ARTICLE IN VECTOR MAGAZINE 04/07
POST FUNDING EASTERN EUROPE
- and private investors appear
During a residency period in Kiev in August 2006 Ingela Johansson, Volodymyr Kuznetsov and Inga Zimprich started to investigate the history, the ideological background and the perspectives of the Center for Contemporary Art Kiev (CCA) within the exhibition Private With Public. The involvement with the history of a former Soros-institution led to the idea to further research former CCA's and such institutions, which were established with the help of or depending on Western cultural funding in the frame of the project Post Funding Eastern Europe. At the current stage of this process Post Funding investigates the often hybrid models of cultural production in Ukraine, ranging from the appearance of private investors in the cultural field to marginal models of speaking from non-institutionalized sidelines.
International investments to support democratization processes in transitional countries, waiting for EU access, have been the economic fundament to establish such institutions that support contemporary art in Ukraine. The first art center in Kiev, in parallel to another CCA in Odessa, was established in 1993. Accomplishing the constitutional moderation of the fragmented and emerging Ukrainian art scene, providing the country with its first Warhol and Beuys retrospectives and artists grants CCA succeeded in establishing a young art scene. Introducing the bases for fostering professionalism, artists as Alevtina Kakhidze and the collective R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Space) as well as curators and critics started their career in CCA. With the cease of Soros' funding and the weakening of the CCA's institutional position, the relatively new product of contemporary art was put at play to competing interests and different players since the early 2000s.
The commercial turn and certainly definitional shift in Ukrainian contemporary art has come with the opening of Pinchuk art center. Oligarch and former politician Victor Pinchuk has created a new Ukrainian art institution, to which Baurriaud has lend conceptual advice, impressively subverting the notions of relational aesthetics into an aesthetic public relations campaign. In the shade of Pinchuk's success, which greatly contributes to the popularization of art and culture, several commercial galleries blossomed in recent years. Additionally the state-run project Arsenal is going to transform a vast ancient ruin opposite the monastery cluster Lavra, ranging amongst the most expensive grounds in Kiev, into a cultural center meant to house the Ukrainian cultural heritage museum, a theatre and opera hall and prognosticated creative industries. Its already accomplished single gallery space runs a commercial program exhibiting the limited number of contemporary artistic positions.
That the institutional landscape is in motion suggests that the field of contemporary art is quickly changing hands. Olesya Ostrovska, a former staff-member of CCA, who works in a PR-agency today explains during lunch-break that commercial and non-commercial working models are not distinguishable in Ukraine: "An art center functions as a personal PR-strategy while commercially run galleries usually cover up as foundations or NGO's, whereas in turn neither NGO's nor the government manage to take responsibility for their educative tasks." Especially the development of alternative sites of production, in which a theoretical reflection on the current situation could be produced seems hard. Responsible, thus explains Jerzy Onuch, former director of CCA, is an attitude prevailing amongst the Ukrainian art-scene: "Milk the cow as long as you can - but then do not try to feed the cow, but try to find another cow" (3) After Soros CCA had been "a very milky cow" during the nineties Pinchuk foundation contracts the cultural activity of Ukraine today. Nikita Kadan, member of the artist group R.E.P., describes the resulting phenomenon as migrating monocentrism: All significant Ukrainian institutions have been initiated by politicians and/or businessmen and their centers, constituting an integral part of their public relations campaign, thus incorporated that kind of art which had been initially produced independently. Smoothly perpetuating the logics of Soviet system "in which the State Union of Artists controlled the official art (...) in this migrating monocentrism Ukrainian Contemporary art was simply the same as the art represented in the institution of Soros (Guelman, Pinchuk)."
The transformation, which CCA itself currently undergoes accounts for the possibility to maintain sites of production while it at the same time painfully embodies an adaptation to the Ukrainian self-financed reality. Director Yuliya Vaganova keeps its physical space open. Also due to financial pressure CCA increasingly provides space for discursive and conceptual approaches next to focusing on artists residencies and the Young Artists Program. Without substantial and structural resources slowly but steadily the spirit of the artist run space has moved into the once preconceived idea of an international contemporary art institution. CCA's fragile institutional position simultaneously stresses the necessity of Ukraine's own public decoding towards a public articulation of its arguments, competing interests and future perspectives. Now, during a Post Funding roundtable discussion at the CCA, its participants were asked to speak from changing parameters. While it was easy to distinguish, whether one operates from the sidelines, the institutions or the margins - or between those three - to position oneself between power and weakness interrupted the discussion. Not only does the word "power" coincide with the notion of government, but also is the possibility of power, which emerges from maintaining ones individual integrity, just at the verge of acquiring meaning.
Post Funding encourages to debate exactly those ways in which the possible skope of artistic production is influenced and intertwined with its stakeholders. Lacking institutional sites of reflection PostFunding promotes the activation of local contexts by encouraging its cultural practitioners to clarify their positions: Thus in Post Funding we hope through publications and public platforms to unravel and invite for discussion, in which the interplay of audience, critics and artists is centred.
While focusing on a question, which determines the Ukrainian situation, Post Funding is itself a question, how we as cultural producers subscribe ourselves to the widely promoted concept of cultural East-West exchange. Developing a research introduces parameters, influences the subject of investigation and is greatly affected by the position from where we speak. If what Nikita Kadan anticipates as "future polycentrism - the necessity of choice, a new level of responsibility and symbiotic relations" were to result, the position from which we have started to speak would have ultimately been rendered.
Inga Zimprich, Ingela Johansson, Voldymyr Kuznetsov
TRY TO FIND ANOTHER COW
AND PRIVATE INVESTORS APPEAR
A SHORT INSTITUTIONAL AFFAIR
SPEAKING OF A GAP CAN CAUSE DOUBLES
ZOMBIE #1 DOUBLES