Ferrer, Chiara Fumai, Ryan Gander, Simon Fujiwara, Dora García, Camille Henrot, Sandra Johnston, Amelia Jones, Latifa Laâbissi, La Ribot, Ines Lechleitner, Franck Leibovici, Cristina Lucas, Haroon Mirza, Antonio Negri, Roman Ondák, Falke Pisano, Chantal Pontbriand, Chloé Quenum, Pedro Reyes, José Antonio Sánchez, Julião Sarmento, Ulla von Brandenburg, Carey Young and Héctor Zamora
Performance and performativity are centre stage at this time. The fact that we are living more and more in an “immaterial” world, dominated by mediatisation, the impact of globalization, the increasing tendency to think of politics as biopolitics, these different factors enhance performance over materiality, or object making. Performativity explores the space in-between, what happens when bodies or objects are left to perform. To perform is to enable oneself or things to work through form. And to let form speak for itself.
Performing and performance are concepts that activate reality. In this sense, performativity (what performing and performance activate) offers resistance against a homogenization of the world. It leads to renewal, change, and expands the potentiality of things and beings.
An exhibition/event This exhibition, conceived as an event, will enhance performativity and the way it works, the way it performs itself. It will include objects, media as well as bodies. It will be “live” at all times, as installations, photography, films, performances, discussions, inhabit the space of the museum.
The subtitle of the exhibition, given by the concept “per / form,” is driven from John Langshaw Austin, the English philosopher who was one of the founders of analytical philosophy and pragmatics. In 1955, he gave a lecture called “How to do Things with Words” in which he explores the relationships between acts and language. The book published in 1962 is often quoted when discussing performance and art. This exhibition further explores that relationship through different situations proposed by the exhibition format itself and by the works presented and activated in its midst.
The project, a laboratory situation including installations, workshops, and performances, will explore these questions of how art deals with reality in a performative way. The project consists of different modes of “display”: the exhibition per se which brings together 16 installation works, some of which include live elements, others which can be activated live in different ways, in situ works, and performative situations which will be concentrated in three days throughout the project. These are the Intensity Days, March 22, May 10 and September 21. During these days, there will be further activation of some of the installations, workshops, talks, discussions, and performances. The Intensity Lab, a space included in the exhibition, will host some of the the later, and archival material corresponding to the whole project and its developments.
Chantal Pontbriand is art critic and curator. Her work is based on the exploration of questions of globalization and artistic heterogeneity. Since 1970, she has curated numerous international contemporary art events: exhibitions, international festivals and international conferences, mainly in photography, video, performance, dance and multimedia installation. She founded PARACHUTE contemporary art magazine in 1975 and acted as publisher/editor until 2007. In 1982 she was president and director of the FIND (Festival International de Nouvelle Danse), in Montreal. She was appointed Head of Exhibition Research and Development at Tate Modern in London in 2010 and since then lives in Paris and has founded PONTBRIAND W.O.R.K.S [We_Others and myself_Research_Knowledge_
Per/Form: the book A book will be published including texts by Jean-Pierre Cometti, Amelia Jones, Antonio Negri, Chantal Pontbriand, and José Antonio Sanchez. The artists will contribute to the book in the form of visual essays. Editor: Chantal Pontbriand. Designer: Agnès Dahan. Publisher: CA2M / Sternberg Press.
A mobile workshop, seminar, performance, between Berlin and Luneberg August 14, 2013
Leaving from Berlin Haupbahnhof, concluding at the Post Media Lab in Luneberg
Organized by micha cárdenas with support from the Post Media Lab
Featuring the work of: Zach Blas / micha cárdenas / Tikul / NM Rosen / Pinar Yoldas
We are safe when we walk.
We have walked for generations.
Your colonial regimes want to stop us, name and identify us.
We won’t be stopped by your policing violence,
We won’t be named by your regimes.
From Oscar Grant, a black man killed in San Francisco at a public train station by private train police, to the 2012 sexual assault of a woman by a group of men on bus in New Delhi, India, repeatedly the promises of urban mobility are belied by the violence that is used to police spaces of transit and the ways that access to mobility is regulated. This performance / seminar will consider the themes of mobility, violence and access, using the actual space of transit, the train and train station, as the space of performance, discussion and presentation. The performance is part of the project Local Autonomy Networks, by micha cárdenas, which works towards networks of community based responses to violence through performance and dance. This part of the series will consider how trans-local networks of safety can be imagined within spaces which are intensely regulated yet fall between the lines of local regulations. Engaging with the Post Media Lab’s theme of Organization After Networks, this performance will consider how communities can organize for safety after their lives have been shaped by inter-urban and transnational transportation networks.
