Magdalena Mellin. Feels Like Home

Public art project

30.04.2015, 19:00 Thursday

Magdalena Mellin, Feels Like Home, public art project, draft, 2015

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Free admission

Included in: [Close Stranger]

Curator: [Irina Tchesnokova]

Feels Like Home is an installation which directly refers to signs from Oak Ridge, the Tennessee facility where the uranium for the first atomic bombs was purified. Oak Ridge was one of the three American secret cities that developed the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing an end to World War II. The city was once home to 75,000 people, yet it did not appear on any map. Its dwellers created a self-sufficient perfect community detached from any influences from outside. However, there were lots of signs and billboards imposing on them the manner of behaviour and emphasizing the importance of keeping everything highly top secret. Till the very end of the war they didn’t know what exactly they were doing.

On large scale painted billboards installed in Kaliningrad, the artist wants to recall images from Oak Ridge, those idyllic life scenes under severe orders and dispositions to keep everything secretly classified. The slogans very often reflected upon the notion of home. It was supposed to be associated with informality, relaxation, privacy, full acceptance, security, and trust. Here though, the slogans were twisted into strict instructions and orders. By bringing the images from this project the artist wants to show that distortions of language and corruption of meaning is a typical strategy in power mechanisms.

Organizer: Baltic Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts
Presentation date and time: April 30th 2015, 19:00

Address: 38 Litovsky val (a fence near «Kronprinz» tower)

Links: "Close Stranger” website | Baltic Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts | Klaipeda Culture Communication Centre | Centre for Contemporary Arts «Łaźnia»

Contacts: Andrey Efits, +7 (921) 263-56-00, +7 (4012) 604-329, andreyefits@gmail.com

Information about the artist:

Magdalena Mellin (b. 1984 in Gdańsk). Visual artist, painter, writer and poet. Her main focus deals with the “performative character of the relation between spectator/participant and memory when the object itself is gone”. Graduated from the Painting Faculty at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk in 2009, where she is currently a PhD student. She received a one-year scholarship at Sabanci University, Istanbul and participated in the two-year long “Visual Arts and Artistic Research” program at the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem. Mellin has participated in many workshops, exhibitions and artistic publication fairs: in Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Lebanon, Senegal, and the USA.

Magdalena Mellin on her project:

Photograph by Ed Clark, published in Life magazine in 1945. "What you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here."

Introduction:

Project deals with the issue of plasticity of memory. I want to play with the idea of brightness and darkness, truth and ambiguity, What does it mean to hide and to reveal , what does it really mean to keep something in private-is it possible at all? what does it mean to have private memories? what is shaping those memories, do they really belong only to us, what does influence on them? Sometimes memories and facts you have to remember are your biggest curse. Sometimes it is better to forget and start brand new beginning. Sometimes memories are all you have left. And those single images are your only connection with the past. What happens when somebody invade our personal sphere and forbid us to remember something?

Memory is full of distortions, however we shouldn’t perceive it as a sign of pathology nor as weaknesses.
In between dark clime of memory - “I don’t remember anything at all”, I see the bright space of imagination. It is connecting me with that what had been gone before I remembered everything. Memory is a fluxes matter. And we all are embedded in being here and now, and awaiting oblivion. Appreciating the experience of this moment in life is one of the source of the desire to last.

Notes from visiting Kaliningrad:

Visiting Kaliningrad I had few strong impressions.

  1. A lot of concrete, characteristic buildings, constructions, block of flats which can be recognized all over ex-Communist bloc;
  2. German past of the town Königsberg seems to be erased, and replaced with concrete new style of architecture; past seems to be ignored and erased. Replaced with new order
  3. Huge impression of House of Soviets/ Дом Советов/ Dom Sowietów- as a sign of huge change coming, suddenly become a ‘living’ dead’ body, which reminds everybody how it all might have looked like
  4. The word ‘DOM’-in Polish and Russian is the same. It is important also with all the connotation this word brings. I had this awkward feeling in Kaliningrad. The place seems to be very familiar (because of the architecture style) however for the other side I felt very detached in the sphere of communication. Beside all the assumptions people made towards me I couldn’t understand Russian language.

 

Historical references:

“Feels like home” is an installation which directly refers to Sign at Oak Ridge, Tennessee Manhattan Project facility where uranium for the first atomic bombs was purified. Oak Ridge was of three American secret cities that developed the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing an end to World War II. The city, now called Oak Ridge, once was home to 75,000 people, yet it did not appear on any map. Visitors could get into the town only through gated entrances. The vast majority of residents were unwitting participants in the drive to harvest enriched uranium for the "Little Boy" bomb that devastated Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. They learned exactly what they were doing only when they read the big, black headlines that proclaimed the war's end.

The association I want to recall with this sign are: secret, ambiguity, false security, denying somebody(something) presence, relativeness of truth. This discourse is also characteristic for the countries and policy of (post-) Soviet block.

I want to clash it with the idea of home. Home gives you the feeling of privacy, security, and trust, full acceptance, you feel comfortable and relaxed. The idea of home also changes as you travel. Not many places on the world you can describe telling “feels like home”.

The name home itself is very important for me to use. As in Kaliningrad especially it gains extra meaning, because of the references House of Soviets. 

The Lithuania-Poland-Russia European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013 aims at promoting economic and social development on both sides of the EU-Russian border, addressing common challenges and problems, and promoting people to people cooperation. Under the Programme, legal non-profit entities from the Lithuanian and Polish border regions, and the entire Kaliningrad oblast implement joint projects co-financed by the EU and the Russian Federation.

The European Union is made up of 28 Member States who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, during a period of enlargement of 50 years, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms. The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders.

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union under the Lithuania-Poland-Russia ENPI Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Baltic Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

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