Limited Liability Pavilion 3.0: Identification
Pop-Up Exhibition Coinciding with the Opening of the 57th Venice Biennale
Piazza San Marco, Venice
11 May, 2017
Curators: Olga Veselova, Vladislav Sludskiy
The Limited Liability Pavilion is an initiative launched jointly by Eurasian Cultural Alliance and an independent curator and artist Nikita Kadan in 2015 in the form of a small pop-up exhibition set up in a Venice apartment during the 56th Venice Biennale. The exhibition explored the relationship between the artist and bounding institutions at the helm of creative infrastructures.The absence of established institutional “superstructures” results in a very specific form of independence for artists, which is often the case in the post-Soviet countries. The project continued with an exhibition held at Closer, an art center in Kiev, Ukraine in December, 2016, as an attempt to study the relationship between artists and institutions in greater depth. The location was selected consciously. The political situation in Ukraine had exposed the mechanism whereby an ideology imposes cultural identities expediently utilized for specific goals and time. Art, sincere and horizontal, resists this process; it forms a country’s identification and culture through its own critical processes, devoid of any utopian impositions. Accompanying this is a sense of attachment an artist feels to a country or a place where he/she/they were born, live, or work.
Limited Liability Pavilion was conceived as a response to the lack of sufficient support from state institutions in the field of contemporary art. The project contributed to a deeper understanding of the role of institutions in shaping artists’ view and proved to be relevant not only to Kazakhstan but to the entire post-Soviet space.
The third installment of the project – 3.0 – is an attempt to draw attention to Kazakhstani art and to the lack of its representation in form of a national pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. On the other hand, it is driven by a desire to exhibit works by young and emerging Kazakhstani artists whose relevance extends beyond our country.
Limited Liability Pavilion 3.0 was created with participation of Yulia Sorokina, PhD, curator of the Central Asian Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale:
The pavilion of Central Asia or Kazakhstan is crucial for our contemporary art. It's not just a whim or a show-off; it's a political manifesto, which marks its legitimate presence on the global art scene. It is the participation in world exhibitions that makes the presence, or a lack thereof, of a country or a region on the art map real. At the time, our art community exerted enormous united effort to create the Central Asian pavilion. Without the government support, without any guaranteed funding, artists and curators from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan did on their own what foreign institutions and ministries do in their respective countries. Unfortunately, only five pavilions were organized, after which the tradition was put on hold due to various circumstances. It's fortunate that the apartment version has appeared and been tested and I hope it will grow into a pavilion. I would like to quote the well-known artist Rustam Khalfin: "If you have a good will, you can do anything!" It's not an easy task putting an exhibition together and keeping it on display for six months in Venice, but the result is worth it.
Vladislav Sludskiy, curator:
The fundamental difference of the third Pavilion is its participants: two young artists Zoya Falkova and Anvar Musrepov. Both were born and grew up in Kazakhstan and both have critically interpreted the situation in modern ideological and cultural field in terms of how independent Kazakhstan pictures and understands its identity. An interesting feature of the country is that different cultural groups have been offered different cultural narratives over the past 25 years; on centralized and economic poles people are offered to feel themselves living in a state with progressive liberal views. There is also a rhetoric of a return to the Tengrian roots and the nomadic “imaginaire” as well as the idea of moderate Islamization along with the proximity to Russia and China. A multicultural state such as Kazakhstan needs a multi-vector approach. Apparently, contradictory narratives have coexisted peacefully side by side, which makes the country quite a unique cultural field in the post-Soviet space. Both Falkova and Musrepov question the myth of the past, aware of its ideological implementation and the impossibility of objectifying the past, and work more with its visible remnants, which are still distinguishable.
We have offered the two artists with varying critical approaches and understanding of identity to propose their vision of the past and its ability to integrate into the future. The works of art will refer specifically to the younger generation of artists, not to the masters, as was the case in previous Pavilions and, therefore, the dialogue will be built around topics that are pertinent to the country right now: integration into the international community while preserving the national archetypes and, respectively, obstacles to such integration.
Olga Veselova, co-curator:
The young artists from Kazakhstan were born during a period of decline of the Soviet civilization; it was, on the other hand, a time of the search for a national identity. The collective idea of universal equality comes into contact with the local uniqueness of a particular nation. How to be unique in global context? How to preserve one’s identity in the process of unification through multiculturalism? What should be determined as one’s own, special and distinguishing, at a time when it is the difference and diversity that are put in the basis of violence by the ideologists in the modern world? These issues are topical for Kazakhstan and other countries involved in the process of globalization. And eventually, it is these issues that Zoya and Anvar are dealing with.
The Limited Liability Pavilion is, on one hand, a story about the limited responsibility of each individual making a decision on how to identify themselves, which history to associate with, which group to relate to. But on the other hand, it is an attempt to demonstrate the influence of an artistic gesture on history and the society in which this gesture exists. Artists, as contemporaries of ideological paradigm changes, capture them and are the first to comprehend the realities of modern Kazakhstan in the context of the world historical process. In addition to questions of self-identification, the two artists demonstrate two different ways of artistic transformation of reality. The works of Zoya are emphatically material, she seems to work with a tangible reality. She describes her field of artistic research as the "gray zone" left after the collapse of the Soviet Union and gaining of independence by its former member-countries. Zoya perceives the history reflected in the present as a given, she tries to comprehend it as something preset.
Anvar draws our attention to a virtual self-identity. He works with cultural identification in the space of the virtual world, which, in a broad sense, denies the idea of a common umbrella identity. The artist perceives history as a "virtual pliant environment”, where everyone is able to create their own identity image. According to Anvar, everyone is able to reconstruct their self-perception based on a story which is, in fact, virtual.
Falkova studies the post-Soviet, the yet discernible traces of the bygone era, which the artist claims to have not been an eyewitness of, but still works with a list of contradictions and situations inherited from the past. Unfolding history, including that which is being written today, is quite a tricky task, given the polarity of attitudes to this history of various members of society, who sometimes suffer a "postcolonial" trauma, and sometimes, on the contrary, do not think that a trauma exists.
Musrepov is focused on the opposite type of criticism of the same past. His search applies not to deconstruction by means of the national, but to the construction of the national by means of the present. The artist believes that an identity is something virtual in the sense of a constructive ability of the national, where the national is always in the state of assembly. If an identification is found and a new narrative is formed, what barriers arise between the country and the world community, if they arise at all? The artist's work lies on a plane of the perception and construction of the national, as well as within the boundaries of this construction.