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Going public: suburbanites become situationists in St Petersburg art project Critical Mass | The Calvert Journal
"Participatory art projects are increasingly popular around the world, not least because their social agenda can attract considerable sponsorship. However, these projects are also often criticised for failing to achieve results. Bitkina and Veits, who had to look abroad for funding, even though their work is almost unprecedented in Russia, do not make unrealistic claims about grandiose changes. Their aim is to make small, lasting changes for the people who interact with the work. “We don’t want to shock and intersect with public space in an aggressive way,” says Bitkina. “We want to engage as many people as possible.” They deliberately involve the police and city administration, striving gradually to “enlighten them and change their ways, to show them that things can be done in a certain way”.

The process begins with Veits consulting with other sociologists, anthropologists, historians and residents to locate stories and problems in the area; then Bitkina commissions and curates artists (eight this year) to respond to these problems in public spaces. “The last wooden house in Kupchino” is typical of Critical Mass in its attempt to engage with communities that are normally cut off from both the art world and from discussions about development, and in its focus on neighbourhood and belonging."



"Kennedy’s work stands out from this lineage because of its emphasis on myth and tradition. His folk-fictions seek to create new traditions that will represent the community and provide them with common touchstones of identity. He is guided by Claude Levi-Strauss’s belief that the myth must be enacted to find new relevance in the contemporary, and by the notion of “shared anthropology” pioneered by filmmaker Jean Rouch, whose documentary films made North African communities act out their daily lives with “critical awareness”. “Myth,” says Kennedy, “becomes something that is embodied and manifested, in this case in public and civic space through the aesthetic form of the procession.” In the Kupchino action the artist takes an intimate, personal tradition — the story of one family — and turns it into a shared myth for the whole community by re-enacting it in a public space with 60 participants, and then by showing them his Super-8 recording of the event. "



"But the greatest sense of public gratification came from one of the unscripted moments that occur naturally when the artist-viewer hierarchy is broken in public art. Just as Kennedy and Vasiliyeva shook hands and posed for photos by the handmade wooden house, a brightly coloured rocket exploded in the sky above them. It was the flare her mother had given her back in 1976. Vasiliyeva’s brother had decided to fire it today — clear confirmation of the significance and resonance of this social project for the family and for all of Kupchino."
stpetersburg  russia  art  community  situationist  suburbia  2013  garethkennedy  folk-fiction  criticalmass  jeanrouch  claudelevi-strauss  myth  social  kupchino  annabitkin  mariavets  iraidavasiliyeva  alexandranyskova  guydebord  societyofthespectacle  everyday  everydaylife  communes  privacy  self  kommunalki  communism  society  engagement  glvo  participatoryart  socialpracticeart  development  sociology  anthropology  publicspace  workshops  openstudioproject  ncmideas 
june 2013 by robertogreco

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