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Social Marble cycle:
ID: C3





Date:
Since 2014

Introduction:
The cycle is based on the practice of cleaning services in Minsk, which are not able to wash graffiti on marble and began to glue them with a film with a marble ornament. Works on historical fakes and layers, on Belarusian society and its myths.
See more photos about 
the practice of cleaning
services in Minsk

March, 2013






Installation
Social Marble in the
Center of Europe
,
OK16, Minsk, Belarus,
2019
 




Stages the project
implementation:


2019:

ST()RE #11:
Blind Window

(Breakthrough)


W75.1

︎ technical info
Site-specific installation
For Forum Regionum, Dnipro Center for Contemporary Culture, Dnepr, Ukraine





The installation is located in the lobby of the building of the early 20th century, which for a long time was in an abandoned state. Now in this building repair and creation of the Dnepr Center of Contemporary Culture has begun. The main large window in the lobby is missing. Installation repeats the emptiness of its opening. The sculpture is pasted over with a rocaille film depicting marble (the sculpture is hollow inside), creating the effect of a heavy marble slab.

On the reverse side, a detailed glossary is displayed on the installation surface, which tells about the many connotations and contains references to historical and current processes. This installation is about the reorganization (breakthrough) of the historical space into a new cultural institution and a warning about the dangers of creating fakes.

This work also belongs to the cycle ST()RE.
 

Site-specific installation
ST()RE #11: Blind Window,
Dnipro Center for
Contemporary Culture,

Dnepr, Ukraine,
2019



2019:

Social Marble
in the Center of Europe


Monuments and contemporary myths


W71.1

︎ technical info

Installation


For solo exhibition Social Marble in the Center of Europe, OK16, Minsk, Belarus, 2019



Project curator:
Olga Shparaga
Texts:
Sergey Shabohin and Olga Shparaga





Installation
Social Marble in the
Center of Europe
,
OK16, Minsk, Belarus,
2019
The first works of the ‘Social Marble’ series are from the year 2011. The impetus for its realisation was a particular creative practice of the Minsk subway cleaning service observed by the artist. Unable to wash away the caustic pigments of graffiti on the marble walls of the subway entrances and underpasses, the workers of the cleaning service began to paste over them with marble-patterned film. This adhesive vinyl film is often used to protect kitchen countertops, store shelves, and other items — it truly is a ‘social marble’, a budget option accessible to all. At the same time, the structure of real marble is a result of complex geo-and bio-processes that are similar in their consistent, yet chaotic ualities similar to the social ones. So it came to be that the adhesive film with the marble pattern pasted onto the marble walls served as the starting point for the entire work series.
See more photos about
the practice of cleaning
services in Minsk

March, 2013
The installation is conceived as a podium in the shape of a wind rose displaying a number of objects created specifically for the project, ‘Social Marble in the Centre of Europe’. All objects are made from cheap materials and pasted over with marble-patterned film with each one referring to a certain contemporary myth about Belarus. Moreover, many of those myths deal with various European ideas about history, memory, politics, economics, culture or religion: as they ‘settle’ in Belarus they are refracted here in a specific way. Reflection on the myth-making uses examples of Belarusian monumental art: each of the objects references a specific building, memorial, monument or sculptural frieze.
Series Social Marble
in the Center of Europe
,
Art Belarus Gallery, ZAL #2,
Minsk, Belarus,
2019
Models in imitation marble precisely communicate the main ideas of the project: searching for fakes and the verification of the purpose of myths, identifying the processes of cultural layering and discovery of historical palimpsests, monitoring the mechanics of nation-building and state-building in Belarus. The impression of quasi-materiality and the idea of cultural layering makes the installation seem deliberately fake, while references to ‘wildness’ of mythology gives it a theatrically pagan dimension.

According to contemporary studies of the processes of social transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, the experience of social imitation is not exclusively and specifically Belarusian. It came to be defining for the democratic changes of the last 25 years, which, in theory, were supposed to allow Eastern Europe to ‘catch up’ with Western Europe. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century it became clear that imitation of key democratic principles and institutions embraces almost the entire globe and conveys the unreadiness of those who have benefited from globalization to express solidarity with those who have lost at it. This means that today, democratic values and institutions require serious rethinking and discussion. Without those rethinking processes, the modern world can easily become a comfortable place for some and a zone of alienation for others.


