Workshop with We Are Here in April, 2021

The Monument of Modern Slavery, 2021

The Monument of Modern Slavery

I am contributing to the exhibition disturbance: witch, curated by Alba D’Urbano and Olga Vostretsova at the Center of Contemporary Art (ZAK) / the Citadel Spandau – see a short description attached. The opening reception is scheduled for the 10th of September and I would be happy to welcome you there.

For this exhibition, I am preparing a work entitled „Monument for Modern Slavery“, which is going be an installation that reflects upon phenomena of slavery, which I am developing in dialogue with the international cultural community and the Fashion Revolution movement. Having spent time in Indonesia and witnessed the horrific living conditions of garment workers there and listened to the stories of their exploitation, I had the impulse to create this installation, which displays clothes collected from the art community and hopefully from other communities, on a series of burnt wooden stakes.

I cordially invite you to contribute to this project with the clothes from your own garderobe – those that you might be bored of, or about to throw in the garbage – from one of the big exploitative brands such as H&M, C&A, Adidas, Reebok, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Patagonia, TimberlandVANS, The North Face, Wrangler, Puma, ASOS, ConverseJordanNike, Primark, COS, Zara, Promod, GAP, TopShop, etc. These clothes will be modified according to my artistic method and placed on burnt wooden pillars reminiscent of medieval stakes for burning “witches”, expressing a common feeling of guilt in face of the oppressed workers You can send or bring the items of clothing directly to the below address, the Citadel in Spandau.

If you want your name or the name of your organization to be mentioned please let me know. You are welcome also to write a bit your thoughts about the subject along the sending the clothes.

Thank you so very much!  

Gluklya

 
 
 
 
Zitadelle
Am Juliusturm 64 
13599 Berlin

 

with mark: Clothes for Gluklya 

 

Links:

 
 
 

The exhibition disturbance: witch

disturbance: witch
Exhibition curated by Alba D’Urbano and Olga Vostretsova
ZAK – Center of Contemporary Art
Spandau Citadel Berlin
Opening reception: Sept 10, 2020, 7 pm
Duration: Sept 11 – Dec 20, 2020

The feminist movement of the 1970s had already made the connection between witches and emancipated women, and the witch became a feminist archetype. Often quoted are the slogans by the Italian feminists, “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate!” (Tremble, tremble, the Witches have returned!) or “La gioia, la gioia, la si inventa, donna si nasce, le streghe si diventa!” (The joy, the joy, she will be discovered: was born as a woman, became a witch). Sylvia Federici, in her analysis of witch-hunting in connection with the transition from feudalism to capitalism, also describes the solidarity of feminists with witches: “Across ideological differences, the feminists have realized that a hierarchical ranking of human faculties and the identification of women with a degraded conception of corporeal reality has been instrumental, historically, to the consolidation of patriarchal power andthe male exploration of female labor.” (Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation).

The exhibition disturbance: witch, located at the ZAK (Center for Contemporary Art) of the Spandau Citadel in Berlin, puts into focus disturbing factors that shake deadlocked power relations that are inherent in the character of the witch. The witch, the “abnormal,” the “irrational,” the “magical” and the “inverse” resists rigid role models and structures.
Unfolded within the framework of this international contemporary art exhibition are the aspects of the witch’s character. disturbance: witch does not address the practices of the historical witch nor the practice of magic, rather it analyzes the accompanying attributions to women and queer persons that are used as instruments of exclusion and strategies of a new witch hunt.

Artist list: Jamika Ajalon (US/FR), Emilio Bianchic (AR), Anna und Bernhard Blume (DE), Johanna Braun (AT), Barbara Breitenfellner (AT/DE), Lysann Buschbeck (DE), Alba D’Urbano und Tina Bara (DE), Sarah Decrostoforo (AT), Veronika Eberhardt (AT), Margret Eicher (DE), Parastou Forouhar (IR/DE), Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya) (RU/NL), Valerio Fuguccio (IT/DE), Nilbar Güres (TR), Horst Haack (DE), Emily Hunt (AU/DE), Orsi Horváth (HU), Isabel Kerkermeier (DE), Sharon Kivland (GB), Franziska Meinert (DE), Lisl Ponger (AT), Lambert Mousseka (CD/DE), Johannes Paul Raether (DE), Suzanne Treister (GB).

Invitation to new way of sensitivity, 2021

Dear friend!

We, (Hybrid Studio of the Anonymous Doctors ( HSAD)) hope you are well and let us warmly welcome you to our ClinicN2 event!

Meeting ID: 752 7192 3977

Passcode: 4TZ5hE

Hybrid Lecture-Crystal /15 October 2020, 3 pm – 6 pm European time

We are happy to invite you to our oscillatingzoom on 15 October 2020 which is to continue the program of the project “Clinic” dedicated to the research and colonization of the subject of Health.

This time our invited doctor will be Boris Klushnikov, philosopher and art historian based in Moscow.

He will discuss the capacity of crystals as a model of thinking and a natural metaphor for a new way of sensitivity.

Each edge of the Crystal will represent a certain thesis based on the history of the Russian avant-garde, the identity of the crystals in contemporary science fiction, and the ecological ideas of Bruno Latour.

During the process of Lecture-Crystal, we will try to construct the chorovod(round dance in Russian) of the suspense body s, trying to build the choreography with a help of the hand-jewelry. (An art-object), which might help us to create a collective dance of the overcoming contradictions.

The concept of this event appeared from the intention to create the perfopera (performative opera ) Care of the Sun as a response to the legendary opera Victory over the Sun, created by the giants of Russian Vanguard in 2013.

Logistics :

The new Corona rules are requiring not more than 6 people in the room. We are proposing not to take it too much dogmatically, but please let us know if you want to join the session alive or by zoom as soon as you can.

Thank you very much /Hartleijke bedankt /( HSAD)

Here you can find our previous letter of ( HSAD)

Dear friend!

We wholeheartedly invite you to our Hybrid Studio of the Anonymous Doctors ( HSAD) meeting, which will be held on Monday, 17th of August. This will be the very first meeting of art personas, where we are going to discuss the project Clinic.

The idea of this project grows from our current situation with a pandemic, where the topic of health brings the most attention to the system.

The governments are concerned and thus prepare new special methods to control us, our minds, and our hearts. Their plan of controlling our blood flow and the condition of our organs births the response of any creatively-complete persona.

What we can do is to answer to those actions with an equally challenging game!

We are cordially inviting you to become doctors yourself, or to consciously choose the role of a patient and to self-diagnose.

We are sure that the world hasn’t learned about new illnesses yet. They have yet to be documented, and maybe we, the egalitarian group of self-proclaimed doctors and experimentation, are destined to find ways to overcome them.

