Tag Archives: installation

Floating Energy Video

I am so excited and grateful!

My talented husband, Steffen Holzkamp, has once again created a video to document my latest site-specific nature art installation. A big thank you also goes to Hans-Peter Wollmann, who has kindly provided us with his video material to use in combination with mine.

In this short video clip (1:49min) you can the ‘making-of’ and get an impression of the artwork itself.

But – it is still much better to experience it in person! If you can, please go and visit it.

I got so much wonderful feedback from the visitors while I was working there and even afterwards. All saying what a lovely surprise it was for them when they first noticed it on their walk through the forest. And then as they came closer and realised how long it was, how it was winding its way down the hill and crossing two paths, they got even more excited. It brought them so much joy, they said.

For those of you, who cannot go and visit the forest and my installation yourself, this video gives an impression, adding to the photographs in my previous post.

Enjoy! And do let me know in the comments what you think. I would appreciate it.

Floating Energy – 9. Int. Forest Art Path, Darmstadt

Floating Energy by Imke Rust

The Site-specific Installation

106 Red branches seemingly floating about half a meter above the ground. Flowing down the hill, winding its path through the forest. The total length is approximately 70m and the width varies between 1m and 4m.

Created in August 2018 as part of the 9th International Forest Art Path, in Darmstadt, Germany. Located in the forest behind the Darmstädter Böllenfalltor.

The Idea Behind it

The environment is comprised of energy and energy is always in motion. We can see many of these energy streams or sense them in one way or another. Many other such streams we are not as aware about, as we have unlearned to sense them. When we understand these energies better, we know how to flow with them or understand why crossing or opposing them might be more difficult.

When thinking or talking about nature, we often forget, that we are part of nature and we are nature too. We bring our own energy to the world, just by being who we are and doing what we do.

Usually I work in a very ephemeral way or I take my works away after I have documented them. This is the first time that I will leave a work in nature for an unknown period of time.

How will my energy and installation impact on its surroundings? And how will other energies of the forest react to it or interact with it? Will the wild pigs manoeuvre around it or destroy it or not even bother? What kind of energy will the visitors to the park bring to it?

Floating Energy (Detail) ©ImkeRust

The Process and Details

Before I installed the work, I walked around the forest to find a suitable place. While I kept some necessary artistic criteria in my mind, I mostly looked for a place that felt right.

Once I had the right place I spent quiet time walking around, sitting, listening, noticing and feeling into the place, to know where the energy comes from and where it wants to flow.

There is a special fountain of energy at the beginning of the energy flow of my installation. It starts from a large beech tree, but the real fountain is only noticeable from close by and for visitors who are willing to look and listen a bit closer. There is a root hole in which there is a lot of life and activity. Mosquitoes are buzzing around in it, seemingly in a constant energetic flow. Because of this very strong natural concentration of energy I decided to start my installation from here. From the starting point or well, I used my senses to feel how the installations energy would best flow, and followed this intuitive path.

After completion of the installation, I have been able to spent lots of time in and around it, to feel and understand the energy that was created. Once I was satisfied, I placed an offering of water at the origin of the flow and carried a second bowl down the ‘river’ to place it at its end. This way I hope to create even more of a flow and a connection throughout the installation.

I also believe that giving an offering to the forest and its spirits/energy/beings is a way of showing them (and myself) that I am aware and respectful of their existence as equal to mine. I chose water, as it emphasis the flow and also, as it is desperately needed during this very hot and dry time. While I was installing my work, I also realised that the red branches emphasise a warm, fiery energy. I felt a bit apprehensive about this, in a time where the danger of fire is a very real and everybody is on high alert. Water would symbolically cool down the fire energy – I hope.

The energy stream crosses two paths. Here the energy seemingly disappears into the ground and reappears on the other side, so that anybody can cross the stream easily and safely. I have connected the separate parts with a small water ceremony.

