Emplacement Curation

Gail Pearce

The site-specific, cross-cultural, collaborative art project known as ‘emplacements’ took place over three summers in St Petersburg. 1999 - 2003. 

This paper tries to examine how cross-cultural curation was implemented and what strategies were necessary to ensure inclusion, what structures, physical, political and social, allowed art to be made around the city, how digital technology within the project affected the curatorial possibilities, and how the artist- curator functioned.

This paper describes the processes involved in the ‘emplacements’ project, examining the development over three years of ‘emplacements’ and how it fitted into the culture of St Petersburg. It uses the installation work of Gail Pearce as an example of how the artistic, technological and collaborative processes developed, as well as how the work itself was a response to three differing styles of curation.





In 1999 a group of artists came together as part of 'emplacements', a cross-cultural art collaboration taking place in St Petersburg towards the 300th anniversary celebrations of the city in 2003. 'emplacements' was set up by Françoise Dupré and Roxane Permar in 1997 and developed into artist-led cross-cultural collaborative projects between UK, Russian and European artists, organisations and venues. The aims of 'emplacements' were:

  • To develop work which explored notions of identity and place in relation to specific contexts, histories and communities.
  • To explore and develop cross-cultural collaborative practices.
  • To develop creative engagements with a variety of organisations.
  • To develop models of art in context and in relation to local, national and international situations.


In the summers of 2000 to 2003, Russian and British artists worked in small collaborative groups to create temporary, context-specific artworks using installation, live art and new media to explore critical issues of place and identity in relation to the city’s historical and contemporary life.


The invited international artists responded to the project and not only learnt from working and collaborating together and with Russian artists, but also were introduced to places in the city which were unlikely sites for ‘the gallery’. Indeed, the concept of the gallery was questioned, as was the definition of the artwork.


‘…I mean this is what artists do if they are working environmentally, just choose what their space is. But you use the space, the context and the history that you have, the story you have.’ (Elliott,2000: 98)


In the early stages, the artists were not prepared for the stories that would emerge. The variety of responses to the sites encouraged the audience to engage with both artists and the space in a number of ways, through performance, poetry readings, installations and interventions. However, the exciting element of the ‘emplacements’ project was the hope of interaction and continued collaboration with agencies, artists and the people of St Petersburg.


As Andrew Renton said at the Baltic talk of The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation [5] ‘I’m interested in those spaces, but I’m also interested in the question of what on earth we make exhibitions for, unless there is a resonance that happens afterwards. What is the point of just doing a show? It seems to me that if you’re making a show in a particular place, what would be really useful - bearing in mind exhibitions are expensive things to put on - would be to make them in a place where the consequence of your making that project allows other things to happen.’ (Renton, 2002: 32)


In his example, he cites that further exhibitions were enabled by the infrastructure of the first show, a building now exists to show work which did not show work previously and the art scene was greatly developed. These outcomes were not dissimilar to those of the first ‘emplacements’ event at New Holland.


However there were differences. There was a tiny budget. The building was not used again although others were brought into the scheme. The art scene of St Petersburg was already strong and was established enough to accommodate more art and artists.


Choosing to work in St Petersburg was new for the European artists involved in‘emplacements’. Only Roxane Permar had been there before and she became the informal group advisor. The artists all planned before the first event, both in London and in St Petersburg. Delegation was important so there were three Russian artist-curators who chose the rest of the Russian artists out of formal applications made earlier from a conference (Manege, SPb 1999). The European artists had been invited by Françoise Dupré and Roxane Permar, and later by Gail Pearce, because of knowledge of their work and feeling it would be appropriate in some way.


1989 and Political History


The differences between the Russian and European artists became apparent and to some extent could be explained by their different histories. At the same time as 'emplacements' was planning this ambitious art project, Peter Lunenfeld was devising his aesthetic for aliens, positing that aliens could manifest as cyborgs or humans who find themselves on the wrong side of a border, linking cultural crossovers between Los Angeles and Moscow. Lunenfeld suggested that 1989 is the new dividing line for cultural change, no longer 1968.


…the rubric of 1968 [which] was generally predetermined in its purpose – that being to locate “cracks and fissures”, those moments in which the ideological mask slips and the repressiveness of the dominant discourse is revealed. Post-1989 theory is more elastic. It is rigorously historicized: it lives in the moment, eschews nostalgia, and acknowledges that often consumption is an acknowledgement of, rather than subterranean resistance to, the global market. (Lunenfeld, 2003: 68)


The artists involved in the ‘emplacements’ project reflected different reactions to both 1968 and 1989 in their output . By 1999 artists in the east and west of Europe were increasingly in contact through conferences and international projects. Indeed, this was how ‘emplacements’ in St Petersburg came to exist. ‘emplacements’ could be said to have been set up to locate the ‘cracks and fissures’ as part of the artists’ practice. 1968 embodied an important change to the artists’ ideas. Feminism had informed the work profoundly and reviewing historical assumptions was evident in previous exhibitions which explored cultural aspects of gallery space in London.(DisEMplacements, Re-Location both 1999). Making contact, collaborating, exchanging ideas were always integral to ‘emplacements’’ aims. The contrast in work practices when ‘emplacements’ moved to St Petersburg confirmed Lunenfeld’s observation. The Russian artists’ approach did appear to live in the moment and nostalgia, unless as part of an ironic statement, did not feature in their work. 1968 was not relevant.


