In its first exhibition, KVOST presents works by young artists whose origins and cultural and linguistic influences are in Eastern Europe. The works on display are the result of the artists‘ observations, examinations and evaluations; they record tendencies, hardships and dangers. They can also be seen as instructions for future action.
The construction of national identity is firmly rooted in historical mythology, legends and objects. For Bulgaria, for example, these include a number of gold treasures from various centuries. Attributed to the Thracians, they bear witness to the region‘s thousands of years of civilisation and culture. Martina Vacheva (*1988 Bulgaria) uses one of these gold treasures as the starting point for a series of humorous ceramics on show in the exhibition.
The title of the exhibition also comes from one of her early sketchbooks. It reflects the huge impact American television series had on the countries freed from the censorship of socialism at the beginning of the 1990s. These series conveyed the values, ideals, hopes and abysses of the Western way of life and were rarely regarded with critical distance.
In his video work “Exercising Failure”, Dragos Alexandrescu (*1974 Romania) combines three central ideologies that changed the course of European history; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “The Communist Manifesto” from 1848, the Bible and Friedrich Hayek’s “Capitalism and the Historians” from 1954, where the Nobel Prize winner in Economics demonstrates the advantages of capitalist economics. These three texts are interwoven in an empty factory building, symbolising the shift from a centrally planned socialist economy to a free market economy.
This social and historical shift is also central to the “Sexy History Calendar” series that Silvia Amancei & Bogdan Armanu (*1991 Romania) have worked on since 2014. The new political system and rapid changes in the privatisation of the economy lead to society repressing and forgetting the past. In the capitalist future, critical reflection is just as undesirable as it was in the past. In their calendars, the two artists document current changes and historical events with black and white photographs, pimped up with images of scantily dressed young men and women. The artists will also produce a new calendar in Berlin for the exhibition at KVOST. Georgian artist Tamar Chaduneli (*1990 Georgia) also created a new work for the display window of KVOST.
Levan Chelidze (*1980) also hails from Georgia. His paintings portray his friends and acquaintances. His atelier is a site of exchange and discussion centring around the problematic political situation in this former Soviet Republic which, ripped apart by internal struggles, is also in a military conflict with Russia due to the independence of two regions.
The Ukrainian artist Daniil Galkin’s (*1985 Dnipropetrovsk) complex work group “The Lower State” explores the difficult situation of the former Soviet Republics caught between Europe and Russia. His large installations expose the mechanisms, climate, rituals and emotions that are the basis for state and national entities. In BAYWATCH, the artist shows three stretchers made from red carpet material, alluding to the number of casualties caused by the war in eastern Ukraine – a clash of such national constructions.
Karol Radziszewski’s (*1980 Poland) “Queer Archives Institute” shows a darker chapter of the formerly socialist countries’ past and present for some years now. Dedicated to members of the LGBTI community in Eastern Europe, it documents and investigates the community’s repressed, censored and criminalised history through interviews and discussions. BAYWATCH features “Invisible (Belarusian Queer History)”; the black and white prints are an artistic appropriation and reinterpretation of the series „Invisible” by Igor Savchenko (*1962, Minsk, Belarus, USSR) from 1993/1994.
Andreja Kulunčić’s work also breaks free of the confines of the studio and the art world. Initiated and led by the artist, the EQUALS Collective* is a group of women with different ethnic, gendered and religious identities, the other members wishing to remain anonymous. In a public poster campaign, a simple statement expresses their wishes and hopes for a peaceful life where they are respected.
The artistic stances and intentions in this exhibition are more diverse, subjective and divergent than the shared history of the countries of Eastern Europe – all members of the Warsaw Pact and under communist and socialist party dictatorships until the 1990s – would lead us to believe. The comparable challenges of the present, such as regulating the consequences of capitalism gone wild after the fall of the iron curtain, building a bourgeois democracy after a history of united parties and dealing with the nationalist far right after a utopia of international solidarity, should focus more on the differences and diversity that characterise Eastern Europe today.
Nathalie Hoyos and Rainald Schumacher / 2018
Translated by Katja Taylor