Aleksander Komarov - CV

STOCK ESTATE’ (2015) shows projected video images that are raw material

gathered for ESTATE. The images are selected by an algorithm, which

randomly chooses sequences of footage, suggesting a never-ending

composition. The algorithm starts by selecting one of the following four

subjects: natural resources, stock exchange, corporate art display, and

modernist architecture. The algorithm continues to search until all four panels

show that subject, it stops, and starts again. After completing the film ESTATE,

the stock market began to crash, impacting my research and production. In the

context of more than one market crash since 2008, I felt an increasing urgency

to reuse the preparatory data files for ESTATE.

STOCK ESTATE’ (2015) shows projected video images that are raw material gathered for ESTATE. The images are selected by an algorithm, which randomly chooses sequences of footage, suggesting a never-ending composition. The algorithm starts by selecting one of the following four subjects: natural resources, stock exchange, corporate art display, and modernist architecture. The algorithm continues to search until all four panels show that subject, it stops, and starts again. After completing the film ESTATE, the stock market began to crash, impacting my research and production. In the context of more than one market crash since 2008, I felt an increasing urgency to reuse the preparatory data files for ESTATE.
A BREATH OF ABSTRACTION: ART, ARCHITECTURE, AND FINANCIAL CAPITAL 

 

BY PEIO AGUIRRE 


Although the distinction between the concept of money and the concept of capital has cut across the history of political economy ever since Marx, the theoretical complexity of the relationships between the two categories continually demands representations from the cultural realm able to examine the myriad frictions and contradictions between them. Basically speaking, we might suggest that in the distinction between the two concepts lies the fundamental source of all abstraction, giving rise to the intangibility of capital, to mental deliberations on its mathematical calculation, and also to its metaphysical and spiritual dimension. Put one way, money is tangible —“bread” — while capital is virtual, volatile, and ungraspable. Capital is a process and not a thing, a process in which the circulation of money is often — though not always or exclusively — instrumentalised in order to make more money. In the cultural realm, these abstractions cannot be overlooked, and need to be brought to light in order to identify points of contact between the social and the economic realms. In more figurative language, this amounts to revealing the “seams” — both visible and invisible — that hold together the “suit” (the form) that we normally wear. Art, as much as material production, has historically played a primordial role in the concept of capital, a concept that includes the stock of all the assets in the possession of private individuals, companies, and governments that can be commercialised in the market, regardless of whether these assets are in fact put to use in the immediate future. And to art we can add the actual space that contains it, that is, architecture. The two realms, in their interrelationship, incorporate an entire repository that determines what could be taken to be the solid core of capital: the nature or theory of value, which is to say, exchange value. But how is value created? The question encompasses property and other material things to be used within patrimonial wealth — land, assets and copyrights — as well as art collections, jewellery, and other cultural assets to the extent that these are regarded as hedge funds and investments. Among immaterial possessions, income and rent are undoubtedly the most complex and fluctuating properties. In the not always visible ties between art and architecture, one can discern an abstract representation of so-called “financial capital.” (...)


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Aleksander Komarov ‘Stock-Estate’ 2015

multichannel video installation | 2 HD projections, wooden box with computer, video cables, sound,  variable dominions, time unlimited. 


Presented: 

6th Moscow Biennale, Russia

from September 22 to October 1, 2015, at Pavilion No.1 in Moscow's VDNKh

http://6th.moscowbiennale.


Total length: 20 min

Format: HD-DVD, video

Produced:01. August. 2008

Author, Director, Producer: Aleksander Komarov

Camera: Jan Daniel Fritz

Photography: Susanne Kriemann

Sound: Arvid Azzola

Voice: Arnd Schulten

Voice recording: Ben Meinhof

Postproduction: Jan Daniel Fritz, Aleksander Komarov


Presented at:

2015- 6th Moscow Biennale, Russia, presented byNicolaus Schafhausen 

2013 - The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, curated by Dieter Roelstraete,

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, US

2010 - FALL OUT,art, desire and disengage, Gl Holtegaard, Modern Art Denmark curated by Mads Damsbo and Merete Jankowski

