May 27 — June 23, 2017 Vladivostok, Okeansky prospekt 9 Museum of Contemporary Art "Artetage"
Within the framework of the exhibition, VSCA members "exchanged" their "everyday lives" with one another, writing instructions on how to spend "a day in their lives" for their colleagues, or inviting participants to immerse themselves in each other's daily existence.
Members collaborated in creating an image by tying each other together using rope. The art object was later buried in a sandbox, part of an installation by one of the participants in the exhibition.
Artists also exchanged personal items with a view to seeing the unpredictable purposes to which their school colleagues might put them.
Their new owners rewrote the histories of these objects, questioning their symbolic value, or simply imparting new ones. In the run-up to the exhibition, Vera Ivanova parted with her essential artistic tools, completely changing her idea for the exhibition while forcing her to abandon her usual techniques. Marina Davidovich gave away a family heirloom—a bracelet that she normally never takes off, even to sleep or shower. Denis Kulik donated his pack of condoms.
Why are we devoted to things? Is it possible to throw off the semantic meanings we attach to these objects through exchange? Should we all share everything within the group?
Transformation of the purely personal into something more open and collective, as well as playing roles that emerge in happenstance ways, are in fact inevitable conditions for organizing a community, which VSCA has been now in one way or another for almost three years.
The idea of a central element, on one hand, contradicts the principle of self-organization, but on the other, it is also its beginning—the formational node around which the "body" develops in its the initial stages. Will VSCA maintain its horizontal structure in the process of decentralization? What will the community do with those who gave birth to it? And what kind of self-organization will emerge after the final exhibition—will there remain a concentration of energy and ideas in the initiative of one person, or will it finally become "rhizomic," in the sense popularized in the work of Deleuze and Guattari?
In an experimental installation by Olga Buravskaya, spectators witnessed the ways in which school participants engaged with the image of the VSCA organizer: a heart made of wax being melted by a hair dryer, revealing internal ties between the school and its participants represented by strings binding the names of members to the heart. Will those connections inevitably be severed? Does that necessarily mean the destruction of the "Heart of the VSCA"?
Anton Lapshin is the School's only artist who is always drawn to performance as a mode of expression. In performances at the second pop-up exhibition "Red," as well as his presence at "Collective Responsibility" as a living sculpture in the installation "Transplantation," he has explored difficulties in communication in general, and specifically in the dynamic between the audience and the artist. Personal preconceptions frame our intersubjective relations with others, shaping our ideas about an interlocutor. Our images about them are never identical to the person we are talking to.
Any professional community can and should be analyzed from the perspective of human nature. Arina Maksimova has examined the time an artist spends in school as a moment of self-referencing and self-reflection, drawing on the influence of psychoanalytic theory and the study of the unconscious in surrealism. The artist's psychological self-portrait is a self-standing work that speaks for itself.
While one artist chose to look into herself, others chose to consider those around them. Zhenya Yelkova captured nine portraits of VSCA participants and people related to the school who somehow influenced her in an associative series of images surrounding the artist during her study at VSCA.
Returning to questions of contemporary art's alleged elitism, context-dependence, social detachment, and literature about these ideas from the perspective of "the every man", Marina Davidovich has tried to establish a channel of communication between the contemporary art critic and the "statistically-average" reader. In doing so, she sends readers back to the pure unclouded consciousness of childhood. The sandbox, as the place for meeting playmates of one's own age, for establishing role-playing relationships, and communication with those similar to oneself in childhood, in the Soviet past was also a place for the transmission of special "secret" messages to be found in the future. Children covered bright candy wrappers under glass and earth, for them to be discovered by someone else. The texts of art critic Boris Groys, in particular his essay "On the New," have become the same type of legacy for the inquisitive young artist, digging into the semantic constructs of twentieth-century art theory. "VSCA Sandbox" is the artist's reflection on studying at VSCA, particularly its theoretical training component. Quotes from the history of contemporary art that had made the biggest impression on the artist and her school colleagues could be found right there in the sand.
