My report Mitä jää käteen kun saa aivan liikaa ja vielä enemmän? [What do you get when you are offered too much and more] on the Ural Industrial Biennial 2019 is out on Mustekala.info. It starts with a short description of the organization and an overview of the biennial’s this years theme “Immortality”. I’ve based my examination on texts offered in the catalogue and a very light reading of philosopher Yuk Hui’s work (he’s cited in the texts, as mentioned and felt very influential for the show). I had a lot of time to study material on the train! I recap a funny Rostec representative who tried to appropriate the theme during a panel by calling their corporation immortal and ponder if the seminar talk about contemporary art conservation was a way to deal with Lenin’s corpse.
The text continues as an easygoing account of my session with a biennial “mediator” Dennis. We browsed artworks which he deemed important for the exhibition. This suited me well as the focus of the tour turned out to be on post-colonial thought (largely dealing with China and specifically Hong Kong). I try to assess how (or if) the presentation of works refers to contemporary Russia. I celebrate the biennials pedagogical program and ponder if the gigantic amount of art on display is an attempt to make the biennial more accessible for the diverse Russian art audiences (something for everybody) or to silence everybody with the volume of works. Depictions of my chats with Dennis exposes the various technical hassles shadowing the exhibition.. But I’m not judgemental of the hassle. I enjoy them and the affordances they offers.
I conclude my review by summarizing our visit to the Uralsbest mine and factory, which was organized by the biennial. (There is a photo by Elina!) I try to think what it means that media surfaces used for contemporary art exhibitions, are made from minerals hauled from similar mines and try to frame of the mine visit as an opportunity to radically question how toxicities should be addressed. The text ends with me regretting that I couldn’t take the people we met in Asbestos city “seriously”. I regret not having a register to hear what they said about asbestos, because they must have very specialized knowledge on how we (in the global west) could learn to cope with toxins in the future.
Vladivostok was the capital of pirates and brand cannibals. People looked stylish and the city center felt energetic. There was a pedestrian boulevard for tourists with Asian food novelties and gift shops. Visitors were from South-Korea and there was a lot of them. The city revealed itself as the South-Korean equivalent of what 2001 Tallinn was for Finns. Dolce, Supreme, weird Japanise sneakers with self illuminating laces. Referencing construction work and nuclear power. All straight from Chinese factories across the bay. All the goods in open street markets were tainted with a light layer of oil, it was meant to give the vinyl a shine but collected dust.
The cities makings were visible a stroll away from the boulevard. Away from the Kawaii shops, trams raddled like wheelbarrows, the pedestrian paths faded away and broken city heating pipes busted boiled trash fumes across the hilly skyline. Blockhouses like snakes, wrapped around hills as morbid rims. Solidified polyurethane dripping eternally from building seams. Cars moved furiously, using intuitive mutant patterns as lanes, in a choreography which echoed a collective death wish or lust for life. I loved it.
The city made me understand contemporary Russian infrastructure as the decaying corpus of the ex-soviet, presently habituated by a thin layer of privatization. The streets are rubble but people had pretty cars and clean albeit faintly oily Italian shoes.
Our one night show in Zarya felt really nice. The exhibition was more coherent and I enjoyed the videos in the screening more. Total atmospheric mean (2010) by Maija Timonen felt very fitting to the trip. Her analysis of a Shakira music video provided a ground to read styles which women are exhibited in Russian popular medias (that I’ve seen along our route). It has something to do with violent self-objectification and how this renders bodies non-penetrable and non-cavityish. I had some technical difficulties but apparently the audience didn’t notice any. My statue-stretch-poses were perfectly vague and I used my grandfathers voice as an underground cavern. It was porous and missing limbs. A line of men cued to have a taste of the water I prepared.
We are now on route to Moscow. Elina is working with a canvas for a text, photo, etc. piece. She’ll use the train and it’s movement trough the continent as a display. What I know of the work so far makes me think of our group as an Alkovi gallery in motion. Katja managed to aquire her more canvas material. The canvases will be delivered to a station stop on the way! Iona is working on her notes and Miina is reading. I’ll boot up my eurorack after Khabarovsk and attempt to link it to the train using piezos. I’ll also record noises and ambients of the trip.
Yesterday we saw a girl galloping from east, past the Vadim Sidur museum towards the center. The horse was a peasant breed and moved effortlessly along the tram tracks. The riders backpack had a flower pattern. Today we are drinking fermented horse milk in Kazan. We arrived in a open cabin night train, where the distance between our faces from the feet of other passengers was less then 10cm. Everyone in the train was at their peak performance, no disturbances at all. People timed their actions (packing and unpacking) perfectly and touched each other’s gently when passing.