I believe that many of you might share our belief that every artist is a doctor. In every art-related activity, there is some amount of art therapy. Although we cannot bring the idea of art in general only to the matter of healing, these times dictate what we focus on.

We invite you to participate in the first meeting of the Doctor’s congress, which will be held in a studio at Marnixstraat 150A, 17th of August, starting from 18:00.

Let’s heal each other until our complete Re-Invention of ours every fragilities!

Love ( HSAD)

Carnival of the Oppressed Feelings 2017

Carnival of Opressed Feelings

Michail Bachtin [From Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics]

Carnival is a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators. In carnival everyone is an active participant, everyone communes in the carnival act… The laws, prohibitions, and restrictions that determine the structure and order of ordinary, that is noncarnival, life are suspended during carnival: what is suspended first is hierarchical structure and all the forms of terror, reverence, piety, and etiquette connected with it… or any other form of inequality among people

Carnival of Opressed Feelings happened in Amsterdam in October 2017 .The hybrid of the performance and political demonstration -it is the event summarizing the seria of the workshops and encounters with refuges living at formal prison Baijlmer Bajes. It connected different people together : students ,artists ,activists, academics, people of different ages ,believes and statuses.

COF started  from Bijlmer Bajes and finished at Dam square with several stops on the way.The stops where selected conceptually ,with the idea to tell refugees some alternative story about society or make a small performance. The storys was told by : Sari Akminas( (Journalist from Alepo),Khalid Jone (Activist,We are here),Ehsan Fardjadniya (artist ),Dilyara Valeeva, (Sociologist ,Uva) Erick Hagoort(curator, writer) and others and in the end Gluklya with Theo Tagelaers read the UUU Manifesto.

 

The structure of the performative body of Carnival is referring to the political demonstration  and consists of different parties.

1) Potato Eaters party 

2) Monsters party 

3) Language of Fragility party

4) Recycling prison party 

5) Spirits of history party

 

Carnival last 4 hours and brought together around 150 people.

 

 

Fragility and Resistance /Erik Hagoort in Gluklya’s studio at Lola Lik, 2017

Fragility and Resistance

Gluklya: This blouse, I call it Proletarian Madonna. You see the portrait of Anna Magnani printed on it, the actress of Pasolini’s film Mama Roma. The blouse is a character: a woman who wants to be strong, like Anna Magnani, but in fact she is not strong, she is fragile. This blouse shows the potentiality of strength without loosing fragility.

Sari: This is Gluklya’s approach to resistance. Maybe her friends share the same ideas about resistance but she uses a different method. Each person resists in his or her own way.

Erik: How can fragility be strong? How can fragility do something?

Sari: I regularly visited Gluklya’s studio here at Lola Lik, where I work. Each week I saw more and more drawings and more costumes. They evolved from the Language of Fragility game, in which words, sounds and images are combined in an associative way. In this game newcomers combine Dutch words with words that sound the same in their own language but mean something completely different. For instance the word ‘gras’ in Dutch is pronounced the same as the word ‘gras’ in Arabic. In Dutch it means the green grass, but in Arabic it means punishment, in Dutch ‘straf’. One of the newcomers, Marwa Aboud, made many beautiful drawings of these kind of different meanings of the same words. Later on also costumes were made that referred to the images of this game. At first it was a fragile process. Fragile images. Now it is still fragile but this fragility is somehow growing, it is building up and building up and in the end can become something powerful. Imagine there is only one tiny hole high up there in this studio to get out. What we do here is building and building until we reach that hole. But still we cannot pass it, so we need more pressure. The fragility is pushing and pushing until we can go through this hole and get out.

Gluklya: Like through the eye of a needle.

Sari: With fragility you can build up pressure. Not like an explosion making a lot of mess but like an escape from prison, finding a way to escape, although it seems impossible.

Gluklya: We maybe have to find a word next to fragility. Fragility and? There has to be this other word.

Erik: What do you mean?

Gluklya: I mean, through what can we think about fragility as resistance? What kind of method or strategy can help to think about fragility as something strong?

Sari: Change?

Gluklya: I don’t think that art can effect change literally. There is a tendency among artists to strive with their art for real change in society. Artists are allowed to do whatever, to be crazy and to play, in a confined area, in the sand. Suddenly they wake up and they realize that art has become a Kindergarten. It is good to realize this, but I think you shouldn’t hysterically rush and presume that you can change society with your art.

Sari: In my experience in this war, in Syria, there have been artists who could disconnect themselves from the actual war. There were artists from the academy of fine arts in Damascus who were making drawings of sunflowers on the walls of houses. As a journalist I was startled at first. There is a war going on! But then I realized that it can be important to paint flowers when everything around you is about killing and destruction. Then it is wonderful to make or to see something that is different. To see something relaxed. A break, a small break because you will be back in the reality of the war anyhow. Next to this, when artists are only busy with political action and making work about the war, the war can become something to exploit, something commerical even. As an artist you shouldn’t do what people expect you to do, you can have your own way of dealing with the situation without being involved directly in the actual fire of the war. That can be a form of resistance too. To guard or reserve this other reality than the reality of the war. Everybody is an artist and everybody has a unique way.

Erik: Joseph Beuys.

Gluklya: Well, there is a social worker here at Lola Lik who said this. She makes statements like those of Joseph Beuys and she organizes daily creativity activities to involve refugees. The intentions are good. She means that everybody is an artist because everybody is displaced. You can be displaced by forced migration. That is clear. In her opinion artists are also displaced, metaphorically speaking, because they are displaced in their minds. It’s her idea. I’m not sure about it.

There is this policy here at the AZC that you may not push. You only can do what refugees want to do themselves. That means in my opinion that you become like a social worker. You reduce yourself to a neutral person, who is just observing, facilitating and giving advices a little bit. For social work that can be very good. But for art I think some other strategy is needed.

Sari: I have come into this other country, I have to obey other rules and to follow other customs. After two years I finally think I know how things work here. I am slowly gaining control of my own life again. This takes time. It really takes time. I knew this when I came here. I realized from the start that this all would take time. But the experience is something else. Not everybody can handle it. Some people close themselves off, others get frustrated, angry. But when you are in a new situation you need time to adapt. Adaptation. Some people adapt fast. Some people adapt slowly. Adaptation, that would be my word. It is not passive adjustment. Adaptation helps you to gain control and to become strong without loosing your own way, your own personality.

Gluklya: You cannot force people to be interested. I’ve learned to leave it up to the people here to find out what they want. But what if they don’t know what they want? Then, in my experience, somehow, you need to jump, together, it is a feeling, it’s very hard to put it in words, you approach each other as humans, you take each other serious, you treat each other as equals. You shouldn’t be too careful, you shouldn’t be afraid to approach the other. Better to make mistakes than to stay in a situation of vague intentions.

