Poster made for the exhibition: NON-ALIGNED / RE-ALIGNED
Photograph courtesy of another vacant space, 2012

Before members of Pussy Riot were arrested in Moscow for “Hooliganism” the `80s Soviet era of Russia was actively dealing with the subversive performances and hijinks’s of artists from the Perestroika movement. Much of the work now exists in mostly detailed, archival format which was on view at another vacant space in Berlin in June. Curator duo Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen presented NON-ALIGNED Lost Notes from the (Leningrad) Underground / RE-ALIGNED and into the fire… an exhibition featuring a mixture of documents and 8mm (actual and video) remnants from the Perestroika artists who in some cases contributed pieces from their own collection. The curators first presented part of their archive in 2007 at KIASMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki. For the exhibition in Berlin, they also chose to include Russian based T-Radya, 23, for his German debut, a young street artist who uses the process of burning and fire as a medium (by way of Molotov cocktails) and process to make drawings in public space. The purpose of his inclusion is merging of the former Soviet Union and current state of Russia, both within a political and artistic realm.

Installation view of artist Vladimir Semenov’s Archive of Leningrad Conceptual Art
another vacant space
Photograph by Katy Hamer, 2012

Perestroika was a movement calling for reformation within the Communist Party in Soviet Union, that probably, not many people (unfamiliar with Russian history) have heard of. What Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen have done is by presenting a physical archive of materials, documenting ephemeral works that were mostly performance based, is allow for an active dialogue between the contemporary viewer and a movement, politically under the radar, that was occurring during the years of the Soviet Union (1922-1991). Perestroika means restructuring in Russian and was brought about in the 1980s by Mikail Gorbachev, who was the last Soviet leader. During this time, the country was in a state of crisis and Gorbachev’s attempt to assert certain policies led to the growth of national and separatist movements. It was also a the perfect time for artists of the Perestroika to commence upon their own physical interventions in public space.

In an article dating from 2008, the curators presented the questions:

“How do you excavate an ‘alternative’ past, one which historians have not yet brought into existence, one which is ‘hidden’ from view by influential gatekeepers, ‘lost’ in far-flung provinces far from the public eye? How can one ‘revisit’ history? “

The exhibition NON-ALIGNED / RE-ALIGNED in Berlin is a continuation of the extensive research that the curators have put into the Perestroika movement and are continuing the process now, still discovering work never before seen by the public. During this period of Soviet history, many artists were restricted by the government, however as is the case with most periods of repression, a rich cultural energy was released onto the scene. The scene however, as with most historically important movements, was mostly underground.

Archive from the performance group
“Seminar” of art actions carried out
between 1986 and 1988
Photograph courtesy of another vacant space, 2012

From curator Ivor Stodolsky:

In the case of Russia, [Leningrad Conceptualism] and the [contemporary concept of “Street Art Assembly”] represent examples of the shift from what we call the “non-aligned”, apolitical, anti-ideological generation of the late 80s to the re-aligned, highly politicised moment we are experiencing now (vid. Chto Delat, Pussy Riot, Voina).

 In the contemporary political turmoil in Russia, we are continuing this [research and exhibitions] with the current RE-ALIGNED thematic project. Following the Another Vacant Space show, we are planning a sizable conference (see the discussion paper on our website which will lead up to our museum-scale exhibition at Tromso Art Hall in Norway. We hope to make that full-scale show travel and grow. 

Also included in the exhibition amongst the paper documents was a screening of Yuris Lesnik, Vladislav Mamyshev “Monroe” and Timur Novikov’s pirate t.v. reporting from the Leningrad-St. Petersburg art scene in the early 1990s. New Yorkers who were around in the late 1970s might be familiar with the infamous No Wave movement and  TV Party  that was on public access television and the brain-child of Glenn O’Brian. T.V. Party featured many well known artists of the time including Andy Warhol and Basquiat. The pirate t.v. from the Leningrad era was similar in vain, a combination of reportage and interviews with artists of the time, also featuring avant-garde performance based projects.

Installation view from NON- ALIGNED / RE-ALIGNEDFilm projection directly onto the wall
Photograph courtesy of another vacant space, 2012

At a time when the plight of the performance group Pussy Riot has brought much attention to contemporary Russia, its issues, politics, and religion (according to Stodolsky is Re-aligned) it is also relevant to look back to the artists who came before them, artists who unable to document most of their work due to the political climate and instead made oddly beautiful and extensive paper archives. Stay tuned to The Arts Assembly project, holding conferences in several countries including, Latvia, Norway, France, Finland, China and the list is growing.

More soon!

U8 Pankstrasse, S-Bahn Bornholmerstrasse, Tram M23 Osloer Str./Prinzenallee