Hanna Zubkova

170717 Udoli
20.07.2017 — 23.07.2017, Triumph Gallery

Udoli, a performative installation by Hanna Zubkova, was originally part of a series of one-day events at Triumph Gallery. During the event the gallery's front doors were entrance-only while the audience was invited to make a circle by exiting the through the back door, via the back yard, to return to the main entrance. The yard, which essentially is a piece of derelict wasteland in the middle of the city-centre, was opened to the public on July 17 for the first time in the several decades of its existence. It turned out to be impossible to determine how its existence in such a location came about, who is responsible for its conservation, who monitors the development of its ecosystem and what the plans for its future development are. At a certain point during the event, a phone call came through from a middle man with orders to close off the access to the yard. It was not possible to find out the reason for the closure and to open it up again. 170717 Udoli, the exhibition based on the events of the night of the original performative installation on July 17, comprises the original work from Udoli together with a video documentary of the events of that night and the yard that is now indefinitely left behind the metal grid of the locked gate.

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Participants: Ira Shirokaya, Tanya Nedelskaya, Nikolas Topor, Mike Rozenthal, Lena Kozak, Katya Hasina, Dasha Loyko, Rita Sokolovskaya, Tanya Silivonchik, Vika Nazarova, Maxim Sergeev, Nadya Molochko, Marianna Titova, Sveta Kovalyok, Yana Evdakimovich, Maria Trofimova, Azad Asifovich, Mihail Iampolskiy, Ira Znamenskaya.

Udoli is a collective project, a multi-level ecosystem created by Hanna Zubkova in collaboration with artists, curators, performers and theorists from Minsk, Moscow, Paris, London and New York. The participants worked on the project from a distance, relying on text descriptions of each other’s works and of the gallery space.

The ideas of space, topology and infinite transition from one continuum to another set the configuration of Udoli, which in Old Slavic is synonymous with ‘valleys’ or ‘a life journey’ and has existential connotations of overcoming hardship. The idea of a loop, of a structure with no beginning and no end, where only motion and relations between points exist, is the project’s formal structure as well as the metaphor that inspired the participants to develop their works specifically for Udoli.

1st Floor
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1 It’s Here
Live stream projection, plexiglass 240×140 cm
Hanna Zubkova

During the event of the 17th of July, a live recording of the back yard was projected via a Skype call onto a semi-transparent thin glass screen that hung in the middle of the first room. Upon entering the gallery for the first time it is impossible to determine the nature of the landscape, yet it may appear familiar because it captures some of the surrounding buildings that the audience may have noticed on the way to the gallery. The landscape of the yard itself, a derelict piece of wasteland hidden between the surrounding buildings, is something previously unseen yet still familiar: it is a textbook attribute of a typical Russian landscape. A wasteland is symbolic of a relationship with the world, of being in it, of a rupture in the fabric of urbanisation. After making a full circle through the exhibition and the yard, the audience returns to the live projection that becomes simultaneously a promise of a space along the journey in the future and triggers a recollection of the space from the immediate past. Moreover, the live projection makes a connection between two distant points in space and synchronises the time between them: the light from the projection gets dimmer as it gets darker outside. The artist deliberately did not record the entire cycle. During 170717 Udoli, only one brief video documentation recorded by Marina Bobyleva on her smartphone is shown.

2 The List
Performance, 5-15 min
Hanna Zubkova

The audience is required to register online before attending the event. Hanna reads out the list of names and surnames collected during the registration. The narration of names turns the event into a self-referential structural and semantic loop. This gesture turns each guest into a participant of the event through calling out their names. It simultaneously announces their existence, makes them visible, yet also does it in an impersonal and detached way and creates the sense of anonymity through monotonous repetition. A senseless and pointless gesture – an attempt to name all names – is comparable to the Kabalistic vision of the relationship between the name and the world that conceptualises the world as a list of all of the existing names. Just as in a short story by Arthur Clark, where the process of naming all the names of God accelerated by computer technology is seen as the end of the world, an attempt to name all the names of the guest participants is simultaneously a creation of an event and its destruction.

