History of Odessa Video Art: A Brief Overview

by Mikhail Raskovetsky

Odessa art scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s overall did not recognise video as an art material. The so called 'painterly underground of Odessa' together with the representatives of the New Wave (Ukrainian transavant-garde of the second half of the 1980's) did not feel the need nor had resources to tackle this particular media. The very few residents of Odessa that had some kind of personal links with the Moscow art scene could think of video as their creative tool. It is quite telling that the very first video works of Odessa artists were created in Moscow (the video documentation of the performance by Wladimir Naumez featuring Sergei Anufriev) or targeted Moscow (the video of self-purification with the help of clyster  pumpkin as part of the action titled «Purification» by Anatoly Gankevich and Oleg Migas in Gelman Gallery, Moscow, 1991). The meditative video installation by Migas and Gankevich «Open Day» (1993), chosen by Marta Kuzma for the opening of Kyiv Soros Center for Contemporary Art in 1993, was also first shown in Moscow (gallery «1,0»), later in Odessa (gallery «New space») and finally in Kyiv (National Art Museum of Ukraine).

 

The major part of Odessa video art of the period was created as part of an installation, i.e. the working (or in some instances broken or unplugged) screen was used as a metaphor fora ready-made. This approach to video in Odessa, with a very few exceptions, continued through the 1990s.

 

At the beginning of the decade the appearance of several independent art institutions with an emphasis on installative creative thought had an impact on the way video was used by the art scene in Odessa. At the same time a project-based approach to exhibition curation gained in popularity.  It highlighted the need for conceptual approach as well as brought to the surface the issues of exhibition space as many shows of contemporary art of the time were exhibited in inadequate locations. Here I refer not only to the so called alternative spaces that were very often way below the health and safety standards, but also to the  active museums overloaded with the baggage of context.

 

Among the first artists to embrace video art in Odessa were two collaborators Ute Kilter and Victor Malyarenko.  Their creative portfolio includes stand alone video art pieces, video installations, documentation of different actions, performances, exhibitions, and finally, a unique TV program «Situation Ute», which had regularly appeared on Odessa TV starting from 1993 till mid-2000s and was brought back in 2008. Their video work is significantly influenced by the lyricism of auteur cinema. It comes as little surprise that Ute Kilter collaborates with film director Kira Muratova. The accentuated subjectivity of Kilter and Malyarenko collaboration, evident in the title of «Situation Ute», defined the uniqueness of their signature style and reserved them an independent and often isolated position within the context of Odessa art process.

 

Starting from 1992 art projects and some video installations have been regularly displayed in the centre for contemporary art «Tirs». One of these video installations is a work by Andrey Kazandzhiy «Bonfire» (1994). The installation consists of a pile of firewood positioned in the corner of a small space. A screen displaying the real bonfire was hidden beneath the firewood. The video was paired with the sound recording of the crackling twigs. One can find a key to many later Odessa video installations in this simple work. The video in this case does not represent a standalone virtual product. Its aesthetic effect is achieved through making the impossible possible through merging the virtual space with the real one. The same idea is realised in the 'pure' video art piece by Kazandzhiy «When the screens become thinner», 1995. The latter work also explores the complex relationship that exists between the  contemporary art scene enclosure and its relation to the mass viewer. 

 

«Tirs» centre experiments with crossing the line between real and media space were not only bound to video.  One can recall the work by the same artist, Kazandzhiy, titled «In-Sight» (1994), where a manlike dummy checks its eyesight with the help of Sivtsev table that  is projected onto the wall through the lens installed in the manikin's eye.   Another example is the launch of the project entitled «Horrible-lovable» (1994) by the curators Galina Boguslavskaya and Mikhail Raskovetsky when the curators' opening speech was transmitted by a local radio station.

 

Nevertheless, video installations are indeed responsible for the media transgression as  one of the key principles of contemporary art of the period in Odessa. This was recognised by the artists and critics alike.  For instance, Kiev curator and art critic Nadiya Prigodich describes such works by Miroslav Kulchitsky and Vadim Chekorsky as «She іs Mad About Theatre» (1995), «Together Forever» (1998) and «Highway Nyman» (1998) as «an anaesthetisation of the new 'barbaric' culture of film through structural de-organisation of various cinematic elements in order to meet the principles of the 'ready-made'». Apart from  this Prigodich draws our attention to their 'transgressive' nature when she writes: «In their  collaboratively created works the artists successively realise their strategy of media transgression» (the article «Ukrainian Video in the 1990s» included in the exhibition catalogue «Future is Now: Ukrainian Art in the Nineties», Zagreb, 1999).

