Faena Arts Center, Buenos Aires announces exhibitions of distinguished international artists Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich and Agustina Woodgate at the historic flour mill-turned-arts center.
Within the rich architectural and historical backdrop of the Faena Arts Center, Russian artist Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich will present a multi-layered performance piece in the Los Molinos Room, while Argentinian artist Agustina Woodgate will present a new site-specific work that will surpass the walls of the arts center and spill into the city with urban interventions. Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: Fyodor’s Performance Carousel and Agustina Woodgate: GPS / Poetic Social Geometry is on view May 20 – June 8.
consists of a spectacular circular stage divided into nine parts, which will be installed for the first time in FAC’s Los Molinos Room. As it revolves, the carousel unveils various individual performances, challenging the usual concept of space and time in the visual arts. In his use of dizzying speed, which seeks to break the boundary of purely aesthetic experience, the artist pays homage to the Soviet movement known in the West as “Down with Shame,” which organized nudist marches and evenings to sweep away bourgeois morality. His work spans various media and disciplines, delving into the relationship between the hidden and the conspicuous, while emphasizing the communication between an artist and his public, and the role of rituals in the visual arts.
Born in Moscow, Pavlov-Andreevich divides his time between his native city, London, and São Paulo. His major works include My Mouth Is A Temple (2009, part of Marina Abramovic Presents at the Manchester International Festival, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Maria Balshaw); Hygiene (2009, Deitch Projects, New York); and Egobox (2010, curated by Klaus Biesenbach and RoseLee Goldberg).
GPS / Poetic Social Geometry
Agustina Woodgate was born in Buenos Aires and has lived in the United States for over a decade. Her work explores and encourages collective human encounters, rather than individual contemplation of produced objects. Her interdisciplinary and site-specific work GPS / Poetic Social Geometry will burst out from the confines of the Cathedral Room, with performances and interventions in the public spaces surrounding the installation itself, where visitors will encounter ordinary objects worn down or altered to the point of being intriguingly unrecognizable.
Following her graduation from the National University Institute of Art (IUNA) in 2004, Woodgate moved to Miami, where she developed an artistic practice that combines disciplines like textile art and street performance. Her individual projects include Organic (2005, Liquid Blue Gallery, Miami), Letting Down (2008, Spinello Gallery, Miami), Endlessly Falling (2009, Dimensions Variable, Miami), Growing Up (2010, Miami-Dade Public Library, Miami), If These Walls Could Talk (2011, Spinello Projects, Miami), New Landscapes (2012, Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami), and Rugs (2014, Arts and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida).
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: Carousel May 20–26, 2014
Agustina Woodgate: GPS / Poetic Social Geometry May 20–June 8, 2014
Opening: May 20
Faena Arts Center
Aimé Paine 1169
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Argentina (1137) Hours: Saturday–Monday noon–7pm
Faena Arts Center Buenos Aires Under the guidance and overarching vision of Director/Chief Curator Ximena Caminos, the FAC is a center for arts and artistic experimentation, which presents groundbreaking site-specific installations and generates ideas and conversation with the international contemporary art world, and within its surrounding community of Buenos Aires. With 4,000 square meters of exhibition space in an emblematic turn-of-the-century building, the FAC fosters and encourages bold creativity on a monumental scale and is the heart and soul of the art district. The FAC is generously supported in its mission by HSBC and Citroën.
Inaugurated in 2011, the Faena Art Center has commissioned avant-garde artists to envision and realize major site-specific works, such as O bicho suspenso na paisagem, by Ernesto Neto (September 2011); Los Carpinteros by the Cuban collective of the same name (May 2012); Walking South by Franz Ackermann (November 2012); and The liminal space trilogy by the Russian collective AES+F (May 2013).
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.
Join us as we explore the role of the public in socially engaged art. What is the public’s imaginationin relationship to social engagement and its potential within the society we inhabit? What is the nature of the public’s commitment to space and place, and how is it related to a social engagement that formulates new social imaginaries? This conversation will explore these questions and discuss the place of socially engaged art in our many publics.
Introduction: Ann Messner, Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts, Pratt Institute Artist and activist Ann Messner has consistently challenged the unresolved schisms between notions of private life/space and public/civic experience, focusing on the relationship between the individual and the larger social body within public discourse. Ann was a key player in The Real Estate Show, breaking ground as one of the first art shows to expose the inequities of real estate in New York. More recently she critically analyzed the “war on terror” through a series of tabloid and video works created with direct-action collective A.R.T. Meteor, her 1980 public intervention in Times Square, presaged our current age of technological reliance and interconnectedness.
Facilitator Shane Aslan Selzer (artist, organizer and writer) develops micro-communities where visual artists can expand on larger social issues and deal with generosity, exchange, and failure. In each of these projects she assembles spaces where people can learn through interaction with others by provoking discourse that is informed by circumstances that are too often held “outside” of art. She is co-editor with Ted Purves of What We Want Is Free: Critical Exchanges in Recent Art (SUNY Press, 2014).