– 1 Floor
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1 Telefunken MC 100
2 Ad-agio
3 Waiting for Grodoudou
4 Echoes from Interzone
5 In fact
6 Wasteland
7 Quest
8 17.07.17
Paradise

1 Telefunken MC 100
Sound installation
Maxim Sergeev (1976, Saint-Petersburg, lives and works in Moscow)

A tape recorder «Telefunken» model MC100 is equipped with an unrolled cassette: instead of spinning inside the apparatus, the tape is pulled out of it. It is stretched over a few meters of space with both ends still attached to the machine. The tape records the sounds while it spins: it remains synchronic with the surrounding events only in motion. In order to replay the recorded information, to access the memory of the tape, it must be stopped, i.e. made achronic. It can spin and record endlessly. However, by passing the next circle and recording the next layer, it erases the previous one. In order to be synchronic, contemporary, it has to constantly erase the past recording. In such a configuration, the tape recorder appears not only as a sculptural object, but as a kind of a monument to itself: having lost relevance as a recording device, its existence is futile. In addition, because of the age of the mechanism, «Telefunken» is more sensitive to its own sound than to the external ones, and it first of all records itself.

2 Ad-agio*
video performance, 14 min, 7 sec.
Hanna Zubkova (1988, Minsk, lives and works in Minsk and Paris)
with an independent dance theatre «Skyline» of Ira Shirokaya (1990, republic of Georgia, Abkhaz ASSR, city Gadauta, lives and works in Minsk)
Performers: Lena Kozak, Tanya Silivonchik, Vika Nazarova, Nadya Molochko, Marianna Titova, Sveta Kovalyok, Yana Evdakimovich, Maria Trofimova

You see part of a forest: a fairly dense series of large trees. In the centre of the video frame there is a girl, she wears casual grey clothes. After a while, a group of people enters the frame from the left. They wear casual grey clothes. They approach the girl in the centre, and you see that there are seven of them. They move at a regular walking pace, their emotions are difficult to determine, their movement is co-directional and is felt as a solution to a common task that they had agreed upon together in advance since they no longer exchange any signs. Silently, they lean towards the girl in a single movement, linger around her, surrounding her, they produce actions that you cannot discern: their action is hidden inside, fenced by their bodies. After a few seconds they get up and you see: the power that allowed them to stand up simultaneously, without exchanging signs for organising a joint action, is the object they raised from the ground. They hold the girl together in different places of the body, they exit the frame by walking to the right, following the direction in which they moved before: clockwise. After a while you see: the girl returns to the frame, sits down in the centre. Soon after that the group of people comes to her from the left. There are seven of them, they move in silence. Everything repeats again.

* Adagio – calmly, at a slow pace, from the Italian ad agio – freely, at ease; Agio – a place nearby (adjacents, adjacentia)

3 Echos from Interzone
video, 3D animation, 5 min. 13 sec.
Nicolas Topor (1979, Paris, lives and works in Paris)
Using a technical method developed specifically for this project, the artist transforms narrative video footage into an audio-visual abstraction. Nicolas Topor experiments with cinematic codes, exploring the relationship between physical reality and the abstract potential of a digital image. As a result of processing video material and extracting its soundtrack, the sound is transcribed and rendered as waves in 3D animation. The captured images are displayed in waves as sequences of colours and indistinguishable forms on the boundary of abstraction and representation. He liberates the sounds of the real world from their typical interpretations – the sound becomes an independent event.

4 In Fact
videoperformance, 3 hours
Dasha Loyko (1995, Minsk, lives and works in London)

The artist records an image of the phrase ‘на самом деле’ displayed on a computer screen with her smartphone for three hours. The often-used Russian expression ‘на самом деле’ can be roughly translated as ‘In fact’. It is one of the most common of the so-called ‘parasite’ phrases that people inadvertently use in their everyday speech. Although most such words do not add much to the meaning of what is being said, they nonetheless serve to frame it in a particular way.

The seemingly static image of the phrase ‘in fact’ is a looping one-second video of the screenshot of these words. The duality of the video loop and the stillness of the image is layered with a constantly shifting focus that oscillates between the letters, pixels, dust on the screen and the artist's own reflection. Thus, the screen is captured as a digital interface, a physical surface and a mirror. This meditative process erodes the inelastic function of the phrase ‘in fact’ as an instrument for fixing the meaning and calls into question the relationship and the boundary between what is still and what is mobile.