The intention of the project was to engage with the spaces that were not previously gallery spaces but not to change them. The aim was to value what was there and to explore how quite small changes might affect the entire dynamic of artist and site. At this point, most of the Russian artists had been part of the seismic shift of 1989. Simply, their attitudes were formed from the overlap of the ideas of late communism and the ideas of new capitalism. They were much more irreverent in their approaches, they disabled meanings, (which after all they understood more clearly that the Western artists) and they wanted to impose their presence on the monuments of the past. The lack of nostalgia was apparent, whereas the visiting artists tended to cherish and search out historical details from the past, imbuing them with meanings and significance which could be seen sometimes as obscure or even sentimental.


Plans for the first stage of emplacements in St Petersburg reflected differences in Russian and non-Russian approaches. The Russians had already held meetings and made proposals to the curators. As this was the first stage, there were no guidelines and anything was possible. An announcement made at a conference on performance art generated a lot of interest. Proposals had to be flexible, as at that time the site was unconfirmed. This ensured the work proposed included street theatre, poetry and performance, as well as installations, sculptures and photography.


Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, curator, instigator of arts organisation HOME said;


‘Obviously performance work itself, its history, has always dealt with context and has sought spaces outside of institutional art spaces, has tried to get away from the commodification of art, to engage with the everyday and is about interaction with the audience.’ (Godfrey-Isaacs, 2002: 63)


In most cases, the non-Russian artists responded after the site had been chosen, and made their proposals more site specific. As the work was intended to be made immediately, there was a very short time for planning. This imposed sponteneity allowed some to thrive, others, more used to the control and structures in place in the UK, found it increasingly hard to work with the perceived lack of structure. Nothing prepared the non-Russian artists for the physical scale of everything in Russia. Some of the UK artists, used to working on a smaller scale, were unsettled by this. Others explored the new possibilities. It was exhilarating and exhausting.


The artists were chosen through networks which already existed. Part of the ‘emplacements’ aim was to create new networks. One of its strengths was the length of time each project took. It was always intended to last a number of years, so there was the luxury of allowing relationships to develop over this time. It also meant that relationships could be built with agencies, which allowed new locations to be targeted

and new networks to be created.


The technologies available afforded the two groups a nominal ease of communication prior to meeting, however the reality of the different lifestyles became clearer when the artists finally met. A large amount of planning had gone into activities to build the relationships between all the artists. Any planning of specific events or networking that had taken place in London became irrelevant. The Russians were less anxious about any lack of preparation. The reality of the UK artists having the luxury of three weeks to prepare work contrasted with the Russians having to fit their lives around the project. This was sometimes disruptive, especially in the first year before patterns were established. However this was of less concern than the more fundamental approaches to the work itself. Spontaneity abounded but it was harder to explore the rigour behind the ideas. Debates and discussions were dominated by practicalities. Charles Quick, an artist who works with light and buildings, reveals these problems are commonplace;


In any project involving innovative work, it is normal to have problems with fabrication, and negotiating them is part of the process of production. (Quick, 2001: 57)


Fabrication problems included times when the electricity supply failed, when the telephonic source, including access to the internet, hung on the merest thread, and health and safety regulations were viewed as unusual. In the first year, the Russian curators found a magnificent location which revealed a common understanding of shared goals. Mirroring ‘the gallery as public realm’ and ‘a democratic space of the very highest quality, a focus for community life’ (Jenkinson, 2001: 38), the Russian curators had chosen an ironic and exciting space of privilege and mystery even to the citizens of the city.




2000 New Holland

In the centre of St Petersburg, New Holland was an island within the infrastructure of roads, canals and waterways. It had been built at the time of Peter the Great and more recently was used as a naval testing unit. Historically it was always closed to the public, a hitherto hidden space within the city. Gaining access as artists was negotiated carefully by the Russian artists, using the persuasive presence of international money and prestige. The main building housed a testing tank, full of water and polymers replicating the ocean, and a number of models of ships about four feet long, used to test miniature stormy seas. Around the building were the grounds, including canals and a small lake. All of the site was used by all of the artists.


The Russian and European artists met at the start of the project in St Petersburg, on the first site visit. All of the artists were keen to break open the secrecy of the site and to reveal as much as possible. The first visit held moments of appropriation, acquisition, opportunity, curiosity and negotiation. To the Europeans, the shabbiness and the sense of abandonment were evocative. Tokens of the past Soviet era were casually tossed aside by the Russian artists. The site sprawled over several acres, derelict in part, dangerous and unexpected.


New Holland appeared to be representative of the difference between a ‘site’ and a ‘place’. Its use by the artists altered it and removed it from abandonment.


One might say that while a site represents the constituent physical properties of a place – its mass, space, light, duration, location, and material processes – a place represents the practical, vernacular, social, cultural, ceremonial, ethnic, economic, political, and historical dimensions of a site. Sites are like frameworks. Places are what fill them out and make them work. Sites are like maps or mines, while places are reservoirs of human content, like memory or gardens. A place is useful, and a site is used. A used-up site is abandoned, and abandoned places are ruins. (Kelley, 1995: 142)


New Holland had been a derelict building, run down and shabby. The shabbiness remained but was now being exploited by the art event and the artists. It was transformed briefly by the artists’ invasion.


