Laboratory Borderline Experiences
In Dortmund, artists from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia are preparing a travelling exhibition called “Die Grenze” (The Border). They were invited by the Goethe-Institut to explore the theme of borders; borders as territorial perimeters and exclusions, as cultural and social dividing lines, as instruments for differentiating “us” from “them.”
“We deliberately designed our magazine in three languages,” explains Gaisha Madanova. The young woman is sitting in a spacious loft workshop. The walls are white, there are island seating areas and PC workstations, further in the back a beamer is projecting images onto the wall. Gaisha Madanova is talking about the founding and the idea behind her magazine Aluan, the first Kazakh magazine for contemporary art.
The artist-publicist is surrounded by about twenty artists and cultural professionals from twelve different countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia. They were invited by the Goethe-Institut to come to the workshops of the Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV) in the Dortmunder U to prepare the multi-year exhibition project “Die Grenze” (The Border) here in an international creative lab. For many of them, it is a rare opportunity to meet and share with artists from other countries.
In the workshop of the Hartware MedienKunstVerein in the Dortmunder U there is plenty of space for creative ideas. | Photo: Lea Albring From Dortmund to Central Asia
Gaisha Madanova has reached the end of her presentation and it is time for a discussion. Someone asks why she published the magazine in Kazakh, Russian and English. “We wanted to make it accessible to as many people as possible,” explains Madanova. “Language should not be a barrier.” This takes the group right into their theme: exclusion and restriction, recognizing, breaking down and renegotiating borders.
Following this first creative meeting, the group’s goal is to create a travelling exhibition by the end of the year. It will be supervised by Inke Arns, the artistic director of the HMKV, and the curator and architect Thibaut de Ruyter. “They both have great expertise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” says Astrid Wege from the Goethe-Institut Moscow who came up with the idea and initiated the project. “One aim of the exhibition is to think about borders, whether metaphorical, geographical or linguistic. Artists often have a different eye for things and that will transport the exhibition.”
The travelling exhibition will make seven stops in Eastern Europe, Russia and Germany in 2017 before moving on to Central Asia in 2018.
Differences stand at the centre
Opening event at the Dortmunder U. | Photo: HMKV For curator Inke Arns, it is “thrilling to see how different artists from different countries deal with such questions.” Her colleague Thibaut de Ruyter adds, “What we don’t want is an exhibition with a Post-Soviet perspective. It would not do justice to the diversity of the countries if we were to reduce them merely to the alleged commonality of the past.”
In closing, the Georgian curator Ellen Kapanadze offered an overview of the contemporary art scene in Tbilisi with its galleries on roof terraces and in working neighbourhoods and exhibitions in dilapidated Soviet structures. When art takes place in unexpected places it is a crossing of borders, a conquering of new territories. It is quite possible that the planned exhibition will be held in one of these places.
But before the exhibition spaces are chosen, the project needs to take on a tangible shape. What we know already is that visitors can look forward to borderline experiences.
By Lea Albring