The Going Public project in Kaliningrad

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19.07.2012, Thursday

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Curator: [Yulia Bardoun]

An international project “Going Public: how to say?” is run by the Goethe Institute in Vilnius and is carried out with its support in Lithuania, Germany, Belarus and the Kaliningrad region in cooperation with local cultural institutions: Baltic branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts (Kaliningrad), Leipzig Museum of Contemporary Art and Academy of Graphic and Book Arts (Leipzig), European Humanitarian University Centre of Contemporary Art Studies (Vilnius), Centre of Cultural Communication (Klaipeda) and Goethe Institute in Belarus.

In Kaliningrad «Going Public» is implemented by the Baltic branch of NCCA and is seen as an integral element of the BB NCCA “art in public space” activities helping to try out new (for BB NCCA and the city) approaches and triggering reflection among local artists and curators on their own practice.

Destruction of the authentic urban structure in the WWII, chaotic and often ambiguous urban planning of the 2nd half of the XX century, large scale privatization and commercialization of the 1990s - 2000s and the following economic downturn put tremendous impact on the character and quality of public space in Kaliningrad. Despite the city infrastructure was significantly improved within the last decades (several redeveloped areas) and specifically on the occasion of the 750th Anniversary of the city, there still remain abandoned, lifeless and neglected sites, which often reflect a certain lack of respect for historical and cultural heritage among city many planners, developers and citizens. At the same time in commercially attractive and designated for consumption areas public space is shrinking and quite often becomes overregulated («no money – no right for being public»). The most usual activities in public space are consumption, transit (on the way to/from home to/from somewhere else) and large scale official city celebrations/events, while small scale, informal, sporadic events and interaction between city dwellers is still quite rare. At the same time, as social researcher Anna Karpenko notes, the aim of consumption in Kaliningrad in most cases consists in demonstrating consumption as such, not in creating a space for communication and public discussion.

One can’t but mention that regardless some limitations caused by the general social and political climate in the country, one can observe a number of positive tendencies in public space development in the city. In some cases the possibilities for public participation widen and, thus, the need for public space grows. During the last five years there emerged new and quite open public spaces (e.g. privately owned Club Kvartira, Reporter Club) or existing spaces were appropriated by specific groups (e.g. bikers and racers at Ploshad Pobedy in the evenings), but certain communities (e.g. pensioners, migrant workers) still hardly find a way to fully enjoy their rights for public space and are often marginalized.

As far as public space, both physical and virtual, is concerned in general, one experiences a lack of procedures and platforms for voicing and negotiating interests of various social and political groups, lack of space for public debate and critical reflection.

Therefore the “Going public: how to say?” project focusing on public space as well as critical reflection and analysis of various concepts of the public is very relevant to the local context. It also corresponds to the programming priorities of the Baltic Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts, that has been active in the field of public art since the late 1990s, mainly focusing on heritage & identity related issues.

“Going Public” aims at the critical analysis of the public space in Kaliningrad and reflection on artistic strategies used in relation to it. It will start with a workshop for local artists and curators run by Ekaterina Lavrinec (LT) and aiming to explore the burning issues Kaliningrad urban landscape and brainstorm on relevant artistic and activist strategies. The workshop will be an important stage for conceptualization of subsequent interventions artistic and curatorial interventions of three International artists – Mikhail Gulin (BY), Juozas Layvis (LT) and Shahram Entekhabi (DE) coming to Kaliningrad in the framework of the project. The latter three artists have been invited, as they often employ humorous, absurdist and subversive strategies, that might be interesting to use in order to “shake” everyday reality of Kaliningrad streets and provoke people thinking about the city they live in.

The final event of “Going Public” will be an exhibition of documentation from all the above mentioned artistic interventions and round table discussion with the participation of invited curators, sociologists and researchers which will be crucial for reflection on the prospective development of public art in Kaliningrad and BB NCCAs curatorial and educational practice in the field, local audience development and professionalization of local young artists in the field of public art.

The project is realized with the financial support by Goethe Institute in Vilnius www.goethe.de/litauen

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