Karine Matsakian and Sona Abgarian (“Everyday, Everywhere”, 2006)
Dependency Culture as a State of Mind
a Visual Statement to BB 7 call
27 April - 20 May 2012
See photos of the opening (27.04 - 29.04.2012) and exposed works: HERE
Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer
With works and statements by:
Curated by Susanna Gyulamiryan
and Archi Galentz
Open on 28 and 29 April 2012 from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Thereafter by appointment (until 20 May),
Tel.: +49 (0) 179 547 5312 (10 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
Scroll down for the description of exposed works, curatorial statement and context of the exposition
“Dependency Culture as a State of Mind” is our visual statement in answer to the Berlin Biennale's open call for artists
The open call puzzled the artistic circles of Berlin, since it seemed not very convincing that structures like the Berlin
Interestingly enough, the Berlin Biennale's request appeared at a time when the media was roundly criticizing a statement in a Leftist newspaper about communism being an everlasting goal. This was deemed politically unacceptable in a democratic society, and Gesine Lötzsch, the head of the Die Linke party at the time, had to issue a clarification saying she was quoted out of context.
The Berlin Biennale has assembled the responses of all of 4,732 artists and will make them accessible for the public starting on April 27 at http://www.artwiki.org
When the concept of “Culture” first emerged in the eighteenth-century Europe, it connoted a process of cultivation or improvement, just like in agriculture. Recently, we came across an interview with an African social-activist concerned about “Dependency Culture” established in his homeland, as it is more fruitful and cheaper for peasants nowadays to apply for international aid and import food than to continue cultivating their ancestral lands. The parallels to the contemporary art system are evident. Moreover, this exhibition could also be seen as a response to the open call for Berlin Biennale that positioned the artists as political subjects. Based on professional cooperation and know-how in “survival techniques,” we developed a constellation of works and series by internationally-renowned artists in the financially independent, artist-run space InteriorDAsein/Berlin.
A Curatorial Statement
Contemporary art is considered to be emancipatory in its essence. Its content demands the artistic statement to be properly reflected. Works of art related to “tekhne” (with good or bad artistic skills) or manifestation of the artists’ subjectivity have become secondary, giving place to reflection, critical reexamination, cognitivity, political and strategic gestures in the global communicative space, i.e. rational rethinking inside artistic practices. Nowadays, the ongoing discussions around the notion of “contemporary art” bring serious charges against this cultural paradigm: contemporary art no longer bears an emancipatory charge, the schemes produced by contemporary art are being appropriated by the social and political systems, and its innovatory images are, in turn, being appropriated by the mass culture and the mainstream. In developed countries with advanced art markets, big corporations use art spaces, museums, and galleries for introducing their marketing and advertising campaigns into the expositional context, where branding, advertising stands, and promotional techniques go hand in hand with art works. Independent artistic practices “hang up”, subsequently engaging in cultural dependence, where corporate interests have the highest priority. The notion of “dependency culture” is defined through the interest in the activities of power institutions, combined with non-resistance and submission to them.
In the context of developing and post-Soviet countries, contemporary art, at least at the very beginning of its development, was viewed as an opportunity to follow the “European” or “Western” road of development. In many post-Soviet countries, contemporary art is in a marginalized position in relation to the dominant discourse of socio-cultural structure (in this case, the word “margin” might have both a negative and a positive sense). The main or the “common” discourses within the contemporary art, as well as the prospects and opportunities for institutional development mostly come from the west “outside”.
However, both ideological influences and processes of worldwide redistribution of resources and representation bring up the problem of “centrism” for the above-mentioned “Third World” countries. On the one hand, the universalization of “non-Western” contemporary art institutions is apparent and inevitable. On the other hand, “orientalized” institutions lose their specific geographical definition and turn into a generalized social marker, thus, contributing to the establishment of the “Western” (with a specific orientation and dictating specific “guidelines”), in contrast with the “orientalized” other. Can we speak about real freedom inside the system of today’s contemporary art, when this system, one way or another, depends on power institutions regulating media, economic, and political flows in the globalized world? On the other hand and as a result, the system of art cannot be independent of funds, sponsors, museum spaces, and galleries.
