Pop-Aganda: Revolution & Iconography (project in process)
After three research trips to Russia, I have selected six multidisciplinary, social practice-oriented artists in Russia and the U.S. I am currently researching and doing studio visits to add two more artists to this SOP. One from Russia and one from Pittsburgh, PA where the MF museum is located.
All of whom identify as female or are on the gender spectrum.
The curatorial themes, which become the title of the final exhibition and performance series, are left open enough, so that each artist can interpret it as they see fit. Sites of Passage projects are always about gleaning perspectives—both for the artists and the audience.
Propaganda comes from the verb to propagate—to breed or cultivate. However, in the context of the word propaganda, it is about breeding or cultivating an idea to the masses. Cultures, countries, religion and ideologies have been using forms of propaganda since ancient times to disseminate modes of belief.
In an age of disinformation, it is hard to ignore various “realities” spread, bred and cultivated in the name of facts. Propaganda images often proliferate into icons, even defining an entire aesthetic movement. Artists play an important instigative role in this process. For example, Agitprop (from agitate and propaganda) from Soviet Russia, was a visual and simple way of communicating ideologies to the masses. It moved from two-dimensional art to performance. Agitprop theater and the aesthetic spread to Europe and the US. Over time, it became a label for politicized art.
Pop art, similar to propaganda, is designed for the masses. However, unlike the moral ideas that are connected to propaganda, pop art is about the cultural context of the object itself. Both can be considered revolutionary.
The artists will consider the following:
When does revolutionary iconography become pop art, or Agitprop? How does an idea become an icon? When does the spread of an idea reach revolutionary status and who defines this tipping point? How does an idea become a fact?
ARTISTS THUS FAR….
ANASTASYA KIZILOVA, A researcher, artist, science-fiction writer, was born in 1986. She began her artistic career in 2001 started her education at Stieglitz St. Petersburg State Academy of Art and Industry. In 2013, Anastasya presented the project The Artist Uniform, the aim of which was to interact with the participants of the professional art system. In 2015 she co-organized the horizontal initiative, Flying Cooperation, which unites multi-skilled young artists, who were born in the Post-Soviet space (Belarus, Russia, Ukraine). Since 2016 she has collected an archive of unrealized artists’ ideas entitled Found Project: authors share their ideas for free, so other people who need ideas can realize them. At the moment she works in the field of environmental communication, which focuses on posthumanist and nonhumanist ways of interacting, bringing together theoretical approaches such as queer-ecology, cyberfeminism, bioanarchism and practical methods such as performative creation of an interspecific collective body.
LERA LERNER, Artist, curator and founder of the Imaginary Museum of Displaced Faces, practices socially engaged art. She researches the processes and ethics of spontaneous communication in an urban environment through performance and installation. Lera
graduated from the Pro Arte Program for contemporary artists and completed the MA program in Curatorial Studies at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of St. Petersburg State University. She participated in the Manifesta 10 International Biennial, IV and V Moscow International Biennial of Young Art, 4th and 5th Art Prospect Festival, V International Baltic Biennial of Contemporary Art, VI Ural Industrial Biennial, and the 14th Contemporary Art in the Traditional Museum Festival, and was nominated for the Innovation X prize.
VERONIKA RUDYEVE-RYAZANTSEVA is an observer artist. She belongs to the generation of “children of perestroika”. Brought up on a commune in Siberia, Rudyeva-Ryazantseva was educated via Art College, pedagogy department, St. Petersburg’s Academy of Applied Art and Josef Bakshtain Summer Conceptualism School. She is interested in “man”, issues of identification and everyday absurdity, the connection of the past and present. The heroes of her work are people who become symbols: time, place, generation, event. Rudyeva-Ryazantseva believes art is a territory of experimentation, transgression and does not limit herself to one media, combing video, painting, installation and drawing. Some of her exhibition highlights include, Kurehin Prize 2012, St. Petersburgh, Industrial Biennial of Ekaterinburg 2017 and Waterfront, an eco-project in 2017.