Themes to be addressed:
The cloud versus a home / colonial dream of mobility versus de-colonial construction
Safety in Numbers / Gendering of Public Space
The Itinerant scholar / the safe itinerant / the itinerant artist
The Insecurity of mobility / gender/sexuality/race in transit and across borders
From passport checks to biometric mobility controls
Ticketing systems / E-Ticketing
The price of speed / The cost of easy border crossing
Mobile Public Space / From Public to Corporate Transit / Public Interstitial Space
The promise of mobility / Disability and access
Inspired by The Political Equator my daily sense of danger and my daily experiences of harassment and violence (micha cárdenas)
To join, use the following itinerary for DB
Halt Datum Zeit Gleis Fahrt Reservierung
Berlin Hbf (tief) 14.08. ab 12:16 7
Hamburg Hbf 14.08. an 13:57 5a/b, ICE 1612
Hamburg Hbf 14.08. ab 14:53 14a/b
Lüneburg 14.08. an 15:25 1, ICE 681
Kultuuritehas Polymer Tallinn, Estonia Autumn 2012
Ever wondered how you would survive in a post-apocalyptic world? A stay in the Master Suite at Polymer Culture Factory in Tallinn is your chance to find out. Billed by as an “authentic artist experience” with post-Soviet overtones, the makers Error Collective want to create a social-cultural laboratory that gives non-artists an insight into the kind of experiences lived by those of us who dedicate our lives to following the muse down whatever strange unforeseen paths she may lead us.
My time in the Master Suite fell into a grey area between the artist residency program and the fully catered cultural tourist experience. Guests can expect to pay around €1500 Euros for four nights, in which case Error are able to provide all of the food, drinks and pay people to offer tours and other programs. As I was more of an artist resident (paying electric bills, rent in lieu via this article), producing work and staying for almost a month, this tourist experience was not offered, as the hosts felt I didn’t need it since I know how to operate among artists and was there on a different time scale. However, a taste of that hospitality program and tour early in my stay would have allowed me to engage more deeply with the local context and this could have been an entirely different story.
The Master Suite is built entirely with recycled materials, mostly found on-site and offers a single bed accommodation in a heated room with windows looking down into the larger social area. Error Collective have expended much time and effort in creating the small sleeping room loft, which is decidedly cosier than many of the other spaces and their self-built “rocket-stove” and very hot sauna are deservedly legendary in these circles. We had a memorable feast of pancakes including Justin’s Baltic Elvis Special (filled with peanut butter and refried), if you have to survive in a world with no electricity and few supplies, this is the place. The double glazed window fit-out was in progress when I arrived, keeping more of the warmth inside, while the library construction took place for most of the time I stayed, making a secret hideaway with hidden bookshelves for the door. Both of these undertakings ultimately improve the space overall, however the promise of a studio in which to write for me proved incompatible with the Error boys zealous wielding of power tools and constant stream of innuendo, as even with ironic intent, the macho double-talk still grated on my nerves as much as the noise and dust. Their catchphrase for an entire day: “Error got wood” (American slang originating in the porn industry, “got wood” means to have an erection). The cowboy ethos is a large part of the Polymer culture, the fact that no-one is going to tell you what not to do, the freedom to build entirely without permits or plans, which allows a variety of construction activities to flourish unhindered. This is part of the Error art production, and their dedication to creating and producing work is definitely inspiring, even if this conflicted with the needs for my own writing/creative practice on a day-to-day basis.
Those with a taste for nostalgia will enjoy the authentic Soviet wallpapers, from a stash found in the back workshop and the fabulous Polymer Toy Museum housed in custom-built shelves made by Ernest during my stay, with the collection of strange and wonderful plush toys made on the premises. There is a magical rooftop garden across the way, and the Polymer factory also incorporates various gallery, theatre and concert stages, a video games room and the highlight for me, a Soviet-Era Printing Press. I was thrilled to be able to learn how to select and arrange the beautiful antique Russian fonts to create a typographical poster and series of cards. Watching Luda, the Mistress of the Press assemble the layout and run the machines was a kind of dada performance art in itself, and I will always be glad I had the chance to experience and create work in this UNESCO Cultural heritage site. One of the long term resident artists, Mai Soot made all the arrangements and negotiations for me, and was able to assist in the translation of my text into Estonian and Russian.
The Ilus Salong “Beauty Salon” in which Master Suite is located functions mostly as a social space for the extended community associated with Polymer, so you can also expect to host drop-ins by people who are used to coming here for entertainment or just to hang out. Look out for nocturnal visits by the Ivan, who scares everyone a little at first, however he is reputedly the maintenance guy and lives on a mysterious floor above. There are a few gems hidden in the midst of these impromptu gatherings, and I was delighted to be invited over with Ernest for evening porridge by Maxim and the Russian hippies who were incredibly charming and gave me the warmest welcome of my time at Polymer, which led to another invitation for their drumming circle. Sadly I couldn’t attend this in the end, due to a conflict with the social outing organised by one of my hosts during the two weeks I was there, dinner at a local cafe and a party at Ptarmigan. I was taken on a walk to the supermarket and tour of the Polymer factory, and Sandra Jogeva invited us to the first year birthday party of a local queer space, and I ended up taking the initiative to show myself around Tallinn as the midnight tour never eventuated. One of the other artists and I both wanted to light the sauna, but as there was a limited supply of wood, Error Collective decided to conserve the energy as a practical consideration, and so it was held when another visitor arrived, to make the most of the effort and resources available. Päivi turned out to be a wonderful person and new friend, however I would still suggest making some effort at the start to introduce a new visiting artist, colleague or potential cultural tourist in order to help make them feel at home or welcome, especially when they are paying for the privilege of being there.