The exhibition is held at the InteriorDAsein/Berlin artist-run-space and consists of works by emerging and internationally observed artists. The displayed works cover a time span of almost a decade and reflect on the phenomenon of “dependency culture”.
Susanna Gyulamiryan is an art critic and curator working in Armenia and internationally. Her current field of interest covers the epistemological and philosophical issues of the “other”, examination of biopolitics, as well as gender and feminist issues in contemporary art practices.Some of her critical articles are dealing with the emerging problems of the establishment of market relations in the current artistic practices.She is a co-founder and the president of the “Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory” (ACSL) and the founder of the “Art Commune” International Artist-in-Residence program in Armenia. Susanna Gyulamiryan teaches a course in Cultural Studies at the Armenian Open University/Department of Fine Arts. Since 2006 she is a board member of AICA – Armenia (International Association of Art Critics). Recent Curatorial projects include: Imaginative Geographies (Black Garden) – Atlantis 11, HEICO (54th Biennale, Venice), Gender Trouble- annual (Yerevan), Possibility of the Angel, 10th Biennale of Contemporary Art ( Sharjah, UAE), Interdiagnosis – Forum of Contemporary Art – annual (Yerevan)
Description of exposed works
(names are links with fotos, please klick)
“Divide Et Impere” (2006), a multiply produced work by Elena Lukyanova is exposed on the frontal window of the artist-run-space. The proposed power maxim, in particular, reflects a common situation in the cultural sphere, when sowing discord and intrigue among separate structures and individuals is used to reach a higher level of power.
The video shot by Maryna Shuklina in the Berlin subway (“To be Honest”, 2006) resembles a discussion about paradigmatic definitions of who the artist is. Among these definitions there has been an image of a “mad, truth-seeker, surviving on the margins of the dominant culture. An “urban lunatic” has the right to tell the truth to everyone and everywhere in profane public spaces: subways, cinemas, pubs, etc., since he/she is insane. Currently, this paradigm of the definition of the artist has undergone significant changes, being transformed into a conformist, an opportunist, and so on.
In the video by Dmitry Bulnygin entitled “Aj ne-ne-ne-ne” (2009), the director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow and the commissioner of the Moscow Biennale Joseph Backstein is dancing to Gipsy music during a private party at Zurab Tsereteli’s residence, who is one of the most commercial nomenklatura patriarchs of the Russian art scene. Ordered, according to eyewitnesses, this dance is a striking example of how an artist can bow and scrape in the world of big commercial artistic exchange.
Avdey Ter-Oganian gives a more naïve, and yet a more honest solution to the problem of the artist’s survival in the tough context of contemporary art economy ("Sihgned Bill" 2005). He puts on sale a few dozens of unsettled telephone bills of his own, calling them artistic works and trying to sell them in the expositional space, thus shifting the accent from the opportunity of acquiring the work of art to the necessity of selling it for the purpose of survival.
Dmitry Gutov’s work is more cynical in its symbolical questioning of compensation in the politics of “bilaterial trade” in the art field ( “Kogda Mine” (When I will be paid for a blow job), 2005). The title uses a phrase from the poetry of the leftist Moscow philosopher and poet Keti Chukhrov.
In the video documentation of a performance that have been presented publicly by Laboratorio Berlin (Concha Argüeso, Chus Lopez Vidal and S. Der-Meguerditchian, "Art Mourners", 2005), where the death of authenticity in the art is being "mourned". The staged act of mourning has been reproduced three times, particularly during the 3rd Berlin Biennale for contemporary art in 2004.
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian’s second video (“How to do an exhibition in the Venice Biennale”, 2007) also refers to the subject of large-scale international artistic representations, the so-called big projects of contemporary art: festivals, biennials, triennials, etc. nervously and, at the same time, ironically plays on the idea of the artist’s autonomy, when an artist, avoiding the institutional politics of promotion and selective representation in the big projects, tries to autonomously integrate into the context and become equally represented and demanded inside that context, following the principle of autonomous self-organization.
