To declare a territory as being disputed is a form of terrorism, revealing somebody’s expansionist intentions. The illusion of stability turns to dust, our familiar world collapses, and off in the distance the flames of some warlike operation can be seen busily burning away.
Disputed territories are familiar to us as the subject of feuding between countries. They situate themselves in a geopolitical zone in which mountains, rivers, seas and oceans claim their own right to define political reality. These are spaces that have split away from real life, taken on an ambiguous autonomy, and gained independent power. In these places, it seems, hills and valleys have suddenly lost their innocence, forever breaking the rule that nature should remain quiet. Instead, they mobilize and motivate and become full-fledged participants in political events.
Here the fantasy of “natural borders” comes into effect; these are places that are “objectively” fenced off by rivers and rows of mountains. These animate territories experience inflation, both ideological and moral. So it can happen that a quadrant of impenetrable forest on the map can start to demand involvement in politics, to denote its own particular purpose.
Disputed territories are holes in a petrified world, divided into spheres of influence. They are living plots, formed by variable whims of human minds and madness. They offer hope for change, and are attractive because they give you a chance to place your bets, to take part in the game. They promise relaxation in the form of confrontations, and they are capable of reviving conflict in places where you might think that bleak dogmatic constructs had settled in for good. The value of disputed lands lies in hope and in duality.
We move along a volatile border, from which we can see the constant shifting of battle lines, the focal point of the violent outburst, manifesting itself again and again.
But where exactly is this disputed territory? It lies in social interactions, in exclusions, in marginalization, gender and sexuality, in war over private and common interests, in public space and its acquisition, in choices people make as civilians, politicians, and activists, and it is above all in the field of power.
Perhaps we can be the ones to deal a pre-emptive strike today, from here?
All these elements are in danger of smashing themselves to pieces on the opposite edge, with its distinctly audible, utilitarian political noise, ideological decoration, hashed together out of improvised, solid materials.
“The free market”, “family values and traditions”, “national identity” – are just some of the sacral taboo concepts which any mutually exclusive ideas are free to include in themselves. Exhausted, overused and only with great difficulty washed clean of false hopes, they are ready for use once again.
To keep disputed territories within the field of view means we have to violate lesser connections, to burst through the dam of ideological trimmings to a place where hope springs forth, this time from feelings of loss and discomfort.
We have to break away from the absorbing power of parody and new religious doctrines with all their easy conscience, and move towards a reality in which disputed territories are still subject to political conquest, and are ready to become a place that people can inhabit.
However, even the most well-deserved victory has the tendency to acquire negative value due to its very characteristic victorious domination.
The works presented in the exhibition, as well as the curatorial group presenting them, find it necessary to move away from the triumphant, dominant, dogmatic territory of “public good” and emerge at the edge of these discourses, where completely or partially marginal value systems are constantly being developed and collapsing.
By choosing the political again and again, each time discovering the certainty of this necessity, we imagine not ourselves but rather the artworks in the role of expressive subjects, whose language is continuously invented anew, flowing outside hard-and-fast phrases and not confined to the quickly exhaustible language of any political convention.
It is critical that we call into question the position that we together and each of us individually is obliged to occupy in the social system, in the art system, in a system of worldviews; and one of the ways to do this could be to consciously choose extreme vulnerability and an entirely new field of interactivity.
This particular opportunity arose in the exhibition in Sevastopol’s M.P. Kroshistky Art Museum. The key concept in our work and the parallel discussion program we organized was the utopian idea of the museum, remaining in a drifting, transitional state, the fantasy of an institution honoring its history, manifesting it, though rapidly losing power, authority, and consequently, all the machinery for controlling reality that it developed over the decades.
Such a structure is greatly lacking, but, realizing the advantages arising out of its losses, it is capable of creating new conceptions of the museum and art institutions that are so necessary today.
During the exhibition, this idea constituting the horizon of “Disputed Territory” repeatedly took the form of immediate experience, discussion, actions, and the reflection of these forms solidified overlays the history of the event. For us, its history is less important than the metaphorical line unfolding around it, continuing to produce meanings even after the exhibition is over.