The Empire Strikes Back?

A traveling academy will explore the post-Soviet cityscape (in Chisinău, Kiev, Minsk, Moscow, Tbilisi and Yerevan)

Unless the countries of the so-called post-Soviet area confront their common Soviet heritage with its colonial and geographic structures and emancipatory beginnings, there can be no reconciliation in the region. At the heart of the project "The Empire Strikes Back?" is therefore a theme that still both unites and divides cities and memories in the region: namely, the handling of the architectural legacy of the Soviet Union and the treatment of the enlightened democratic urban (sub-) cultures and civil society stakeholders over the last three decades.The structural similarities concealed behind descriptive categories such as "post-Soviet society" will be investigated based on the example of specific urban situations in order to expose their unique local features. Out of a common past in the "Empire" and the separate yet shared experience of the post-Soviet city, models are to be developed for a joint future.
The post-imperial disintegration of the Soviet Union will be regarded in this project not only in a negative light but instead as a still-ongoing historical process that can help us to better understand many of the current conflicts and social tensions in the countries involved. The de-Sovietization law in Ukraine, which has as its goal the elimination of all symbols of Soviet power in the public realm in the eastern Ukraine, can serve here as a conflict-fraught example. It cuts off the possibility for a large portion of the Eastern Ukrainian population to come to terms with their own history, because it’s implemented without engaging with cultures of remembrance or to identify with the collective memory. It only exacerbates the conflict. In Russia, a wistfully tinged nostalgia for Soviet days is taking root in particular among the younger generation, the same mood that is expressed in the neo-imperial projects of the current regime.

These levers will be used to initiate a culture of dialogue and debate, of the mediation of values and the differentiated treatment of shared history – via the transmission medium of the urban fabric and incorporating a wide range of stakeholders: social activists and museums, entrepreneurs and critical urbanists, artists and filmmakers, authors and historians.

"The Empire Strikes Back?" pursues the question of to what extent urban life and the geographical, social, cultural-institutional and administrative structures that today shape the project region can be seen as a national or colonial legacy and what standing they occupy in the respective republics. In addition, the project examines the experience of migration. How are people treating the urban space in the face of current demographic and social changes and the prevailing economic paradigms? How can sustainable long-term cooperation in this field be instituted? What personal memories can be productively integrated into the democratic process and used to forge new symbols?

The project will take the form of a traveling academy, while a group of international civil-society stakeholders and experts will open up opportunities for a peaceful, cooperative and democratic future and contribute to the development of concrete partnership projects. This traveling academy accompanies an exhibition and a publication.

Project concept prepared by Georg Schöllhammer, Hedwig Saxenhuber and Michaela Geboltsberger
"The Empire Strikes Back?" is a project by Goethe-Institut and the association Schwarzes Quadrat.

Supported by
Auswärtiges Amt Germany and
The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia

Travelers/ participants
Ruben Arevshatyan (ARM) / Oleksandr Burlaka (UKR) / Boris Chukhovich (UZB/CAN)/ Nikolay Erofeev (RUS) / Michaela Geboltsberger (AT) / Dóra Hegyi (HUN) / Olga Kazakova (RUS) / Gaga Kiknadze (GEO) / Wolfgang Kil (GER) / Jonas König (GER) / Stefan Rusu (MDA) / Hedwig Saxenhuber (AT) / Georg Schöllhammer (AT) / Olga Shparaga (BLR) / Kai Vöckler (GER) / Dimitrij Zadorin (BLR/NLD)

Project and publication partners
Armenia: International Association of Art Critics AICA Armenia, Ruben Arevshatyan / Institute for Contemporary Art Armenia (ICA), Nazareth Karoyan. Belarus: Marina Naprushkina / European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus, Olga Shparaga) / “CECH” Art Space. Austria: springerin – Hefte für Gegenwartskunst. Germany: Archis Interventions / Badischer Kunstverein Karlsruhe, Anja Casser / Bauwelt. Georgia: Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, Ani Riaboshenko / Goethe-Institut Georgia / Visual Art & Design School (VADS) - Free University of Tbilisi, Irena Popiashvili / GeoAIR Tbilisi. Moldova: Center for Contemporary Art, Chişinău, Stefan Rusu / German Culture Center AKZENTE. Russia: The Institute of Modernism, Olga Kazakova / Museum of Moscow. Ukraine: Goethe-Institut Ukraine / Visual Culture Research Center, Kyiv / Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center

Program (Part 1)
Wednesday, September 7
10:00-13:00: Kick off Meeting
15:00-18:00: City Tour with Oleksandr Burlaka, part 1