Erik: Disguise. That could also be a word to think about a method. Disguise is not just that you appear in a different way, for instance by dressing up. There is something of a purpose. You can take on an appearance in order to get access to a different environment. In disguise you can mingle among familiar people without being recognized or you can mingle among unfamiliar people without being noticed as somebody from outside. You can do this for fun but also with a particular purpose, for example to get access to the truth, as in research journalism. Disguise somehow blurs the line between being honest and cheating.

Gluklya: Vermomming. In Russian it is maskirovka. Hiding. Behind a mask.

Erik: Hiding but in an active way. In disguise you can be present, visible, active.

Sari: From another perspective, disguise can be forced. You can be in a certain situation that you can only handle or survive by hiding your true personality. That is also some form of disguise. When you don’t feel comfortable with a situation, you can opt for fitting in, in disguise. Or if possible you also can opt for leaving, walking out of the situation. Disguise in Arabic is: el tachefie. The source of the word is ‘ichfa’. ‘Ichfa’ means vanish. So you vanish behind your mask. But you also can vanish by walking out of the situation. You become a refugee. The idea of language of fragility plays with the idea of different ways of hiding, different meanings behind the masks of the words.

Erik: Because of a mask or because of a costume, some people can be more honest. Or it is a way to be honest. In disguise you might do something or you might say something that you otherwise maybe would not dare to do or say. Maybe the same counts for the Carnival of Oppressed Feelings?

Sari: People will see the costume but they cannot point to a specific person. So the costume does this or that, the character says this or that. That can help to express your feelings.

Erik: Then who is accountable? If you say things or do things and people want to address you, you cannot just say: I didn’t say this, it was carnival.

Sari: Sure, when you go in disguise, you should think of or at least try to think of the consequences of what you do. You have to think about what will happen when you take off your mask and reveal who you are. If you are not ready to face the consequences, whatever they are, then you shouldn’t go in disguise.

Erik: Your drawings and costumes are worlds in themselves. They depict a ‘language of fragility’. There is beauty there and also monstrosity, anxiety, frailty, power. It is already there, in the drawings and in the costumes. From an aesthetic point of view they actually don’t need anything extra to be appreciated. But you bring them into a charged public sphere, as part of a carnival that is also a demonstration with explicit political demands. In my experience some of the images and some of the costumes playfully resist to be used politically: walking chairs; running plants; eerie screaming creatures; banners that read ‘forgiveness’ or ‘doubt’. They resist appropriation.

Gluklya: To me this is a dilemma. I try to combine. That would be the word for me to be able to work with fragility. To combine is maybe my method or my strategy. Many people say to me: that is not possible, it is this or that. You must choose, they say. Lately I was reading Gayatra Spivak’s book “Why …. cannot speak”. According to her we shouldn’t think like black-white, either-or. That kind of thinking confirms distinctions and forces to choose between positions. Better not to choose. This sounds quite opportunistic from a political point of view, but from an artistic point of view I think it is important. Try to connect, to combine, to do both, to balance. So I continue to follow this path, to be somehow inside and outside… fragility and power… art and politics. Like jumping in and out of the water, moving like a dolphin.

This is an edited compilation by Erik Hagoort of several conversations between Sari Akminas, Gluklya and Erik Hagoort in Gluklya’s studio at Lola Lik, 2017.

Carnival and Dialogue Erik Hagoort, 2017

Carnival and Dialogue

Erik Hagoort, 2018

“Carnival is a pageant without a stage and without a division into performers and spectators. (…). The carnivalistic life is life drawn out if its usual rut, it is to a degree “life turned inside out.”

(Bakhtin 1973, p. 101)

 

These lucid thoughts about carnival by the Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) artist Gluklya founded to “defend ”her desire to realize the performance of the Carnival of Oppressed Feelings, which took place on October 28, 2017 in Amsterdam, supported by curating collective TAAK and , Mondrian and AFK Fund .

Bakthin’s interest in carnival is widely known. He especially paid attention to the medieval festival of fools. During this festival the world appeared to be upside down. The king could dress up as a joker, the priest as a buffoon, the servant as a nobleman, the thief as a judge, and they would all mock each other. The festival of fools was not organized as a parade of performers marching while spectators were looking on from the side. The whole of society participated, more or less. It was a parody of reality, a temporary reversal of social hierarchies and roles. For a couple of days. After that the usual relations were restored. Some even say that the festival of fools could only happen or was allowed to happen, because everybody already knew that it would not have a lasting effect: just a play, society holding a mirror to itself, but without consequences.

In Bakhtin’s opinion carnival is not a playful exception; it has continuity, it sustains for real. The feast installs a consciousness of the possibility that society could be upside down, that existing structures are more or less relative or that established roles can be mocked. This awareness is put into practice. After carnival, the costumes are cared for, they are stored and repaired. People soon start to work on making other costumes for next year. New songs are composed, new tricks and jokes. These practices serve to maintain and renew carnival. Carnival is present throughout the whole year.

Bakhtins ideas about carnival makes me think of a connection between carnival and dialogue. Next to carnival dialogue is one of the main topics of Bakhtin’s writings. He invites us to jump from thinking about carnival to thinking about dialogue, and back again. At first sight, this seems rather puzzling. A dialogue does not have much in common with carnival. To have a dialogue, to have a good talk on a matter of importance, to have a meaningful conversation, to learn to understand each other: that seems to be far off an event in which the world appears to be upside down.

In a dialogue you respond to somebody else. In a dialogue you try to articulate in words what you want to express. You are urged to choose your words carefully and to say what you want to say in a way that the other one can get it. In a dialogue you want to understand each other. The conversation partners need to know each other’s use of language and to speak properly, at least to be able to grasp what the other is saying. There is a clear division in roles: when you speak, the other one listens. You don’t speak both at the same time. There is also a clear distance between the conversation partners. There is clarity about who is who: you speak with another person while you see this person face to face and while you concentrate on what the other one says.

Attention, concentration, articulation: this is all very different from carnival. In carnival you don’t need to have a good talk. Carnival is not about understanding each other, it is not about being articulate about what you mean. The more you are involved in the carnival, the less articulate you may become. You drink and dance, you watch and move. You don’t always know who is who. You meet others in disguise. Everybody can speak at the same time, so no one can really hear what the other is saying. In carnival there is no focus, there is no direction. Distraction rules. Roles and positions are allowed to become blurred. And, in carnival expressions are for a big part non-verbal: you communicate with gestures, touch, music, sound, color, costumes, images. The intention of carnival is: carnival.