Finally after ten days by special request, Ernest gave me a similar tour as offered to visiting friends and family (Teleskivi, Baalti Jaam, the diner, Humana, etc.) We walked around the famed Baalti Jam market and nearby F-Hone Factory cultural space, which has a weekly fleamarket, photo gallery, vintage store and excellent cosy bar/cafe with great food. This complex is livelier than Polymer, with the investment in renovation and social space both evident, and the F Hone cafe was my favourite hang out, the mix of creative and local people giving a friendly warm vibe. Audiences for the style of underground and alternative visual and performance art found at Polymer can be small in any city, and the trendy neighbourhood and business at F Hone offer immediate access to a wider public. The Russian recycled furniture factory and car detailing businesses around Polymer are not so conducive to bringing in the bright young things. There are plenty of events happening around the community at Polymer, but you will have to work to find them, as there is no program information easily accessible to a visitor.
Notable art luminaries lurk in the dark alleyways and on the board of the organisation, although there is no guarantee you will meet Sandra, a brash and hilarious feminist hardline artist & activist, or Raoul Kurviz, famous artist and Estonia’s answer to Nick Cave – look for his tall lanky figure in the night shadows. Talking with him about the album he had just made, of love ballads and confounded bridges was a highlight, in his extraordinary cavern lined with antique books, music, stacks of his psychedelic paintings and other curios.
Everything’s a little bit punk at Polymer, from the black mould and lead paint on the walls to the absence of light in the toilet and asbestos known to be riddled throughout the building, and the artists living there are no exception. Apparently the visiting artist is expected to host their own introduction to the community, as a form of exchange, however this was not clearly communicated except in a rather brash and demanding way. Despite the lauded value of the “community,” this very much depends on being able to make your own contacts and find ways to connect with the people there, as it is not well facilitated by the organisation. If you’re lucky enough to have your stay coincide with some event, activity or festival then you will be swept up into whatever is going on around you, otherwise it can be a spooky and lonely place.
One of the artists who arrived after me left two weeks early, after making a striking series of photographs around the factory, she felt isolated and ill at ease there, with her only social interaction due to a festival that she participated in which took place after I left. The Japanese artist learning traditional Estonian metal techniques showed me an incredible hand-beaten metal knife he had made, he mostly looked a little lost but seemed happy to drift in late at night and return to the art school to work all day, so I guess whether the space will work for you or not ultimately depends on your needs.
Despite my adaptability and best efforts to integrate my work into the circumstances, Polymer did not work well for me as a creative space, and one of my hosts expressed his observation of my practice in a way that was intended to be helpful but had the opposite effect. As you can tell my stay was not one of unmitigated joy and this mutual disappointment is maybe due to the incompatibilities of expectation and working practices. However I did attempt to connect with the people I came in contact with, and to work using the materials that came my way, as it was impossible for me to write in the space I was offered, taken over as it was by construction noise, dust, debris and extended community visits. The French Knit Helsinki installation documented was a site specific response to the array of bric-a-brac which could be found, with an orange hat & mannequin head from the costume artist letting go of her collection, and throw-away labels from Justin. I was attempting to infuse my own take on the surroundings with a little humour, and although there may have been light moments, the experience was mostly depressing. The crucifixion of Santa took place while I was there, and despite a long conversation with the organiser, I am still not entirely sure why the big guy in red had to be sacrificed. We drank the wine and talked about capitalism, religion and advertising then enjoyed the large sauna built as an art project from recycled windows, in the exhibition hall outside the Master Suite.
Doing my own self-guided tour of Tallinn brought me mostly into contact with the tourist information and slightly kitsch overplayed medieval village aspect of the old town, until I got to visit Ptarmigan, another artist run culture space below the Canadian Embassy. Sign up for one of Justin’s “Fake it til You Make it” or other workshops to learn new skills or attend concerts and experimental sound events run by Ptarmigan. Seeing the tourist spectacle in action with a medieval knight tour outside one evening, I realised that the absolute uniqueness of Polymer is the access it gives you to an extremely underground and alternative side of the city, that most tourists and visitors will never see. This in itself is a valuable experience, and although the challenges of living in the space and always pissing in the dark were too much for my delicate sensibilities, perhaps you are made of tougher stuff. So, if you want to test your survival techniques and creative mettle in this hardcore environment, book now!
Thanks to Error Collective for their hospitality and all the artists & visitors at Polymer for making it such a wild & intriguing place.