We visited Sidurs museum to see Alexey Buldakov’s exhibition, which was organized as a part of the Mmoma artist placement project (they show contemporary art in old museums). Buldakovs exhibition offered a text citing Serres (parasites) and a shit-optical graffiti machine, in the form of a heated seating structure for pigeons. The shape of the structure invited pigeons to sit in such an arrangements, that their droppings would form words on the ground below. The shape we saw projected the text “peace”. The copper pipings, which positioned the birds to form the letters, were heated with water from a computer cooling system. The computer was mining for bitcoins (leaching on museum energy supply).
The exhibition offered snippets of everything we learned of his practice the day before. And extras like birds painted in watercolors and thermal imaging projections. For most of us, the shape of the pigeon seating machine would have been enough (without out the mining, heating etc. processes).
Our group discussed the maximalism of the exhibition as a feature of Russian art. In discussions we sympathized with Buldakov’s attempt to include everything into the display (he was “pulling all treads together”, Elina noted). I feel that opportunities to exhibit are rare, so I maximize the work to make. This maximalism could also be understood as an attempt to forge a narrative, which could account for the current, absurd state of affairs (The need to craft narratives was present in Vilnius too).
Maximalism could be the aesthetics of inclusivity. The museum displays here in Kazan (we visited National Museum of the Republic of Kazan) are jam-packed with stuff, ancient tools, gems etc. from every branch of social life and every historical phase of the territory. Something specific for every-specific-body. Maximalizing is a strategy for reaching out to diverse audiences.
Russians seem to manifest a strong believe in new construction materials and technology. Window frames are attached using blobs of sikaflex. Polyurethane is not cut into shape and covered with panels. The polyurethane blobs show progress: We have the new means, nails are for medieval times, our bonds are chemical.
Our one night exhibition “In Various Stages of Ruins” at the ASI space in Fabrika felt like a success. The space, which was sort of hidden inside the old industrial complex managed to pull in a reasonable crowd. The audience was young, curious and people wanted to from relationships with the works. Miina and Arttu installed an image by Sauli Sirviö on the floor, cave exploration photos by Jussi Kivi on the wall and presented videoworks by Anni Puolakka and Maija Timonen. Elina presented a letter canvas (she’ll continue with the work on our train ride), Iona showed videos using a mobile phone as a screen and I made a 15min presentation about mineral waters. After the show I was asked: “When you described how rain corrodes the face of a marble statue and how the water then retains a memory of this encounter, where you talking about the metaphysical quality of the statue or the physical changes in the mineral composition of the water? Or are you taking about the negative space of the sculpture being filled with content?” We ended the evening by visiting Alexey Buldakov studios, which were located in the same complex, for a miniature after party with fun people.
I’m preparing for a month lon trip to Russia. The Alkovi “In Various Stages of Ruins” -group includes (2018-19): Elina Vainio, Matti Kunttu, Iona Rosin and Katja Kalinainen. The project is organized by Arttu Merimaa & Miina Hujala. Other artists from Finland will also join in on different segments of the trip and their works will be presented in screenings / exhibitions on the way. The train from Helsinki leaves 2.9. I’ll give a presentation on mineral waters at Fabrika (Moscow) on 4.9 and later in Vladivostok. During the trip we’ll visit Ekaterinburg for the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art and Novosibirsk. I won’t have access to the internet on the train but I plan to write posts, which I’ll publish en masse once I get to a wifi.
The performances I’ll present illustrate how mineral waters are formed as rain passes through the soil and how different waters affect our bodies. The characteristics of different waters will be explored using electronic gadgets, anecdotes and by preparing a batch of mineral water for consumption. I’ve build a eurorack module for the occasion. It is a Simple EQ / Baxandall EQ module, which I’ve made as a trough hole unit and modified by adding switches and female pin headers, so that I can swap capacitors used in the original circuit.
I’ve build capacitors which use mineral water as the conductive material and plastic balloons as the non-conducting substance (dielectric). The capacitors have different architectures and shapes: A component which is made from a balloon (filled with 10ml water) inside a balloon (filled with 10ml water), shows as a ~3000pf capacitor. A component which is constructed from a balloon (filled with 10ml water and 10g copper) and a jar (with 20ml water), shows as a 12nf capacitor if its charged with a 9v battery for 10 sek. A component which has two spiraling compartments, shows as a 40pf cap. etc. Measurements vary and I guess the capacitance changes over time as the electrolytes in the salty water run out.
The EQ’s treble setting shows a notable difference when a capacitor is swapped. Unfortunately the change in the nature of audio passed trough the circuit is non-spectacular (my water capacitors behave as normal capacitors). But it is intriguing to use water as an electronic component! I’ve also build a nifty eurorack case for the trip (I’ll share the design later). The 84hp skiff has laser-engraved Byzantine ornaments and maps form our groups previous trips to Russia. The inside of the case lid shows module schematics (for debugging) and a manual for the Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 unit. The case also has pictures from different water based parasites a illustrations. I’ll laser cut the panels for the module tomorrow. The panels also have inserts for the 4,45mm jars I use for the water caps.