Project “This workshop strives to be exemplary”

Project “This workshop strives to be exemplary”
ZIP art-group and the Workshop community
The project of ZIP art-group and its filial Workshop community was displayed in the autumn of 2012 first in Krasnodar where The Workshop was formed and worked and later in Moscow in the XL Gallery. The exhibition presented a kind of report on half a year work of artists and non-artists working on patterns of self-organization under the conditions of Russian province, and attempting to change the situation using artistic methods.
At the same time the project is not just documentation of The Workshop actions. Although photo and video media form the main part of the exhibition it has worked out a visual and sculptural language of its own related to the experience of Russian Avant-garde and particularly constructivism.
This visual connection with avant-garde extended up to quoting is not of decorative or post modernist value. It reflects an essential connection and although it does contain some reasonable irony it is directed rather at the common avant-garde practices than at the art system. The Workshop inherits from avant-garde not only means of expression but also the belief that the world can be changed by means of art. Thus the Workshop community is a subject as well as a product of these changes ranging from issues of local daily life (a crosswalk across a highway near Anapa painted by artists was later officially reproduced by highway service) to social shifts in Krasnodar and Krasnodar region (introduction of discussion platform, formation of intellectual and artistic community of new generation, increase in awareness of the city community of the problems of contemporary art as well as social and political problems)
Elena Golubtsova

Activities report
The Workshop community appeared in Krasnodar spontaneously after the politically hot winter of 2011-2012. At that time the artists of Krasnodar Institute of Contemporary Art became civic activists taking part in the President elections as election observers. At the polling stations they met Krasnodar activists and other politically and socially aware people.  At that moment two ideas became apparent 1) the idea of uniting the people according to the extent of their awareness regardless of their involvement in the artistic process 2) the necessity of extending the artistic message beyond the bounds of art to real social situation. The Workshop that has existed for half a year became the research and practice ground for these two ideas presenting this exhibition as an activity report.

The Workshop is a group of people belonging or not belonging to the conventional world of art, making a multi-authored statement in artistic as well as social space. To be more precise their actions and statements sown in the field of art grow into real social life. This at least was the basic idea that was brought to life under the slogan found at the abandoned ZIP factory over the entrance to one of the workshops “This workshop strives to be exemplary” – which combines some utopian, ironical, poetical and direct meanings. This discovery provided the name for the report exhibition of the Workshop.
The practice was that different people (artists, journalists, social and political activists, designers, architects, bloggers) came to Krasnodar Institute of Contemporary Art, discussed various problems and suggested ways of their artistic elaboration and non-artistic solution. Out of all this differences emerged the united Workshop community that did not just produce objects, actions and exhibitions but was in itself a “product” and object of research. It was all done without a rigid program in the atmosphere of equality of all the suggestion from all the participants and in compliance with the principles of grassroots self-organization practiced earlier by some members of the Workshop (ZIP art-group, KIMA) and new to the others.

Beyond the art
The main aim of the Workshop was crossing or simply (though it isn’t simple at all) ignoring the formal border between the world of art and the real social situation. Partially this crossing was possible because of the very type and composition of the community (non-artists). Another advantage was the Russian province environment where the art doesn’t exist as a system so the border line between it and other spheres is not so clear. Without this line keeping the artist in the professional environment he or she has the possibility to fulfill non- conventional function and be integrated in any new spaces, work as an equal with all the members of “social and political frontier”.  From the very beginning the Workshop undertook to work on the principle of interaction with real space by means of organizing actions, incorporating texts and objects that would draw public attention to certain problems and in some cases inspiring to solve them in the reality beyond the art. While Duchamp brought the reality into the art and social space is the working platform of actionists than one of the Workshop’s objectives is to bring art into the non-artistic reality so that its life would continue conforming to the reality laws independent from the authors’ team. As a result the named practices are merged and turned upside down, and it’s no more the Workshop and the created objects that represent art but the whole situation of diffusion.  Not all the projects influenced the outer environment directly but all of them had a great impact on the Workshop members. Thus not only the borders between art and non-art were destroyed but also the borders between object, subject and the matter of art.

The Workshop activities implied certain actions for self-organization and community-building as well as interaction with outer environment aimed at changing it. These activities were at the same time a research of all the listed processes. One of the most important results of this research was the conclusion that in a crisis situation people can have artistic, political or clinical hysterics or unite, organize themselves and than choose a limited part of real world (it may be a college corridor, a village or anything else) and change the situation in such a way that would trigger a chain reaction of further transformation and development.