5 Waiting for Grodoudou*
Gameplay recording, 30 sec – 2 min
Mike Rosenthal aka Vector Belly

«Atari was before my time, but I grew up with the NES. My older brother Jeff played the NES religiously when I was a kid, and I would just stare at the screen with fascination. There were only so many two-player games, and my brother kicked my butt in all of them, so I usually just watched him play. But we made a single player cooperative. NES games had low-quality graphics and nonsense gameplay, so it’s really up to the player to figure out what you’re doing. We had to figure out that green means grass, blue means water, that guy on the screen is holding a sword and that squishy enemy over there has a body made of jelly. Beckett’s play has a similar effect on the audience. The characters on the stage don’t explicitly state what’s going on, so it’s up to us to decide. When someone plays Waiting for Godot, the game is so simple and minimal and stupid that it’s practically non-existent. It’s all the player».

*initially, the name of the game was «Waiting for Godot», but as soon as it went viral, Beckett’s copyright holder Editions de Minuit asked Rosenthal to change it saying that ‘it was illegal’ and they ‘didn’t share the sense of humour’. Although he could, the artist decided against seeking legal help. This absurdist oxymoron became part of the context of the existence of his game, which revealed a bureaucratic limit put upon the postmodern practice of quotation.

6 The Wasteland

The gallery is closely surrounded by a typical urban landscape, an amalgamation of a Russian town that serves as its backdrop: there is a church, a bank, shops and, closely behind them but always distant, the Kremlin. The gallery is an empty space, a bag of representations, a sort of a nothing filled with the potentialities of anything whatsoever. Behind the gallery there is a piece of derelict wasteland, a textbook element of the Russian landscape, also a sort of a nothing that used to be something and is now full of nostalgia and new unknown life. All of these elements, like the folds on a piece of fabric, form a model of the world that could be said to resemble valleys, or Udoli in Old Slavic, that one can go through in a circle: by leaving the urban landscape, piercing the ‘bag of representations’ of the gallery, going through the narrow corridor and into the derelict yard, crossing it and ending up again at the start of the journey. During 170717 Udoli, it is possible to look at the yard through the metal grid of the gate because during the event of the 17th of July a middleman called with an order to shut off the access. The reason for the restriction, the history and the future of the yard remain unknown.

7 Quest
Text Game
Hanna Zubkova

The topographic projection and transcription of the exhibition, a text game without images, the interactive fiction, the adventure that one can live through the text, where text is what allows to contemplate the reality, tells about the potentially visible, allows to become blind to the visible images and discover the invisible, the imagined. The hero’s journey in such a game always begins with a description of the space, which is at the same time also the creation of the imagined place. The text is simultaneously both the map and the territory, the image and its representation, and the speech is not so much a communication device but a tool for action. The quest Udoli has no purpose, no direction (apart from ‘north’, one of the character’s response options) and no reward, does not promise a profit or reassurance, requires patience and a desire to dedicate some time of one’s life to something that has no relation to solving one’s daily problems. During 170717 Udoli it is possible to complete the quest at the gallery. It is also available via this link: hannazubkova.com/udoli.

8 17.07.17
Documentation of the event Udoli
Video, 10 min
Anna Denisova
A first-person video documentation of the event Udoli is shown during the exhibition 170717 Udoli.

Paradise
sound sculpture, 28 min 9 sec
Тanya Nedelskaya (1983, Orsha, Belarus, live and works in Paris)

The sound sculpture is based on Tanya Nedelskaya's personal collection of songs that make references to paradise. A deeper look into the lyrics of paradise songs got the artist interested in the evolution of the religious concept of paradise into a general association with enjoyment, harmony, spiritual peace, love, sex, having a good time, beach life, masochistic pleasure, magic. With time it became a kind of an archetypal space where everything is possible – a standard of happiness or, alternatively, a concept by which we measure our pain. The idea of paradise has obsessed the humanity since its introduction into the symbolic religious realm right up to the present-day religious conflicts driven by the extremists. There is something ironic and pathetic about the obsession and the promises of paradise, but at the same time deeply human and genuinely touching. Tanya Nedelskaya's interest in song structure based on an infinite chorus/verse loop and repetitive sound samples comes from the conceptualisation of the notion of space that lies at the core of her practice. Paradise isn’t only a pastiche of collective mega-pop metaphysics, but also a reflection upon the idea of infinity, transition and repetition of the same vain gestures and paths related to the larger questions of human existence.