Archstoyanie 2016 had its 11th consecutive run this year. The organisers framed the main theme as the concept of asylum, returning to the original role of Nikola-Lenivets as an asylum for the artists and architects seeking freedom and solitude. Aksenov Family Foundation was a partner in the educational programme of the festival curated by Antonio Geusa, a PhD in Media Arts, critic, and video art researcher.
This year, the Kaluga region has been filled with dozens of new land art objects, all linked by the same theme. The objects include Irina Korina and Ilya Voznesenskiy’s Shadow Pavilion, Personal Universe №5 by Dmitriy Zhukov, and Inhabited Substance by Dmitry and Elena Kawarga. Artists Dmitriy Zhukov, Pavel Suslov, Dmitry Kawarga, and Irina Korina, as well as two creative unions, Wowhaus and Archpoint, talked about their artwork and discussed whether ‘art is saving the world’, which was the main topic of the talk. The discussion was held in an auditorium that was located in a tent in a forest glade.
The second block of the educational program consisted of lectures, in which theorists talked about how to find refuge from the psychological, social and economic rut and interpreted the escape motif in the visual arts and literature.
Historian and journalist Ilya Budraitskis gave a lecture on asylum in its relation to the state system and capitalism. He began with a definition of Leviathan as understood by the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. According to him, the Leviathan is a huge artificial man created from a variety of other people. These people, comprising the state, are protected by a kind of contract with this huge body – a contract which protects them mostly from each other by placing them in asylums which are like honeycomb cells. Finding asylum in the state thus becomes the opposite of freedom, the foundation of which is the absence of any external obstacles. An asylum protects, but does not free. German theorist Carl Schmitt compared the Hobbesian Leviathan with Golem – an artificial man, because the state is depersonalized and loses both human and divine aspects.
We live in a world where asylum is doomed, and yet are constantly trying to find it.
Budraitiskis noted that escape and homelessness became the basis for capitalist mythos, built on human loneliness and alienation from everything but the ability to labour. This primarily applies to the US: the US is a nomadic homeland, and from the homelessness of the inhabitant of the New World was born a new patriotic capitalist idea.
Budraitskis comes to the conclusion that the search for asylum only shows the impossibility of obtaining it: we cannot escape from the state, as we live in a system of international relations; we can not run away from society, as it creates and defines us; we can not escape from the principles of economics. We live in a world where asylum is doomed, and yet are constantly trying to find it.
The curator and art theorist Boris Klyushnikov spoke about modern interpretations of the asylum motive, and coping strategies in art. He claims that contemporary art is a ‘romantic procedure’: those engaged in it must believe in the idea that the asylum exists; that there is a place where we can go. After the collapse of the USSR, the communist project became this idea. While over as a real project, it completely moved into the sphere of art, of imagination, becoming the promise of possible asylum. This is a dangerous situation, according to Klyushnikov, because in this way politics remains less in the real world, and the people have less and less hope for action. Artists are taken with the construction of an ideal situation, which is unattainable in the capitalist world. It actively manifested in the 1990 – 2000s, when Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of relational aesthetics emerged: in life we are divided, and art gives hope for community and co-operation, said Klyushnikov.
Currently, one of the most prominent motifs in art is survival strategies. As one of the examples, Klyushnikov talks about a series of seminars called Horizon Community Workshop by the artist Kirill Savchenkov, which were structured like business training. But if the subject of real business training is improving communication, efficient networking, and the like, in this case the subject was disappearance: how to disappear within capitalist society. Savchenkov told the audience about the mysterious figure of the Yeti, which is visible to other animals, but can not be seen by man; analysed meditation practices, non-contact fighting techniques and other behaviours, the applicability of which in reality remains doubtful. The project Flying Cooperation is dedicated to survival tactics in the modern world. The participants, for instance, take the free food from long-distance trains and distribute it at the Russian State Library; organise meetings where anyone can bring products in order to to collectively cook.
Klyushnikov concluded his lecture by suggesting that if we want to move away from the division of autonomous art that aestheticizes life and of social life, then an important step in this direction would be to overcome the contemporary art, the modernity which is removed from reality and exists in a different space and a different time. According to him, it must disappear, and therefore, following suit must be the asylum given to us by contemporary art.
Nail Gareev, psychologist, CEO of float-centre Embryo, the author of the performance Reflected. Controlled and the project The Cage at Archstoyanie, spoke about the phenomenon of reflection, which, in his opinion, determines the human life and prevents personality from evolving. Gareev argues that a person structures the world through his own categories, and, reflected in the world, begins to adapt to what it creates. There is a looped system, in the scheme of which Gareev sees the basic mistake of our experience. The symbol of this trap is his object The Cage – a mirror screen, which is in the cage, and five television sets broadcasting the surrounding world, and located behind the screen. Gareev sees the way out of this trap in the return to a position where the consciousness is primary, and not the reflection, when the adaptive principle is replaced by the creative as the basic existential position. Sitting in the cage, one must get out of the trap, and find a fundamental inner sanctuary.
There was also a lecture by the psychologist, Gestalt therapist and coach at the Interregional Institute of Gestalt Therapy and art, Maria Rogalskaya. She shared her thoughts on anxiety as a symptom of modern society and spoke of how to find asylum in oneself.