 

In his article dedicated to Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy video installation «She is Mad About Theatre» Odessa culture theorist Vadim Besprozvanniy writes the following:  «The video installation by Miroslav Kulchitskiy and Vadim Chekorskiy «She Is Mad About Theatre» … successfully demonstrates not only genre intervention … but also remarkable craftsmanship  in its approach to video installation within the aesthetics of theatre where the artists create a new unit, «the genre on the border of genre,» virtual theatre … «She's Mad ...» is entirely based on this metalanguage structure. The key element here is not the unravelling of the story but storytelling about storytelling. These are not really genres per se at play here, but  rather genre codes that successfully manage to deliver semiotic love letters to each other» (V. Besprozvanniy, «Virtual Theatre MK/ VC», «Portfolio. Odessa Art of the 1990's», 1999).

 

The important landmark for contemporary art in Odessa is the project «Free Zone» (1994) curated by Mikhail Rashkovetskiy and Alexander Roytburd. The project displayed two approaches to video installation. The first approach recognised video installation as a self-sufficient work with  an added requirement of video customisation. The second, treated the above as an environment for the unedited video quotation. The work that illustrates the first approach is a video installation by Anatoliy Gankevich titled «CaTHOLICos» where a crucifix decorated with artificial flower wreaths has a screen installed in its centre displaying  a long shot of the artist himself striking the pose of a crucified. Here the artist did not use a readymade video quotation as the video was shot specifically for the installation, made evident in the extreme close up on the crucifix around the neck of the figure in the video that is jump cut into a loop showing the entire figure.

 

An example of the second approach to video installation is the project by Miroslav Kulchitskiy and Vadim Chekorskiy «Environment of Capitulation. Stalingrad near Berlin.»  This was a good use of 'environment' as a separate room was allocated specifically for the viewer to go through in order to reach the second part of the exhibition space.  The exhibition room was largely blacked out by the dark and slightly de-constructed soviet posters of the war era. In the centre of the room was placed a step ladder with scattered bits of German military uniform  and a video screen showing a video quotation played on a loop, the video displayed partially pixilated contemporary German porn. During the opening event the screen was removed by the outraged management of the museum.

 

To summarise, the key differences between these two approaches lie in the visual immanency and self-sufficiency played against the contextualisation of video installation.

 

The same approaches were displayed in the 'exceptional,' in Alexander Solovyev's opinion, project titled «Kandinsky Syndrome» (1995) curated by Elena Mikhailovskaya, Mikhail  Rashkovetskiy, and Alexander Roytburd. Here, the video clip re-appropriated from Éric Troncy series «Twin Peaks. Fire Walk with Me» displayed a demonic figure, fire flames breaking from its head, showcased as an immanent part of an installation comprised of a readymade gas stove.  Another work, «Post-mortem» by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy, invites a much more contextual reading. In «Post-mortem» the screen was mounted on a hospital bed on wheels that was hung from the ceiling playing on a loop an extract from a French film «Savage Nights.»

 

The video installation as an environment dominated one of the best Odessa projects of the 1990's «4 rooms» curated by Miroslav Kulchitskiy and Vadim Chekorskiy. The project was hosted in the four rooms of a dilapidated hotel complex in Odessa «Passage.»   Interesting to note that the project only used one screen employed by the curators  in their «Crime Scene» that displayed a video quotation from a detective series. The entire project, also hosting the work titled «Phantom Pains» (1996) by Gleb Katchuk, «Red Right Hand» (1996) by Philip Perlovskiy (1996), and «Transflora (1996) by Dmitriy Dulfan,  was taken in as one film in four parts (as the contextual reference to the U.S. film  «4 rooms» was very important).  The curators and artists managed to induce on the viewers a sense that they could cross the boundary into the 'behind the screen' world without leaving their bound real time environment.