The notion of dependency culture is closely related to the subject of female subjectivity. In this context, it is important to refer to relevant researches, vocabularies, and narratives while representing the woman as an object, i.e. in the position of dispossession. Through the works represented by such artists as Karine Matsakyan, Sona Abgaryan, Archi Galentz, Mascha Danzis, and Joanna Rajkowska, the issue of the body has turned into objects of examination threatening and playing with the gender discourse on the line of body and social order. Some works portray the whole marginalized-by-the-dominant-discourse-of-pleasure bodies. “Woman as image,” the famous expression from the contemporary feminist critical discourse, dictated the traditional codes of constructing the feminine: everlasting femininity, angelic beauty, purity, “angel of the home,” passive and obedient, “self-abnegation” for the sake of a number of commonly accepted (masculine) ideals. This idealization had its reverse side as well. Behind this sublime purity there stood the old witch, conceited temptress, or prostitute.
Archi Galentz (“Their names are Faith, Hope, and Love”, 2001) is aware about the patriarchal discourse as well as about danger when one speak about female “light mindedness” in the situation of the outrage upon women. The beauty of the body appearing in mass culture, which normally portrays the body not as a whole, but rather focuses on separate parts of it, is paralleled to pornography in the Marxist feminist discourse, since the wholeness of female body gets dismembered and presented as separate erotic parts. This, in turn, reinforces the "consumer demand" for the female body, turning it into ordinary thingness, quite in accordance with Joanna Rajkowska’s visual and narrative statement ("Satisfaction Guaranteed", 2000), ”First, you have to remove the skin and divide up the body. Puree some of the innards, leaving others fresh. Some of the organs, glands and bodily fluids must be saved. Don't forget about the neurons and the fat. On the base of these ingredients prepare carbonated beverages of different properties, later soap, Vaseline and perfumes, finally frozen food. When you've gone through all this, sell it for good money.”
Karine Matsakian and Sona Abgarian (“Everyday, Everywhere”, 2006) embark on a cross-generational journey to chart the unchanging position of women in their native Armenia. In a subtle animation video they explore overarching issues of gender roles, feminism, and freedom of expression, expanding on their previous works’ critique of male dominance and consumerism in the art world and society at large. Thus, the artists interrogate the woman’s “role” as subject to perpetual editing, constant negotiating, and open to reformulation. What are the parallels between edited, artificial online environments and curated artistic systems? The result is a recounting of suppressed realities, where the theatricality of gestures performed by Matsakian and Abgarian underscore the real conditions of the Armenian society and international art systems.
Dmitry Gutov "On Keti Chukrov's lyrics" 2005.
Text on Archi Galentz for the Open Call of the Berlin Biennale 2011
[documented by Marc Wrasse, January 11, 2011]
(See also Artwiki post: HERE)
The true artist, who pursues his craft in a focused manner, is beset by a dilemma. In order to be able to continue making art, he rejects the established order. In times where the earnest use of the word “communism” leads to an outbreak of media-orchestrated hysteria, this artist avoids close contact with so-called politicos1. While politics itself is staged as a spectacle in the media society, his art looks into the beyond.
This reaction makes the art of the artist seem to be an evasive action. His movement is advancing in a space that politics itself has vacated. The powerful design of public spaces and the common concerns will be resignedly removed from a political entity which sees itself only as an administration, or even, as in times of perpetual crisis, a short-term and makeshift rescue operation. The fallow place where formerly the political field was tilled enables art as an alternative strategy. The name of one such aesthetic movement is Arrièregarde. The artist, as a representative of the rear-guard, designs its aesthetic appearance as tactical behavior. He moves in multiple identities as the artist AG (Archi Galentz). The artist AG has caused the experience of such an appearance to be regarded ambivalently – to some, it appears as masculine and aggressive, to others as feminine and evasive. In this regard, the artist AG comments that traditional gender roles are keen to fend off unexpected and provocative productions.