Thursday, September 8
10:00-14:00: City Tour with Oleksandr Burlaka, part 2
18:00-21:00: Round Table “Empowering Civil Society”

Friday, September 9
13:00-15:00: Lecture by Katerina Mishchenko “The Book of Kyiv”

Saturday, September 10
11:00-13:00: City Tour by Arthur Klinau
16:00-18:00: Visiting Gallery Ў

Sunday, September 11
10:00-12:00: Wrap-up meeting with Alexej Bratochkin / Tania Arcimovič / Igor Fedjushkin
14:00-15:00: Public Event: Lecture by Dimitrij Zadorin “Minsk - a perfect Soviet city?
15:30-17:30: Public Event: Panel Discussion: “Soviet Architectural Heritage and it’s Future in Belarus. With: Tania Arcimovič, Alexej Bratochkin Kai Vöckler, Stefan Rusu, Georg Schöllhammer

Monday, September 12
10:00-13:30: Excursion to Public Spaces
16:00-18:00: Excursion to Osmolovka district with Sergej Chareuski

Wednesday, September 14
10:00-12:00: Workshop. With Evgeny Asse / Andrey Ivanov
14:00-17:00: Tour to VDNKh (Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva / Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) with Anna Bronovitskaya

Thursday, September 15
10:00-13:00: Tour with Mikhail Tolmachev at Military Museum
15:00-16:00: Public Event: Lecture by Olga Kazakova and Yuriy Volchok “The Institute of Modernism" (Museum of Moscow)
16:30-18:30: Public Event: Round Table: “Soviet Heritage and it’s Future in Russia”. With: Anna Bronovitskaya (RUS), Katerina Chuchalina (RUS), Keti Chukhrov (RUS), Elena Gonsales (RUS), Alexandra Selivanova (RUS), Yuriy Volchok (RUS) and participants of the traveling academy. (Museum of Moscow)

Friday, September 16
11:00-12:00: Interview with Elena Antsuta and Igor Vasilevsky

CHISINAU - Mapping Urban Change
Saturday, September 17
10:00-12:00: City Tour to Cantemir Boulevard
14:00-15:30: Visit Valea Morilor lake/Rotonda complex
16:00-22:00: Public Events: Civic Cafe – “Urban Talks” joint event with Oberliht. Location: Apartament Deschis
18:15-19:30: Panel Discussion: Mobility in the City (Access to culture)

Sunday, September 18
09.30 -12.30: City Tour (Socialist Modernism from Chisinau– BACU Association
14:00-15:00: City Tour/Visit: Cafenea Guguta
16.00 -19.00: Closed Workshop
With guests from “Days of Public Spaces”
“Chisinau – Art, Research in the Public Sphere” (project and art interventions in the city) by Stefan Rusu/Lilia Dragneva
introducing Oberliht projects + Summers School at Zaikin Park by Vladimir Us
Socialist Modernism by Dumitu Rusu/Stefan Rusu
Cafe Guguta case + the situation around State Circus + the case of Cinema Tkachenko by Vitalie Spranceana

Tuesday, September 19
19:00: Public Event: Travel Report (Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center)

Program (Part 2)
Thursday, October 6
10:00-17:00: City Tour by Nini Palavandishvili: Lost Heroes of Tbilisi: Soviet Period Mosaics and Tbilisi Brunch Social and discussions
17:30-18:30: Welcoming at Goethe-Institut Georgia

Friday, October 7
11:00-13:00: Tour at the Free University
15:30-17:30: Introductory Workshop
17:30-19:00: Discussion “Soviet Heritage and it’s Future in Georgia“

Saturday, October 8
City Tour with Gaga Kiknadze

Monday, October 10
10:00-13:00: City Tour by Ruben Arevshatyan

15:00-17:00: Closed Workshop
17:00-20:00: Meetings with architects, urban activists and students

Tuesday, October 11
17:00-19:00: Public Discussion: „Soviet Heritage and it’s Future in Armenia“

Wednesday, October 12
10:00-12:00: Talk with architects from Armproject Institute
12:00-16:00: Closing Seminar
16:00: Tour to Metsamor with Sarhat Patrosyan / Urbanlab

"Airarat" (former "Rossiya") Cinema Theater, Yerevan
Architects: Spartak Khachikyan, Hrachik Poghosyan, Artur Tarkhanyan
Courtesy of Artsvin Grigoryan archive

The_Empire_Strikes_Back_-_Ma.pdf (pdf, 16.6 mb)


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