interdisciplinary project: light, dance, sound, finding/created objects and documents

ПУСТ* (PUST) is an interdisciplinary project exploring the processes of mythologization of a specific historical event — the Belavezha Accords of 1991. The project includes а light installation, dance, sound, multi-channel video, along with found and specially created objects.

The title ПУСТ* refers to events that took place on December 7–8, 1991, during which time the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords, officially dissolving the Soviet Union. This event took place in a hunting cabin in the woods of the Belavezha Forest (Belarus) under the veil of secrecy and still mythologized to this day. Various sources report a variety of controversial events. Some assert that the premises where the treaty was signed had been surrounded by secret services that did not intervene in what was taking place. Other sources state that the treaties were signed in a drunken state. There is a prevalent rumor that that, once signed, the documents temporarily disappeared and were then found in the trash bin the following day. Others conjecture that the signatories feared being accused of treason and had made preparations to flee across the border to Poland by walking through the forest.

The artists behind the ПУСТ* project are representatives of a generation that was caught up in the collapse of the USSR and felt the consequences of this breakup over two eras, but did not directly participate in the related events due to their young age at the time. The ПУСТ* Project is an attempt to fill in gaps in one’s own «mental map» and make this event a part of a restored historical memory.

Incorporating multiple artistic methods and approaches, the collective attempts to imagine the events in the Belavezha Forest from the perspective of its participants, drawing parallels between fear of the “wild forest” and fear of wild politics, between being completely adrift but also spontaneously decisive, between the enormous impact of this enormous political decision and a series of unpredictable and absurd factors that influenced it behind the scenes.

The title ПУСТ* has several connotations: on the one hand, it signifies a “wild, uninhabited, dense, pathless forest” (Belavezha Forest) that would otherwise be primarily defined by emptiness and desolation. At the same time, the word means “let it be”, which signifies a kind of acceptance of having to inhabit the political wilderness. This is a criticism of society and ourselves.

ПУСТ* is the resulting project of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory — a large-scale project of Goethe-Institut Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In 2016, the collective worked as guest artists in Karlsruhe and, as an outcome of the residency, presented the first outline of ПУСТ* in ZKM. In 2017, the collective visited the site of the historical event, the Belavezha Forest, and collected audio and video material for the exhibit. The final presentation took place on November 23 – 26, 2017 in St. Petersburg.

Viewing the Belavezha event as an act of creating political myths with a kind of fairy tale behind it, various symbolic objects were found: brushwood, fern, anthill, wild animals and other images filled with paganism, ceremonial alcohol as an invariable attribute of fantasy and conjecture, Soviet crystal, a long negotiation table, the document itself and the bizarre story of its creation and disappearance. The team created an eight-channel synthesizer that uses phase-shifted analog sine-waves to generate constantly changing ambient-noise landscapes in real-time. Schwarzwald light installation acted as stand alone object during the exhibition, providing scenography for the performance and allowing visitors to enter the conditional forest. The video was produced in the woods of the Belavezha Forest (Belarus) and in Schwarzwald (Germany) and built into the exhibition as a multi-channel installation. The choreography consisted of various bodily patterns: movements of ordinary Soviet citizens (the social body), images of forest phantoms and natural / political savagery, the plasticity of politicians including the facial expressions of Belarusian President Stanislav Shushkevich and a dance of Boris Yeltsin.

First residence
12.09 – 09.10.2016
ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

Team: Yuri Akbalkan, Alexandra Portyannikova, Sergey Shabohin, Snezhana Vinogradova

First project presentation
9.10.2016 / 20:00
Kubus, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

Author team: Yuri Akbalkan, Alexandra Portyannikova, Sergey Shabohin, Snezhana Vinogradova

Team ZKM: Luise Wiesenmüller (production manager), Hans Gass (lighting, event engineering), Sebastian Schottke (sound engineer), Matthias Müller (sound engineer), Bernhard Sturm (operating technology), David Luchow (assistant operating technology), Götz Dipper (music informatics), Yannick Hofmann and Caro Mössner (secretary), Christina Zartmann and Anna Titova (video documentation), Anton Kossjanenko (recording)

Second residence
05 – 18.07.2017
Minsk and Belavezha Forest, Belarus

Team: Yuri Akbalkan, Daria Plokhova, Alexandra Portyannikova, Sergey Shabohin, Snezhana Vinogradova
Camera: Alexey Kubasov

Final presentation, performance and installation
Performance: 23.11.2017 / 20:00
Exhibition: 23 – 26.11.2017
Berthold Centre, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Author team: Yuri Akbalkan, Isadorino Gore Dance co-op (Daria Plokhova, Alexandra Portyannikova), Sergey Shabohin, VOLNA (Nikita Golyshev, Snezhana Vinogradova)

* ПУСТ (PUST) — the title of the project refers to the Old-Slavic etymology of the word пуща (Puschtscha), which means a “primeval forest”. The word was formed from the short form of the adjective пуст (empty). Several words from the same root can be found in Slavic languages: пустота (emptiness), пустыня (desert), пусть (let it be).

Original idea, design, objects: Sergey Shabohin

Concept, performance: Isadorino Gore Dance co-op (Daria Plokhova, Alexandra Portyannikova)
Costumes: VOLNA

Light installation
Concept, production: VOLNA (Nikita Golyshev, Snezhana Vinogradova)
Electronic assembly support: Nikita Savinyh
Assembly: VOLNA (Dmitry Gavkalyuk, Katerina Morza)

Composer: Yuri Akbalkan
Development and programming of digital synthesizer: Sergey Kostyrko

Video installation
Concept, editing, production: VOLNA
Camera: Alexey Kubasov, Sergey Shabohin

Project documentation
Camera: Polina Korotaeva, VOLNA
Photo: Valery Smirnov

Goethe-Institut St. Petersburg
Director: Dr. Günther Hasenkamp
Initiator of the project: Director of Goethe-Institut St. Petersburg, 2014 – 2017: Dr. Angelika Eder
Project coordinators: Jana Soboleva, Snezhana Vinogradova

Special thanks: Alexey Bratochkin, William Cohen, Ksenia Diodorova, Vera Dzedok, Viktor Fiht, Justina Fink, Zhanna Gladko, Tatjana Kirianova, Beate Körner, Evgeny Korniag, Roman Krasilnikov, Klim Losovsky, Alexey Lunev, Simon Matikashvili, Pavel Preobrazhensky, Tatjana Pronina, Nemanja Sarbajic, Agata Semenova, Viktor Smolensky, Nikola Spesivtsev, Dzina Zhuk, Tatjana Zhukova

The work was displayed at the exhibitions, performances and presentation:
2017, Berthold Centre, Saint Petersburg, Russia
2017, Minsk and Belavezha Forest (residence), Belarus
2017, ПУСТ* (presentation); in the frame of the festival “Work hard! Play Hard! Transmission”, Minsk, Belarus
2016, ZKM (residence and perfomance), Karlsruhe, Germany

>>>The description of the project is also available in Russian