The space was industrial in feel, scattered with items left over from when the place was last used. The number of artists was fluid, with people arriving, exploring, leaving and returning. The artists roamed all over the site, seeking the particular and exact location that would best allow their ideas to be revealed. In the main internal area, the pool was claimed, as were the window frames surrounding it. Corners were used for sculptures accompanied by poetry readings. The miniature boats were given new meanings, as were the tables which had previously supported them. These tables supported an ongoing diary, written by participants, a sort of paper ‘blog’. Occasionally they became platforms to communicate with the audience, at other times they became display surfaces to show work by artists who gave talks and seminars. Fragile administration was set up in a corner. Passageways and hallways were negotiated for and fought over. Cupboards and screens were chosen to define areas of work, the only new materials were the artworks themselves, and they were frequently process driven, or as ephemeral as the spoken word.


In this first year there were four artists from the UK – Francoise Dupré, Nayan Kulkarni, Roxane Permar and myself, with Andrea Lamest from Germany. There were about twenty artists from St Petersburg. The Russians responded to New Holland with wit, writing poetry with salt in the polymer laden water (Oleg Yanushevsky), fixing plaster hands to life belts thrown in the water (Lyuda Belova), filling cupboards with inflated fashion plastic bags (Tania Olaevniko), amongst others. The visiting artists responded with photographic slides of Lenin’s cell reflected in the water (Nayan Kulkarni), tricolor ribbons on the windows around the pool referring to links between Russia and France (Francoise Dupré), paper boats made of the email exchanges in preparation to the project (Roxane Permar) and a video installation exploring rivers and the Sleeping Beauty myth (Gail Pearce). Andrea Lamest used children’s colouring books to comment on Russian armament power.


Responding to curation as an artist [1]

Working in Russia as someone who explores ideas by using moving image felt very different to being a film maker. The sponteneity of responding to the situation and dealing with unreliable technologies, rather than storyboarding and planning ways of telling narratives, felt refreshing, if worryingly under-researched. Also, working in an unsuitable space with full June daylight while hoping to use video, and attempting to use technologies reliant on a steady electrical supply felt ambitious as the electricity was erratic at best. Fortunately the other artists were not planning to use projections or sound so some of the possible causes of conflict were reduced.


Finally, I decided to include animation, via an animated sequence on paper, to explore the transformation between the boats and the Sleeping Beauties, acting as vehicles for my narrative. These drawings would last one second if filmed and were a secret message to those who would recognise animation codes. ‘Tale of Tales’, an animated myth of the history of Russia in the twentieth century, by Yuri Norstein, influenced my work. ‘Tale of Tales’ encouraged an emotional response, hinted at great sadness and disaster and was very beautiful. I knew that I would not be able to achieve the same things in the short time I would be in St Petersburg, but I hoped to make something that hinted at history, addressed myths and entranced the audience.


Using video and computers as part of my artistic practice, I hoped that the inclusion of moving image on a television screen would be familiar enough to contribute to a feeling of confidence in watching the material and to not distance the audience from it. Exploring new contexts, venues and situations extended my use of the material. Working with artists testing new environments inspired me to work more freely and spontaneously in my search for the Russian ‘fire’ – the range of passions that the Russian artists were using to create excitement and innovation.


In response to the watery secrets of New Holland island and the river Neva, my video installation developed and altered the Sleeping Beauty story. This allowed me to consider how much the idea of Russia and the romanticised idea of communism as often portrayed in the West, could be symbolised by young Russian women. I met two art students and friends of the Russian artists involved in the project, who were to act as 'princesses' for me by dressing up in white and agreeing to be videoed. I wanted to meet and talk to themas young artists. The young women would appear to be sleeping on the water and then would be awakened by the River Neva on which they were superimposed. It seemed to me that the closed New Holland site was opening and awakening because of the national and international artists working there. This was to be truer than I realised at the time, and the building took on a new lease of life after we left, although not as a gallery. Plans to open the building as a corporate exhibition space in a more permanent way were revitalised.


…rivers were not merely topographical or economic features, but rather the bearers above all of allegorical meaning, (Barringer, 2003: 36)


The Neva is a huge river, with extraordinary bridges which not only cross it, but also rise in the night to allow ships to pass. I filmed it to represent the source of energy which would bring the site to life symbolically and edited in camera. Two of the miniature testing boats became the 'bodies' of the princesses, covered in lace fabric. A television monitor with the heads of the young women superimposed on the Neva was displayed at the prow with a written explanation of my intentions.


Ultimately the audience is the most important thing. (Godfrey-Isaacs, L. 2000; 75)


The planning for the audience’s arrival, who were hosted in groups along the winding corridors, was shown to be inadequate. At some points artists were forced to create physical human barriers to prevent overcrowding as the people poured into the building.


