Drorinel Marc. A Better Life Soon. 1998-2001


I'd have to say that the exhibition quite precisely and carefully reveals the thematic repertoire that worries today's Nordic art – artists from Scandinavia, Finland and Russia's Northwest. The main indication was the exposition's dispassionate, from-the-sidelines objectivity. This display of objective, Nordic art came about from the putting together of a rather complicated, branched-out team of curators for the exhibition. In 2010, the “Creative Association of Curators” (CAC) put forward the cultural initiative, “Nordic Art Today”, with a time-span of five years. The association's founders, Ana Bitkina and the sociologist, Maria Veits, work in both the project's conceptual and administrative parts. Consequently, alongside their curatorial work, they must deal with production and fundraising. CAC came out with a branching structure that fostered direct project realization. To represent local art scenes, CAC invited nationally representative curators who have already achieved professional reputations, but are not (yet) stars: Aura Seikkula from Finland, Simon Sheikh from Denmark, Birta Gundjonsdottir from Iceland, Kari Brandtcegs from Norway, Power Ekroth from Sweden and Ana Bitkina from Russia.

Goran Hasanpur. “Tower of Babel” 2011

Such collegiate work on the exhibition (based, in part, on Nicolas Bourriaud's idea about relationship aesthetics) allowed the curators to do a multilevel examination in choosing what to exhibit. As a result, the whole project was subject to a pathos stemming from constructive cooperation, instead of subject to the authoritative whims of a single curator. In addition, the continual international dialog going on during the creation process of the exhibition allowed for a clear definition of the curators' message – today's Nordic art doesn't exist as an ideological, territorial or value-based union; we are dealing with various forms of individual tonalities and treatments, with a conflict of interpretation based on clashing national traditions or differing descriptive discourses: neo-Marxism, post-colonialism, feminism, etc.

In my opinion, this is a very “correct” message: today, Nordic art (just like art from many other regions) doesn't have a unifying and defining criterion. Which is why, when discussing this art, many separate viewpoints must be understood, each of which states its own existential truth. I must admit that, on the backdrop of St. Petersburg as a whole, this exhibition appears “correct” and smartly made: it speaks to the local viewer in the language of world values and gives him an invaluable educational resource.

Russia's cultural management, especially that which is funded by state subsidies, tries to make cultural events and art happenings into expensive shows. Surprised by the immense funding going to worshiped stars and the accompanying banquets, the world must be shown the strength and ambitions of Russia's natural resource capitalism.

In the exhibition, “Nordic Art Today”, another method is put to use – a much more western and successful strategy. The product of the cooperative creative work between the curators and artists is research – a process that is collective, intellectual and at the same time, completely practical. A process in which the mission of today's art and the anthropological dimensions of human experience during the current crash of socio-economic formations is complexly sensed. And instead of attracting stars with huge fees, the curators have chosen to popularize new, not-yet-widely-known artists, who have the potential to become leaders of the art stage.

In addition, Russia's cultural management stands out with its extreme bureaucracy and its administrative cynicism, whereas the Nordic Art Exhibition encourages viewers to (re)evaluate the basic tenets of social democracy, such as honoring human rights, state economic regulation, justice and equality, security of private property, ridding social inequality, and others. With the current neo-liberal dictate, it is these aspects that create the platform for open, international dialog.

Allen Grubesic. “I Was Young...”. 2007

Nordic art (and all of today's art) doesn't put an accent on revealing the historical connectedness of meaning on a world-wide scope, but rather communicates stories of real people, sometimes even very funny ones or the kind that seem unbelievable. 21st century art senses the systemic connections between people, including those that are intimate and friendly; it creates an aesthetic from something as mundane as simply moving within a space, where the whole world starts to seem like just one, huge transfer station; it puts light on the complex relationships between the arbitrariness of corporate capitalism and the wants of the little person, which are, as a rule, ignored. Only, in Nordic art, there is a pronounced disillusionment with (and fear of) today's life, because the deconstruction of overall welfare in the region has begun only recently; only recently did the socially-oriented state system start to collapse; only recently was financing of low-profit art projects reduced, only recently did the average middle-class person start to feel on his own skin the unpredictability of life in neo-liberal capitalism, where financial inequality is growing and social guarantees are disappearing. >>