 
Installation
Social Marble in the
Center of Europe
,
CLB Berlin, Berlin, Germany,
2019

Information boards:


Podium with
an object in its centre:

Reflective Crystal
in the Centre of Europe

Contemporary mythology:
Myths about the centre of Europe and the crystal in the swamp
Monumental works:
The National Library of Belarus in Minsk and the sign-monument of the geographical centre of Europe in Polotsk

One of the contemporary myths about Belarus is that the geographical centre of Europe lies in our country. Numerous studies have challenged it, arguing that the centre of Europe is outside of Belarus. However, one of such studies claims it is located near Polotsk, near Lake Sho. This endless dispute about the ‘centre of Europe' diverging into different geographic directions is symbolised by the hexagon, a geometric shape also used as a template for the display podium on which the objects are placed.

In the centre of the podium lies a rhombicuboctahedron, its shape refers to the National Library of the Republic of Belarus. It is the most recognizable architectural structure from the time of Alexander Lukashenko’s administration. Contemporary myths regularly mention the building and its construction – they narrate it as giant magical pagan crystal built on a swamp (swamp being an important mystical symbol in Belarusian legends). In the framework of this project, the marble crystal becomes a core of the podium, resembling an altar for occult ceremonies. The 18 square and 8 triangular facets of the crystal seem to reflect those diverse ‘ideas of Europe’ that aspire to its centre and are transformed or rejected in the local context.1 The whole installation is a collective image of the myths and legends of contemporary Belarus, frozen in the form of its objects.

1. Drawing depicting the National Library o the Republic of Belarus

2. Monument of the geographical centre of Europe in Polotsk

3. Coordinates on the
monument. In 2000, Belarusian scientists Alexey Solomonov and Valery Anoshko published the results of a study according to which the geographical center of Europe is located 48 km south-west of Polotsk, not far from Lake Sho (exact coordinates: 55 ° 10’55” N, 28 ° 15’30” E)

4. Literary festival in Polotsk ‘ Center of Europe’

5. Logo of ‘Crystal’, the best known Belarussian holding company for the production of wine and spirits

6. Model of the National Library. Under the decree of Lukashenko, every Belarusian financially contributed to the construction of the building

Note:
1. Number 18 is very important for Sergey Shabohin’s cycle of works ‘Practices of Subordination’, where the entire extensive archive is divided into 18 equal parts. 

First object:

The Nature of Belarusians


The ‘Tolerant’ Bison

Contemporary mythology:
Myths about tolerant Belarusians
Monumental works:
Monument ‘Bison’ on the Minsk-Brest highway

Another prevalent myth about Belarus is the idea of Belarusians as incredibly tolerant, hospitable, and kind-hearted people. This myth is disproved by statistics: while Belarusians really are quite tolerant towards people from different cultures and religions, their attitude towards migrants and the LGBTQ community can hardly be described as such.

It is common knowledge that the bison, the last preserved species of wild oxen in Europe today, is widely used as a symbol and artistic image of Belarus. Bison are depicted on national currency and stamps, often mentioned in legends and fairy tales; they are the main inhabitant and symbol of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a relic forest reserve in south-western Belarus.1

Not far from the forest, on the Minsk-Brest highway, visitors are met by an enormous, 70 tons in weight, bison monument. Giant, sharp, crescent-shaped horns grow outwards from the animal’s flat silhouette. Within the framework of the project, the bison monument appears to be a very accurate representation of the myth about tolerance and hospitality of the Belarusians.

Another interesting example is a sculpture Woman on a Bison in Minsk. Its story is symbolic and symptomatic. This sculpture was supposed to serve as a basis for the patriotic monument Partisan Belarus. However, the idea came to nothing as the veterans have spoken against the installation of a sculpture of a practically naked woman, albeit she is holding a banner. As a result, the sculpture stands near the MAZ Palace of Culture and can be read as a symbol of the patriarchate in Belarus: no matter in what way the Belarusian woman is immortalised in stone, whether as a symbol of Motherland or as a bison tamer, she will eventually be perceived as a sexual object.
 
1. Bison monument on the highway Minsk-Brest

Project by Brestproekt OJSC, 2003

© photo: brothergrin.livejournal.com, 2011

2. Envelope with stamp and seal with bison imagery

3. 100 Belarusian rubles, 1992

4. Postcard with a photo of a mosaic at the entrance to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha

© photo: ntravel.by

5. Candy wrapper Belovezhsky Bison made in the factory Kommunarka in 1987

6. A caricature of the Belovezha Accords, in which Boris Yeltsin, Stanislav Shushkevich and Leonid Kravchuk are riding a bison to Mikhail Gorbachev with the flag of the USSR

Printed in newspaper Respublika (Republic), December 1991

© Illustration: M. Malyshev

7. Sculpture Woman on a Bison in Minsk


Note:
1. The Belovezha Accords were signed in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in 1991. There, it was announced that the USSR had ceased to exist and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was established. In 2017 Sergey Shabohin devoted a separate project to the myths around the Belovezha Accords, which was presented as part of the international project ‘Pust*’.