By reading Bakhtin it becomes apparent that carnival and dialogue might have something in common. A dialogue is not a performance of a dialogue. A dialogue happens as it evolves. It is lived experience. It is a lived experience that you produce together. You yourself and the other with whom you are talking both produce the conversation in which both of you are participating. Just like in carnival. Carnival is also not a performance but a lived experience: “Carnival is not contemplated, it is, strictly speaking, not even played out; its participants live in it”, (Bakhtin 1973, p. 100). People produce the carnival by participating in it. It can only happen because the participants make it happen together.

Carnival and dialogue also share indeterminacy. Even when you have an articulate conversation, this conversation emerges and evolves. It is a provisional, temporary event on which no one of the participants is in full control.

By listening to what somebody else says,

or by responding to what somebody else says,

you both create what otherwise would not be there.

When you speak you can not fix the meaning of your own words.

When you speak you can not define what the other one will do with your words.

This does not mean that you are out of control. No one else than you yourself has the relation to your own words at the moment that you produce them.

The same counts for the other one. Each of you is responsible for one’s own contribution to the conversation. But no one of you owns this conversation, no one of you can have the talk just for him- or herself. A conversation somehow exists not only in your own experience, not only in the other person’s experience either, but outside both of you, it evolves as an extra-experience, an extra-ordinary experience, in which both of you share.

Dialogue is a joint provisional creation. Like carnival. It is provisional, because it is only there at the moment of its realization. Not before and not after. But it may have a lasting impact, not only because a dialogue can make a change in what you think, but also because you can take care of it later, when the dialogue is not there anymore. You can memorize the conversation, you can write it down, you can think it over again, you can develop your thoughts further and then continue the conversation later, when you meet up again with your conversation partner. So although the conversation has ended, it may continue to play a role in your daily life.

So, in carnival and in dialogue we produce the extra-ordinary by participating in it. We care for these extra-ordinary events

when they are not there anymore

when they are not there yet.

Dialogue can be considered a carnivalesque event

Carnival can be considered a dialogical event.

Dialogue as a carnival in words.

Carnival as a dialogue in disguise.

This is the text of a speech by Erik Hagoort by invitation of TAAK

Post-Carnival of the Oppressed Feelings

14 December 2017

Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam

With Maral Noshad Sharifi, Charles Esche, Ehsan Fardjadniya, Erik Hagoort, Gluklya and others.

 

 

Source: Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, translated by R.W. Rotsel, Ardis, USA 1973.

Column of Fragility 2017

Already several years our cultural community of St-Petersburg are celebrating 1 May ,the labor day.It is only the celebraty day which we might imagine to coinside with people outside our community,for example  9 May is the day totally occupied with of nationalists and some other conctellations that we can not imagine we are walking shoulder to shoulder.But 1 May demonstation is growing year to year ,becoming the festival of the progressive forces,new type of performance,which signified about the raising up the critical voice of our community.  

Her

[life / dreams / family / husband / work / love / children / relatives / priorities / opinions / feelings / hat / problems / concerns / happiness]

6 March – 30 August
On the eve of March 8, ZARYA Center for Contemporary Art will present an exhibition of women artists.
On March 6, the ZARYA Center for Contemporary Art will open an exhibition of women artists entitled “Her.” The exhibition formulates a portrait of the contemporary woman, focusing on her personal experiences of the surrounding world. Concurrent with the exhibition, which will remain on view through August 30, ZARYA will host a number of workshops and artist’s talks. All of these events will be free and open to the public.

Little Zoya, 2014

Pfoto Strunnikova

A description of the assignment
Our Zoya?
April 18, 2014
Performance by the Chto Delat School of Engaged Art

Directed by Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya (Gluklya)
Together with Jonathan Platt we proposed to students of Roza Chto delat school to reflect upon the topic of heroism taking as an example the figure of Russian National Heroine of WWII Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya.

Zoya Kosmodemianskaya is a central figure in the pantheon of Russian war heroes. She is remarkable not only as an eighteen-year old school girl who took up arms to defend the Soviet Union at its most vulnerable moment—the Battle for Moscow in 1941—becoming the first female Hero of the Soviet Union of the war. Most important is the nature of her podvig itself, enduring captivity, torture, and the threat of execution, while famously remaining silent (naming herself only “Tanya” after a female combatant in the Russian Civil War and replying to the derisory question of her captors—“And where is Stalin?”—by saying simply, “Stalin is at his post”—just like any other Soviet citizen). After such a terrible night, Zoya abandoned silence for heroic speech, urging the villagers gathered to watch her hanging to resist the invader and avenge her death. This call for vengeance had an intensely powerful motivational effect once it was relayed to rest of the country by Pravda correspondents, Petr Lidov and Sergei Strunnikov, who uncovered the story in early 1942, printing the sketch “Tanya” alongside a photograph of the exhumed body of the mutilated, yet uncannily beautiful young girl.

There is no better pedagogical method than the inclusion of students directly into the performance itself. This is way we decided to open the frame of the project about Zoya Kosmodemianskaya, which I was engaged in at that time with Jon Platt and Sonya Akimova, to the students, allowing them into the circle of our discussions and allowing them to make their own works on the theme of the heroic exploit or podvig in Russian. Along with the students of the school’s first graduating class, we considering the topics of heroism, sacrifice, and the desire to give everything for an idea in the context of the approaching totalitarianism of out motherland.

Our research project, which included trips to the places of Zoya’s birth and death began in the summer of 2013, and the seminar took place in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea.

For me this project was not only about Zoya; it began first of all with the American professor, Jon, my friend, who had fallen in love with the photograph of Zoya by Sergei Strunnikov, perhaps anticipating the transgressive intervention of contemporary art. I was interested in this tangle of repressed sexual desire and positive aggression, cloaked in the contingencies of existence and accepted rules and projected onto the image of heroism. It was as if, taking a deep breath, you ended up in the black and white world of pure concepts that quiet the anxiety of constant turmoil: the total clarity of good and evil in their most intense constellation.

The method of “becoming Zoya” became the theme of the collective performance, in which the participants were asked to find in themselves a kernel of unity with regard to the artist’s principal task: overcoming oneself for the sake of some greater, higher idea while starting from a position of weakness or fear.

We told the students about our research and asked each of them to stage their own performance at the monument to Zoya by the sculptor Manizer in St. Petersburg’s Victory Park. Part of the task was to define your own attitude to the possibility or impossibility of speaking about the podvig using the example of this national heroine.

