Performing Words, Uttering Performance

Screening #2,

The changing role and function of language before and after the “transition” cannot be discussed without considering the dimension of authoritarian speech acts in the last phase of socialism. Anthropologist Alexei Yurchak shares the observation that during the authoritarian speech act, sign and reference, language and gesture, word and action merge into each other. This thesis is the foundation for an understanding of the variety of linguistic and performative experiments in post-socialist video art. This chapter focuses on works that reflect upon shifts in language and meaning and employ diverse silent, verbal, performative, activist, and other strategies to discuss collective and personal memory, identity, power relations, gender roles, and socio-political change.

The themes of feminism, labor, and workers’ rights are central to the Russian-Ukrainian Shvemy Sewing Cooperative. Often choosing performative formats, in 12–Hour Working Day Shvemy deploys the language of bodies to articulate capitalist modes of production and deal with the labor conditions of female* workers from developing countries, which serve major Western clothing brands. Several works also play out the relationship between language and architecture, often referring to landmarks related to Soviet ideology. CORO Collective use modern, Soviet architecture as the backdrop for a fashion performance and discursive wordplay. Marge Monko restores the sign lettering to a Soviet factory Red Dawn, querying if the communism-related moniker raises different associations now. Katrīna Neiburga focuses on the personal stories of former employees at Press House, intertwining the past symbol of the state media and propaganda position with accounts of friendships and affairs. The pressures of propaganda and ideology on a child growing up in Soviet Uzbekistan is central to the work of Ira Eduardovna, which revolves around her family history. Her work addresses the idea of fragility and the variability of personal and collective memory. Željka Blakšić aka Gita Blak challenges notions of voice and the right to speak. She collaborates with activists composing lyrics for protest songs, which are later performed by teenage girls. In contrast, Polina Kanis’ video discursively approaches the lack of opportunities for critical thinking and diversity of opinion in the Russian education system, which has grown more controlling and patriotism-oriented in recent years. The emergence of repressive ideology in the region and changing power dynamics between countries that were once united in the past compel Gluklya to search for a language to voice the complexity of the post-Soviet conditions. Her performance Debates on Division is formed around personal stories about significant pieces of clothes, narrated by different individuals.

  • In 1957, Roland Barthes stated that in “Western” mythology the USSR would be a world halfway between the Earth and Mars to exemplify that the communist world was considered as foreign as another planet. Similar to Barthes’ literary method in his Mythologies book, curator, filmmaker and artist Xandra Popescu scripted three semi-fictional short stories to introduce major paradigms of her screening program O’ Mystical East and West.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • Screening Preview

    Preview: THE SUSPENSION AND EXCESS OF TIME

  • The curatorial selection The Suspension and Excess of Time explores the role of time within a period of radical political, social, and economical change. The selected video works focus on the changes different societies were going through during the Perestroika era, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the soviet empire. Paying tribute to speculative temporalities, curators Becker and Seehusen will trace people’s everyday experiences in the former “East” and “West” before and after 1989 / 1991.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • The changing role and function of language before and after the “transition” cannot be discussed without considering the dimension of authoritarian speech acts in the last phase of socialism. Anthropologist Alexei Yurchak shares the observation that during the authoritarian speech act, sign and reference, language and gesture, word and action merge into each other. This thesis is the foundation for an understanding of the variety of linguistic and performative experiments in post-socialist video art. The curators will focus on video works that reflect upon shifts in language and meaning and employ diverse silent, verbal, performative, activist, and other strategies to discuss collective and personal memory, identity, power relations, gender roles, and socio-political change.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • Screening #3

    Cosmos Cosmetics

    Political protocol tends to dispossess, overwrite, and refurbish unwanted narratives. Parallel to this, there are new agencies that enhance the intersections, reciprocities, and movements between bodies, spaces, objects, and memories. The video art and experimental film works of COSMOS COSMETICS: Unresting Memoryscapes and Corpofictions are concerned with architectural, corporeal, and phantasmatic materializations of internalized mnemonic, and bio-political regimes. Meanwhile they address surface porosities and subcutaneous layers of post-socialist cities. Hence this chapter of screenings in D’EST brings together artistic strategies and methods for unsettling, decontaminating, and queering artificial mono-histories, which stem from the urge to untag and distance the subject from the constraints of conformity, imposed belonging to a certain ethnic group or community, and identitarian politics in general.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • Screening #4

    The Body as an Indexical Reader

    The chapter examines the body as a collective, as a singular entity, as a social choreography of an alliance of states, as an organless, cognitive-capitalist, cerebral network, as a corporeal reading instrument of past, former socialist indices, as a place of textual and discursive inscription, but also as a genuine place of affective encounters and material practices. The curators focus on video works and films that flare up the affective, somaesthetic, relational and transformative potentials of the body after 1989 / 1991.

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  • Screening #5

    We are Family

    Entwining autobiographical, historical, and fictional narratives, this screening program examines generational, personal, and political frictions, breaks and entanglements, taking place in the dystopian context of post-1989. The tension bears down on the sphere of the personal and the political maintained through the relationship of the four figures: the figure of Neighbor, the figure of Mother, the figure of Lover and the figure of Other.

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  • Screening #6

    ReTopia

    The screening chapter ReTopia acknowledges “post-socialism” not only as a continental but also as a global phenomenon, though with palpable regional specificity and intensity. It looks at transitional shifts and modes of remembrance of historical processes that evoke forms – rejected, outmoded, disposed from power, gender political, architectural, and even full of potential. Without being afraid of utopian ideology, it looks back and forth and sideways in search of radically different futures. Both curators, Bettina Knaup and Katja Kobolt ask these questions against the backdrop of their individual and collective endeavors to create “temporary archives”: re.act.feminism (2009-2013), a travelling performing archive Bettina Knaup initiated with Beatrice E. Stammer; and Perpetuum Mobile. The Artotheque, a collection of videos and other digitized works initiated by feminist curatorial collective Red Mined within the Living Archive (2011-2015) through the simple act of giving.

    → See the screening dates in the Program