In summary, it is established that Archi Galentz responded proactively to the Open Call for Berlin Bienniale with the announcement of a separate independent space. This art space – InteriorDAsein/Berlin – will show an exhibition on culture and dependency during the Berlin Biennale: Dependency Culture. The Berlin Bienniale is called upon to respond in its own way by sending its emissaries, real spatial networks, incorporations, etc. The opinion is expressed with reference to the fact that solidarity alone still appears as a way to avoid ensuing calamity. No individual and no single action will be as clever – or so powerful – as to confront the dilemmas in the globalized world with a credible alternative. Concerted actions, however, create temporary refuges. The name for this is Arrièregarde – art as a rear guard, art as the space that could in the future be one with its past – instead of garbage.
1See the interview on the occasion of the exhibition Voulu / Oblige to 52nd Biennale in Venice: www.underconstructionhome.net/Underconstruction_venice_09/interv_archi.html
2See the exhibition at: www.prima-center.net/Exhibit2006B/Galentz.htm
Statementtext in German
[aufgezeichnet von Marc Wrasse, 11.1.11]
Den wahren Künstler, der sein Handwerk konzentriert verfolgt, stellt dieser Aufruf vor ein Dilemma. Um weiter Kunst machen zu können, verweigert er sich der provozierten Zuordnung. In Zeiten, in denen die ernsthafte Verwendung des Wortes ‚Kommunismus‘ zum Ausbruch einer medial inszenierten Hysterie führt, meidet dieser Künstler die unmittelbare Nähe zum sogenannt Politischen. Wo in der Mediengesellschaft Politik sich selbst als Spektakel inszeniert, sucht seine Kunst das Weite.
Diese Reaktion macht die Kunst des Künstlers als ausweichende Bewegung sichtbar. Seine Bewegung stößt in einen Raum vor, den die Politik selber geräumt hat. Die kraftvolle Gestaltung des öffentlichen Raums, der gemeinsamen Angelegenheiten, wird von einer Politik resigniert preisgegeben, die sich selbst nur noch als Verwaltung begreift oder, wie in Zeiten der permanenten Krise, als kurzfristige und notdürftige Rettungsmaßnahme. Der brachliegende Ort dort, wo vormals das politische Feld bestellt wurde, ermöglicht Kunst als alternative Strategie. Der Name einer solchen ästhetischen Bewegung ist Arrièregardismus. Der Künstler als Vertreter der Arrièregarde entwirft seinen ästhetischen Auftritt als taktisches Verhalten. Er bewegt sich mit multiplen Identitäten, als Künstler AG (Archie Galentz). Künstler AG hat die Erfahrung gemacht, dass auf solches Auftreten ambivalent reagiert wird: den einen erscheint es als maskulin und kämpferisch, anderen als feminin und ausweichend. Künstler AG bemerkt dazu, dass herkömmliche Gender-Schemata bemüht werden, um das Provokante unerwarteter Inszenierungen abzuwehren.
Zusammenfassend wird festgestellt: Archie Galentz reagiert performativ auf den Open Call zur Berlin Biennale mit der Deklamation eines eigenen Raums. Dieser Kunstraum – InteriorDAsein/Berlin– wird während der Berlin Biennale eine Ausstellung zu Kultur und Abhängigkeit zeigen: Dependency-Culture. Die Berlin Biennale ist aufgerufen und eingeladen, sich ihrerseits dazu zu verhalten – durch Entsendung von Emissären, reale räumliche Vernetzung, Inkorporationen etc. Die Stellungnahme schließt ausdrücklich mit dem Verweis darauf, dass einzig noch Solidarität als Möglichkeit aufscheint, kommendem Unheil zu entgehen. Kein einzelner und keine einzelne Aktion wird so klug sein – oder so mächtig – um den Dilemmata in der globalisierten Welt eine glaubwürdige Alternative entgegenzustellen. Konzertierte Aktionen jedoch schaffen zeitweise Rückzugs- und Ruheräume. Der Name dafür ist Arrièregarde – Kunst als Nachhut, Kunst als der Raum, in dem Zukunft altern könnte, um einmal zu ihrer Vergangenheit zu werden: anstatt zu Müll.