 

Jonathan Plaat :

My collaboration with Gluklya and Sofia Akimova on the Zoya project began in July 2013, when we made a series of trips to Moscow and Tambov to visit various centers for the preservation of Zoya’s memory (e.g., Osino-Gai, the village where she was born, her school in the Voikovsky region in Moscow, and the site of her execution in the village of Petrishchevo). By April 2014, the original context in which we began the project had drastically changed. Russia was now effectively at war with Ukraine, and its propaganda machine was in overdrive, deploying a stream of symbols from the Second World War to frame the hostilities as a renewal of the struggle with fascism. As a result, our appeal to the Chto Delat students to join our engagement with Zoya’s image came with great ambivalence and risk. If rebel “volunteer” units in the Donbass were only distinguishing their uniforms with the St. George Ribbon, which has become the main symbol of the 1945 victory, and if the Russian media were repeatedly referring to the new Ukrainian government as “Banderovites” (i.e., Ukrainian nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis), there seemed to be little hope that an artistic statement could salvage any of the authentic historical power of the first Soviet generation’s defeat of the Third Reich.

In the discussions that preceded the performance, we addressed the historical issues that inform my scholarly interest in Kosmodemianskaya: the militant socialist tradition and its exhaustion in the exterminatory violence of the Nazi-Soviet war. However, the central focus clearly fell on the urgencies of the present day. Several students were close to rejecting the assignment, calling the theme of heroism reactionary and all patriotic symbols repulsive. Many rejected the notion that Zoya’s podvig displays any fidelity to the revolutionary event of 1917, arguing that she was nothing but a brainwashed fanatic, closer to today’s suicide bombers than nineteenth-century militants like Vera Zasulich, who fought for a universal emancipatory truth. A good part of the latter discussion revolved around the dubiousness of Zoya’s actions, particularly her role in Stalin’s scorched earth policy, burning villages in the occupied territories west of Moscow.

The actual steps you and your students took to fulfill the
assignment.

Despite these tense debates, we went forward with the performance. Gluklya asked the students to make dolls of Zoya, which they would then bring—as a kind of offering—to Matvei Manizer’s monument to the diversionist in Victory Park. Although many of the students rejected this idea, the significance of the gesture was clear. Gluklya hoped to shift the public monument towards the more “archaic” spheres of fetishism, voodoo, child’s play, ritual, and theater. In this way, we would soften the statue’s hard phallic authority, introducing flexibility and the potential for directed motion. In typical FFC fashion, the power asymmetry between the statue’s sublimity and our own weakness would be inverted — invoking the very different (more matriarchal, horizontal, and quotidian) authority of sympathetic magic and its interventions into the uncanny.

The assignment also actualized existing tensions in the site. Manizer’s statue depicts Zoya in a heroic pose—clenched fist, striding boot, rifle slung over her shoulder, eyes steely and determined—eschewing her alternative image as the feminine victim of Nazi atrocities (as in the barefoot Petrishchevo statue). This militant figure is somewhat out of place in the park, however. Standing beside a pond, hidden from the bustling Moscow Avenue by tree-lined alleys and playgrounds, the statue is not a meeting place for fiery demonstrations and speeches. Instead, the site is contemplative, suited mostly for individual encounters, even if the size of the statue and the height of its pedestal require one to look up, while Zoya gazes into the sublime distance of her podvig.

It is also significant that Victory Park was built on the site of a brick factory that was converted into as a mass crematorium during the Leningrad Blockade. The monument’s link to funerary sculpture and its traditional function of domesticating death is thus taken to the extreme. In contrast to the soul-wrenching memorial that marks the mass graves at the Piskarevskoe Cemetery, in Victory Park the horrors of the blockade are thoroughly veiled by representations of military glory.

Description of what actually unfolded and the outcomes.

The performance thus revolved around the tension between Manizer’s monument and what it veils and domesticates in the context of Victory Park: the conceptually unwieldy (and, for many of the students, emotionally irredeemable) realities of exterminatory war. The statue marked a place of fixity, order, and consummation in death and memory —but also silence and the shadow cast by power over the living, forcing them into a subaltern position of chaos and precarity. If public monuments transform dead flesh into bronze permanence and then gather the living, ever-renewable attention of the collective around it, alienation from this process endows the monument with a vampiric quality. One of Chto Delat students, Anna Isidis, offered a “doll” that brutally illustrated this effect—a paper cut-out of a zombie Zoya, disemboweled to reveal the Young Pioneer children she has devoured.

Overall, the students presented individuated performative gestures that could not be subsumed into a single utterance. Nonetheless, taken together, these gestures traversed a continuum of possible reactions to Zoya’s statue in the specificity of its spatial and temporal context, elaborating the question at the core of the performance: What does the Soviet militant mean to us today?

At one extreme, there were gestures like Isidis’ that addressed the statue from a position of total alienation. Ilya Yakovenko took the most aggressive posture, facing the statue and shouting at it, associating Manizer’s image with the current patriotic fervor propagated in Russia. By ironically thanking Zoya for Russia’s current “anti-fascist” campaign of imperial expansion, he made it clear that appeals to great-power nostalgia typically run slipshod over history. Leaving a small bundle of notes about Zoya’s “union with the Absolute,” Maria Maraeva described how the bronze militant’s life in the “kingdom of order” is incompatible with the false starts, rough drafts, sketches, and revisions of the artistic process. Viktoria Kalinina was among those who took up the suggestion to make a doll, crafting a faceless, footless image of a female corpse (adorned with a mock crucifix—a screw tied to a noose made by Anna Tereshkina, symbolizing the image of Zoya as a mere “screw” in the totalitarian machine). Kalinina accompanied her doll with a poem, which again questioned the black and white simplicity of historical myths—specifically, the version of Zoya’s story in which she withstands torture, but one of her comrades gives her up to the Nazis to save his own life. This narrative was particularly compelling in the spring of 2014, when Putin was warning of a “fifth column” of “national traitors.” Kalinina ironically sides with such rhetoric in her poem:

 

Don’t give anyone up, and you are a hero.
Climbing up on the scaffold,
The anti-fascist battle…
Time will have its reckoning!

Time will have its reckoning!
Time will show who is one of us.
The traitor will be damned.
Don’t give anyone up, and you are a hero.

Each of these three performances thus strove to problematize the interpretive matrix that reduces the complexities of war to simple oppositions—conviction and doubt, hero and traitor, friend and foe. Significantly, however, none disturbed the power differential between monument and man. Instead they confirmed it from a position of alienated pessimism.

Another group of gestures formulated an alienated address less as a challenge to the statue and more as a way to reveal problems in the present. As a result, they allowed for the possibility of a rapprochement with the sculptural image—albeit on their own terms. Natalia Tseluba made a rough bed in the grass in front of the monument, resting her head upon a stack of books about Zoya and the war. Responding to the statue’s indifference with her own sleepiness, she thus transformed the asymmetrical relation into a comment on human resilience and spaces of comfort at the edges of power. Olga Kuracheva positioned two “Zoya-believers”—myself and Nikolai Oleynikov—across from one another in front of the statue, each holding a card that undermined our fidelity with ambivalence. On one side, Zoya appears—through the image of her ecstatic corpse—as a relentless militant hero. On the other side—now a fragmentary collage of Zoya as a school-girl before the war—she appears as a tool of Stalinist cruelty, who might have thought twice about fulfilling the order to burn villages, driving Soviet citizens into the cold along with the occupying forces. Kuracheva’s oscillation between the two positions—identifying with each in turn as we rotated the cards—culminated in a silent, tearful gaze up at the statue.

