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The book RECLAIM, RECODE, REINVENT: Urban Art and Activism in Eastern Europe doesn’t claim to be an impartial account of artistic practices in post-Soviet urban environments. The projects described represent only a small portion of our research of the past three years. The project began in 2015 with the exhibition and conference Russland vs. Russland. Kulturkonflikte, where we presented various Russian artistic and activist practices of political and social nature. However, we aimed not only to represent the whole range of these practices, but also to identify cultural conflicts in the context of the country where ideologies clash – not just between the state and activist community, but also within the community itself. The final discussion of our conference revealed these sharp contradictions, which in turn made us think about continuing work in the context of cultural conflicts while significantly expanding our geography.
For the next two years we were engaged in the study of various artistic practices in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, in particular the so-called post-Soviet countries. Similarly to our work in 2015, we focused on cultural conflicts expressed by socially engaged art projects of non-commercial and non-institutional nature. We view public spaces as a marker of society’s democratization and a place where many interests meet – be it business, power or grassroots initiatives.
Over the next two years, we worked on analyzing how the concept of “common” works in the context of Eastern European cities, united mostly by the single historical experience of building socialism, the ideal utopian City of the Sun. Our research intentions lie in the field of control mechanisms of such utopia and its modern interpretation through art, activism and grassroots initiatives. This publication is the first step in systemizing knowledge that we have formed through interviews, remote data collection, visits to cultural institutions, activist events and artistic communities.
In 2017, as part of the Coordinate System project, we presented the results of our work in Berlin at exhibitions and conferences, our established formats. The exposition was focused on Russian interdisciplinary art practices, including art study, community, participatory art, performance, and street art and graffiti. The theoretical part of the conference was supplemented by practical workshops with participants selected through an open call. We chose 20 out of more than 200 applications, which allowed us to show a truly high-level selection of the projects, both at the conference and in practical work.
We invited representatives of different disciplines to participate in the project. It was important for us to show how art interacts with various fields of knowledge, as well as to discuss and search for interdisciplinary approaches.
This book is comprised of our research material; you will mainly find texts describing projects that were presented at the Exhibition, Conference and Labs last year. A small portion of the artistic and curatorial practices are told in the first person, by immediate participants and instigators of the process. In turn, this publication is only the first step in theorizing and understanding how the democratization of Eastern European public spaces occurs through art, communication and activism.
- Kristina Semenova
‘Trojan Horses’ in the streets: Public art in post-socialist spaces.
- Igor Ponosov
The New Urban Reality of Russia: Art and Agenda.
- Artur Wabik
From Street Art to Murals and back. A Glimpse into Polish Art in Public Space.
- Artem Filatov
Street Art as a Means of Preserving Historical Nizhny Novgorod.
- Jovanka Popova
Where (not) to go?: Aesthetic of Protest as Colorful Revolution.
- Aleksandra Nenko
Soft Technologies of Urban Space Animation. ARTS4CITY Experience.
- Anton Valkovsky
Strategies of Artistic Intervention: Volgograd’s Experience.
- Annamaria Nagy
From Temporary to Constant: Steel Sculpture Workshop within the Frame of Sculptural Exhibition in the Public Spaces of Dunaújváros, Hungary.
- Gohar Smoyan
The preconditions of art popularization in Gyumri.
- ISADORINO GORE
Editors: Igor Ponosov and Alexandra Goloborodko
Editing team: Hannah Cornell, Aleksandra Yurieva-Civjane, Alexander Formozov
Design: Marta Madej, Alexandra Goloborodko