The Colour and Materials

I have used Signal Red spray paint for the beech branches, which make up my installation. I consciously choose a colour that symbolizes energy and which is very noticeable in the forest. Especially noticeable as something that was introduced by humans.

It was important to show that we are not separate from nature and everything we do is part of nature. There is only one nature, one energy. This installation is an attempt to better grasp this idea in its complexity and meaning.

Thin metal rods hold the branches up.

…but, is it Environmentally Friendly?

I have used graffiti spray paint from Montana, and doubt that it would be considered as really environmentally friendly. Once the work is starting to decompose, the organisers from the Waldkunstpfad will de-install it and dispose of it through the right channels.

I do hope that this artwork raises the question with everyone who sees it. While contemplating about the environmental friendliness of the paint, I hope we ask ourselves how environmentally friendly our own lives are? The plastic that our food is wrapped in, the cars we drive, the flights we take, the washing powder we use… Even the energy of negative thoughts we bring into this world.

Hopefully each of us is doing whatever we can to live more consciously and I do believe that making people happy through a beautiful artwork adds a lot of positive energy to the bigger equation.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this artwork! Do you have questions? Let me know in the comments below.

Catalogue – Global Nomadic Art Project – Europe 2017

The Global Nomadic Art Project has just released the catalogue of the projects done in Europe during 2017.

You might remember that I participated in the GNAP- Germany in August/September 2017 and before that in GNAP – South Africa 2016. It was an incredible honour and also a humbling experience to meet so many wonderful land art artists and work together for 3 weeks at a time.

You can see the results of all the different GNAP projects (Turkey, Lithuania, France, Germany and Eastern Europe) in this beautiful catalogue online:

Please click on the image to be taken to the online catalogue.

My artworks are on page 95 and on page 100 is one image of a performance piece which I made. But, take your time to look at all the other amazing art and artists brought together through this wonderful initiative.

And, if you are interested to see more of the art which I created during the GNAP 2017 – Germany project, please click here to view a compilation of my artworks.

Want to see even more? If you missed what I have created in South Africa in 2016, click here.

Three Young Muses* Unveiled in Dnipro City

(*a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration)

Finally I am back in Germany and need to catch up on so much news to share with you! So, without further ado, I jump in with news from the Ukraine: On the 28th of September (while I was busy creating land art in South Africa) my public sculpture project  “Three Young Muses” has been unveiled in Dnipro City.

I was invited by the German Consulate of Donezk and Artsvit Gallery to create a public artwork as a gift to the city. It was a challenging project, due to several logistical, time, budget and planning constraints, but with such a great team working together it all was successfully completed in time for the German Weeks. The artwork was installed opposite of the Yavornytsky National Historical Museum.

Three Young Muses, Art project of Artsvit Gallery and German Consulate of Donezk. Artist: Imke Rust

Three Young Muses, Art project of Artsvit Gallery and German Consulate of Donezk. Artist: Imke Rust

The Three Young Muses have been installed here to create a direct visual and conceptual link to the ancient Baba figurines. They are three young, modern-day women who relax on the grass of the park and contemplate the future.

In dialog with the ancient Babas, these young Muses hope to inspire modern society to re-embrace the female wisdom and power in order to balance the male and female energies in society. They also remind us that our generations are responsible to consciously envision and co-create our future.

Unlike their ancient stone counterparts, the Three Young Muses are made out of ash wood. Their wooden nature is symbolic for life, growth and transformation. The wood’s vulnerability and semi-permanent nature also represents our fast-paced modern times and reminds us to live in the present moment, as reality changes faster than ever. By focussing on the Now we have the power to determine and shape the future according to our highest vision. If you would like to know more about my thoughts behind this work, I have added some at the bottom.

A short video documentation about the Three Young Muses Art Project
Video: Serge Ostrianyn, With the kind permission of Artsvit Gallery

I would like to thank the German consul Mr Mössinger and the team of the German Consulate of Donezk, Ms Iryna Polikarchuk, Director of the Artsvit Gallery and her team and the City of Dnipro for this opportunity. Also thank you to Bazarenko Yuriy (Architect), Serge Ostrianyn (Video), Vita Popova (Photos), Nikita Shalenny (Studio space) and Liosha (Assistance).