 

Odessa curator and art critic Elena Mikhailovskaya describes accurately the issues raised in such works by Kulchitskiya and Chekorskiy as «She Is Mad About Theatre,» «Supertrack», «Post-Mortem,» «Jump!» and others as a modelling of the subtle relation between the real world and the video reality where the viewer is left disoriented in his or her own relationship to time and space.  «In these conceptually framed and visually minimal video installations we see the artists provoke the viewer to look for the hidden  meaning.» (E. Mikhailovskaya, «Miroslav Kulchitskiy and Vadim Chekorskiy,» article included in the exhibition catalogue «After the Wall. The Art of Post-Communist Europe,» Stockholm, 1999)

 

This description can be applied as well to other works by Odessa artists who were involved in video installative works in the mid-1990s («The Nocturne Played on Pipe Flutes» by Eduard Kolodiy and Igor Khodzinskiy (ed. note: this installation was first shown in 1995 as part of the program of the international festival «Two Days and Two Nights of New Music» and was later called «Local Sounding». Under the latter title the work was featured in the book «Contemporary Art Vocabulary» p. 67, 73), «Enjoy» by Gleb Katchuk).

 

Gleb Katchuk who made his debut with the video installation «Enjoy» in 1995 as part of «Kandinsky Syndrome» project started his professional career as a cameraman working for one of Odessa TV channels.  It comes as a little surprise then that it was Katchuk who was one of the few Odessa artists who appealed to 'pure' video.  One of his most well-known works is titled «Apocalypso.» In it the artist is transformed into Pinocchio with a syringe nose injecting a drug into his vein.    Recalling «the new anthropological shift» of the 1990's Alexander Solovyev comments on Katchuk's work in the following way:  «What we witness here is not only the resurrection of the body as an old art hero, but the corporeality in general taken by the new technologies far beyond its original limits into the realm of the 'posthuman'.  One experiences this approach to the corporeal in the video work by Odessa artist Gleb Katchuk «Apocalypso,» which combines such universal now features as the play with the meaning and subtext, 3D animation, morphing, language play,  fake blood, mutation, cyber-body, psychedelic practices and so on» (A. Solovyev. Art in Ukraine in the 1990s.  «AJ», № 28-29).

 

One encounters a similar successful attempt when appealing to psychedelic rhythms when dealing with a burning social issue in the 'pure' video work by Philip Perlovskiy «Zoom» (1997).

 

 

Working on the edge of two genres Gleb Katchuk nevertheless strives for the immanent unity of the final video image. A good example to illustrate the above is one of the artist's best works «There, inside» (1997) based on the video documentation of a happening under the same title, which took place in 1996 and was curated by Elena Mikhailovskaya. Combining the split screen with the «Doom» aesthetic that dominated the happening Katchuk turns his documentary into an independent self-sufficient video, which most efficiently illustrates the following statement by the curator:   «During the happening the reality of «Дом» (ed. note: «House» or «Home» in Russian) tumbles into hyper-reality where  (Дом + Doom) is mirrored.  As a result the reality of the events taking place in the House serve as an allegory for  the course of life and death.» (Е. Mikhailovskaya. There, Inside: Happening Booklet – Odessa, 1996; Portfolio/ Art in Odessa in the 1990s – Odessa, 1999).

 

The same can be said about the TV series by Gleb Katchuk called «Untitled» where the artist managed to achieve aesthetically self-sufficient art educational video product. Despite the lack of a more or less pure cyber-art in Odessa, available computer editing was widely used in video art. This can be clearly seen in Katchuk's work «Melies – 2000» (1999) and the preview for his «Untitled» TV series where one of the key music themes from «Melies» is played. 

 

In 1996 an independent branch of Soros Centre for Contemporary Art  opened in Odessa hosting a video laboratory. Gleb Katchul and Victor Malyarenko worked there as technical assistants involved in the making of videos and video installations by several other artists. Soros Centre in Odessa had a positive influence on the development of local video art providing the artists with both technical means as well as great networking and showcase opportunities.

 

Video and video installations continued to be made in Odessa as part of  performances, happenings, environments and so on. One of the artists to take this direction was Igor Gusev. His videos «To Kill Krishna» and «To Kill Van Damme» (the latter made in collaboration with Gleb Katchuk, 1996) were created as a part of club performances, the fact that did not  prevent the artists  from exhibiting the same works later as independent video works both in Ukraine as well as abroad. Video played a much more significant part in his later projects/environments such as «Purity Paranoia» (1997) and «False Start» (1997).   If we recall the suggested division of Odessa video art into the immanent and the contextual and disregard the in-between elements of the works by Gusev mentioned above, the latter come much closer to the contextual video art.

