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MINSK CONNECTION

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From: Nils Claesson

On May 27th and 28th, 2000 CRAC organised a seminar with Swedish, Belarussian and Baltic artists under the name:

THE MINSK CONNECTION
http://www.crac.org/minskcon/

Statement:
The objective of the Minsk Connection seminar is to mix a powerful cocktail of underground tradition, interdisciplinary work, political awareness, and networking. Thirteen artists from Belarus, Sweden and the Baltic countries meet.
Networking together with digital tools gives artistic work a new collaborative quality. The seminar focused on presentation and contextualisation of work. This will lead to new projects.

The objective is to create a process of collaboration. The thirteen artists work in different media: performance, netbased, video, installation, film and photography.

Belarus: Artur Klinov, Victar Piatrou, Galina Moskaleva, Maxim Tyminko, Denis Romanovski.
Lithuania: Nomade and Geriminas Urbonas.
Sweden: Anders Boqvist, Karin Hansson, Nils Claesson, Anita Malmqvist.
Nordic Dumplings: Anna-Karin Larsson and Elisabeth Karlsson
Su-en Buto Company: Susanna Åkerlund
Olga Kopenkina, critic and curator (worked for Sixth Line Gallery in Minsk from 1994-1998)

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REPORT ON MINSK CONNECTION

By Olga Kopenkina

I have to confess that when I went to Stockholm for the Minsk Connection seminar, I was afraid of meeting the prejudices, which reconstitute the old opposition between the West and East. The Minsk Connection seminar aimed to discover new territory on the artistic map of Europe and could be taken to be in the same line with other events, which in a bid for politically correct equilibrium pay attention to Eastern Europe. In my mind, the exhibition "Interpol" in 1997 in Stockholm, where the Russian and Swedish artists had a violent experience of misunderstanding, was stuck as a strong caution, and I expected the same provocation of the East by the West and vice versa. But Minsk Connection - perhaps due to its character of improvisation, or individual networking, which had basically made it possible - developed into the real interaction between the artists that promised to turn into a real network.

We always dream about a great form of communication, without a border, center and polarities that could fit perfectly with idea of integration with the after-the-wall-condition. But even after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, we realised that transparent borders still exist and apparently can stimulate conditions for a dialogue. The artists and curators now have a chance to create a real network of interchanges to continue their analysis of the tensions within the artistic map of Europe: the more misunderstanding the more others find interests and issues for discussion.

The main theme of the seminar suggested by Crac was professional interaction and networking. It was interesting to observe the two different models of a network: the network of the Belarussian way implies the model of artists' survival, rather existential than professional, rather hermetically closed than internationally diverse. Crac suggests the artists' network based on modern technologies and professional collaboration. It seems to be the same model of survival but with homage to professionalization and net activity.

The presentations of individual art projects were the most interesting part of the seminar. The high-tech post-media art generation of Swedish artists has met the low-equipped artists from Minsk, which demonstrated the pre-tech stage of media evolution in Belarussian art. The result was the fact that the range of the projects presented during the seminar varied from the absolutely autist "Bionaturland" by Victor Petrov and Denis Romanovski to interactive and net projects and the projects of databases introduced by the Swedish.

However, technological differences between the Belarussian and Swedish ways of art production had been beaten by the similarities of the artistic ideas and intentions. There were several points in the seminar, where the Swedish and Belarussian artists overlapped. The discussions were fluctuating between the body politics and artist's physical identity on the one hand, and the net projects denying any site specificity and artist's presence, on another. For instance, the performance by Susanna Akerlund from "Su-En Buto Company" and "Nordic Dumplings" group ("Verydiscovery") have provoked discussions about the body's capability to be a site for revealing the physical, political and social issues, and have drawn comparisons with Galina Moskaleva's photo-sequence "Self-Awareness" made in Chernobyl. Anders Boqvist's project "The Mazda 323", a database containing stories on the various Mazda cars found on the Internet, introduced a model of art project based on the play with new information technologies - the tendency which Belarussian art definitely lacks. Nevertheless, Boqvist's project could be compared with the archive of Minsk Association of Contemporary Art presented in the first day of the seminar: both projects propose the same scheme of transforming the physical identity into the electronic database. Nomada's and Gediminas Urbonas' (Lithuania) web site project, "tvvv.plotas", featured another model of contemporary artist as an ethnographer who interviews people during the big event of contemporary art. The Lithuanian artists suggest instead a database, a live report "from the street" which is typical for the newly independent Eastern Europe in its reflection on the Internet as a site for real communication and social interaction.

Nils Claesson's video project "Propaganda of Swedish families archives" proved the fact that the domestic rituals, which never seem to change, could introduce the essence of national identity to the other. This project corresponded to the strategy of Belarussian artists who explore their own identity through the photo footage from the familial albums by combining the history of the personal and collective (Galina Moskaleva's photo series "Reminiscences of the Childhood").

Karin Hansson's presentation of project had turned into discussions about real space and time for contemporary art and reappeared in the presentation of Minsk Association of Contemporary Art by Denis Romanovski and Arthur Klinov who understand artist networks as a place where the local community gets its destination. But if an art event can happen in a virtual space, do we still need to be attached to the local space and community?

The importance of time and timing instead of location and fixed exposure was what the interactive project by Anita Malmqvist was about: she offers to anybody her personal time during which she keeps her big thumbs in the ritual of wishing you luck.
Maybe this is a metaphor of those forms of network, which we are looking for: I don't know what you're doing but you are present in my time, and it affects my life wherever I am.

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