While these two performances appropriated the stasis of the monument (or allowed it to suppress their own potential movement). Liya Gusein-Zade expressed her own ambivalence by bringing movement into dialectical tension with monumental fixity. As she vainly lit match after match in the wind, hoping to feel the hot cinders on her fingers (referring again to Zoya’s mission), a crowd began to gather, not around the statue, but in a disorderly lump in front of it. Abandoning the matches, Gusein-Zade began pushing the inert collective toward the pond behind the monument, as if impelling us to embrace militant self-abnegation. In this way the gesture dramatically realized the metaphorical semantics of the word podvig (etymologically related to the verb “to move”), and the desperate shuffling and strain of this awkward movement provided a stark contrast to the stillness and poise of Manizer’s image.

<< FIG 4: Still from Looking for Zoya >>

A final group of performances abandoned the position of alienation for identification, reducing the tension between motion and fixity until each complemented the other. Natalia Nikulenkova interpellated Zoya’s podvig into a narrative of personal history, telling the story of her great-grandmother’s sacrifice of a beloved shirt—the only possession saved from a burning house—to bind the wounded leg of a soldier during the war. As Natasha laboriously made a rag-doll at the base of the statue from her own shirt, embroidered with the word “Antifa,” she forged a link between Zoya’s militant violence and the life-preserving acts of self-sacrifice performed by so many other participants in the war. Karina Shcherbakova scattered sugar around the pedestal and offered a bag of the commodity—always coveted in wartime—as her doll of Zoya. The white sugar transformed the snow of Zoya’s torments (her barefoot march) into an image of “the sweet life” promised to the victors. Finally, Sofia Akimova marked out the eighty tortured steps Zoya took to the gallows from the peasant’s hut in which she was interrogated. Dropping a piece of black bread—the antipode of Karina’s refined sugar—for each step, Akimova produced an ephemeral, emotional supplement (disappearing as pigeons erased the steps) to the statue’s steely fixity.

Overview of the discussion and reflection/evaluation process.

In the end our seminar turned out to be dangerous. The danger consisted in the fact that the assignment – to find Zoya Kosmodemianskaya inside oneself and express one’s attitude to the themes of heroism and the podvig in the form of a performance – divided the group into two camps. One group of students clearly accepted Zoya, while another either leaned more toward the position of the 1990s with regard to heroism in general, or rejected the figure of the national hero in the context of the barbarous actions of totalitarian Russia, violating international norms.

Jonathan Plaat : Along this continuum from irony and frustration to sympathy and identification, a specific tension recurred again and again. Each performative gesture in its own way sought to oppose or at least soften the authoritative stillness of the statue with figures of motion and temporality, uncertainty and disorderliness. In Mikhail Bakhtin’s terms the performances punctured the statue’s encirclement (окружение) with the energies of a living horizon (кругозор). As living beings, we act within the limits of a specific horizon—weighing risks, making decisions, anticipating a future of meaning (what our life “will have meant”), all based on the internal directedness of our activity. But the future of meaning can only exist outside our horizon—in the past, as perceived from the perspective of an encircling, consummating gaze. This contradiction can be a source of both freedom and alienation, since the final meaning of my life and actions can and must always be deferred. You cannot tell me who I am and what my life means until all my inner force is exhausted. The meaning of “my” life is never really mine, since it is ultimately only accessible from a position beyond my death.

Zoya’s monument stands encircled, full with meaning. But it also stands in place of the living, now dead, eighteen-year old girl, closing her horizon. The statue does not expect to be challenged by the living people who approach it in the park. Rather, their task is to honor Zoya’s memory, supplementing the statue’s fixity with their living motion, in turn borrowing its meaning as a rhythmic (ideological) supplement to their own risk-fraught life. The statue anchors a homogeneous, collective identity with the great moment it symbolizes. Meanwhile the collective that gathers around the statue endows it with a surrogate horizon—a metaphorical afterlife in collective memory.

The performance as a whole remained faithful to the Chto Delat school’s interpretation of public exposure—the moment of encirclement—not as the consummation of a collective, but as the reaffirmation of its intimacy within an evolving, risk-fraught horizon. The students thus preserved Nancy’s sense of community as the sharing of finitude, rather than its reinvestment by some higher subject—be it the nation, empire, or “socialism in one country.” At the same time, however, only Gusein-Zade addressed the logic of the podvig and its specific relation between horizon and encirclement, which in fact inverts the monumentalist logic of ideological myth. Working at a remove from the statue, Gusein-Zade depicted the collective as the static body and the militant as the one who seeks to introduce motion and risk, insisting on the potential for change and emergent meaning. To actualize this inversion requires a decision, an existential leap of volition, seizing a moment of exceptional danger in which the subject is confronted with an irrevocable, world-defining threat, announcing a time of reckoning here and now. The subject’s living force persists through this moment as if she is paradoxically encircled with meaning and yet still moving through the limited horizon of her life.

This is the model of weak or unlucky heroism that has been so important in the practice of Chto Delat, as in that of FFC before them. One can say that it represents a kind of compromise with the podvig, allowing the artists to resist ideological monuments and preserve the conditions of intimate exposure for a moment of decision to come. In this way it recalls the distinction between what Walter Benjamin calls a “weak Messianic” moment and the authentic revolutionary event—the “strait gate” of radical rupture through which the Messiah enters (Benjamin 1968, 254, 264). The unlucky hero model also reflects Chto Delat’s honest and pragmatic attitude toward the political efficacy of art. Yes, we are already in a moment of danger, a state of emergency, but until the counter-public of resistance finally gathers into a critical mass, there is no subjective decision to be made. So, instead of merely staging the podvig in the hopes of inspiring imitation, as actionism does, the Chto Delat school remains within the transversal zone of art, studying their communist desire.

But our Zoya performance asked the students to consider the paradoxical moment of the podvig more closely. It could not invoke the logic of the unlucky hero, since Zoya was of course “lucky,” in the sense that her podvig did become a triumphant, monumental myth. As a result, the performance consisted primarily of more or less iconoclastic efforts to resist the statue’s encirclement and its asymmetrical relation to the students’ living horizons. At the same time, despite Gluklya’s clear intention to evoke the dialectic of weakness and heroism, her doll assignment led the students into individuated engagements with the statue, breaking up the shared finitude they were developing in the school.