‘It’s amazing how difficult it is to encourage people to use their own brains and eyes and somehow get them to trust that what they think and feel is important.’ (Arkio, T. 2000: 42)


Most of the audience were interested in everything, including speaking rusty English. There was still a good deal of confusion when they finally entered. I had assumed the Sleeping Beauty idea would be easily understood, however the audience saw the princesses as corpses. The boats did look more like corpses and had I been aware of that reading I might have developed the piece to refer more to death. I was approached by a visitor who admitted she had not spoken English since the World War II. It was a moment of poignancy and I was touched by her eagerness and enthusiasm to make contact. My assumptions of who the audience would be, (mainly artists) and how the venue would appear were shattered. I felt I had made work that was too superficial and that I had missed powerful stories and associated myths.


The 'vernissage' or opening, was advertised on the city radio. The local Armenian bakery had been persuaded to donate cakes to the show, and this was also advertised. All the pensioners listened to local radio and used their free transport passes so news of free cakes and an art exhibition brought around 4000 people! The event was planned for Navy day, a public holiday, when all the boats pass on the Neva and people celebrate. Establishing New Holland as a social space as well as a cultural centre for a day was rewarding for all concerned. All the artists were delighted at the size of the audience response and the engineers who managed the building were relieved and pleased to see their building back in some sort of use, their futures as workers in the building made more secure.


Video, slide projection, performance, sound work, sculpture and installation all featured. In addition, there were street theatre performances, poetry readings and live art events happening all over the site. The workshops that we had held for the past three weeks to explain our work had been observed by the engineers. When Oleg Yanushevsky, the curator who had been explaining the event to the Russian audience, stopped to create his own art performance, the engineers took over, standing on the tables and interpreting the art. We were astonished at the audience interest. The publicity machine responded to the vernissage with interviews broadcast on television and prominent footage in the newspapers and the local current events in the arts website showed our work. It was evidently unusual enough for the ‘Lonely Planet’ guidebook to describe New Holland as the site briefly opened to the public for an exhibition by avant-garde artists.


The relationships built as a result of the collaborations at New Holland provided the means to continue. As the event had been such a success, organisations who would be able to provide support in the future became more interested in what ‘emplacements’ could do.


2002 Red Banner Factory


New Holland represented the early stages of the city, where waterways were the most significant form of travel, ensuring St Petersburg’s economic development. If the New Holland stage of ‘emplacements’ reflected the pre-industrial era for the city, the Red Banner Factory, where the second ‘emplacements’ project took place, represented the industrial twentieth century and moving forward in time.


The Red Banner factory was chosen by ‘emplacements’ because of Margarita Stieglitz, from the St Petersburg Komitet for the Preservation and Use of Monuments of History and Culture. The British approach to the re-use of industrial buildings fascinated her. Her specialist research led her to be familiar with the late twentieth century developments of industrial architecture in Europe. She became involved in ‘emplacements’ when she realised the opportunities international artists could offer the city. The revamping of the city was concentrating on the 18th and 19th century buildings in the centre of the city and more modern buildings were being overlooked for the 300th anniversary. The art project and presence of international artists could be used to alter the emphasis and publicise an important Modernist factory.


The choice of the Red Banner factory formed part of a hope and a plan that the city would invest cultural value onto sites which had been ignored and forgotten. The cultural value brought by foreign artists and imposed onto the building would in this case help to preserve it. The factory was situated in a suburb and was designed byEric Mendelsohn in 1926. He had been invited to design it because of his expertise in innovative factory ventiliation, although he was later scornful of Soviet construction standards and their alterations to his design. The factory made knitwear and hosiery, including T-shirts for the Russian navy, and incorporated two dyeworks and a bleaching facility as well as space for a possible eight thousand workers to work in two shifts.[6] Nowadays the factory workers numbered less than four hundred and only around forty were in evidence when the artists were visiting.


Access to the factory had been arranged as a result of the success of the New Holland project. This time, ‘emplacements’ brought over larger numbers of artists from the UK. A group called TEA, (Jon Biddulph, Pete Hatton, Val Murray and Lynn Pilling) participated, as did Stevie Bezencenet and Andrea Lamest. Roxane Permar and Francoise Dupré continued to lead the project and a Russian curator, Dmitri Pilikin was invited to contribute. He brought thirteen Russian artists to the factory, including Oleg Yanushevsky and Igor Baskin, who were part of ‘emplacements’ at New Holland, The factory generously gave secure space where the artists could work and allowed them to visit the workers and working areas, but only at restricted times. Three tours were given, one to the first stages of the knitting process, including the spinning of the yarn, then to the machine floors where the women sewed and finally to the dye works which were medieval in feel – steaming, dank and dark – where the men worked. A disused factory floor, henceforth known as theatelier, was made available for the artists to use as studio and meeting place.


The size of the group of artists fluctuated on these visits, about nine from Europe and the UK and about thirteen from St Petersburg. (See appendix) The main impression was of the UK artists trooping after the factory secretary, armed with and loaded down by technical equipment. Everyone seemed to be filming simultaneously and used the same subjects. This year at least four videos were made. Tripods proliferated, cameras flashed and hummed.