Some pictures (click on images to see a larger view):

More Info regarding the background of the Three Young Muses (if you are interested in the nitty-gritty details 😉 ):

Cooperation / Together we are stronger.

They are a small group of three women, named: Love, Hope and Gratitude. I believe that these three qualities are essential to our peaceful future.

The three women are also symbolic of the three backgrounds coming together in the creation of the sculpture through a German- Namibian artist creating in the Ukraine. Together we are stronger and the more we understand that there are no differences between people, no matter where they come from or who they are, the easier we can co-exist and co-create a better future for all. Each lady is symbolical for one of the three countries connected here: Ukraine, Germany and Namibia.

Three:

The third dimension – we do things in threes so they will manifest in our physical realm.

It’s roots stem from the meaning of multiplicity. Creative power; growth. Three is a moving forward of energy, overcoming duality, expression, manifestation and synthesis. Three is the first number to which the meaning “all” was given. It is The Triad, being the number of the whole as it contains the beginning, a middle and an end.

The power of three is universal. Body, mind and soul. Birth, life and death. Heaven, earth and hell. Three is a complete cycle unto itself. It is past, present, future.

There are three wishes, and in many fairytales there are three sisters…

Past, Present and Future

The Babas look towards the Three Young Muses and put their hope and expectations into the young generation, especially the women, to get engaged and empowered to change our destiny.

The viewer, when passing the Three Young Muses on the park walkway, will be located between the past (Babas) and the future (Three Young Muses), and will become the link, the present moment, which shapes our future. I hope that we learn from the past, but look towards the future.

Size and Material

The Three Young Muses are created only slightly larger than real-life women. I hope this invites people to engage on eye-level with the artwork and ideas behind it. Possibly to sit between or around these figures and get inspired…

I believe that unlike older, monumental public sculptures, which create a distance to the viewer, contemporary art should be more interactive and accessible. The size and the vulnerable material highlight these ideas.

When faced with the obvious ‘weakness’ of the material, the responsibility to treat these figures with respect and care now lies with each member of the public. It will be interesting to see, if and how people ‘accept this challenge’ of openly displayed vulnerability. Will they be treated according to our inherent deep-seated values towards women, art or public property? Can we trust each other with our vulnerability? Do we let ourselves be inspired by their openness, confidence and soft strength that these Muses display?

The choice of wood (symbolism of the Ash tree):

According to different sources that I found on the Internet, Ash wood is a symbol of healing and especially transformation and empowerment in matters of destiny.

It is also considered to be “the key to healing the loneliness of the human spirit, forming a link between the gods, humans, and the dead in the spirit world. Ash holds the key to Universal Truth and Cosmic Wisdom, and it takes on the important role as a Tree of Initiation.”

Relation to and inspiration by the stone Babas:

The specific form in which the Three Young Muses were conceptualised has been inspired by the Baba figures, of which I have read:

“A widespread form of sculptures were steles of a simplified anthropomorphic type that were formed of flat right-angled stone plates. Their lower part was not worked as it was meant to be dug into the ground, though they had carefully shaped shoulders and heads with well-carved facial characteristics.

…are Polovtsian (Cuman) stone babas. There are about two thousand of them left. They are usually found in groups of 2 – 3 statues on the highest parts of steppe – on the sanctuaries of the funeral cult of ancestors.  Polovtsian statues symbolized their ancestors and were not directly connected with the burial ritual.

… At the end of the century a visible simplification of form took place when the back of the statue was not decorated, also the details of haircuts and costumes were missing on the front side.