2010 - Torpedo/Torpedo Press bookshope, Oslo, Norwey

2009 - Filmhouse, The Hague, The Nietherlands

2009 - The Building, E-Flux , selected by R. Wagner, Platz Der Vereinten Nationen, Berlin (solo) Germany

2008 - Arsenal Gallery, Bialystok, curated by Lena Prenz Poland

2008 - Weichensteller, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Zurich, (solo) Switzerland

2008 - Anna Partenheimer studio Berlin, (solo) Germany


Links:

MCA Chicago

e-flux

Kunsthalle Winterthur

Anna Partenheimer

Galeria Arsenal 


In “Estate” Komarov follows the traces of desire, value and estate; he observes the

mythical transfigured ideas of mines at the Ural to go further to the heterotopian space of the Frankfurter stock market, followed by shots of art collections of two banks to end up with an overview of the cityscape of Yekaterinburg and Frankfurt. “Estate” filmed with a reserved view on the subjects and offers the viewer space to think about all the different incorporations of power, labor and estate, to reflect about the daily impact of such manifestations and our own position within these various compositions. The film could be seen as essay about who is in charge, who is in and out, who awakes desires, who knows and owns without explaining, judging or commenting it. - Renate Wagner


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(...)

JR: “First”, “second” and “third” world are terms from the political context of the Cold War which, although they are less frequently used today, still codify a ranking of the world order. My question aimed to find out to what extent you wanted to draw attention in “Estate” to the systematic connection between spaces (here, raw material production, there sales and production of value) within the global economy. You mention that as a migrant, you discovered that identity is closely connected to economy. Could you be more specific and say to what extent these experiences had some influence on the film?


AK: In “Estate” the image of production of value is related to the economy of the places I chose to film. The ideologies powered by the government cannot be blend out, but as well were not communicate in an outspoken way. In the city of Asbestos, which is situated in the Ekaterinburg region, I had a guide, a teacher from the local school. She explained the history of the city to me and we went up onto the platform where I could look out over the excavation site of asbestos: the grey landscape sculpted into the earth, where big trucks and trains were scaled down to miniatures, repeating the same movement over and over again. I realized the political implications of the name that was given to the city – Asbestos: it expresses the duration of its existence and its relation to larger economic structures. A teacher told me people used to celebrate weddings in front of the mine. I filmed her there, standing without speaking a word as if she embodied the place of production of asbestos.

But certainly the displacement of material, from location to location, from one value to another value and the human displacement, personal stories, had some influence on the film. 

(...)

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What Komarov found there was a combination of entropy, ruin and dogged perseverance. The abandoned industrial sites are left open and derelict, whilst new sites are opened up next to them. Ecological concerns don’t seem to be of great relevance. The ultra-modern fears of an imminent exhaustion of natural resources seem like nothing but intellectual rubbish when viewed in the light of this vigorous activity. And those that hope to find in Komarov’s film an interpretive proximity to representations of the alienation of man in an industrially defined space, like those found in Antonioni’s “Red Desert” of 1964, stand corrected. The people of the area connect the powerful industrial landscapes and the smoking chimneys, the deep mines and enormous machinery with a feeling of historical and cultural belonging.
A teacher, who peacefully looks into the camera while she talks about this, is standing on the viewing platform of an asbestos mine. Wedding parties come here after the registry office to take commemorative photos. School groups also come here. In handcraft classes they use asbestos fibre to create artistic place mats with floral decorations. The identity of the entire region, its self-concept and pride, is based on the mining of precious stone, gold and minerals.(…)

