*seen recently (casual, incl spellign mistakes)

What and how to do when helping each other puts you at risk of being prosecuted? Why are so many artist shift to social work, distinct from social art practice? The answer, in pressurized and crumbled environment, is simple: when infrastructure fails we become it.

Belarusian forests have figured a lot lately as a place of escape. For Belarusians—to rest, regenerate, find each other, for migrants propelled by outside forces— to survive militant response at the border.

CHASHA collective at COVEN Berlin, talking about practices of withdrawal and mutual care.

The famously largest bog in Europe was described by one of the contributors to CHASHA as a “nutritional psychological” retreat. Peat also contains deposits of carbon that if released—too much, too fast—would sabotage any chance at ecological planetary rebalancing, where temperatures must not rise above the infamous 1.5 degrees. After the presentation, we talked about “it’s complicated” relationship to victimhood, whiteness, fantasies of European identification motivating Belarusian opposition, and how the post-soviet space is a kind of peat land, that should be watched closely.

This book of Belarusian forests published in the 90s made me miss home, an imaginary place of yesteryears that no longer exists. Never existed.

Tamar Guimaraes

At HKW Illiberal Arts, one enters into a maze designed by Anne Imhof, we are informed. Though bringing her as artist-architect didn’t resolve this institution’s by now routine and repeat tendency of showing tired rows of displays one after another, as if an ethnological museum of the century past. I am not exactly surprised given intentionally provincializing hiring procedures of HKW and the like institutions, where speaking German for spatial designers and visual editors seem to be more important then having (possibly foreign!) ideas of how to use space and visuals… Attempts to write about grid and partition in the accompanying free magazine-size pamphlet, as convincing as the flat arguments and unfinished sentences exchange by the ‘actors’ in Tamar Guimaraes’ SOAP. They smoke emphatically, soak in baths, look out of the window. While the series is made during COVID lockdown, the feeling, perhaps slowed in tempo by the forced enclosure, is of a stagnation that long preceded pandemic, where actors of illiberal arts indeed enjoy themselves, no neu friends, their lush apartments and low-stakes interactions that ensure the rest of us keep entering into the same grid of a dull-witted exhibition layouts…

I watched a father with a child swaddled on his chest stroll down one of the corridors in the show, an extra-long exhibition-induced headphone cord draped around his neck, trailing him like a noose. I kept fearing he’d trip on the loose end he kept stepping on, and choke himself or his offspring. Meanwhile, Reinke’s video kept showing a clipped umbilical cord and birthing scenes by humans and animals.

But I was there to see work of someone whose process I spent time observing at a (close) distance, while being institutionalized in the same grad program. Jordan Strafer’s soundtrack permeates the exhibition: sounding maybe like a slowed take on 70s jingle fitting to ‘adventures of so and so’. Here: adventures of Jordan, or someone who says she is, but is really, just another doll in the hands of characters wearing costumes of “the old white men”. Lovingly made fragile and roughly patched, doll frames are contrasted with the outsized effort of an abusive message written by a jet in the sky, an effort that made me yelp in recognition: of lifetime abuse. Fittingly, all activity in the video takes place in frigid winter month. This world is frozen into an expression. While I am privy to the fact work was made during “winter independent study period” (for which we’d had to pay 5 K USD, which is besides the point but kills me anyway) I don’t think anything is purely accidental here. Life, if that’s what made the work, cannot tell a lie. Perhaps also not quite accidental, that I watched Soderberg’s “Unsane” that same evening—very good, and also like hammering the last nail into my own coffin. So I had to stop all the watching and reading, and like characters in SOAP, take a bath and stare at the steam forming droplets and carving pathways on the surface of glass partition in my bathroom…

Jordan Strafer

p.s. Karabin’s Collective work has been literally in every institution of late, I saw it earlier this summer and there is so much to say… I need to go back to spend more time with Steve Reinke’s work. There were paintings too in this ethnographic cave. The layout, doing no favors to subtleties and slow-looking. Probably most successful portion of the architectural layout that we are invited to pay close attention to, be it devised by an award-winning artist) is the peeping tom station. It’d be curious to get transcripts of how the conversation on space design went, in vein of Kai Althoff catalogue from MOMA…I’d been revisiting via study group I organize, Claire Bishop’s critique of relational aesthetics (text here), where she says: “An effect of this insistent promotion of these ideas of artist-as-designer, function over contemplation, and open-endedness over aesthetic resolution is often ultimately to enhance the status of the curator, who gains credit for stage-managing the overall laboratory experience.”

Haven’t been to one of the Disappearing Berlin performances in a while even though always curious about the programing. Got really zoned out at this. I’m generally into this latest movement perfomance resurgence, the minimal slow motion untrained dance riddles… Sinead’s Nothing Compares sample looped over auto-hypnotized and hypnotizing performers, intermittent with sound of washing machine with meditation bells chiming in now and again: I’m with you there, Alex Baczynski-Jenkins.

Life, though. Disappearing Berlin series of performances take place inside venues and locations that Berlin is loosing to time, serving as perhaps eulogy, memorial, or focusing public attention on subterranean shifts in policy or merely marking moments of spatial transition.

Inside the supermarket surrounded by Soviet sleep-burbia architecture, performers recited dystopian poem “The Seagulls” by Ezra Green. Outside two people slept wrapped in blankets. It must have been quite disorienting to wake up to well-heeled crowed with aggressive headwear sharing fags and sipping beverages hovering over you…

An upscale vintage furniture shop in the narrow space adjacent to the main hall where performers moved in slow motion, could be seen packing the van with their wares.

What do I mean by noting the homeless? Art, a “third thing” as Maggie Nelson has called it in “Freedom” will take place next to affluence and privation. The third-ness of it, art’s oblique relationship to unfolding history and entanglement with structures of power, can provide as much a relief from the prescribed, as embody a bystander stance. Reading Nelson I kept thinking about two words: ‘foreclosure’ and ‘generosity’, and how utterly equivocally they’d been considered in studio conversations I’d had.

Went to Vilnius for a Congress couple weeks back, the presentation that resonated most was by Rosanne van Klaveren, who wrote a nice essay in 2014 that she is right to say still stands, called ‘Wolf Within: Should artists conducting academic research wear sheep’ clothing?’ You can find it on her site in full here

Swan Lake, 2021, Putin Productions featuring Belarusian Armed Forces.

KW, Berlin, sometime late July 2021