‘emplacements’ hosted a two day event (19 and 20 August 2002). Altogether 29 artists from the UK, Europe and Russia took part. This was not a national holiday as was the case at New Holland, so the audience was much smaller. The position of the Red Banner Factory in the suburbs also contributed to the smaller audience. Artists, individually or collaboratively, developed work in response to their experience of the factory, its history and environment, the people who worked there, and its architectural significance, in particular the part of the factory designed by the internationally recognised architect, Eric Mendelsohn. Visitors and workers in the factory were able to see installations of sculpture, video, sound, mixed media and photography. The event took place in both the Erich Mendelsohn building and the atelier. The work became part of the factory experience and the workers walked by the artists on most days. Occasionally parts of pieces of work would disappear, particularly if the item was clothing. Socks were popular, and scarves. This was distressing, both for the artists and for the factory officer.


There was a less enthusiastic response to this venue by the Russian artists, partly because the Red Banner Factory was situated in the suburbs and partly because the venue of a working factory had less appeal than the secret site of New Holland, even if it was architecturally significant. The British artists were happy to be at the factory, with hopes of relating their art to the workers. Their references to workers and students, artists and academics in struggle together in Paris, 1968 was powerful for them. They also were keen to develop their research on Eric Mendelsohn. The work the Russian artists produced did not focus on these elements. The Russian artists and the factory workers remained at a distance. A complex dance of perceived powerlessness and privilege resonated from the past.


Responding to curation as an artist [2]

The factory was full of contradictions for me. I had worked in the past on images of work in factories and the machine noise, fabric aroma and garment making processes were familiar. Other artists also had familial links with the sewing processes. Although parts of the process felt poignant, I felt isolated and unsure of how to work in the space. I also felt uncomfortable with our intrusion into the factory, and my rudimentary Russian meant I could only offer basic apologies and minimal explanation of what I was doing there. This went against the philosophy of ‘emplacements’, where communication and response in collaboration are important.


There was collaboration within ‘emplacements’ to ensure the exhibition and surrounding events would happen, but the artists who came in a group continued to work within that group and the others continued to work alone. The links with Russian artists and curators were rare. Exceptionally, Françoise Dupré worked with the children of some of the factory workers and shared a project ‘Here and There’ with the curator of the Independent Programme of the Centre for Museum Pedagogy and Children’s Creativity of the State Russian Museum. Cross-cultural collaboration was being defined during the time at the factory. Whereas at New Holland there had been constant attempts at communication, between artists, organisations, workers and agencies, at Red Banner the restrictions of access, the fewer numbers of Russian artists and greater numbers of non-Russian speaking artists, the reliance on the factory hierarchy and the suburban location all led to a separation of the artists from one of their most important audiences, the workers in the factory. Indeed, the factory hierarchy had not told any of the workers anything about the ‘emplacements’ presence, consequently the presence of the artists was viewed with considerable suspicion.


‘Ghost Artist’, the resulting short video installation, reflects this isolation and is mainly silent. It was made on the premises of the factory, shot and edited during the stay. It was a spontaneous response to the situation emphasising loneliness and the ethereal atmosphere of the empty factory spaces. Towards the end of the visit, when the factory was opened to the public, it was shown in the foyer of the main building. The presentation was more polished this time. I travelled with a laptop computer for editing and a small digital projector. The projected images merged into the dark foyer atmospherically. The factory produced a selection of clothes which they sold in the factory shop. My installation used their ladies' vests, hung on a washing line, as the screen for video projection. There was the constant noise of Russian radio floating out of a nearby office which formed a spontaneous soundtrack. Strangely there is a repetitive, mechanical sound on the video that has no obvious source.


The film, seven minutes in length, refers to the factory processes, the cooperation between the workers, the atmospheric areas of the factory which we were allowed to visit, and the nostalgic quality of the half empty spaces. The bustle of a busy working space, which I remembered from my childhood, is almost entirely absent. In some ways the film is a farewell to that time. The nostalgic secret longing was not shared with the other artists.


The positioning of the projection at the entrance was to make certain the work would not be missed. As with ‘emplacements’ at New Holland, the artists chose where in the site they wanted to show their work. The majority remained in the atelier, with some showing separately in the original Mendelsohn building. As the buildings were only open when the factory was open, and then really for its main purpose of garment production, the performance and poetry of the New Holland location was absent. Although ‘emplacements’ saw its value as being more driven by process, the restrictions of the Red Banner factory resulted in much more of an ‘exhibition’ being presented.


2003 Inside/Outside - Mc@SPb - St Petersburg’s 300th anniversary


The third stage of ‘emplacements’ was planned to start at the Ziegel-Chronotron factory and to move symbolically towards the present. The factory made timepieces of all sizes, from miniature to street-sized, including clockwork, mechanical, electronic and digital mechanisms. The idea of a theme of time following themes of water and fabric was stimulating to some of the artists. By the third stage of the project the British artists understood better how the changes since 1989 could have affected the Russian artists. In 1968 the invasion of Czechoslovakia affected Kosygin’s plans towards transfering decision-making to alleviate the tension between a decentralised economy and centralised political power. Twenty one years of manoeuvring around power resulted in stagnation. Change accelerated when Gorbachev came to power in 1985. This affected artistic practice. Artists could no longer rely on the state to support them. They moved towards enterprise slowly. By 2000 many artists were used to functioning with grants, moving on projects between countries and building international profiles. Still more felt inhibited by the bureaucracy that still existed and disabled by the history which had not provided them with any sort of entreprenerial vocabulary.