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'Sublime' worker. The first part of Komarov’s “Estate” undeniably evokes in us an experience of the sublime, and this in the Kantian sense: it is images of nature - the opencast mines in the Urals - which create the feeling of vastness and boundlessness. It is a vision of the inexhaustibility of natural resources, in this case, the natural reserves in the Urals, and, taken still further, of the boundlessness of nature itself, which is communicated to us by these images; in other words, exactly that feeling of exaltation, of the sublime, as defined by Kant. In addition to this, Komarov documents - to use another Kantian concept - subjective awareness, which goes beyond the sensual to attain the realm of ideas: in the transcendence of nature - in its boundlessness, which both implies the inevitability of the industrial exploitation of natural resources and provides it with ideological legitimacy - people have found their authentic world to work and live in. In other words, it is their identity, a soul breathed in from their reality. Identity is after all nothing more than soul at work. read more..
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'Sublime' worker. The first part of Komarov’s “Estate” undeniably evokes in us an experience of the sublime, and this in the Kantian sense: it is images of nature - the opencast mines in the Urals - which create the feeling of vastness and boundlessness. It is a vision of the inexhaustibility of natural resources, in this case, the natural reserves in the Urals, and, taken still further, of the boundlessness of nature itself, which is communicated to us by these images; in other words, exactly that feeling of exaltation, of the sublime, as defined by Kant. In addition to this, Komarov documents - to use another Kantian concept - subjective awareness, which goes beyond the sensual to attain the realm of ideas: in the transcendence of nature - in its boundlessness, which both implies the inevitability of the industrial exploitation of natural resources and provides it with ideological legitimacy - people have found their authentic world to work and live in. In other words, it is their identity, a soul breathed in from their reality. Identity is after all nothing more than soul at work.
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The book ESTATE reflects on the means of evaluation of artistic production. To an extent, ESTATE is a response to the current condition of contemporary art and its relation to broader economic contexts. The project focuses the viewer’s attention on basic resources and the movement between material and immaterial types of labour, gathering along the way diverse statements on the migration of value. In her essay, Lena Prents recalls the images and issues raised in Aleksander Komarov’s film ESTATE (2008), and questions the current position of artists, oscillating between the demands of the market, the conditions of work beyond the “cult of genius” and the immaterial value of artistic labour. Boris Buden draws on the wider context of the material presented in ESTATE, that of rationalised labour, then focus on projects by Aleksander Komarov which balance the issue of being an artist working under current economic conditions against the artistic “soul at work”. The conversation between Aleksander Komarov and Jule Reuter deals with questions about the coherence between (migrated) identity, value production and the personal way in which one position oneself.

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The book ESTATE reflects on the means of evaluation of artistic production. To an extent, ESTATE is a response to the current condition of contemporary art and its relation to broader economic contexts. The project focuses the viewer’s attention on basic resources and the movement between material and immaterial types of labour, gathering along the way diverse statements on the migration of value. In her essay, Lena Prents recalls the images and issues raised in Aleksander Komarov’s film ESTATE (2008), and questions the current position of artists, oscillating between the demands of the market, the conditions of work beyond the “cult of genius” and the immaterial value of artistic labour. Boris Buden draws on the wider context of the material presented in ESTATE, that of rationalised labour, then focus on projects by Aleksander Komarov which balance the issue of being an artist working under current economic conditions against the artistic “soul at work”. The conversation between Aleksander Komarov and Jule Reuter deals with questions about the coherence between (migrated) identity, value production and the personal way in which one position oneself.

'Sublime ' worker.

The first part of Komarov’s “Estate” undeniably evokes in us an experience of the sublime, and this in the Kantian sense: it is images of nature - the opencast mines in the Urals - which create the feeling of vastness and boundlessness. It is a vision of the inexhaustibility of natural resources, in this case, the natural reserves in the Urals, and, taken still further, of the boundlessness of nature itself, which is communicated to us by these images; in other words, exactly that feeling of exaltation, of the sublime, as defined by Kant. In addition to this, Komarov documents - to use another Kantian concept - subjective awareness, which goes beyond the sensual to attain the realm of ideas: in the transcendence of nature - in its boundlessness, which both implies the inevitability of the industrial exploitation of natural resources and provides it with ideological legitimacy - people have found their authentic world to work and live in. In other words, it is their identity, a soul breathed in from their reality. Identity is after all nothing more than soul at work. Read more...pdf

ESTATE (2010) by Aleksander Komarov, is an artist book based on the film ESTATE from 2008. The idea of the book was conceived following a discussion between Lena Prents and Aleksander Komarov in the run-up to the exhibition FALL OUT –– ART, DESIRE and DISENGAGEMENT at Gl Holtegaard, Denmark and at Malmö Konsthall, Sweden.