Source: http://artukraine.com.ua/eng/a/kamennye-baby-aktualnyy-vzglyad/#.V7Canq7GpHo )

View more images about the creation of my Three Young Muses at: http://artsvit.dp.ua/news/skulpturna-kompozicya-vd-mke-rust-v-dnpr/ 

 

Longing to Belong

69 Strands of (be)Longing, Fake and natural hair, branch and wire. Artwork created by Imke Rust at the ILAM, May 2016

69 Strands of (be)Longing,
Fake and natural hair, branch and wire. Artwork created by Imke Rust at the ILAM, May 2016

In May I had been in Maastricht as an invited artist to the International Land Art Maastricht Symposium. I had shared some pictures from this wonderful event together with an invitation to come and see the results, but I have not had the time to tell you more about the artwork that I created there. So today I would like to share with you some thoughts and images, especially for those of you, who could not see the work in person.

Artists were asked to propose an artwork that they would create in the park of the Chateau Jerusalem. The theme of the symposium was ‘Connected’. We had five days to complete the work, which then was on exhibition for the following two weeks.

This is the concept, which I originally formulated for my plans:

“I am exploring the ‘Connected’ theme through a material that everybody connects to African women: long, black braided hair. Although they usually are made out of fake artificial material, they have come to represent a certain identity (African), but at the same time they are also an imitation of another identity (western, long, smooth hair). In so many ways they are connecting different worlds. To me they are also a strong metaphor for belonging and identity. Hair and braids can also be used as ropes to climb to another life (Rapunzel), and relate to the migration of refugees to Europe.

As a white African I am intrigued by working with this fake hair, as a form to express the duality and paradox of my own identity and belonging. The combination of synthetic and natural materials, illusions created and the process of braiding are additional aspects, which I want to explore.”

69 Strands of (be)Longing, Fake and natural hair, branch and wire. May 2016

69 Strands of (be)Longing,
Fake and natural hair, branch and wire. Artwork created by Imke Rust at the ILAM, May 2016

I had some vague ideas of how I wanted to proceed, but since I have not seen the park and have never worked in this material before, I decided to stay open and flexible and just trust the process.

When I arrived there and saw all the grand and impressive plans from the other artists, my heart sunk. Maybe my work was too timid, too small, too unspectacular? And what if it does not work out in any way I had imagined? I had no chance to try it out before, so either it worked or it would fail… What could I do, besides just start and hope for the best? I started and was flooded with even more doubts. Am I allowed, as a white woman to make art with this kind of hair, which usually is only used by black women? Could I even dream of braiding as neatly and perfectly as those hairdressers back home in Namibia do? Aren’t they the real artists who can make the most stunning patterns and styles for their customers? Who am I to now want to use this method and material to create my art?

Well, I had a lot of time to think, while I braided. And every time the doubts and insecurities became too strong, I heard the inner voice saying: Just trust the process.

I remembered that one of the reasons why I initially wanted to work with braiding, was the repetitive process itself. Somehow it is a process that is fairly easy, but demands just enough concentration and focus, that you have to stay in the here and now, but also leaves enough space for your mind to relax and wander off into thoughts that you usually are too busy for.

This work quickly became much more about that process and the inner dialogue that happened, than the final physical artwork. For five days I just sat there, under a beautiful tree, in the middle of the park and braided. I got to understand how this synthetic material reacted to humidity, dryness, wind and weather. How it sometimes could be so stubborn and putting up a real fight to get under control, and other times it just flowed through my fingers as if it was the most natural thing to happen. I became calm and looked forward to my work and every next strand.

My thoughts turned to my first memories of braiding. When I was a young girl, it was my father who braided my hair every day. And it was also he, who taught me how to braid. And I was so proud, that I even knew (from him) how to braid with more than 3 strands. While everybody looked at braiding as a typical female activity, I connected it to my father. And yet, it was my mother who had to go and buy the fake hair in Namibia (yes, these hairs were made in Namibia and sent all the way to Germany), so it was kind of a family effort that ensured I could sit in Maastricht in a park and braid ‘my’ hair.

Masculine and feminine… control and wildness… order and chaos… expectations and reality… appearance and authenticity… there were so many concepts that flowed into and through my being and into the braids (or did it flow out of them or the process?) while I was working.