The ‘emplacements’ project became part of Mc@SPb for the final stage. It built on the experience gained by UK and Russian artists working together since 1999. A series of exchange visits, workshops and exhibitions had taken place in order to develop relationships and knowledge towards sustaining and further developing cross-cultural collaborative practices, fostering understanding, sharing skills and extending boundaries of creative partnerships.


The original intention to work towards a major event in 2003 in St Petersburg to coincide with the festivities for the city’s 300th anniversary was realised in conjunction with the British Council’s Manchester Week in St Petersburg. The relationship with Manchester was developed because the city has had a forty-year long friendship agreement with St Petersburg. There were many links between the two cities.


Artists from Manchester participated in ‘emplacements’. The artists from the UK went as part of Manchester week and the Manchester publicity included the art projects. It also allowed the introduction of the Russian friends and colleagues to the Mancunians who were visiting St Petersburg. This resulted in Margarita Shtieglitz being able to confirm a visit to Manchester to see its architectural regeneration. She visited Manchester with Irina Golovenok to give a lecture and to cement the relationship between the cities.


In 2003 the project was managed differently. There was a core team of four, two UK artists, Roxane Permar and Gail Pearce, and two Russians, Dmitry Pilikin and Irina Golovanok. The number of participating UK artists was smaller and there were pre-defined 'teams' of artists working together to make works that were temporary and had live elements. In the UK Roxane Permar and Gail Pearce managed the planning and preparation for the UK teams. In St Petersburg the whole project was managed by each group under the over-all coordination of Dmitry Pilikin who co-curated the previous project.


The project in 2003 also differed from previous years in that some artists proposed and developed their ideas for their work in advance. They drew on their knowledge and previous experience to develop the work both practically and conceptually. This approach differed from previous events in St Petersburg where the emphasis was on working processes. The public vernissage, presentations and exhibitions were very much examples of work in progress.


Three artists, Emma Rushton, Derek Tyman and Roxane Permar made work which drew on previous ‘emplacements’ projects in St Petersburg. Rushton and Tyman’s work. ‘Greetings from Manchester’, came out of their work for The Red Banner Factory, and continued to be about food. In ‘The Three Graces’ Roxane Permar knitted in public. Together with her colleague, Tanya Nikolaenko, each woman knitted a sign of her identity, using the colour scheme of blue and white and the design pattern of stripes, inspired by the Russian Navy vests from the Red Banner factory. Subtitled ‘An Encyclopedia of Knitted Stories’ it was a live event with audience participation that took place in the inner courtyard of the State Museum of Urban Sculpture,


Most of the artists involved in the third stage of ‘emplacements’ hoped that the project would enable them to raise their international profiles. Graffiti art, video, knitting, flaming tree fluff and food were included in the third stage, designed to be peripatetic around the city. (See appendix 2) Visitors were encouraged to travel and explore. A map was produced by the Manchester publicity team. The tour began at the Ziegel-Chronotron factory.


The curator, Dimitry Pilikin flew round the various locations on a bicycle, visiting all the sites and archiving the works and events. There was a more organic feel to the organisation by now, and both Russian and UK artists had a clearer understanding of working together, so a more relaxed way of working achieved wide results.


Responding to curation as an artist [3]

This collaboration was the result of the three years building of relationships. Irina Golovanok worked as translator and architect as well as artist so she understood the aims of ‘emplacements’. Working with her helped me to gain access to the Chronotron factory and to understand more about Russia through our conversations. Our working practice relied on technologies but also on knowledge of the city and sharing concepts of time. Kelley suggests when discussing architects’ and artists’ collaborations


…artists may bring to a collaborative partnership such nonarchitectural media as video, photography, performance events, or sonic phenomena in an effort to invest public sites with a sense of history, collective memory and community scale. That is, they may help to awaken in the social landscape its latent sense of place (a concern of many artists since the sixties). (Kelley, 1995: 141)


Working with Irina Golovanok within ‘emplacements’ allowed both of us to bypass making art and architecture in a conventional sense. Hopefully the ideas of 1968 and 1989 could synchronise. As Kelley describes, we looked for and found ‘hybrid moments’ to achieve something other than art or architecture.


Irina Golovenok and I had met at the Red Banner factory and began then to discuss our future collaboration. The video installation ‘Time Flies’ reflected her interest in buildings and the history of architecture which we used as a metaphor for time passing. We explored the theme of time by filming watches and clocks in the city, then created speeded up versions of the city bus journey to the Tsar's palace, through suburbs which included 20th, 19th and 18th century buildings, in that order.


The screen was split horizontally into thirds. The top section showed a compressed view of the bus journey out of the city, while the lower third showed the journey in reverse. These were taken from inside the moving bus. The centre section was created out of stills, changing every second, of clocks in public places or wristwatches on people. The ‘landscape’ shape of the image was reduced and compressed as was the journey time, from forty five minutes to seven, creating a synchronicity between the shape and the duration of the journeys.