The performance challenged the Chto Delat school’s intimacy in other ways as well. As discussed above, the school runs all the risks that haunt participatory, pedagogical art projects, particularly that of delegated performance. Although their exploration of the dialectic of intimate and public exposure largely exonerates them from such accusations, one can still argue that their methods block the volition that might produce an authentic podvig, positioning the students as victims of an indifferent or hostile public. When the students face the public—especially when they do so as representatives of frustrated, marginalized Russian youth—they have no access to the inversion of horizon and encirclement that defines the podvig and its decision. All their energies are directed toward problematizing encirclement and protecting their shared horizons from premature closure.

This blockage of volition came to the fore in our performance, which could also be seen as involving elements of delegation. Even though the Chto Delat students produced their own individual gestures (whether embracing the doll assignment or not), the awkwardness of this individuation brought into relief their status as “young, politically engaged Russians”—something that was useful both to Gluklya’s film and to my scholarly work. At the same time, it totally defused the dialectic of intimate and public exposure. And this is arguably what was most interesting about our intervention into the school’s practice. By confronting them with the concept of the podvig, we revealed how the school’s emphasis on intimacy not only protects its students from the hostile public but from the political alienation and frustration that besets them as a potential collective subject (or the militant vanguard of that potential subject). In our performance this protection was removed, releasing a range of emotions (rather than carefully crafted conceptual statements). And all partook of the general negative affect of toska—longing for the time of decision. There, beyond death’s encirclement, the uncanny horizon of the podvig opens up, and the exposed singularities of the collective body embrace volition to become a revolutionary subject.

The performance engaged a specific sculptural image (M. Manizer’s monument to Zoya Kosmodemianskaya, 1942/1951) in a specific site (Victory Park, St. Petersburg). The monument depicts Zoya in a heroic pose – clenched fist, striding boot, rifle slung over her shoulder, eyes steely and determined – refusing to present her merely as the feminine victim of Nazi atrocities. Manizer’s Zoya seeks to transcend gender, embracing the universal addressivity of the Soviet militant tradition.

The site of the monument is somewhat less fitting for the image, however. Standing beside a pond, hidden from the bustling Moscow Avenue by treelined alleys and playgrounds, this Zoya is not a meeting place for public dialogue and demonstrations (like her sister in Tambov, for example). Instead, the site is contemplative, suited mostly for individual encounters, even if the size of the statue and the height of its pedestal require one to look up at the diversionist – while she gazes into the sublime distance of her podvig.

Monuments in public parks always have a hint of the tombstone about them, but here the association is direct. Victory Park was built on the site of a brick factory that was converted into a mass crematorium during the Leningrad Blockade. The tombstone’s traditional function of domesticating death and putrescence is thus taken to an extreme. In contrast to the soul-wrenching memorial at the Piskarev Cemetery, the horrors of the war in Victory Park are thoroughly veiled by representations of military glory. One must wander past martial depictions of Zoya, Matrosov, and the Alley of Heroes (complete with a statue of Marshal Zhukov erected in 1995) to reach a few humble markers of the site’s terrible significance in a much less prominent corner of the park (all of which were erected in the 1990s and 2000s).

The temporal context of the performance also contributed to its specificity. Today the symbols and mythic resonance of the Nazi-Soviet war are being deployed to foment unrest in Ukraine by various political actors, still jostling for position in the global disorder that followed the neoliberal revolution and the collapse of state socialism in 1989/91. As a result, the appeal to engage the image of Zoya Kosmodemianskaya came with great risks and ambivalence. Would the performance merely add to the frenzied waving of St. George Ribbons used to ward off the new “Banderovite” threat from the West? Could any of the authentic historical power of the first revolutionary generation’s defeat of the Third Reich be salvaged in such a context?

In the discussions that preceded the performance, the participants interrogated the militant socialist tradition and its relation to (or exhaustion in) the exterminatory violence of the war. Does complicity in such violence undermine the heroic sacrifice of the militant? Can militancy and state terror be disarticulated in the Nazi-Soviet war? Who is subject of militant truth – free, rational individuals or more collective conglomerations? Is the ideological context of Stalinism – with all its abuses and doublethink – incompatible with such truth? If so, can Zoya’s sacrifice be considered a podvig, or was she merely the brainwashed fanatic of an ignoble cause, closer to today’s Islamic terrorists than the those of the People’s Will?

A central element of the performance was Gluklya’s suggestion that the participants make dolls of Zoya to bring to the statue. The significance of this gesture was clear – to move away from the public monument towards the more “archaic” spheres of fetishism, voodoo, child’s play, ritual, and theater. In this way, we would soften the hard phallic authority of the monument, introducing flexibility and the potential for directed motion. The power differential between the sublime statue and the weak, little man would be inverted – invoking the very different (more matriarchal, horizontal, and quotidian) authority of sympathetic magic and its interventions into the uncanny (where the sculptural image can never fully contain the putrescent power of the corpse).

The performance thus revolved around the tension between Manizer’s monument and what it veils and domesticates in the context of Victory Park: the conceptually unweildy (and, for many of us, emotionally irredeemable) realities of exterminatory war. The statue marked a place of fixity, order, and consummation in death and memory – but also silence and the shadow cast by power over the living, forcing them into a subaltern position of chaos and precarity. А natural reaction to such monumentalism is the punctuation of this mortal chaos with attempts to speak back, to introduce possibilities for movement, to position oneself at the threshold of shadow and light. The public monument raises the fleshy body to bronze permanence and then fills its hollow interior with the living, ever-renewable attention of the collective. When alienated from this process, the monument takes on a vampiric quality – as brutally illustrated by Anya’s paper cut-out of a zombie Zoya, disembowled to reveal the pioneer children she has devoured.

We did not come to the monument to be united in this way. We remained unruly and unkempt – presenting a series of individuated performative gestures that could not be subsumed into a single utterance. Yet, taken together, these gestures traversed a continuum of possible reactions to Zoya’s statue in the specificity of its spatial and temporal context, elaborating the question at the core of the performance: What does the Soviet militant mean to us today?

At one extreme, there were gestures that addressed the statue directly from this position of alienation. Ilya took the most aggressive posture, facing the statue and shouting at it, associating Manizer’s image with the patriotic fervor propagated in Russia today. By ironically thanking Zoya for Russia’s current “anti-fascist” campaign of imperial expansion, he highlighted how appeals to great-power nostalgia run slipshod over history. Marina spoke from under the shadow of the monument with a more personal, contemplative intonation, but her remarks to Zoya had a similar ring. The bronze militant’s life in the “kingdom of order” is incompatible with the false starts, rough drafts, sketches, and revisions of the artistic process. Vika was among those who took up the suggestion to make a doll, crafting a faceless, footless image of a female corpse (adorned with Anya T.’s mock crucifix – a “screw in the machine” tied to a noose). Vika’s poetic accompaniment to the doll also made use of irony – presenting the black and white categories of hero and traitor as a grid too reductive for the complexities of war. Finally, Nastya refrained from speech, yet she also positioned her performance between the categories of Zoya’s hero cult. Burning the doll of a horse – commemorating the horses Zoya burned on her scorched-earth mission – Nastya was also addressing the statue, asking it to look more closely into the grey space of its militant indifference.

