Six Eastern European positions in Scope BLN
At the heart of EE TETRIS is our intention to present several Eastern European artists, connected to the Berlin cultural scene.
From the very beginning, we decided that the project would be as democratic as possible and open to different interpretations and conceptual upgrading. Therefore, the exhibition does not aim to be comprehensive in terms of the number of authors represented or the conceptual directions of their works. It has nothing to do with the "classics" of the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century — "Eastern European artists presented in the West." EE TETRIS rather focuses on the individual practices of some artists coming from Eastern Europe and taking place for years in the cultural context of Berlin. We show individualities, without looking for generalizations, about Eastern European art placed in a Western European environment.
Following on from this idea, comes another important feature of
EE TETRIS, namely that the exhibition provides a platform for six independent artistic positions without necessarily bringing them within any of the ideological, political or social doctrines – nor those of our time, nor those of the recent past. Not by chance, the invited artists belong to a newer generation that comes after the generation that is more associated with the "manifest" construction of the image of Eastern Europe to be presented to the West.
Therefore, the questions we asked have a qualitatively newer nature, such as: What characterises the specific professional practices of these artists in their current social, cultural or institutional environment? Do they relate to the idea of community? Do they have an active interaction with the countries they come from and what does it mean? How has the reality of the Berlin art scene influenced the specificity of not only their art, but also the strategies and principles for its public presentation?
We started to arrange the "blocks" of the EE TETRIS project, inspired by the symbolism of this iconic game. We found symbolism, both in its structure and in its history.
Tetris is a game that is very different from anything known up to the time of its creation in the 1980s. Apart from being the first video game created beyond the Iron Curtain and breaking into the West, most video games up until then were based on common raid, conquer and destroy themes. In Tetris, it's the opposite — construction and the logic of creation are in the foreground. Still, the gameplay is not that encouraging for the player. Just when you manage to arrange the perfect line of blocks, it immediately disappears... What remains visible are only your mistakes, what you failed to consider and foresee. You don't enjoy what you have achieved, but you try to correct your mistakes.
Often the fluctuations or career development of an artist who has left their home country and moved to live elsewhere is at the heart of this imaginary Tetris. The desire to understand the logic of the processes, the desire for the perfect integration of one or another "block" in this new and unknown system, by predicting and avoiding the error, are something very characteristic.
But wouldn't the surest mistake be to try to rationalise what the mind stubbornly rejects? Like the madness of war, aggression, destruction and pain? Can horror be aestheticised through the eerie symbolism of a burning earth? Daria Koltsova creates her stained glass works that abstractly document the fires raging in the occupied Ukrainian fields. The beauty of these objects placed in the white cube of the gallery is unquestionable, and at the same time, the astonishment and sense of insurmountable weight, realising the real military actions that provoked their creation, is indisputable.
The history of the Tetris game has its symbolic meaning deeply rooted within recent history of East and West. Created at the height of the Cold War, the fight over its copyright shows how the two systems are beginning to learn from each other. The West discovers a world in which the individual does not matter at all. It has no right to intellectual property, which only the state can dispose of. On the contrary, the East is receiving one of its first practical lessons in capitalism and at the same time realising that the great collapse of the system is inexorably approaching.
The Eastern European socialist everyday life of the late 1980s, with its dream of the Western consumer world — precisely this moment of refraction and realisation is fixed by János Brückner's painting installation. It constructs a nostalgic memory of the "perfect Eastern European home" of the time of advanced socialism, where the main colour inspirations come from illegally infiltrated capitalist advertisements or from the glossy pages of some West German magazine.
It wasn't until the fall of the Iron Curtain, in 1989, that the creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, was given the opportunity to leave the Soviet Union, immigrate to the United States, and finally receive some kind of reward for his work.
The topic of travel, relocation, following personal dreams, the desire to find yourself in a world that offers you something more than what you have in your home country and at the same time the constant return and departure, provoked Marta Djourina to create her suitcase - "monument" as the ultimate symbol of the nomadic nature of the contemporary artist. In her installation, the technology of photography necessarily requires the condition of travel, literally and metaphorically passing through the scanners of multiple airports, conscious points of departure and subconscious points of return.
Of course, the new and unfamiliar environment is not always what you imagine before you actually get into it. The Tetris you have to arrange depends not only on your abilities or intentions, but also on cultural stereotypes, prejudices or fear of the "foreign". The funny doll from
Veneta Androva's film tells a story about the puzzle of societal stereotypes, acceptance, rejection and cultural clash.
Corresponding to all this, but even more declaratively, is shown in the work by Saša Tatić. She creates huge "posters" in the form of photography studio backdrops that verbalise her personal "immigrant laws." The installation invites the audience to actively participate by using this background for selfies and thus associating with what is written on it. It turns out that the personal has become the valid for many others who share a similar personal story Anton Stoyanov's works weave the biography of their author into themselves. The artist used the classical technique of Eastern Orthodox medieval painting to create their speculative, "metaphysical" essence. Thus, he deliberately declares his origin from a particular topography, with its cultural, religious and historical traditions. These works demand respect—manipulating our subconsciously encoded one or another attitude toward spirituality, mysticism, or religion. The images of the "saints", however, are directly inspired by the problems of climate change, which are seen through the prism of Berlin's subcultures.
The music for the video game Tetris has its own curious evolution. Russian folk songs, arrangements by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as compositions by Hirokazu Tanaka and Doctor Spin have appeared over the years. This mix of eastern sound welcomed by western taste, we could use as another metaphor, suitable also in the analysis of the EE TETRIS project.
The exhibition presents a group of artists who originate from one of the Eastern European countries, but who work in a Western context, absorbing its institutional practices and working models. Although they have retained some of the ties to their origins, they still mainly use their international professional network created after their relocation to Germany.
And this actually distinguishes them to a significant extent from their colleagues who live and work permanently in one of the Eastern European countries and whose practice is, of course, different – as a result of a different social, political or economic reality.
These, as well as any other possible future critical observations and analyses, turn out to be extremely important in the process of adequately analysing, understanding and defining the problematic of the complex Tetris of contemporary Eastern European art. The exhibition
EE TETRIS gives the possible start / restart of such an artistic-research discussion.