 

The most vivid example of contextual approach to video can be observed in the project «Supermarket» (1997) curated by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy. Both used two screens.   One screen was used in the installation with the «ticking suitcase» making an associative link with an act of terror while the candid camera recorded visitor reaction to the suitcase in real time, which was simultaneously screened.  The second screen showcased a nonsensical video where the stylistic opponent of both curators, Alexander Roytburd, was lost in playing a violin, an instrument that he could not play.   Technically the work was also co-authored by another artist, Eduard Kolodiy, though his involvement was more action based as he acted as the poor skilled simultaneous interpreter in the same video. 

 

«Supermarket» is one of the most consistent examples of relative aesthetics in Odessa and therefore one of the most 'pure' examples of media work in the history of contemporary  art in Odessa. Kiev art critic Gleb Vyshevskiy mentions «contextual environment» situated  in the intersection of «conceptualism and minimalism»: «plot played a much bigger role in this new type of environment when compared with its 'classical' counterpart. The essence of this plot became apparent beyond the work of art itself or even beyond visual art as a whole.   Moreover, if one was left unaware of the work's starting point, which could have been a reference to some media, political, or social issue, he or she would have little clue on how to interpret the work.  Therefore, the awareness of context was much more important than the 'text' itself and its expressive visual elements. The installation «Supermarket» (1997)  expressed this tendency to its fullest» (Gleb Vyshevskiy, «Spatial Composition in Contemporary Art of Ukraine», Kiev, 2010).

 

One of the virtues of the art movement in Odessa in the 1990s was the level of the debate between its active participants who nevertheless worked as collaborators up to the end of the decade. For instance, «Supermarket» project was created in reaction to several earlier works, including the project by Vadim Besprozvanniy «The Death of Titanic» created in an abandoned theatre space.  Apart from the video works by Oleg Migas and Igor Khodzinskiy («horizontal cinema») and «The Death of Titanic» by Boris Godjulov, the project also featured the video installation/environment «Jump!» by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy. One day prior to the opening of «Supermarket» an opponent project curated by the same curator, Besprozvanniy, was launched under the title «Art & fact.» Here two video works set the project's retro-atmosphere. Within the first, the projection was set to run along the exhibition space axis so that the shadows cast by the visitors interfered with the projected image while an old cinematic equipment made characteristic racket of the reels in rotation.

 

«Unnatural Selection» (1997) became a significant event in the history of contemporary video art in Odessa. The participating artists were given complete freedom in   their media choice however they had to express their social and political stance.  The project included eight works: «Art for Me» by Gleb Katchuk; «What's Going On, Mr Dorenko?' and «Screen Copy» by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy as well as their «Future is Now,» created in collaboration with Dmitriy Dulfan; «Zoom» by Philip Perlovskiy; «Stroke me Mama» by Alexander Shevchuk; «The Silence of Doctor Lecter» by Ute Kilter and Victor Malyarenko as well as «The Video Portrait of E. Hurvitz» by Alexander Roytburd.

 

Featured on the video by Roytburd was the current at the time mayor of Odessa Eduard Hurvitz saying just one phrase:  «Oh well, there's nothing left to see here. Let's go to the City Hall and discuss the matter there». The work itself was displayed in a box by the exhibition exit.   «The Video Portrait» was created during an intense election campaign, which was followed by many frame-ups and even political murders. The main effect however was achieved not so much by the immanent qualities of the video but rather by the grotesque editing and the restitching of the cut ups of this phrase and the repetitive nature of these «hick ups,» which would reappear later in many video works by Roytburd forming part of his signature.