Another group of gestures formulated their alienated address less as a challenge to the statue and more as a way to expose urgencies in the present. As a result, they allowed for the possibility of a rapprochment with the sculptural image – albeit on their terms. Lilya raised her humble monument to the “vandal-heroes” of today’s street resistance – an empty can of spray paint placed on a stool. Her claim that militant artforms also “walk the line” between ethical absolutes suggested that such an ethics does not apply to the militant at all. Natasha Ts. made a rough bed in the grass in front of the monument, resting her head upon a stack of books about Zoya and the war. By responding to the statue’s indifference with her own sleepiness, she transformed the asymmetrical relation between monument and man into a comment on human resilience and spaces of comfort at the edges of power. Olya positioned two Zoya “believers” (both from the generation that came of age at the end of the Cold War) across from one another in front of the statue, each holding a card that expressed the ambivalence of Zoya’s podvig. On one side, she appears – through the image of her ecstatic corpse – as a relentless militant hero. On the other – now a fragmentary collage of the living girl we know much less about – she appears as a tool of Stalinist cruelty, who might have thought twice about fulfilling the order to burn villages in the occupied territories. Olya’s oscillation between the two positions – identifying with each in turn – culminated in an emotionally fraught, silent gaze up at the statue, clenching her own fist, not in determination to fight, but to preserve humanity when the desire to fight takes hold.

All of the performances from this last group appropriated the stasis of the monument (or allowed it to suppress their own potential movement). Another group forced movement to the surface in dialectical tension with monumental fixity. Zhenya used the doll strategy to replace the hangman’s rope that executed Zoya with the strings of a puppeteer. While the puppet conjured associations with propagandistic manipulation, it also opened Zoya’s image up for a more personal (even affectionate) engagement at the level of play. Liya directed a dramatic realization of the semantics of the word podvig (etymologically related to the verb “to move”). While she vainly lit match after match (in another reference to the scorched earth policy), hoping to feel the hot cinders on her fingers, a crowd began to gather, not around the statue, but in a disorderly lump in front of it. Abandoning the matches, Liya tried to push the inert collective toward militant self-abnegation (in the pond behind the monument). The desperate shuffling and strain of this awkward movement provided a stark contrast to the stillness and poise of Manizer’s image. Finally, Gluklya added her own intervention, using Anya as a shrouded mock-corpse, carried briskly around the site by a team of uncomfortable pall-bearers, who then offered her up to the statue as a kind of unfinished sacrifice. This gesture accentuated the juxtaposition of uncanny bodies and dolls with the perhaps all-too canny statue, which dominated the performance as a whole (forming a mise en abyme of representational doubles).

A final group of performances abandoned the position of alienation for one of greater identification, reducing the tension between motion and fixity until each complemented the other. Two of these interpellated Zoya’s podvig into a narrative of personal history. Natasha N. told the story of her great-grandmother’s sacrifice of a beloved shirt – the only possession saved from a burning house – to bind the wounded leg of a soldier. As Natasha laboriously made a rag-doll at the base of the statue from her own shirt, embroidered with the word “Antifa,” she forged a link between Zoya’s militant violence and the life-preserving acts of heroism, performed by so many other participants in the war. Lyosha paced about the statue, telling the story of his own connection to Manizer, having studied sculpture with the master’s favorite student. Recalling the vulnerability and loneliness of his teacher – symbolized by the flock of parakeets she kept in her apartment – Lyosha spoke of the guilt he felt before the Stalinist generation. These hardened veterans of socialist construction educated his generation, but their values remained radically foreign. This guilt was embodied in a plasticine parakeet he placed atop the pedestal. Another two performances assumed a posture of ritual service before the statue. Karina scattered sugar around the pedestal and placed a bag of the commodity – always coveted in wartime – as her doll of Zoya. The white sugar transformed the snow of Zoya’s torments (marched barefoot through snow by her Nazi captors) into an image of “the sweet life” promised to the victors. Finally, Sonya marked out the eighty tortured steps Zoya took to the gallows from the peasant’s hut in which she was interrogated. Dropping a piece of black bread – the antipode of Karina’s refined sugar – for each step, Sonya produced an ephemeral, emotional supplement (disappearing as pigeons erased the steps) to the statue’s steely fixity.

Along this continuum from irony and frustration to reverence and sympathy, a range of recurring categories appeared. Each performative gesture in its own way called attention to the authoritative stillness of the statue – opposing it, softening it, or supplementing it with figures of motion and temporality, uncertainty and disorderliness. In this way, the ambivalence of the authentic podvig became manifest – positioning the subject at once within the living, ongoing struggle and, through a symbolic, anticipatory image, at the threshold of dissolution, heralding the victory of militant truth. Our performance itself could not seize this paradoxical moment of the podvig, which Zoya may have known when speaking from the scaffold in Petrishchevo in 1941. But its tension did appear through the echo of negation and, in many ways, the toska for a new heroism that could address our own times’ emergency. In this context, it is worth noting how many of the objects produced for the performance muted or bracketed the iconic power of Zoya’s face. This allowed the performers’ own faces to appear, gaze, and speak in the monumental space, again reminding us of the rights of the living and the needs of the present.

Russian Atelier on the Amstel 10 contemporary artists

23 November 2013 – 5 January 2014

On Saturday 23 November, the exhibition Russian Atelier on the Amstel: 10 contemporary artists will open at the Hermitage Amsterdam. The exhibition, which will take place during the final weeks of the year of friendship between Netherlands and Russia, showcases the recent work of ten artists with roots in Russia who have been living and working in the Netherlands for some time. Their art explores a variety of themes, such as migration, the shift between two worlds, memories of life in Russia, the often nomadic, world-hopping existence of the contemporary artist, and questions of identity. The artists Marina Chernikova, Gluklya, Asia Komarova, Irina Popova, Andrei Roiter, Slava & Marta, Masha Trebukova, Julia Winter and Tatyana Yassievich will present their paintings, photographs, installations, and videos. Visitors can also view video interviews with all the participating artists about their experiences in the Netherlands and the memory of their homeland as a theme in their work. Russian Atelier on the Amstel: 10 contemporary artists will run until Sunday 5 January 2014.

http://www.hermitage.nl/en/