With every next strand I had another chance of flowing. The focus changing and shifting… With every movement I moved on, the strand started, got longer and longer, and then, suddenly it reached the end.

I made a rough knot into the strand to keep it from coming undone and originally thought I will melt the ends to make a neat and proper ending. After a few strands with wild and chaotic knotted ends, I noticed the beauty, the wildness and the dynamic of these endings, the contrast to the neat braids… and decided to leave them just like that.

Through folding thin strands of hair over each other again and again… the central aspect became more obvious for me. With every movement there was a longing. A longing to come to the end, but also a longing for so much more… To belong, to understand, to control, to find the balance, to find a (my) place … to just be.

Where do I belong? To my home country, where I am too white in the eyes of many? Or to Germany, where I appear (on the first outer impression) to rather belong, but where I am a stranger? Do I ‘belong’ to be more controlled, or more wild? To fit better into the pattern of society or do my ends just come loose anyway?

Click on the images below to see a larger view and read about some further details.

Braiding, braiding, braiding… in 5 days I managed to braid 69 long strands. I managed to contain my sadness in these braids, to reassess the world and my ideas about it and to learn that I can and should just trust the process. The process of an artwork, but also the process of life…

Life is like these strands. Every day you begin with a new one, a new chance. You do your best to get as far as possible. But in the end it does not matter how far you come and how many days you get. What matters is your experience and your insights, your joy, but also your struggles and what you have learned through them.

Trust the process…

Here is a video taking you around the final artwork. In the photos one aspect gets lost, and that is how alive this work seems. How it dances and moves in the wind. The video gives you a small impression of that.

 

Interview about my Environmental Art

Some time ago I was approached to have some of my artworks published in a book, entitled ‘Temperatures Rising – Climate Change in Africa – a Journey in Pictures’. The book will be produced for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to be presented to the delegates and guests of the COP21 conference next week.

The consultant responsible for the book, Ms Asieh L Nassehi Javan of Concept2art in Torino, Italy, asked me to submit several suitable artworks of mine and has interviewed me about my art. One artwork was selected for illustration of the book, while it will also be printed as a poster to be presented in the African Pavillion. I am so honoured and excited!

I thought you might enjoy reading the interview and get to know more about my ideas behind my art, so I am sharing it with you here:

ANJ: What is the role of an artist? As an educator? As someone who makes people aware of issues? A critique? An agent of change?

IR: All of these. I believe different artists have different and often several roles, which together shape our (human) identity and future.

Personally I see my role in offering an alternative perspective on the world and our perceived reality, and offer possible creative solutions to problems affecting us. Part visionary and part agent of change. A little bit like the shaman or rainmakers in old cultures, who through their ritual and creative expression raise awareness and envision and enact a new, better reality.

ANJ: How do you define your art? 

IR: I work in a wide range of media, dependent of the concept or vision for the artwork. My work cannot be defined by putting it into a box. Roughly I would say it is a mix between creative, visual expression, alchemy, magic and spirituality, often with a sprinkle of playfulness.

It is a flowing process between all these layers, always conscious about trying to make a positive impact and slightly changing our perceived reality.

ANJ: What inspires you to create works that address hurting the Environment/Climate change? 

IR: My works usually starts when I notice something, which stirs me emotionally. Often these are situations which I find frustrating or problematic, so I start to wonder what could be changed and how.

Namibia is a dry country with two large deserts. We are extremely dependent on rain for survival, but also on managing our natural resources well. I try to find different ways to feel less helpless when it either does not rain or when I see great damage being done to our environment. I love researching and experimenting with really alternative ideas, because I believe often the mainstream ideas are what brought us the problems in the first place.

