Special project of 6th Moscow biennale

Our Land / Alien Territory
16.09.2015 — 04.10.2015, Central Manege

The exhibition Our Land / Alien Territory brought together artists from different countries and global regions who investigate in their works the link between space and politics. The main topic of the presented works is the phenomenon of disputed territories, and also border zones in a state of constant instability and open conflict.

The idea of this exhibition was dictated by the circumstances of a specific political event – Crimea’s accession into Russia. This precedent has not only radically affected all areas of social life in our country, but also caused tectonic shifts in the global geopolitical landscape, resulting in open confrontation between Russia and the West. Finding oneself in this situation and ending up a hostage, one is bound to look for forms of critical revaluation, aware of the causes and effects. Here it would seem important to try and answer the issue of concern to us all: how this could happen at the start of the 21st century, when the concept of state sovereignty is incontrovertible, and the borders between states appear inviolable?

In the exhibited works, the artists study countless instances of territorial disputes and conflicts with inherent local specifics and national context. At the same time, creating an opportunity for dialogue between different loci, the exposition weaves each narrative within the meta-narrative, where the local context is conceptualised from the perspective of international history and acquires universal proportions. The territories that the authors consider are different but share common traits: the tense dynamics of the border space, political instability, and contradictory national identity. On this land it is very hard sometimes to draw any boundary between what is our land and what is foreign land, and whether this is the border of a physical space or an “imagined community”. Despite their marginal status and geographical remoteness from global centres, problems appear on our land/alien territory which are relevant today for all modern states, namely: how is the identity of the nation structured and how does the collective imagination function, how is the actual topography related to the people's ideal image of themselves, and how do geopolitical concepts form the boundaries of our daily space and state borders?

The twentieth century engendered numerous territorial disputes, which were primarily attributable to the post-colonial legacy of countries that had received long-awaited independence, and at the same time a whole range of problems related to the self-identification of nations. The projects by Amar Kanwar, Shilpa Gupta, Shezad Dawood, Tenzing Rigdol and Shahzia Sikander are related to this topic. An important landmark is also played by the formation of the State of Israel. As a result, a permanent hotbed of geopolitical tension appeared in the Middle East. This is recounted directly or indirectly in the works by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Mehreen Murtaza, Sophie Ernst, and Nira Pereg. The collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the major political events of the late 20th century. The states formed after this collapse have tried to draw borders based on the boundaries of ethnic communities, and this idea has frequently failed. Authors from the former USSR and Russian regions have focussed on this topic – Stefan Rusu, Aslan Gaisumov, Sitara Ibrahimova, Taus Makhacheva, Yerbossyn Meldibekov, Kristina Romanova, and Aleksandr Barkovskiy. A similar redefinition of borders also happened in certain parts of Eastern Europe. The space of former Yugoslavia, which experienced all the horrors of war. may be the most dramatic example. The problems of this region are conceptualised by Maja Bajevic, Albert Heta, Anja Medved, and Danica Dakic. It also goes without saying that a number of projects are dedicated to the conflict in Crimea: the works by Sergey Bratkov, Igor Muhkin, Elizabeth Hoak-Doering and Dan Peterman.

Today, the authors in their works turn on the one hand to academic disciplines – geography, sociology, anthropology, ethnography, and on the other hand the personal and biographical experience of individuals becomes the most important resource. The diversity of their world views and life journeys will enable us to exceed the bounds of the parochial problem of geopolitical confrontation, and gain a critical understanding of the more profound basis of the connections between the issues for the self-determination of the national community and its affiliation to the specific territory.

Participants: Maja Bajevic, Aleksandr Barkovskiy, Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan, Sergey Bratkov, Sofya Gavrilova, Aslan Gaisumov, Shilpa Gupta, Shezad Dawood, Daniсa Dakic, Sitara Ibrahimova, Yulia Kazas (Yuka-Yuka), Amar Kanwar, David-Perez Karmadavis, Urban Fauna Lab, Taus Makhacheva, Anja Medved, Yerbossyn Meldibekov, Mehreen Murtaza, Igor Mukhin, Nira Pereg, Dan Peterman, Tenzing Rigdol, Kristina Romanova, Stefan Rusu, Shahzia Sikander, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Albert Heta, Elizabeth Hoak-Doering, Tiffany Chung, Motoyuki Shitamichi, and Sophie Ernst.

Curator of the exhibition: Yulia Aksenova
Coordinators: Kristina Romanova, Sofia Simakova
Technical Director: Mikhail Martkovich

About curator

In 2002 Yulia Aksenova graduated from the Faculty of Art History of the Russian State University for the Humanities. From 2000 to 2004 she worked at the Contemporary Art Department of the State Tretyakov Gallery. In 2007 she was admitted to the De Appel International Curatorial Programme, Amsterdam. She was the curator of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art from 2010 to 2014. Over the past few years Yulia has been the curator and joint curator of such exhibitions as Socialist Art: Political Art in Russia, State Tretyakov Gallery, 2007; Masters Humphrey’s Clock, De Appel, Amsterdam, 2008; New/Old Cold War, Red October, 2009; Russian Utopias, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010; Phantom Monuments, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011; Necessary Art, Gorky Park, 2011; 33 Fragments of Russian Performance, 2011, Performa, NYC; Natalie Djurberg and Jan Švankmajer, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2013, Personal Choice, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2014; Performance in Russia: A Cartography of its History, 2014; Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Theory, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015.

Official website of the exhibition

Media
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“Сivilian man as a victim of geopolitics”
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“One of the brightest projects of the biennale”
Rossiiskaya Gazeta

“Particularly relevant for Russia”
Artguide

“Does Soviet Chronotope exist?”
Syg.ma

“Crimea, Israel and Vietnam: artists investigate the most problematic territories in the world”
Afisha

“Large-scale project divided Manege into a disputed territories”
Vesti

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Mir TV

“Disputed Territories, Uncertain Positions”
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“Our Land / Alien Territory” at Manege
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