ESTATE (Art book)

Editor: Lena Prents

Graphic: Jung & Wenig Berlin

Publisher: Torpedo Press

Year: 2010

The interrelation between Rotterdam's destruction during WWII, its current renovation and a blind person is not visible directly, but only when certain imagery and contents are linked to each other in one timeline. How the city's "capital" is elaborated upon our physical conditions and imaginations. Choosing Rotterdam itself as its protagonist. The eyes of the blind is a metaphor for not being able to see what is inscribed in the ground level of Rotterdam's 20th century history. The image of the blind person's eyes is a mediator between my imagination of facts and the real condition of the person that is filmed. The film takes a literal challenge with the Russian avant-garde, which back then in time proclaimed that reality is a mechanical process and can be corrected, rebuilt, destroyed. I would like to provoke the imagination and construct the narrative of different facts using a cinematic language: like the blind person is walking through the city to the eye hospital for the treatment of his eyes. The scenes are mingled with urban imagery. The tools for the correction of eyes, the factory where they are produced, the city, the history and the person eyes, which unable to receive the information via the eyes. And in this case the camera becomes the imaginative tool which translates the content of the film into a blind person's view.
Total length: 14 min

Format: HD-DVD, video

Produced: 2010 

Aleksander Komarov

Camera: Jan Daniel Fritz

Sound: Arvid Azzola 

Voice: Max

Voice recording: Arvid Azzola



Presented at:

2013- Gallery Mirta De Mare, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2011- Gallery Bäckerstrasse 4, curated by Adam Budak. Vienna, Austria.

2010- Capital, CAUC Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain;  

2010- FALL OUT,art, desire and disengage, Gl Holtegaard, Modern Art Denmark; 

2010- Malmö Konsthall, Sweden; 

2010- Panorama, Impakt, Utrecht, The Netherlands; 

2010- Loop, Barcelona, Spain.


'Palipaduazennije' is an invented word and the title of the film by Aleksander Komarov. This publication is composed of 65 new words established by Belarusian immigrants living in The Netherlands. Together, the group created new words by altering the Latin names of plants and fusing them with Belarusian vocabulary. The results were words that sounded like Be- larusian, but would be foreign to Belarusian speakers. Inventiveness was used in the pronunciation and sounds of the words, without worrying about whether or not it was correct. By the end of the day the group was joking around by using the new words.Language fits best within a specific environment, but outside of its native setting it becomes a flexible object. Amongst emigrants, language isn’t necessarily critical in establishing their identities. However, language can determine new customs, for instance, communicational hierarchies and public status within society.

Palipaduazennije’– is a title of publication, printed 2 000 copies, free to take for the visitors. the text published as part of film project, black and White pictures.

the format of the publication to 23,5 x 16 cm ( A5 format)

The book has been published by the Arsenal Galery, Bialystok, Poland and in its collection.

Editor: Lena Prents

Graphic: Jung & Wenig Berlin

Year: 2014

The book has been published by the Arsenal Galery, Bialystok, Poland and in its collection.

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According to public opinion polls in Belarus about the future of its political developments and international economic relations, people’s opinion are equally divided over whether the country should become part of the EU or remain in union with Russia. Many Belarusian intellectuals consider this result as 'dramatic' and see therein a reason why the Belarusian language is not a common one even in a

country with a population of 9.5 million, of which over eighty percent are 'ethnic Belarusian'. Impassioned discussions about the language of the country are held in Belarus between old concepts about a language as a base for national identity and more modern ideas about a language as a construct, which are reflected on intensively. Using one or another language is often considered a statement.

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,Palipaduazennije’

HD Video, 20 min long

Sound:Slobodan Bajic

Camera: Ben Geraerts

Guide: Asker Jurn Mulder

© aleksander komarov

The film was produce 2013, with support of Gotte Institut in London.

The film shot in Hortus Botanicus ,Amsterdam


Collection of Arsenal Galery, Bialystok, Poland


Presented at:

2014

"Pozbawienie", curated by Monika Szewczyk, Galeria Arsenał, Białystok, Poland

2013

"Panslavisms", curated by Virginija JanuÅ¡kevičiÅ«tÄ— and Joanna Warsza, at the former    Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Warsaw. Poland

"Constellation", Donostia-San Sebastián" curated by Peio Aguirre San Telmo Museoa, Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain

