Szuper Gallery started in Munich as a platform to showcase collaborative exchanges between artists from Ukraine and Germany and quickly developed into a tool to explore presence and absence as artists, acting as a container that invades public space, and questions institutions and the role of artists within them. Szuper Gallery ‘performed’ a commercial gallery project and eventually tried to subvert its processes.
The project was only part-funded by private money from the gallery owner who was a Ukrainian born business-person, but there was never clarity about the sources of funding. The gallery ran for several years until its owner eventually came under a political radar and was investigated by police. Throughout this time our team had to negotiate visas, travel, the immigration status of our collaborators, uncertainty about funding and what we suspected to its dubious origin. We travelled between Kyiv, Munich and London. Eventually we were commissioned by Munich’s quivid.de programme to develop a large-scale public art project for the Munich Immigration Office at the Munich ‘Kreisverwaltungsreferat’ at Poccistrasse.
The resulting project developed as a glass container and was situated in the entrance hall of the immigration office. Unlike most of the works financed from ‘Kunst-am-Bau’ budgets which are typically static, the Liftarchiv, in which its archive could ride up and down as in an elevator, served as a site for changing exhibitions, installations and video presentations. It was active as a performance and exhibition space in the immigration office between 2001-4 and featured site-specific collaborations with over 20 different artists, who helped us to reflect on meaning of immigration within the context of art. Project included throughout this time caused various moments of controversy. The archive in the installation remained onsite and accessible until 2020.
See Link to PDF publication (https://legacy.liftarchiv.de/2008/download/Liftarchiv.pdf)
Circus Artists, 2000
The conversations, publications and wider discourse around the themes of migration, relocation and our own immigration status became an important element of the work. We often felt that we were pushing against the fabric of the institutions. We exemplified this in the video that we filmed at the Munich Baureferat, ‘Circus Artist under the big top – clueless’, with reference to Alexander Kluge’s film of the same titled. Kluge’s film explores the correlation between conditions of exile, escape and retreat and the circus as a medium appears as a metaphor for the attempts and failed aims of the 68 protest movement.
The Extras, 2001
Our performance in the Munich Baureferat, the Buildings Department mimics the gestures of planning, plotting, into a choreography of institutional, somewhat aimless movements. The performers appear as extras in film set.
The gallery collaborations and negotiations with the different institutions that regulate entry and exit within different domains became a central focus for our work and we sought different performative modes to help us reflect on these.
Rehearsing Szuper Gallery, 2005
We saw ourselves in a continuous loop of rehearsal for how to be integrate us into the art world and system. For the exhibition Xenopolis, at Munich’s Rathaus Galerie, curated by Pia Lanzinger, we staged and wrote and staged an interview with ourselves whereby we commissioned two actors, to impersonate us, or to imagine us as two fictional characters. Rehearsing Szuper Gallery re-told the ‘background story’ of Szuper Gallery and the presumed connections to the Ukrainian mafia. In the video Ukrainian actor Yuri Rosstalnyi and Russian actor Arthur Galiandin re-enacted and through their performance established a relationship to the reception of Ukraine in the 2000s. The actors blended the re-enactment of ourselves with their own experiences as foreign actors in Germany. Fiction and reality merge through improvisation and the staged discussion raises questions about what it means to work be an artist and foreigner working and living in exile.
Work, Arbeit, Rabota, 2007
As a collaborative project we moved between different context and cities and it also became clear that hearsay, gossip, stories were part of the fabric that we continued to negotiate. In the meantime I had moved to London and the context of the work became even more complex.
In 2007 Shezad Dawood invited us to work with him on a staging an artist studio situation in a residential apartment in London’s Knightsbridge, where we decided to turn the apartment into a recording studio and to further spin the aspect of storytelling. Working with other artist friends as performers, who all had a history of immigration to London (from Russia, Ukraine, South Korea, Sweden, Wales) we performed https://szuper.com/Video-Work-Arbeit-Rabota . For the exhibition we divided the lower space into a dark mirrored studio/living space and the upper space into a light gallery. The video evolves as the performers move through and inhabit the plush Knightsbridge location. They are rehearsing for an interview, thereby deconstructing the process of performing an act; concentrating on entrances, rehearsalsdocumentation, the set, the mechanics of the space, repetition and looping, re-enactment, awkwardness and delay. With an emphasis on notions of time and how artistic practice and experience is constructed.
The Extras Vancouver, 2005
The Extras, was created for Western Front and a performance art biennale in Vancouver, in which we staged a protest in the city’s central library. The video embodies the ambiguous role of the Extras: they are extra but necessary; they have to be there without being present. Extras are brought to the scene in mid-story, and they do not know the storyline or understand the meaning of their own actions. In the long and often boring shooting sessions their work is mainly waiting and killing time, but that also allows them to think their own thoughts and alternative interpretations. The ambivalence is also evident in the video soundtrack as collective thoughts in the first person plural. Szuper Gallery’s work is characterized by this kind of vacillation between individualism and collectivism, anonymity and standing out, outsiderness and belonging. Their works contemplate intermediate spaces, being an extra and an outsider, the dynamics of groups and money and the intangibility of human existence and action.