“Art on Site”: Tolstoy in the Ice Box
A beauty in amber: work by the duo Empfangshalle (Photo: Ewgenij Umanskij)
10 October 2009
A meteorite strikes, beautiful things are immortalized in amber and classics turn into ice. The final exhibition of the Art on Site project shows works from a German-Russian encounter – and shows why artist-in-residence programmes are so successful.
Born in Guangzhou or Ljubljana, studied in Paris or Vienna, lives in New York or Berlin and is preparing exhibitions in Birmingham, in Singapore and in Moscow all at the same time: that is the life of the typical contemporary artist or curator.
And the genius loci? More infrequent and quite problematic guests in the current art scene. Not their own fault – no, it is art itself that does not invite them in, although it was art that demanded the internationality of its language; that wished to be entirely free of local peculiarities.
Hence, it is quite a challenge that faced the artists in the Art On Site project that was organized jointly by the National Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Goethe-Institut Moscow and supported by the European Union. It questions the role of a geographic location as an art object in itself as well as the interrelation of the artist with this location.
Agnes Meyer-Brandis on YekaterinburgYou need the Flashplayer to watch this video.
The mission: Artists from Germany could (were allowed to? were made to?) spend a month in the residence of a Russian city and, on their return to Germany, develop a project reflecting the impressions they collected while in Russia. At the same time, artists living and working in those cities – such as Oleg Blyablyas, Vadim Zakharov, Andrey Rudyev, the groups Provmyza and Where dogs run to – were invited to participate in the project, resulting in astonishing contrasts and parallels.
Yekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Moscow, Nizhniy Novgorod and St. Petersburg are the cities for which that Art on Site provided artist residencies. The results can be examined in a final exhibition until 25 October as part of a special programme at the Third Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. The works by the Germans artists, which have already been shown in each of the residence cities, are shown here together – and supplemented with works by the Russian artists.
Art on Site: To the project website
Via Lewandowsky, who went to Moscow, focuses primarily on the Stalin Era. The remains of the “Great Epoch” of the Soviet Union were transformed into thirty partly burned clay pedestals. They are entitled What a pity. Burn on what you believed and believe in what you burned . Vadim Zakharov, by contrast, attempts – with deliberate futility – to freeze art. He presents the classics of Russian literature, Pushkin and Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekov, in their complete editions in an icebox. Not coincidentally, the supposed books are made of water from the Moscow River. Visitors to the exhibition can remove a volume and let literature melt between their fingers.
In remembrance of the coexistence of creation and destruction, Claudia Schmacke realized her impressions of Nizhniy Novgorod in a round lake with water, enriched with metal dust, which flows in scanty droplets. People in Uniforms, made by the German artist Robert Scheipner, pose before the background of landscapes flickering past.
Benjamin Bergmann on St. PetersburgYou need the Flashplayer to watch this video.
The project How long does it take to br(e)ake by installation artist Benjamin Bergmann echoes transience and fallibility. His installation – consisting of an old car, wood, loudspeakers, an amplifier and a CD player – is concerned with processes that involve intrinsic failure and defects.
For the artist duo Empfangshalle, a car becomes a symbol of Kaliningrad, a city that has lost its former appearance and not yet finished construction of the new one. The artists were struck by the efforts of the population to be beautiful. The result was a beauty pageant before the city’s concrete wasteland. The winners were immortalized in the “world’s biggest” panneau made of amber.
Inspired by the State Academy of Geology and Mining in the Ural Region and the Institute of Geophysics, artist Agnes Meyer-Brandis staged a meteorite impact in the public space in Yekaterinburg. She also held a workshop at temperatures of minus 20 degrees on the Iset River with young artists and students.
The reasons for the success of Art on Site is perfectly obvious to Johannes Ebert: “Once again it’s been proven that artist-in-residence programmes are among the most enduring types of international cultural exchange,” said the director of the Goethe-Institut Moscow responsible for the regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.