Maria Lyakhova-Tragel collected statistical data on VSCA's collective values, questioning the role and relevance of statistics.
Denis Kulik's work concentrates on the idea of internet memes as a language for self-expression and a form of modern folklore. Kulik's project aimed at creating an ersatz profile of the school on the social network page "VShI" (https://vk.com/vscavvo_vshi), where he produced a set of images with characters and quotes related to the history of world contemporary art or the history of VSCA.
Anton Pastukhov produced a work from plywood, which he previously used in an earlier unfinished work at university, a testament to art's low status on the hierarchy of professional skills for the typical student at Far Eastern Federal University. Lacking awareness of a catastrophic shortage of time leads to frustration, delaying the artist's work "until better times."
Inna Dodiomova remembers her "course work" at VSCA. Her documentation of the performance from the "New Poverty" exhibition in 2016 sends us to a disappeared primeval world, where neither property nor political organization exist. During the performance, the artist resurrected the ancient practice of taking what is available, rejecting normally existing economic relations. This primitive way of extracting means of production has one important feature: it is accessible to all and gives equal opportunities to everyone.
Natalia Tsymbal demonstrates the reflexive path of the artist in a literal way, through a series of blank canvasses in the process of their gradual transformation into full-fledged works for exhibition. By the close of the show, the artist had worked daily to fill the canvases, turning the museum space into her own private studio.
Anastasia Esaulenko, in her rather literal work, echoed an installation from a year before at a pop-up exhibition of homages. Her work recites the thesis that citation is at the heart of all modern thought, which refracts all utterances through a prism of subjective values. This is a work about the plurality of a text's meanings, and about error as path to liberation. The author ambitiously outlined a brief history of the development of human thought: from a primeval state up to modern trends. Water collected from a natural source served as a metaphor for the origins of thought. In this mental construction, the author emphasized the natural origins of the human yet to be governed by culture. The next stage—religious consciousness—was manifested by silver water, a reference to its use in Christian ritual. The artist then depicted the era of rationalism, symbolically finding its encapsulation in the object of a glass jar, the most widely used form of conservation. Referring to postmodernism, Esaulenko sees in her own anticipation of the spectator's reaction to the work—lack of confidence in the young artist, irony, and even sarcasm. The quote, "Error gives birth to meaning," refracted by water and light, barely discernible behind a collection of glass jars, is taken from a manifesto of metamodernism. While the characteristics of this time have been little studied, they appear in everyday life. For example, one of metamodern's tenets is that the world's incomprehensibility is no reason not to try to study it. The artist presented a picture of these stages in the development of human thought as filters of consciousness, through which people try to discern the world as they know it through language.
A series of sheets of paper by Vera Ivanova draw on conceptualist traditions of analyzing words, naming, and their referents.
Anna Sokolova also pays tribute to the epistolary genre, concealing the fruits of her expression in purely technical ways. Her work "Letters" offered a way of reflecting upon the causes of procrastination, as well as ways of structuring and processing thoughts and feelings. She has taken the psychotherapeutic method of writing therapy, where for two weeks the author considered words that were not expressed at the right time, hidden feelings, unrealized projects, and abandoned cases, to illustrate moments where she dropped out of the group of students at VSCA. She manifested these thoughts in expressive letters, free drawings, as well as also in list form. All of them were placed in envelopes and nailed to a wall. This can be perceived in two ways: on the one hand, if we accept the logic of Saul Levitt, that projects are formally implemented in the form of ideas and concepts, while on the other, that this is "the final nail in the coffin." Other VSCA participants would never know their colleague's inner thoughts.
Kira Yevseenko formally tried to switch roles from that of co-curator of past school exhibitions to that of an emancipated video artist. Her static picture "Place," depicts what has been a new geography for her, to which she moved partly because of the Vladivostok School of Contemporary Art, but in which she remains in a stage of waiting and expectation.