Panelists Jaret Vadera, an artist and cultural producer based in Brooklyn, explores the poetics of translation and the politics of vision through his interdisciplinary art practice. Jaret has concurrently worked as an organizer, programmer, curator, educator, editor, writer, and designer for socially engaged organizations that focus on using art as a catalyst for social change, including Community Arts Ontario, Rush Arts Gallery, and Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art.
May Joseph, Professor of Global Studies, Pratt Institute, teaches urbanism, global studies and visual culture. In her recently published book Fluid New York (Duke University Press, 2013), Joseph describes the many ways that New York, and New Yorkers, have begun to incorporate the city’s archipelago ecology into plans for a livable and sustainable future. Joseph suggests that New York’s future lies in the reclamation of its great water resources—for artistic creativity, civic engagement and ecological sustainability.
Keynote Rick Lowe, artist, activist, and founder of Project Row Houses, a neighborhood-based nonprofit art and cultural organization in Houston’s Northern Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African-American communities.
PRH began in 1993 as a result of discussions among African-American artists who wanted to establish a positive, creative presence in their own community. Among Rick’s honors are Rudy Bruner Awards in Urban Excellence; AIA Keystone Award; Heinz Award in the arts and humanities; Loeb Fellow at Harvard University; Mel King Fellow at MIT; Skowhegan Governor’s Award; Skandalaris Award for Art/Architecture; and USA Artists Booth Fellow. President Barack Obama appointed Rick to the National Council on the Arts in 2013.
Support for the event provided by the Deans of the School of Art and Design and School of Liberal Arts and Sciences to encourage cross-campus collaboration and sponsored by the Departments of Fine Arts, Art and Design Education, and the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies. Event coordinated by Heather Lewis, Associate Professor, Art and Design Education; Ann Messner, Adjunct Professor Fine Arts; and Uzma Rizvi, Assistant Professor Social Science & Cultural Studies.
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
Mischa Kuball’s public intervention Les Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers for Marl) both provokes and quotes Charles Baudelaire, yet at the same time, offers possibilities for identification for the inhabitants of Marl, who will be participating and are invited to bring along flowers: participation and discussion are the project’s two non-material components. The distinctive logo made up of white illuminated letters positioned high above the museum on the upper edge of the Town Hall’s façade becomes a kind of signpost, visible from afar, to the Sculpture Museum and the large vase of flowers on the left adjacent to the stairs is to be understood as an invitation to the townsfolk to bring along the aforementioned flowers for Marl and to put them in this prominently placed receptacle. It is situated immediately next to the stairs to the Register Office in the upper floor of the Town Hall—plenty of reasons then for bringing flowers! The vase and its contents will be tended by employees from the Sculpture Museum.
Mischa Kuball, conceptual artist, has developed a site-specific concept which he calls a “public preposition,” or in other words, suggestions and ideas for the public and for public space. The installation itself, planned as a temporary artwork, could also become a more permanent fixture; the artist would like to determine the actual duration of the installation in consultation with the people of Marl.
In the form of his project series “public prepositions,” Mischa Kuball repeatedly poses the question of the contemporary definition of public art within an extended context. He always begins with a precise analysis of the site where the interventions are to take place, and this approach includes an engagement with the public which has become an established feature of his artistic position.
Every place has its social and political peculiarities which the artist incorporates into his planning. His works tend to be temporary because they are geared towards the potential of an altered perception of seemingly familiar urban contexts.
Mischa Kuball has realised such concepts in different cities at home and abroad, including the work Intervento in the Caserma Cornoldi in Venice, as well as his Marfa Floater, silver / gold in Marfa, Texas, GhostTram in Katowice, Poland and his current contribution solidarity grid in Christchurch, New Zealand as part of the SCAPE Public Art Christchurch Biennial. A total of over fifteen comparable “public preposition” projects are to be published in book format, which means that the intervention in Marl will rub shoulders with works in an international context.
This project was kindly supported by the Ministry for Families, Children, Youth, Culture and Sports of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the City of Marl and realised by Elektro Decker, Essen.
Mischa Kuball Born in 1959 in Düsseldorf, Germany, lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany
Mischa Kuball has been working since 1984 in public and museum-based spaces. Using light in installations and photography, he explores architectural spaces and their social and political discourses. He reflects a full range of differing facets from cultural social structures all the way to architectural interventions that highlight or recode the overall emblematic character and architectural/historical context. Public and private space coalesce in his political, participatory projects. They enable a form of communication between participants, the artist himself, the artwork and urban space.
Since 2007, Mischa Kuball has been professor for media art at the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne where he founded the -1/MinusEins Experimentallabor (Experimental Laboratory).