As an artist, my purpose is to use my art to make the world a better place. Others have different purposes. Like my father, who is a farmer and an engineer, so he tries to find agricultural ways to positively impact the environment, for instance through Holistic Resource Management. I learned much from him, but was also frustrated, that still we are dependent on the rain and that rainfall cannot be controlled. So I ask myself is this true? Why does almost every ancient culture across the world a belief in a rainmaker or a rain dance? And how could I combine my art, my knowledge and research and my spiritual beliefs to at least consider the possibility of having an impact on the rainfall?

ANJ: Is there an experience, instance or event that led you to create works about the environment?

IR: As an art student I had no money for art materials and usually in Namibia traditional art materials were either not available or extremely expensive. So I started to look around to find alternative materials to use, which I could gather for free.

So early on I noticed the abundance and usefulness of the environment for my art. Through that, and the fact that I grew up on a farm, it was a natural next step to pay closer attention to the environment and realize our connection to it more deeply.

My artworks from the series ‘…and I sensed an infinite scream passing through the Namib’ started from seeing the increased damage of more and more uranium mines and connected industries on the environment. Other people were demonstrating to stop the mines and I asked myself how I could personally contribute, since demonstrating was not my thing. I looked for ways in which I could address the problem and create solutions in my own way.

ANJ: Can you elaborate on the art works you are submitting? What are the messages they aim to send and to whom are the messages directed?

IR:  Rainmaker:

Rainmaker (Masking Tape on Rock, temporary intervention)

Rainmaker (Masking Tape on Rock, temporary intervention)

All over the world the old cultures had shamans who were known to be able to create rain, either through dance, music or rock-paintings. From my research I construed that the creative act combined with a focused intention can create a different energy or vibe and thus change the perceived reality.

Since then I have experimented with different methods of using my art to hopefully ‘make rain’. This specific work creates a vision of the reality we intend to see, in a similar way that the old inhabitants of Namibia would have used to attract animals for a good hunt. I have made several different artworks or experiments researching different approaches.

The message is two-fold: it tries to remind people to focus on the rain and not the drought, and secondly open people up to the idea, that there may possibly be alternative ways to see the world and to impact the reality around us. I cannot say for sure this way does work, but by trying it out, I hope it encourages other people to also try out alternative ideas, even though they might appear silly or ridicules. Through actively taking charge, and playfully experimenting with different things, we might find new solutions. (Find out more about my rainmaker experiments by clicking here.)

 

Earth Woman:

Desertification and erosion in Namibia is becoming an increasing threat, which is to a large extend a result of us not taking proper care of the environment. I found these deep erosion cracks and I wanted to use the human, female body and the naked skin to highlight this problem and to make us aware that the soil of the earth is like our skin and equally vulnerable and in need of care and attention.

We are intimately connected to the soil and our destiny is so closely linked to that of our environment. These works allure to this and the birth, life and death cycle, which starts and ends with the earth. ( For more work from this series, click here. )

Works like the Tokoloshe Trap acts in my usual multi-layered way. It tries to use the spiritual intention and activated energy, the shapes and material to protect the land in a spiritual way, but it also lets people see a familiar environment in a different and unexpected way. I hope this will let them pause and become more aware, start wondering and asking questions. I also hope it works via a physical experience: any Namibian knows from personal experience how painful it is to step into one of those thorns. Seeing so many of them arranged as a kind of trap, usually lets us cringe, while we imagine stepping into it. (More about this artwork: click here)

An Infinite Scream

In this documented performance-like action I asked passers-by to re-enact the famous painting ‘The Scream’ from Edvard Munch, on the Swakopmund jetty. Munch claimed that he sensed the angst and scream of nature, which led to this painting. Be re-enacting this scream, the people give an expression to the fears about the destruction of our environment. The resulting images and video raise awareness in a fun way. (More about this intervention: click here. and to see a super fun short video about it: click here)

An Infinite Scream Public Intervention

An Infinite Scream Public Intervention

Dorob (NOT) 4Sale

This anonymous intervention used a tongue-in-cheek way to get people’s awareness about the sale-off of our natural resources. Fake estate agent for-sale signs were placed at prominent places along the main roads leading through the Namib desert, with messages that our desert and ocean are (NOT) for sale. The provided telephone number and Web address lead to further information and links to environmental initiatives. (More about this intervention: click here. )

 

Hand-painted Photographs of the Namib Desert

While I was in Berlin, I heard about the plans to build a large chemical plant in the Namib Desert. I imagined what the desert around that plant would look like, if the waste is not properly managed, like so often before or if something unforeseen happens. I painted these scenarios onto photographs of the desert. Later, when I returned to Namibia I used the ideas from the photos for temporary land-art installations.

