The Mohrytsia Land Art Symposium in Sumy region’s “Prostir pokordonnia” (“Borderland Space”) has existed for more than 20 years. This artists’ laboratory of unearthly landscapes is located on the site of a former chalk quarry, just a few kilometres away from the nation’s border. Living in this space and applying their practices, artists ruminate on Environmental art, its methods and its relevant limitations (or lack thereof). This does not limit itself to the theme of Land Art, but widely encompases both human relationships and nature under conditions where even the notion “nature” is undermined. We live in a moment when the Anthropocene Era (or Chthulucene according to Donna Haraway) rearranges emphases and alters default dispositions.
Arriving in Mohrytsia, on the space of the border, is always a perceptible recalibration of perspectives and an encounter with everything that inevitably loses clarity under conditions of “civilization”. here the prehistoric and non-human come close to everyday human life. The sky, which in the city is usually just a patch with ragged edges on the periphery of the sight, now occupies two thirds of your field of vision, broken only by nights asleep in a tent. The chalk underfoot is an ancient Mesozoic seabed, raised by a glacier into a landscape laced with the remains of dead Belemnite shellfish.
Against this background, global questions are raised about the durability of art, and those who create it, in its global sense. “How could we understand the sense of time and space without a subject that recognizes the past, present and future? And how could we know about this if we are not able to see the real world, when no one is there to perceive it?”, asks philosopher Quentin Meillassoux. While the space of Mohrytsia appears as the perfect background for such questions, which are asked every year by symposium participants and which inevitably influence their practice.
“Mohrytsia” is not just a space, it is first a community that is permanently in communication both in between and outside. Among its residents are the artists that already work with The Naked Room. This exhibition has arisen in this space of intersection of people, common values and interests.
Constantly rethinking itself and the subject of its own focus, “Prostir pokordonnia” is an open structure which incessantly renews itself while maintaining certain constants. According to the same principle, The Naked Room exhibition is built as a series of gestures with different media and exposition changing daily, highlighting the ideas of interaction and connectivity. It is an improvised exhibition, born in the laboratory. It is an epilogue to this year’s residence, which took place in July. The project’s сontinuation, which is transferred to the gallery, is a space for something that has not yet been said, seen, heard or thought over. It is a small fraction of a larger whole.
The exhibition title has been taken from the conversation between the artists and a local archeologist and explorer of local history.
So, in a nutshell, what about the mammoth?, – asked a participant.
It used to hang out here, – answered the historian.
He talks about the mammoth as he would something familiar and typical, in a tone that neutralizes any distance in time, making the prehistoric literally tangible, not just as an archeological artifact, but as a part of your life.
Then there were synchronisms – some of the many, which usually accompany the location and the community of Mohrytsia.
“More than a thousand years can be counted already from the time when the oldest man on earth was living in caves, hunting animals (including the giant mammoth which is now extinct), using sticks, bones, and wild rocks as his tools.” Thanks to Stanislav Turina for this quote from the History of Ukraine-Rus' by Mykola Arkas, which he started reading after Mohrytsia 2021. In Arkas’ words the past is both far away and near at the same time, and the distance is almost imperceptible.
At last – one more paleontological artifact: a mammoth bone from Mohrytsia, which, just a few days before the exhibition, was discovered to be in the possession of Anna Hidora, the founder of the Mohrytsia symposium. In the exhibition, this object serves as a link to the place, a prehistoric constant against a background of fickle modernity.
At one time Environmental art evaded galleries and institutional frames, opting to work with natural habitats and materials. Now, half a century after the start of this artistic evolution, we can think about the actuality of these questions: what happens when such art finally finds itself inside the gallery? Can it still exist as art in the gallery space? Or does it only exist outside of it?
The exhibition must likely be left only as a question. It is a hint, an invitation to a dialogue, and a proposition to investigate the story's continuation. And perhaps an answer will be revealed only at the end, or perhaps not.