Vanessa Berry revisits the world of Sydney independent music, zines and records shops, in the 90s. Strangely apt for my sense of time travel having recently landed in my home town. (JR)
‘Ninety 9’ Book Launch
Vanessa Berry‘s writing has a sense of place: the Inner West. In the world of wine they call it terroir. Everyone else probably calls it not forgetting your roots. In Vanessa Berry’s memoir, she lays those roots bare: a teenage music fan in Sydney in the ’90s. Ninety 9 is a slice of ’90s nostaliga featuring the mixtapes made from recording off the radio, the band tshirts, staying up late to watch Rage and records stores such as Waterfront, Half a Cow, Phantom and Red Eye in which she also first discovered zines. Appropriately it will be launched at The Midnight Special, a bar dedicated to music, in the Inner West. Cleo Braithwaite
Come along and celebrate the book’s release, hear some stories from the book and dance to The Meanies and Babes in Toyland as DJ Earley Curley replicates the playlist of his 90s community radio show live.
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
In this free workshop, Lisa Lang and Kristin Trethewey from Sourcefabric will introduce you to the Booktype software and showcase some of the exciting projects that can be published using this open source tool. Adam Hyde from Book Sprints will co-host the workshop. Adam is the founder of the Book Sprint methodology and will discuss the concept and projects produced using a Book Sprint.
Booktype is a free publishing tool that produces books formatted for either print, Amazon, iBooks or almost any e-reader. Learn to create books on your own or with others in a collaborative online environment via an easy-to-use web interface. Build a community around your content, sharing your work with co-authors, editors, designers or even a community of book lovers with social tools and the reach of mobile, tablet and e-book technology. Learn about different production models and workflows in the new era of distributed book production, delving into free culture economic models and sustainable practices.
The Masterclass will include a presentation and demonstration, followed by a workshop session where different publishing and book sprint ideas will be brainstormed, and can be brought to the table by participants, for discussion and feedback from the presenters and the group.
About the presenters:Lisa Lang has an extensive history in media organisations and publishing, and is the Head of Products at Sourcefabric. Kristin Trethewey works with Sourcefabric’s international community and events, and has been active in the media arts and as a journalist. Adam Hyde is the project lead of Booktype, and Open Source book production and publishing platform. He is also the founder of FLOSS Manuals (http://www.flossmanuals.net) and the Book Sprint methodology (http://www.booksprints.net).
About Sourcefabric: Sourcefabric is a non-profit organisation with offices in Prague, Berlin and Toronto. Since 1999 Sourcefabric has been building digital open source newsrooms for some of the world’s most innovative news organisations, in some of the worlds most challenging media environments. Booktype is one of four open source projects built by Sourcefabric to write and publish print and digital books.
Cost: This event is free but please email rsvp[a]supermarkt-berlin.net to reserve your place Language: The instructive language of the workshop will depend on the participants in attendance Location: SUPERMARKT – Brunnenstr 64., 13355 Berlin (U8 Voltastr. or U8 Bernauerstr.)
The project Nice Rain takes the city of Berlin as a pretext for exploring the notion of urban sound document from the perspective of a diversity of recording practices and intentions. Confronted with the difficulties to discover new strong narratives by simply listening to the Berlin public space, I’ve decided to explore instead the narratives embedded within already existing audio documents related to the city. As an alternative to a classic city soundscape like some of my previous works, I will present a collection of Berlin audio recordings from the personal archive of various practitioners who I know personally, some living in Berlin and some elsewhere.
While all of the recordings will be referring to Berlin as their location, each one will represent a specific recording practice corresponding to an intention more or less defined by its author. The live mixing of these files over multiple loudspeakers will thus be an attempt to create something like a soundscape of (documentary) intentions, while at the same time generating an arbitrary sound travel through various public locations of the city. One aim of the project is also to discuss and re-situate the community of field recording practices within a field of intentionality and reflexivity, as possibly opposed to a logic of place.
With announced text and audio contributions by:
Rinus van Alebeek, Mario Asef, Boris Baltschun & Serge Baghdassarians, Alessandro Bosetti, Rob Curgenven, Peter Cusack, Anke Eckardt, Christina Ertl Shirley, Helena Gough, Andy Graydon, Ezgi Kilincaslan, Achim Langerer, Felicity Magan, Israel Martinez, Anders Lauge Meldgaard, Valeria Merlini, Udo Noll, Dave Philips, Stephan Roigk, Jodi Rose, Fritz Schlüter, Tapeman (Helge Neidhardt), Valerio Tricoli, Antje Vowinckel and Kathrin Wildner.
(picture by Jodi Rose, 2008)
*I am very happy to be invited to participate in this event, enjoying the discussion via email with Gilles around notions of intention & authorship, composition and place. JR
Gilles Aubry is a Swiss sound artist living in Berlin since 2002. Trained initially as a sax player and composer, he graduated in 2010 as a Master student in Sound Studies at the University of the Arts (UDK) in Berlin. His artistic practice is based on an auditory approach of the real informed by researches on cultural and historical aspects of sound production and reception. Combining ethnography, critical discourse and formal experiments, Aubry creates installations, performances, compositions, audio essays and radio plays. His sonic images (phonographies) of more or less identified situations stand as an attempt to challenge problematic aspects of visual representation.
Nice Rain is part of THIS IS THE END, a research project curated by Marta Ferretti and Gaia Martino about the relationship between public space and narration in the specific context of Berlin. THIS IS THE END is hosted from April 15th to May 12th at Errant Bodies project space, Berlin.
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.