…usually what is contained within the limits of a landscape is ‘inside’, and the observer of that landscape is placed as separate from it, ‘outside’. (Dorrian and Rose, 2003: 16)


The filming of the landscape controlled the eye of the viewer, from within the bus, contending with the glass steaming in front of the lens, the window of the bus being a physical barrier between the observed and the inside, the two surfaces, the window and the lens separating the viewer from the outside. The journey revealed a sequence in the styles of architecture, which provided a physical form to the concept of passing time.The soundtrack was created from a clock where rhythms were created by multi-tracking the ticking and offsetting them.


The video was more complex in its structure and exploited the physical proportions of the screen to examine the idea of time passing. This video installation was the most complicated, relying on a back-projection onto a mirror like surface which was the front window of the Ziegel-Chronotron factory. The video installation used the outside of the factory and the street as the exhibition space for ‘Time Flies’. The threshold of the front door of the factory became the screen, the exteriors of the buildings of the city were projected from the interior, parts of the interior of the factory were projected onto the exterior. The boundaries between inside and outside, the privileged viewpoint we noted in the filming from the bus, became a feature of the final presentation. The transitory nature of the working relationship was echoed by the impermanence of the work shown. The following day the street was returned to its usual state and the video was gone. The site holds a fragile memory of a glimpse into time, which fades as memories do.




To begin with, the unexpected success of the first event took everyone by surprise. Expectations were raised and subsequent events, although exploiting that success, could not rely on a repeat in exactly the same way. This was problematic for the curators. The city was introduced to 'emplacements' on a public holiday and the media was used accurately to draw attention to the events. This was possible because of the collaboration of the Russian artist-curators, in particular Oleg Yanushevsky. Collaboration between the curators was successful partly because the areas of expertise were geographically separate so responsibility had to be shared.


The ‘emplacements’ project developed from showing work site-specifically at a designated site into a city wide experiment, involving the media, digital technologies and curating by bicycle. The work produced was a reflection of the cultural interaction. The audience was part of the educational process through talks given during the making of the work as well as when it was all finally shown.


The three year project allowed relationships to develop naturally, a luxury which has resulted in them enduring and offering the possibility of future projects. UK artists who were in Russia for the first time found their working practices altered and resources challenged but ultimately empowered. The developing relationships with Russian artists and curators felt enriching and inspiring. The use of digital technologies, mirrored in the choice of locations, developed apace. By the end of the three years many of the artists were working digitally, which was not the case at the start.


As an artist I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the Russian artists. Conversations and debates on ethics, feminism, funding and individuality were fascinating and ongoing. The relationship between ideas developed post 1968 and post 1989 reflected attitudes which were revealed as entirely products of our personal locations and histories. Working with these artists required negotiation using more than one language, frequent social interludes to allow for genuine networking and the endless curiosity that brings artists together.


As artists, we were often unaware of the tensions within the sites and the crises that were being managed over their futures. Our presence did in fact affect these but the changes were only made known to us at a much later date. Mostly, the buildings gained higher profiles in the city and profited by the artists’ presence.


I found my use of video mirrored the involvement and interactions of ‘emplacements’ as a whole. Whereas ‘Sleeping Beauties’ engaged with Russians directly as actresses, indirectly as the bearers of myth, ‘Ghost Artist’ emphasised an isolation from the workers and the public and the cross-cultural exchange was diminished. Collaboration making ‘Time Flies’ was complete, ideas were shared and working practices blended seamlessly. The project was finally totally satisfying, whilst retaining the freshness and excitement of the earlier work.








[1] Elliott, D. (2000) New Sites – New Art, Baltic, B.READ/ ONE David Elliott was director, Moderna Museet, Stockholm

[2] Renton, A. (2002) The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation [5]Baltic B.READ/ EIGHT Andrew Renton is an independent curator and writer

[3] Lunenfeld, P. (2003) ‘Space Invaders’ Edited by Everett, A and Caldwell, J.T. New Media, New York and London: Routledge

[4] ‘DisEMplacements’ was a group exhibition in Woodlands Gallery, Blackheath, ‘Re-Location’ was a group show in Bethnal Green, London

[5] Godfrey-Isaacs, L. (2002) The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation Baltic B.READ/ EIGHT Laura Godfrey-Isaacs set up the arts organisation HOME

[6] Quick, C. (2001) Public Art; Electricity and Light from Making Places, Working with Art in the Public Realm, Public Arts

[7] Jenkinson, P. (2001) The Art Gallery as Public Realm: Making Places, Working with Art in the Public Realm, Public Arts

[8] Kelley, J. (1995) Common Work, Mapping the Terrain, New Genre Public Art, ed. Lacy, S. Bay Press USA

[9] Norstein, Y. (1979) Tale of Tales, Complete Works of Yuri Norstein DVD

[10] ‘ Barringer, T. (2003) “Our English Thames” and “America’s River”: Landscape Painting and Narratives of National Identity, from Landscapes and Politics, eds. Dorrian, M. and Rose, G. London: Black Dog Publishing

[11] Arkio, T. (2000) New Sites – New Art, Baltic, B.READ/ ONE Tuula Arkio wasdirector of Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki

[12] Godfrey-Isaacs, L. ibid

[13] Ed. Regina Stephan Eric Mendelsohn Architect 1887 - 1953

[14] McCauley, M. (1998) Gorbachev; Pearson Education Ltd.

