From May 20 to May 26, the Vladimirsky market in the center of Kiev will turn into a modern art space. As part of the Kyiv Art Week festival, there is an exhibition Footnote 11: Volodymyrskyi Market, dedicated to Soviet modernism and commerce (not only food, but also modern art). We talked with her curators Barbara Pivovarska and Guillaume Roulo about post-Soviet art, Ukrainian markets and how concrete modernist buildings inspire artists.
Please tell us more about the exhibition.
For the project on the Vladimir market, we decided to use the Footnote format – an exhibition project founded by Barbara in 2010. Previously, it took place in Warsaw, Paris and New York, and now we have come with him to Kiev.
Footnote 11: Volodymyrskyi Market is divided into 2 programs. The first part is an exhibition of visual artists from Poland (Nicolas Grospierre, Marymont, Joseph Robakovski and Arthur Zmievski), whose works are devoted to the production and consumerism of recent years (which, by the way, is interesting to compare with Ukraine). Together with them, the artist from Cyprus, Christodoulos Panayotu, in his work explores the status of the goods that special objects of art acquire.
The second part of the exhibition includes lectures by Ukrainian architects and critics about modernism, the functions of the Soviet and post-Soviet markets, and also about the fate of the Life Market on Kontraktova as an exhibition space. We wanted to collect a variety of opinions about the markets – both from insiders and from ordinary buyers.
Barbara and Guillaume on the Vladimir market
According to the description, the exhibition explores how society organizes trade and how trade organizes society. Why choose this particular topic? Is it about the commercial component of art?
Moving the exhibition of contemporary art to the indoor food market, we overestimate the objects of art. We concentrate on the architecture of the market, the fact of the exhibition, the interaction with sellers.
At the exhibition, you explore Soviet architecture. Why chose markets as an example of modernism? And why Vladimirsky, and not some other?
We are interested in Kiev markets, and especially Vladimirsky. We chose it because of the impressive main building and proximity to the main venue for Kyiv Art Week – just a few meters from the business center “Toronto-Kiev”.
Vladimirsky market, 1968
As architect Yevgeny Gubkin writes in his essay “Markets in (post-Soviet Ukraine), indoor markets began to be built after World War II, taking into account new architectural possibilities. Reinforced concrete blocks, cable structures and large glass surfaces embodied the new type of public relations, all the same state control. In the Vladimir market, built between 1965 and 1968, even the roof of concrete, one of the first in Ukraine.
How important is the national context? Barbara, last year you supervised the Polish pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where an American artist was represented from Poland. This caused a lot of controversy. How do national issues survive in the context of globalization?
In the case of the Venice Biennale, national differences have long been blurred. However, in Poland, I received a lot of criticism because of the choice of an American artist. I decided to work with Sharon Lockhart because she already had a close relationship with Poland for many years.
Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2017
The Little Review project for the Polish Pavilion was the result of a collaboration with a group of girls from the Youth Socio-Therapeutic Center Rudzienko, near Warsaw, founded by experimental teacher and writer Janusz Korczak (1878-1942). He published the Jewish-Polish newspaper Little Review from 1926 to 1939, for which children and teenagers wrote. This allowed them to be heard by a mass audience. Similarly, we at the Biennale wanted to give a voice to girls from the center, who are usually invisible and not audible.
Can contemporary art exist without politics? Is someone still interested in a beautiful picture without a social context?
As Jacques Rancier said, it is difficult to separate politics from aesthetics, and vice versa. In the essay “Aesthetics Policy: Distributing the Sensitive” (2004), he discusses the distribution of the sensitive as something that unites politicians and aesthetes. The distribution of the sensual is “a system of self-evident facts of sensory perception.” It simultaneously reveals similarities and differences.
We can think of an image as a product, on the one hand, and as valuable in terms of a social context, on the other. There is always a certain social context in art.
Is it true that in the west, post-Soviet art is more interested?
The West has a really big interest in post-Soviet art. One example is the recent publication of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) “The Art and Theory of Central and Eastern Europe after 1989”, released in 2017. Another example would be the activities of the Kiev-based Visual Culture Research Center (“Visual Culture Research Center”). The exhibition “Neighbors”, which they organized in the fall of 2018 with the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, showed that they are also interested in post-Soviet art in Poland. The art of our era, with all its intensity, has yet to be explored.
Who is your favorite modern artist and why? Do you know Ukrainian artists?
Barbara: My favorite artist is American conceptualist R.H. Kaytman, who works with the Polish avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. In the Chapters series, she uses history to explore the factors that allow pictures to create new meanings. From Ukrainian artists I especially like Zhanna Kadyrova with her interpretation of the post-Soviet reality and the post-industrial order.
Guillaume: Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayotu, for his ability to question values with the help of objects. Of Ukrainians, I like documentary director Alexei Radinsky from the SaveKyivModernism group.
The exposition And Christodoulos Panayotu at the exhibition in the casino of Luxembourg (October 10, 2013 – January 05, 2014). Now the work is exhibited in the Vladimir market
What do you do after Footnote?
Barbara: It will be a project for many years. I just got a new post as art director for a new center for contemporary art in Porto, Portugal. The Casa São Roque Museum – Centro de Arte will open in October.
Guillaume: Month of travel in Ukraine.
See also: Banksy illegally infiltrated the Venice Biennale