LIZ COHEN is a Photographer and performance artist who (Colombian-American, b. 1973) is best known for her project BODYWORK, in which she transformed an aging East German Trabant into an American El Camino lowrider, and herself into a car customizer and bikini model. Cohen’s earlier work CANAL, a series of black and white photographs and performances, documents sex workers on the fringe of the Panama Canal Zone. In her more recent work, HIM, she depicts an ostracized poet through black and white photographs, weavings, and collaged textiles. Cohen’s work has been characterized as examining immigration, nonconformity, and resistance. Cohen has received awards from the MacDowell Colony, Akademie Schloss Solitude, the Creative Capital Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation. She has exhibited work at Site Santa Fe, Ballroom Marfa, the Cranbrook Art Museum, Färgfabriken, and Museum Tinguely. Her projects have been written about in the New York Times, Art in America and Lowrider Magazine. Cohen received her MFA degree in Photography from the California College of the Arts. She holds a BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a BA in Philosophy from Tufts University. She is currently a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Art.
SONYA KELLIHER-COMBS was raised in the Northwest Alaska community of Nome. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Master of Fine Arts is from Arizona State University. Through her mixed media painting and sculpture, Kelliher-Combs offers a chronicle of the ongoing struggle for self-definition and identity in the Alaskan context. Her combination of shared iconography with intensely personal imagery demonstrates the generative power that each vocabulary has over the other. Similarly, her use of synthetic, organic, traditional and modern materials moves beyond oppositions between Western/Native culture, self/other and man/nature, to examine their interrelationships and interdependence while also questioning accepted notions of beauty. Kelliher-Combs' process dialogues the relationship of her work to skin, the surface by which an individual is mediated in culture. Kelliher-Combs' work has been shown in numerous individual and group exhibitions in Alaska, the United States and internationally, including the national exhibition Changing Hands 2: Art without Reservation and SITELINES: Much Wider Than a Line. She is a recipient of the prestigious United States Arts Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Fellowship, Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, Rasmuson Fellowship and is a recipient of the 2005 Anchorage Mayors Arts Award and 2010 Alaska Governor's Individual Artist Award.
EMILY NEWMAN was born in Singapore in 1977, raised in the UK and is currently based between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and St Petersburg, Russia. She received her MFA from CalArts in 2004 and has shown internationally including at the Taylor De Cordoba gallery in Los Angeles, the Anna Akhmatova Museum in St Petersburg and the Klaus Von Nitchtssagend Gallery in New York where she has been represented since 2004. Her work has been critically reviewed in publications such as Art Review, The Los Angeles Times and Artforum Intl, where she has contributed reviews since 2007. Her latest works draw from her time spent in Russia and explore methods of attaining historical and self-knowledge through model-building and imaginative reconstruction. She received a Fulbright in 2006 and spent three years teaching at The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and at St Petersburg University, where she headed a fledgling a program in Contemporary Art at Smolny College. She is currently the director of TOKAMAK, a structured residency for artists which takes place every summer on the island of Suomenlinna, within the framework of the Helsinki International Artists’ Exchange Program (HIAP).
Documenting the Journey
Director/Curator, Tavia La Follette, has ask Susanne Slavick to travel with the group. Slavick, who traveled to Egypt, Israel and Palestine via previous Sites of Passage projects has a great understanding of the process and has seen all of the various incarnations.
Susanne Slavick is an artist, curator and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art. Slavick’s work pursues empathic unsettlement through images that remind us of what we stand to lose after what we have lost already. She has exhibited internationally, with more recent solo shows at the Chicago Cultural Center, McDonough Museum in Youngstown, Accola Griefen Gallery in New York, and Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University. She studied at Yale University, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and Tyler School of Art in Rome and Philadelphia. Her work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and through four awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
When & Where
La Follette has been invited back to the MF to curate this 4th Sites of Passage project, scheduled to open in May 2021.
The Mattress Factory (MF) is a museum of contemporary art that exhibits room-sized works called installations. MF houses the artists, co-produces the installations and performances with ArtUp. More information at www.mattress.org
Each project takes about 2-3 years to execute. One cannot go into these exchanges in a naïve manner. This time that is needed to research, curate and fundraise. SOP is funded via the non-profit, ArtUp, www.artup.org.