2012

"Europe (to the power of) n", at the HKW, Berlin, Germany

"West to The East"" Gallery Ó® Minsk, Belarus, curated by Lena Prents

"Untimely Stories" Muzeum Sztuki Łódź, Poland, curated by Jarosław Lubiak and Joanna Sokołowska

"Asymetric Europe", Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina (MSUV) in Novi Sad, Serbia, curated by Miško Šuvaković

 


Artist is interested in religion, which he views as an element of social life, of the public and the private spheres permeating each other. The artist focuses on the priest’s mission and professional career, juxtaposing them with the everyday life of the clergy. Rather a sequence of images than a coherent story delineated in a screenplay, the film seeks to analyse the structure of the motion picture and the ways in which the media communicate personal feelings and experiences through the people acting in front of the camera, i.e. an active group of the media producers. Set as political allegory the film refers to the structural films movement. It focuses on contemporary media practices and how the use of media technology and religion articulates with the mediation of the transcendental, how media and use of media have been credited with extraordinary powers in not just shaping and mediating, but even producing many of the social, historical and political processes, formations and institutions. While investigating how Image produce, reproduce and remake ethnic and religious diversity, how Image, very often connected to particular religious traditions and haw we participated in serving the contemporary myths.
Total length: 14 min

Format: HD-DVD, video

Produced: 2011

Director, Script: Aleksander Komarov

Production: Arsenal Gallery in Bialystok, Pl; BWA Sokol in Nowy Sacz, Pl

Camera: Ben Geraerts

Editing: Sebastian Bodirsky , Lise Rave

The day of German reunification is become the beginning of the end of the Palast der Republik in Berlin, not only historically as end of the era of GDR but as wall the building as such... Just prior to German reunification in October 1990, the building was found to be contaminated with asbestos and was closed. The film “See you in Disneyland” departs from the Dutch radio document, which reports about the night of 9 November 1989, collected next to the former border between West and East Berlin, check point charley and in front of the Palast der Republik. It records the celebration and euphoria of people during that night... I try to imagine the event and re-create a flash back and at the same time a present image of the ‘Palast der Republik’ as a protagonist. From the point of view of the late witness, my memory construct an aesthetical form in which, the historical events functions as a documents of certain character. Inspired by “Rain” (Joris Ivens 1929), were the film starts with a monotonous light rain swelling to become an invading misty sadness. I constructed the images during the night shootings of the ‘Palast der Republik’ from the close-up to the panoramic views, to show from different distance of observation. I use spotlights in the film to give the impression that someone is surveyed and examined. The stillness and monumentality of the building against other powerful forces: time, weather, people, and the streets. The variations of darkness and flashlight appear, destroying the harmonise image and shadow are portrayed on the water. Than the surveillance spot light discovers the crane deconstructing the building, where in front of the fence the small crowd celebrates and drinks Champaign, but the crane behind the crowd reminds us that it is an action of today that we are witnessing. The cheerful act becomes somehow autonomous, as if they re-live the event 17 years ago without any ideological attachment. The film continues with overviews on the building and recovers its original dark view. At a last picture graffiti appears, that reads “Dear Palast don’t worry we will rebuild you again.” In resemblance to the audio file the film utilizes these ideas and expands its visual vocabulary by incorporating new meanings that remind us of the temporality and the fragility of that moment in time. The Palast, which by political decision has to withdraw, now reflects the spiritual reality superior to his own limited time.

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Total length: 16 min

Format: 16mm Transfer to HD DVD video, Color

Produced: 2006 , Aleksander Komarov

Presented at: 

2006 Büro Friedrich, Berlin, Germany

2014 Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V, Berlin , Germany

Aleksander Komarov is a meditation on the cycle of presence and absence, the life and after-life of architecture as a solemn witness of history. In 2006 A. Komarov who had just arrived in Berlin filmed hours of material about the so-called Palast der Repuplik in the centre of Berlin. The building, once the showcase of the GDR where concerts where staged alongside political meetings, had just been closed permanently and destruction had started. This happened despite the fact that the majority of East Germans opposed the demolition . Along with other citizen of Berlin they felt the building was an integral part of Berlin's culture and history and an important witness of the historic process of the German reunification. Triggered by the obviously very special athmosphere around the closed-off site Komarov started to document the situation in an almost ethnological way. In 2008 he turned part of the material into the film and installation  which reflects the events around the people’s palace in view of it’s post-socialistic fate which he relates to his personal history. It reflects on architecture not only as a metaphoric but as a real trigger point of social memory and evokes a situation in the past when speculations on the development of the public realm ment more than dividend..

