Life sometimes makes sudden turns. During the last month, I have experienced such a turn; an unexpected opening into a new landscape.
Joining the executive board of ART LAB gnesta has brought about an abundance of new tasks. In the calendar, it becomes visible as a number of meetings. In reality, it means a series of encounters – always interesting, and often strongly positive – with new partners and associates; artist colleagues, curators and people belonging to the art world, yes… but equally important: the local politicians, officeholders, administrators, managers, teachers and professionals in many fields.
ART LAB gnesta emphatically places itself in a physical and social environment, with the aim to maintain artistic awareness and focus alike, in a condition of interdependence.
From the Grand Opening of ART LAB gnesta; photos by Nils Völker
Now, this comes in addition to my coordinating commission in the Nomadic University.
Concretely, it has delayed the processing of NUrope XIII, which I can only regret. More important, perhaps: it has positively altered the prerequisites. During the past weeks, I keep coming back to a ‘from sounds to things’ feeling.
The Nomadic University is a unique fusing of a professional network and a learning process, investigating contemporary European identity-making.
ART LAB gnesta is a setting where the experiences and insights gained in this process will work sense.
For the NUrope XIII oasis in Kiev and Lviv, I will come back with some more documentations and reflections. To follow ART LAB gnesta, just visit us on Facebook:
From Kiev and Lviv back to Swedish countryside; last week was the opening week for ART LAB gnesta. Recently being appointed a board member of this artist-run space, I plunged head-on into five intense days of preparations, press meetings, art management conference, opening party and network meetings.
Here’s one of the absolute highlights – Nils Völker’s sculpture Thirty Six… air, light, technique and peace.
Last day in Kiev: in the morning Sergiy Trymbach, Head of the Filmmakers’ Union of Ukraine, received the Nomadic University at the National Cinema House. The building, in itself retaining a distinct scent of Sovietic atmosphere, made a very convenient backdrop for the screening of two ‘Ukrainian classics’ by film director Aleksandr Dovzhenko. His films Zemlya (Earth) and Zvenyhora were made in 1928 and 1930 – the years preceding the great famines, provoked by Stalin in order to break down resistance against collectivization in Ukraine. Zemlya deals with the issue of ‘Blut und Boden’, by telling the story of a young Bolshevik hero who gets killed by the desperate class enemy, only to be mourned and reborn among the victorious Soviet people. Despite its aim to promote the Party’s political purposes, the film evoked criticism because of its religious symbolism. Today, it may obviously still appeal to a conception of national identity related to the earth, and of Nature as a constant beyond social changes… Here three clips:
After this thought-provoking reminder of lingering history, we had a very different experience bordering on the same theme. Writer Stanislaw Tsalik took us on a guided city walk along the boulevards, parks and palaces of the 19th and 20th centuries; sites and memorials built for rich merchants and – later – for the Soviet nomenklatura. We followed the path of Bulgakov’s alter ego Alexei Turbin in his long run in the novel “The White Guard”, to end up at the Kreschatyk where demonstrations pro and contra Yulia Tymoshenko on trial went on…
The evening continued with an impressive counterpart of the morning programme. At Babuin, we met with contemporary Ukrainian filmmakers to attend a screening session of short films, manifesting various approaches to our recurring topic of history/histories and identity-making. Those films shall speak for themselves – just have a look, or more:
Cross (Maryna Vroda’s 2011 Palme d’Or award winner. This is but a short trailer – bad technical quality and superfluous commentaries but gives an idea of the atmosphere)
Tram No 9 Goes On (clay animation by Stepan Koval, 2002)
Against the Sun (part 1) (by Valentin Vasyanovich, 2004 – don’t miss this one! )
Against the Sun (part 2)
Wayfarers (by Ihor Strembitsky, Palme d’Or for short film 2005)
“We staged a situation where students met with a number of different teachers… our hidden agenda was to break the bonds between one single professor and his disciples”
“Ukraine is archaeo-modern; it cannot be post-modern, because it never had modernity.”
“If there exists corporate sponsorship for art? You must understand – in Ukraine, we’re not talking about companies, we’re talking about names.”
“There isn’t corruption within the system. Corruption is the system.”
… a few fragments of our Kiev talks, some free-floating words from people involved in art and culture.
Nevertheless, and given the difficulties these words may imply, the achievements presented to us are striking; the experimental theatre play, the short films, the bilingual (Ukrainian/Russian) magazine… We have been touched, laughing, stunned and impressed more times than I could tell these days, and above all: although we are aliens in this country, we have felt at home.
“Kiev is not a city, it is a magic place.”
Kiev; a city of 4 million inhabitants, seemingly planned and built by giants. Boulevards and large open squares, immense residential blocks along the highways, the majestic river spanned by huge bridges and a mass of gold-plated onion-cupola churches.
The Nomadic University’s thirteenth session opened here, yesterday morning – an ongoing happening, where seriousness intertwines with jouissance and sheer absurdity at times.
Gathered from six or seven different countries, we are meeting with all kinds of actors in art and culture: the theatre people who reconnect to a tradition erased by Stalin, the courageous young art activists, the slightly older international art scene professionals… the social psychologist who – arriving on motorbike from Moscow – makes the diagnosis of contemporary Ukraine while having tea and jam on the verandah of Mikhail Bulgakov… the Conseillère de Cooperation et d’Action Culturelle of the French embassy who gives us a foreigner’s view – très au courant – on what’s on… and not to forget, with Mykola the opera singer…
(to be continued)
Bulgakov family house, salon on first floor – no photographing allowed, but I tell you the verandah was an even better place to hang out.