Participatory projects

Project NA ZDOROVJE! was developed in the context of Kontext-Labor Bernau and in cooperation with locals of Bernau and the members of the Jewish Community in Bernau-Süd.

Since 2002, more Jews from the CIS countries have immigrated to Germany than to Israel or the USA. Among them are many Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, Moldavians and people from other countries of the former USSR. This project addressed prejudices against Russians as well as Jews to provide insight into a friendly and free-thinking social group in whose families it is common to celebrate festivities of different religions. The project included a wall installation as well as a performative meal where the audience was allowed to participate and eat along, as well as engage in conversation with the participants. The invitation read, “I invite the people who were considered Jews in the Soviet Union, were discriminated because of this fact, and are classified as Russians in this country, to the Heeresbekleidungsamt Bernau, a building built by Nazis and used by the Soviet army. I asked them to share the table with the guests and artists of the exhibition and to celebrate all German, Jewish and Russian public holidays together, thereby protesting against any cultural ties and national prejudices.”

Tischlein deck dich

In the project TISCHLEIN DECK DICH I dealt with the topic of the ritualization of table manners in (post-)Soviet society and its backgrounds and effects. In this artistic research project I explore the question of the Soviet dining table image as a tool of propaganda, social control and social self-regulation.

Eating and drinking is something self-evidently commonplace, yet few subjects touch people as food intake does. Food is more than a purely physical basic need to us; it is a part of our personal and cultural identity. If we consider communal eating as a social-modeling structure, we would also rediscover the essential features of political processes. In the closed Soviet society, interestingly, the feast took on a unified and standardized character.

For the project, I conducted interviews with people from the Russian-speaking community of different ages and with different families and cultural backgrounds. They reported on their families’ table manners from childhood to the present. In addition I gathered various materials in the form of pictures, photographs, posters, documentaries, texts, films, etc. This collection ultimately formed the basis of my illustrated archive-book or artist’s book “Tischlein deck dich” (2017).

Public viewing Facebook

Project PUBLIC VIEWING FACEBOOK took place as part of the exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Institute for Art in Context. I invited visitors and participants of the exhibition to participate in an open presentation of their Facebook lives. A corner with tea was organized in the entrance hall of the UdK. Facebook page was projected on a wall. People were invited to sit at the table and look at the Facebook pages of others or show their own. 

In these times of data protection mania and the total fear of Big Data, people no longer know how much they are allowed to reveal about themselves in the World Wide Web. With this event, I set out on an experiment: How much are we really willing to show of ourselves when the “friends” are actually sitting next to us and you can experience a lively reaction. Are we really willing to make perfect strangers to “friends” and share a part of our lives with them? To what extent are we actually interested in the lives of others, if one can show one’s own affection or antipathy not only with a “like” or emoticon?

The goal of this event was to return people to the analog social situation by means of social networking, to enable them to engage in lively and informal interpersonal exchange, and at the same time to find out to what extent they are actually willing to do so.

(Zabroshki russ. deserted houses)

At what point does an adult stop being a child? When does the world around him become extremely logical and explainable, when objects have inalienable names and incontestable functions, when living and non-living objects become such by definition and when the world around him becomes too dangerous for play and fantasy?

The participatory project with the children of Bolshoe Goloustnoe Village in Siberia was developed within the framework of situational pedagogy, as a response to the communicative situation and conditions of cooperation. The economic situation of the village is such that it is gradually dying out. Fewer and fewer people continue to live in Bolshoe Goloustnoe year-round. This is evidenced by the large number of abandoned dilapidated houses. The adult population of the village, not wanting to face this fact directly, exclude these houses from their reality and stop to notice them. That, in turn, allowed the children to choose these abandoned houses as a place for their games, where they can fantasize freely without adult supervision. 

After discussing with the children what attracts them so strongly to deserted houses, we came to the conclusion that loaded with the energy of people who once lived in them, these houses themselves become living beings, ready to tell us their stories. I asked the children to give me a tour of their favorite abandoned houses. We climbed basements and attics, jumped from haylofts, and collected objects that caught our eye. At the same time, the children kept a journal in which they wrote down what the houses told them about themselves. In the drawings, we brought the deserted houses to “life” and invented new stories for them. The result of this project was a large joint panel – a subjective map of the village with abandoned houses marked on it. We transferred this work to the wall of one of the houses. But the main result of the project was the opportunity to reveal to children and adults the potential of play as a creative process and the surrounding world as a field for creative intervention.