​Trapeze Concrete ​is a meditation on the cycle of presence and absence, the life and after-life of architecture as a solemn witness of history. In 2006 A. Komarov who had just arrived in Berlin filmed hours of material about the so-called Palast der Repuplik in the centre of Berlin. The building, once the showcase of the GDR where concerts where staged alongside political meetings, had just been closed permanently and destruction had started. This happened despite the fact that the majority of East Germans opposed the demolition . Along with other citizen of Berlin they felt the building was an integral part of Berlin's culture and history and an important witness of the historic process of the German ​r​eunification. Triggered by the obviously very special athmosphere around the closed-off site Komarov started to document the situation in an almost eth​n​ological way. In 2008 he turned part of the material into the film and installation  which reflects the events around the people’s palace in view of it’s post-socialistic fate which he relates to his personal history. It reflects on architecture not only as a metaphoric but as a real trigger point of social memory and evokes a situation in the past when speculations on the development of the public realm ​ment more than dividend.

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According to public opinion polls in Belarus about the future of its political developments and international economic relations, people’s opinion are equally divided over whether the country should become part of the EU or remain in union with Russia. Many Belarusian intellectuals consider this result as 'dramatic' and see therein a reason why the Belarusian language is not a common one even in a country with a population of 9.5 million, of which over eighty percent are 'ethnic Belarusian'. Impassioned discussions about the language of the country are held in Belarus between old concepts about a language as a base for national identity and more modern ideas about a language as a construct, which are reflected on intensively. Russian was one language of the Belarusian modernisation from 1918 until the late 1980s. During the early years of Perestroika Belarusian became a form of resistance. In the new Law About Languages it was fixed as an official state language but already five years later the law was changed and both Belarusian and Russian have been indexed as state languages; using one or another language is often considered a statement.

The video installation On Translation: Transparency/Architecture Acoustique was originally designed for the 10th Interntional Istanbul Biennial (2007). At the core of the work is the concept of transparency. The artist highlights the meaning, implications and historic change of the term from different perspectives. Main element of the installation is a film in three parts, each of them 10 minutes long, in which Komarov opposes shots of the glass facade of the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam with shots of the glass cupola of Berlin's Reichstag building.

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Total length: 10 min

Format: HD-DVD, video

Produced: 2007


Presented at:

2009 - The Building, E-Flux (solo), Selected by Renate Wagner Platz Der Vereinten Nationen, Berlin, Germany

2008 - Weichensteller, Kunsthalle Winterthur (solo), Zurich, Switzerland

2008 - Documentary Perspectives in Contemporary Art, Vancity Theatre and Vancouver International Film Festival, Curated by Bettina Steinbruegge and Tine Fischer, Vancouver, Canada

2008 - UQBAR, Berlin, Germany

2007/8 - Netwerk / Center for Contemporary art. Aalst (solo), Belgium

2008 - TENT. Rotterdam Center for Visual Arts, The Netherlands

2008 - Franken-Center, Langwasser, Germany

2007 - Not Only Possible, But Also Necessary, Optimism in the age of global war The 10th International Istanbul Biennial, curated by Hou Hanru Istanbul, Turkey Reviewed at: Paletten Art Magazine, Gothenburg, Sweden Frieze Magazine Issue 112, By Dominic Eichler (H) ART 31 Belgie de Volkskrant

2007 - NL Information, DK The 10th International Istanbul Biennial, TR Netwerk / Centrum voor hedendaagse Kunst, Aalst, Belgie ARTMagazine.CC, Vienna, Austria Franken-Center, Langwasser, Germany abforculture, Amsterdam, NL

“When you look at the pictures the aesthetics of reflections, which makes it not transparent are as much there as the transparency. One could relate this duplication back to Donald Judd’s definition of what he called specific objects, the combination of incompatible parts. In this building, where transparency and reflection in relation to light-conditions, that ambiguity is used strategically it seems. That makes it interesting even though on the other levels it is not working as transparent architecture.”