 

No less politically topical «What's going on, Mr Dorenko?» by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy however never actually resolved to the immanent video approach. Here one might refer to the so called 'minus' approach. «The work constitutes a stop frame, which shows a TV presenter frozen mid delivery with the subtitle «What's going on, Mr Dorenko?»  Certainly, this piece can be interpreted as the artist statement referring to  this particular episode or viewing it in the wider context as the artist's attitude to the quality of the post-Soviet mass media as a whole». However, this work «completely lacks the instances of aesthetic self-sufficiency nor displays independence from its context… The TV screen combined with the stop frame with its subtitle serves as a pointer, a dry remark, which evokes a specific scandalous situation and the various relations such as arguments, gossip, search for additional information, and ideally a fully complete dialogue between several viewers within specific exhibition space.  These are the very real and diverse relations that constitute the work of art. They are being modelled after the event through the mechanisms of memory as well as through the staging of the communicative encounters described above. Although one can also argue that there is a tendency here towards a more full conversion of the subject and object relationship. Taking this approach one could view the higher level of expression or the self-sufficient play with immanent forms as a formal drawback and an artistic violation that departs from the principle of dialogue and its communicative value imposing instead an authoritative single voice.» (Mikhail Rashkovetskiy, «Unnatural Selection», Odessa, 1997).

 

The contextual approach is further evident in another work by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy titled «Screen Copy.» While the ironic re-appropriation, which was first used in one of their earlier works «Quis Leget Haec?» («Who is Going to Read This?» featuring the end titles from an American film played on  a loop) reaches a completely new level here. Alexander Solovyev and Alisa Lojkina wrote the following about this piece: «The peak of media appropriation is the work «Screen Copy» (1997) when a screen saver shot is translated into the video format. These Odessits were indeed the first among the Ukrainian artists to approach the subject matter of video piracy.» (Alexander Solovyev, Alisa Lojkina, «Point Zero. The History of Contemporary Art in Ukraine,» ТОР 10, Kiev, 2010). It is worth noting that local critics praised the work, having mistaken the «beautiful» animation of a standard screen saver for the original work by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy having taken for truth the English copyright statement  displayed at the bottom of the screen, which claimed that the artists are the original authors and copyright holders of the material.

 

One may note that there exists an entire series of video works by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy that not only deal with the subject matter of video piracy, but tackle mainstream cinema as a whole with all its clichés, which are often consumed uncritically by its mass audiences.  These works include «Quis Leget Haec?», Odessa project titled «New File» (1997) curated by Elena Mikhailovskaya, «Empire of Passion,» which was included in the Odessa project «Academy of Cold,» and «After the Wall, The Art of the Post-Communist Europe» (Stockholm – Berlin –  Budapest, 1999).

 

Kyiv art critic Ekaterina Stukalova states that the video works by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy belong to «a trend in contemporary Ukrainian art that does not employ new technologies, but puts under scrutiny the role played by the mass and social media channels in contemporary culture. In the second half of the 1990s Miroslav Kulchitskiy and Vadim Chekorskiy actively employed mass media clichés in such series of video works as «Screen Copy,» «Highway Nyman,» and «New York, New York.» These artists utilise well-known  video images and mix high culture with low culture. For instance, they add a clip from the film «Terminator» to Michael Nyman's soundtrack.  Apart from this, they make secondary aspects of film production take centre-stage by drawing attention to the subtitles, and romanticising  the deficient aesthetics of pirate videos such as their low image quality and bad dubbing. Hence, the artists masterly reduce traditional visual and media codes to an  absurdity» (Yekaterina Stukalova, «In Expectation of Reloading: Ukrainian Media Art», Umelec International, Prague, 2005).

 

A work deserving a special mention is another product of the Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy collaboration titled «Office Games» (1998). Video curator Elena Mikhailova wrote the following about it: «The contextual nature of this video projection is closely linked with local specifics. The opening of the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art in Odessa led to the fact that quite a few local artists and critics got employed by the Centre as office staff while carrying on their personal art projects on the side. This has been the first time when many of these artists got to experience office work in all its hermetic glory. Office life as a special environment with its written and unwritten laws of conduct turned out to be quite an inspirational field of enquiry for many of these newly inducted members. The video projection presented a very typical verbatim snippets from the office conversations overheard by the artists who were seen to be approaching the viewers from inside the screen.   Travelling the screen these «tigers of the mundane»  turned into «characters» enthusiastically greeted by the informed audience.  The part of the audience, which was not familiar with the office reality treated these anonymous snippets of conversations as the remarks of passers-by  overheard while walking» (E. Michailovskaya «Intellectual adventurism: young art in Odessa,» «The Visual Art of the 1980-1990's in the Cultural Context of the Twentieth Century», Kiev, 1999).  At the same time, «Office Games» was marked «not by the joyful recognition of the phrases by a chosen few, but by the intentional exposure of the bureaucratic nature of the claustrophobic office environment» (M. Rashkovetskiy «Here and Inside: The Art in Odessa between 'Renaissance' and 'New Middle Ages'« Moscow Art Journal, 1999).