[15] Kelley, J. ibid

[16] Dorrian, M. and Rose, G. eds. (2003) Deterritorialisations…RevisioningLandscapes and Politics from introduction London: Black Dog Publishing



Appendix 1


Participating artists at New Holland

Dmitry Alekseyev, Marina Alekseyeva, Igor Baskin, Lyudmila Belova, Vladimir Bolkov, “Dreli kuda popolo”, Francoise Dupré, Nikolai Kononikhin, Nayan Kulkarni, Andrea Lamest, Kendi Malakhaev, “New Foundations”, NovyieTupyie, Tatyana Nikolaenko, Gail Pearce, Roxane Permar, Victor Remishevsky, Troye: Olge Dolzhinkova, Vera Svetlova, Pavel Kondrashov, Galina Pisareva, Sergei Sveshnikov, Vladimir Contemporary Dance group, Oleg Yanushevsky, Oleg Zhorgin, Gennady Zmitrovich.


Supporting organisations:

Sponsored by A-Ya, Centre for Contemporary Art, St Petersburg, The British Council, The Gallery Channel, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, University of Central England, Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Westminster.


Participating artists at Red Banner Factory

Core team of participating artists who coordinated and organised the event:

Françoise Dupré, Irina Golovenok, Gail Pearce, Roxane Permar, Dimitri Pilikin (curator)

Participating artists:

Bardosignetikcube (Sergey Matveev, Igor Potzukajlo), Igor Baskin, Stevie Bezencenet, Susan Brind and Jim Harold, Sergei Denisov, Alexey Garev, Olga Kisseleva, Olga Kononikhina, Andrea Lamest, Igor Lebedev, New Bases (Alexander Streletz, Eugeny Tyukin), Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman, Dmitry Shubin, TEA (Jon Biddulph, Peter Hatton, Val Murray, Lynn Pilling), Oleg Yanushevsky


Supporting UK organisations:

British Council, the Arts Council of England (Northwest), Senator für Inneres, Kultur und Sport (Bremen, Germany), the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), the Scottish Arts Council, Hi-Arts and Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Central England, Royal Holloway (University of London), the University of Westminster, Manchester City Council, Daisy Bank a Manchester working textiles mill, C.U.B.E. (The Centre for the Understanding of the Built Environment ( Manchester), the Manchester Art Gallery and Birmingham City Council


Supporting Russian organisations:

St Petersburg City Administration, the Komitet for the Preservation and Use of Monuments of History and Culture (GIOP), the St Petersburg office of the British Council, the Directorate of the OAO "Red Banner Knitwear Factory", the Independent Programme of the Centre for Museum Pedagogy and Children’s Creativity of the State Russian Museum.






Participating artists Mc@SPb

Gail Pearce and Irina Golovenok, Tatyana Nikolaenko and Roxane Permar, Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman, Vera Svetlova and Olga Dolzhenkova, Dmitry Shubin, Inna Pozina, Sergei Denisov, Dimitry Pilikin.


Supporting UK organisations:

British Council, the Arts Council of England (Northwest), Manchester City Council,Royal Holloway (University of London), the Scottish Arts Council, the St Petersburg office of the British Council,


Supporting Russian organisations:

Borei Gallery, the Independent Programme of the Centre for Museum Pedagogy and Children’s Creativity of the State Russian Museum, State Museum of Urban Sculpture, Ziegel-Chronotron factory





Appendix 2

The ‘emplacements’ project in St Petersburg

Manchester Week 28 June to 6 July 2003


Friday 4 July


14.00 – 16:00 Gail Pearce and Irina Golovenok

“Time Flies”, a video installation at the street entrance to the Siegel Factory, 44 ulitsa Dostoyevskaya Metro: Dostoyevskaya



15:00 – 18:00 Tatyana Nikolaenko and Roxane Permar

“The Three Graces: Encyclopedia of Knitted Stories” a live event with audience participation at the inner courtyard of the State Museum of Urban Sculpture,

15:00 – 18:00 Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman

“Food from Elsewhere” a live event at the inner courtyard of the State Museum of Urban Sculpture


18:00 – 19:00 Dmitry Shubin

“Moving”, a site-specific video installation Nevsky Prospekt by Liteiny Prospekt, with support from the Borei Gallery



20:00 – late Inna Pozina

Sound installation at Kolomyagi ul Glavnaya, 20,

Saturday 5 July


13:00 – 14:00 Vera Svetlova and Olga Dolzhenkova

“Populus”, Temporary site-specific sculptures

Opposite No 10 ulitsa Pisareva, near the Fountain in Alekseevsky Gardens;


16:00 Niyanshans, Museum and Gallery

Video projection about the emplacements 2003 project in St Petersburg, with material from all events



Friday 4th and Saturday 5th July


Continuous Sergei Denisov

Secret Artistic Events along the streets of St Petersburg

Part of the project ‘Stickers – Three’.

Video operator: Kirill Shuvalov


Dimitry Pilikin (Video operator)


Ploschad Aleksandra Nevskogo, Ploschad Vosstaniya, Dvortsovaya Ploschad and Birshevaya Ploschad and Prospekt


About the Author :
Gail Pearce is a lecturer in Contemporary Media Art in the Media Arts Department, Royal Holloway University of London

The Ides of April, Spring 2007