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“Passport/35 gr”,  book, unlimited editions, 56 pages, 20 x 26 cm, 

Concept: Aleksander Komarov,  

Essay: Nelly Bekus "An Essay on Living in Visa Territory", 

Design: Elke Marie Wolf,

Printed in Germany: Druckerei Bloch & Co, Berlin, 2005

Produced by: Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

Presented at:

2005"A Second Sight", Prague , International Biennial of Contemporary Art,The National Gallery, CZ, curated by Oliver Kielmayer

2007 at the exhibition " Progressive Nostalgia" , curated by Victor Misiano Museum of Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italia.

2010 at the exhibition "Satellite Tunes, Art from the Post-Soviet States", Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary,

2014 at the exhibition "Pozbawienie", curated by Monika Szewczyk, Galeria Arsenał, Białystok, Poland

In 2005 Aleksander Komarov tossed his Belarusian passport on the scales and thus established its weight, the 35 grammes. He scan his passport pages and multiplay in a edition of book tittle: 35 gr, On the white spaces of a book around scans of the passport page artist made notices, describing, the time wasted and the money squandered in obtaining residency permits and transit visas . Komarov reflects up on and documents the conditions of his own work as an artist in order to expose the control mechanisms to which his movements are subjected. The resulted publication was a first shown in 2006 Prague Biennial of Contemporary Art. With a     Czech visa included. 

The View from the Scales


the work is called 35G. G stands for grammes. the creator of the work, Aleksander Komarov, tossed his Belarusian passport on the scales and thus established its weight, the 35 grammes mentioned above. this work of art appropriately reminds us of a parascientific experiment, in which, more than a century ago, an American doctor had tried to find proof for the existence of the soul. Weighing people at the moment of their deaths, he established that they lost a certain amount of weight. According to Dr. Duncan McDougall measurements, the average weight loss was 21 grammes or, to be more exact, between 8 and 35 grammes. As a result, he concluded that this must be the weight of the human soul, which, as we know, is supposed to be immortal. the soul must then have a material dimension, it must, therefore, also be quantifiable. His hypothesis was, of course, quickly discredited; the recorded difference in weight, which could also be measured in animals, for example mice, was traced to a banal, yet completely rational, cause, namely the loss of fluid that happens at the moment of death. Water, and not the soul, weighed 21 grammes.


Nevertheless, it still makes sense, even today, to remember this “experiment”. despite its miserable failure, it was guided by logic; by a blind belief in rational, scientific jurisdiction over not only everything that exists, but also over everything that can be conceived or imagined. the idea that we could take the soul, that most sublime part of a human being, and toss it on the scales like a piece of meat, was far from being just the fantasy of a freak. The hypothesis, that the soul possessed materiality and could be mechanically quantified, was absolutely in tune with the spirit of the time. this was the epoch of the first great upsurge of industrial modernism, belief in its unstoppable progress had not yet been tarnished by global crisis or world war.


At approximately the same time, also in America, Frederick Winslow taylor formulated his PRINCIPLES OF SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT (1911), the bible of industrial rationalisation. His vision was the complete standardisation of physical movements, with the aim of increasing the productivity of industrial labour. this idea has a long history, reaching back into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when, with the introduction of accountancy for the management of both material and spiritual goods, the secular trend of rationalising every domain of human existence began. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this trend continued with the intensification of disciplinary measures and surveillance methods in prisons, hospitals and military facilities (famously described in Foucault’s DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH), leading to various practices for the self-control of temporal and physical behaviour1 by the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The best example of this is the regulation of physical movements in gymnastics. to quote a standard work on the theme of “hygiene”, published in France in the 1880’s: “every musculoskeletal system can be trained; every pattern of movement modified, regulated”.2 In Taylorism, on the other hand, the rationalisation of physical movement is applied to a particular realm of commercial life - that of industrial labour. Taylor wanted to create a system, or rather an organisation, “in which man and machine are merged into a unity of maximum output and efficiency”.3 In short, he wanted to increase the productivity of the workers.