 

Two videos from Odessa were presented in the project «Academy of Cold» (1998) curated by Alexander Roytburd.  Later, these videos became the most well known works in the history of video art in Ukraine. The first video is the work by the project curator titled «Psychedelic invasion of 'Battleship Potemkin' into the tautological hallucination of Sergei Eisenstein.» «The video presents a 'reformatted film' where re-edited frames from the seminal work of Eisenstein  are mixed with the surrealist takes by the artist himself, thus, further deconstructing the film director's cut» (A. Solovyev, A. Lojkina «The History of Contemporary Art in Ukraine: Millenium»).

 

Let us note that this video, which was later bought by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and selected by Harold Zeeman for a curatorial project as part of the forty-ninth Venice Biennale «Plateau of Humankind», was initially shown in Odessa Art Museum.  Back then, the painting by Leonid Muchnik «Potemkin Rebels Bring Ashore the Body of the Martyred Hero Gregory Vakulenchuk» (1949) was used for the projector screen while the exhibition space was filled with the dummies and masks from the artist's personal collection.  Important to note that some real characters from Odessa contemporary art scene of the 1990's took part in the deconstruction of Eisenstein's cine-text by playing the part of the massacred crowds on the steps of The Potemkin Stairs while the video reel of Roytburd's work was played.

 

The second important video as a part of the «Academy of Cold» project was the «Empire of Passion» by Kulchitskiy and Chekorskiy. In 1999 this video was selected by the curator David Elliott and Bojana Pejic for the inclusion in the project «After The Wall. The Art of Post-Communist Europe»   (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Stockholm; The Museum of Contemporary Art Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Ludwig Museum, Budapest).   The ambitious aim of the project was to outline the art of post-Communist countries in 1990s. Within the work the artists' signature appropriation of scenes from the film «Empire of Passion» is heightened by the poor audio quality as the Japanese master copy gets dubbed by a 'pirate' simultaneous interpretation while its English subtitles take this 'language Babylon' to its peak. 

 

Both «Psychedelic invasion ...» and «Empire of Passion» with their opposite aesthetics became representative examples of the two most prominent  trends in the history of video art of the 1990's not only in Odessa, but in Ukraine as a country.

 

At the turn of the century several exhibitions took place in Odessa, including «TV-lisation 2,» «Found Items» (later Kiev, Toronto, Chicago), and «X-men,» curated by Elena Mikhailovskaya, Andrey Taranenko, Miroslav Kulchitskiy. The shows presented the video works by such Odessa artists as Viktor Malyarenko («Back in Black» and «Go-go girls,» both 1999), Andrey Moskvichev (The Drowned Man and the Tibetan Monks, 1999), Miroslav Kulchitskiy («Poor Lisa» and «Deep Throat», 2000). The majority of these works continued with the contextual trend in Odessa video art, apart from the works by Gleb Katchuk and Olga Kashimbekova («Melies 2000» and «Flash Royal,» 2000). Describing the 'contextual' video works in Odessa at the beginning of the 2000s, Elena Mikhailova and Andrey Taranenko point out the artists' «quick response to the universal cultural  stimuli … and the existence of the notional gaps, which are 'provoked' and 'found' rather than created by the artists, putting under scrutiny the reliability of their 'message'. This suspension between belief and disbelief on the part of the viewer creates the tension in each individual work» (Е. Mikhailovskaya, А. Taranenko «New Ukrainian Art. Passing for an Expert», Kiev, 2001, an article in the exhibition catalogue «Found Items. New Art in Ukraine»).

 

«The video projection by Viktor Malyarenko titled «Go-go Girls» is based on the material initially created by the artist upon request from his deaf-mute acquaintance. His task was to create the subtitles for a video report from an international beauty pageant for deaf-mute women.   Stripped of their initial visual context these subtitles create an odd experience. Their appear to emphasise the lack, a black void of the dark TV screen. A contradictory situation is being created where the viewers have to use their imagination  to recreate these 'invisible girls' based on the fragmented textual description provided by the subtitles, which include the size of the bust, waist, and hips, country of origin, and the favourite hobby» (Ibid).