Seen from the perspective of the working class lobby, however, the intention was the optimisation and maximisation of the worker’s exploitation. their physical movements were “scientifically” measured, with the aim of establishing a norm for the “appropriate daily output”: “... one measures with a stopwatch the time required for every single operation/working procedure, to then try and establish the fastest method for performing it”.4 this rationalisation of work met with resistance, however. According to Taylor, it was sabotaged by the unions, they were responsible for all the wasted energy and squandered working time. For Taylorism, therefore, the class lobby is implicitly irrational or in other words, unscientific. In the same historical context, i.e. also in America at the end of the nineteenth century, and also in pursuit of a radical rationalisation of industrial work, Fordism was developed. Henry Ford, who incidentally shared taylor’s animosity towards the unions and banned them in his factories, standardised the physical movements of his workers not at the level of the individual body, but in relation to the manufacture of the final product. He divided the requisite labour into simple, discrete, single movements which were performed by several workers in series. Thus, the modern factory was born, which so decisively shaped the historical world of the twentieth century beyond any ideological or political divisions. Millions of people worked in Fordist factories in Detroit and Turin, in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union, in metropolises and colonies, under liberal democratic and real socialist regimes. Regardless of how much, or how little, political, individual or cultural freedom they otherwise enjoyed, at work they were not master of their physical movements. these were alienated from them by a hegemonic rationality, quantified as units of energy, time or money, then standardised, to be ultimately reimposed onto them in the objectified form of mechanical labour.


This is the real historical context in which Komarov’s 35G both makes sense and speaks to us as art. If we ignore this context, we only see a familiar cliché; with 35G, Komarov is protesting against the injustice of the contemporary world. He draws our attention to the situation of the excluded, to the fate of all those who are not in possession of a “first-world travel document”, meaning that their freedom of movement is extremely limited and made more difficult - as documented in 35G - by every reproduced and annotated page, together with all the visas and stamps of other countries, in the artist’s (Belarusian) passport. seen in this light, it seems as if his work wants to say to us: look at everything that I have to put up with in order to be allowed to move around in the world. As if the work was complaining about a denied right, the right to free movement, which was a major motivation in the fight against communist totalitarianism. We only have to think about the image that stands symbolically for the defeat of communism - the image of the masses who, in 1989, scrambled over the Berlin Wall to freedom. In this context, 35G seems to be the artistic processing of a personal trauma - if not a private resentment — in spite of which everything, follows a completely objective aim, namely the completion of the fight for freedom and democracy. More accurately, as an excluded subject (a “frustrated East European”), Komarov speaks to the western public and demands his inclusion - a classic case of the fight, well known since Hegel, for recognition. seen like this, the political relevance of Komarov’s work exhausts itself in identity politics, articulated by the discourse of human rights. In short, his work wants more justice for the excluded and disadvantaged. If this were its only political meaning, however, then this work would be not only politically irrelevant, but also artistically uninteresting. With 35G, Komarov has already gone a decisive step further. He reflects up on and documents the conditions of his own work as an artist. More exactly, he assesses it using the tried and tested criteria for the rationalisation of industrial work, the time wasted and the money squandered in obtaining residency permits and transit visas - in order to expose the control mechanisms to which his movements, the movements of a working artist, are subjected. Taylorism rationalised and standardised the movements of individual workers; Fordism did it on the level of the organisation or factory. In the world of post-industrial, post-Fordist production, the movements of working bodies are now globally regulated, but undoubtedly for the same old purpose, of optimising exploitation and maximising profit. this is what Komarov talks about in 35G. He doesn’t toss his passport on the scales just to present his identity - and a passport is, after all, the ultimatedocument of identity - in all its material nakedness in order to demonstrate the utter arbitrariness of its imaginative and cultural, that is to say political, character. Komarov doesn’t show us identity in the lie of its existential pretensions, but in the truth of its capitalistic utility. He doesn’t scream: “the emperor is naked!” More then this he is saying to us: “the naked one is in control!” In other words: “My identity may be more than these 35 grammes of paper and ink, but it still essentially determines my entire life”. 35G isn’t, then, a demand for a more inclusive and democratic identity politics, but it exposes how contemporary identity politics are deployed as a regulatory mechanism of post-industrial and post-Fordist exploitation. Ultimately, with his work, the artist is exposing himself as a cognitive proletarian in the global art and culture market, bound by the chains of its identity-based control mechanisms. Artist at work: that is what 35g is actually showing us.