 

«The video work by M. Kulchitskiy titled «Poor Liza» is the result of combining, or rather, layering of the video clips extracted from two films. The first clip is a love scene from the film «Cleopatra» starring Elizabeth Taylor. The second one presents the same scene taken this time from a different film, titled «Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story» where Taylor is portrayed by Sherilyn Fenn. In the second instance, which is a TV version of the Elizabeth  Taylor biography the directs tries to re-enact  the love scene in Cleopatra's bedroom.  The artist in his turn tries to establish the level of approximation of such a re-enactment through highlighting the differences in the set and clothing details, camera angles, and lighting.   By exposing these two scenes as layers on top of each other, adding a 'dark' soundscape to the video and slowing the projection speed the artist makes the two films interact in an unusual way, converting a love scene into a scene from a horror movie. The dark male silhouette is seen approaching a sleeping woman – this is how the suspense is created on film, especially when the latter episode is combined with an unsettling music score.  The doubling of the image seems to additionally emphasise the presence of two Elizabeth Taylors, the real one as well as the one portrayed by Sherilyn Fenn» (Ibid).

 

The works by Odessa video artists were widely exhibited internationally at video and media art festivals of the second half of the 1990's and in the early 2000s. Among these are the videos by Philip Perlovskiy (Ostranenie-97,» Dessau; «Supervision,» Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Moscow, 2001),   Miroslav Kulchitskiys and Vadim Chekorskiy («Videoformes-95,» Clermont-Ferrand; «Belleville – Milieu du Monde,» Paris, 1996; «Impakt-98,» Utrecht; WRO-99, Wrocław; «Kurzfilmtage – 99,» Oberhausen), Gleb Katchuk («Styik,» Moscow, 1998; «Split-98,» Split), Miroslav Kulchitskiy («Videogrammes-2000,» Marseille; «Videoformes - 2001,» Clermont-Ferrand), Victor Malyarenko («Videogrammes-2000,» Marseille).

 

Apart from this, Odessa video art was included in such seminal exhibitions of Ukrainian contemporary art of the 1990's as «Future is Now. Ukrainian art in the nineties» (Contemporary Art Museum, Zagreb, 1999; «Skuc» gallery, Ljubljana, 2000; Löffler Museum, Košice, 2000; Collegium Artisticum, Sarajevo, 2000), «Trois Regards sur l’Ukraine» (Passage de Retz, Paris, 1999) and «Acomodacija» («U Jezuitow» gallery, Poznań, 1998).

 

The early 2000s saw a rapid decline in funding allocation for contemporary art in Odessa. More significantly, the end of the 'revolutionary' period in culture on a national level  in general had a knock on effect on the regional artistic scene, which appeared to have lost interest in any kind of creative innovation within the genres linked with media technologies.  Moreover, any 'revival' in contemporary art at the end of the 2000s, including media art sphere (Maria Gonchar, Olga Lannik, Roman Gromov, and others), would have been significantly impacted  by the lack of continuity with art developments made in the 1990s.  Among the video works created by the representatives of this new generation of Odessa media artists one can single out the video projection by Maria Gonchar «Sorry for I repeat myself» (2013), shown during The Third Odessa Biennial of Contemporary Art (2013), the video collages of Roman Gromov «No Comprendo» (2009), «Confession» (2012) and «Nervous Cell» (2012), the video installations by Olga Lannik «MAF» (also shown during The Third Odessa Biennial in 2013) and «Ukrainian Women Complex» (2014).

 

Starting from 2010, Contemporary Art Museum in Odessa, established in 2008, works on the archiving, documentation and exhibition of Odessa video art. Currently, the museum holds the most comprehensive archive of video works created by Odessa artists. Moreover, its permanent collection presents video and video installation works by Igor Gusev, Yuriy Leyderman, Alexander Roytburd, video documentation of «The Artreiders» proejct curated by Igor Gusev (2007-2009) as well as the projects by the gallery «Window,» curated by Dmitriy Dulfan and Sergei Polyakov (2011-2014).