Toxic Rocks & Poisonous Water

The neon paints might initially give the landscape a funky and modern look, which is quite pleasing, until we notice that this is not natural and healthy. I hope to make people understand that we have to take a second look and consider the different realities behind a situation. Yes, a chemical plant might bring job opportunities, but also illnesses and destruction to the environment. Only when we consider all aspects, can we make a good choice. What looks pretty at first, might turn out to be nasty in the long-run. (More about this artwork: click here and here.)

 

AJ: Could your art, even though its related to Africa, reflect the global narrative?

IR: Definitely! When I started off with my career, I thought I am working on personal issues which are directly connected to myself and my home-country. I very soon realized, that once you scratch under the surface, we are all human and have the same hopes and fears. Situations and patterns are so similar all over the world, but we are often too distracted to notice, because we focus on the thin superficial differences.

Not all countries are desert countries, but still we all are exposed to and dependent on our environment. A country with plenty of water also needs to manage their resources. They might not need a rainmaker, but through my artwork they could feel inspired to play with alternative ways of interacting with and caring for their environment, and minimize the danger of floods for example.

ANJ: Do you have any comments you would like to add? 

IR: Thank you so much for your interest in my work and this opportunity to make it visible to more people worldwide.

Imke Rust busy installing 'Poisonous Water'

Imke Rust busy installing ‘Poisonous Water’

Thank you Ms Nassehi Javan for letting me share our interview here! It has been such a pleasure getting to know you and working with you.

As artist-curator in the Ukraine

What an exhilarating time it has been!

And I realise that I have been neglecting this blog a bit, with the last post being almost a month back… my apologies to all of you.

I just came back from my second visit to Kharkiv/Kharkow in the eastern Ukraine. The first time I came here in June, on a research and introductory visit for a project initiated by partners Osteuropa gGmbH. Together with the wonderful Tatyana Tumasyan and her dedicated staff at the Municipal Gallery of Kharkiv we planned and curated an exhibition, to be opened in September. The exhibition’s opening and the German-Ukrainian cooperation marked the start of the German Weeks in the Ukraine.

The exhibition ‘Understanding – Понимание’ featured installations and performances in public spaces. Eight young, but well-known Kharkiv artists were selected by us to present new works for this exhibition. They are Gamlet Zinkovsky, Konstantin Zorkin, Uliana Alimova, Boba Group, Vladislav Krasnoshchok, Oksana Solop, Vitaly Kokhan and Daria Rakova. The Municipal Gallery did an incredible job at preparing the show and I was very happy and grateful to be able to be present at the opening on the 24th of September.

Here are some pictures of the exhibition (please click on the images to see the full view and read my descriptions):

And a short video of the Boba-Group performance:

Besides the exhibition, I was also invited to present a workshop for a group of 12 young curators, who were selected from all over the Ukraine.

Together with Monika Szewczyk, director of the gallery Arsenal in Bialystok, Poland (www.galeria-arsenal.pl) and Viktor Misiano (http://www.re-aligned.net/viktor-misiano/?lang=en). Each of us had 2 days to work with the young curators…

Honestly, when I was first asked to do this, I wanted to say NO. Although I have been working as a curator in the National Art Gallery of Namibia, have curated a few independent exhibitions and art projects and have experience in large international bi-lateral projects like the p.art.ners berlin-windhoek ‘Shared Experiences’ Artistic and Cultural Exchange project between Namibia and Germany, I did not feel that I was really qualified to be in this world-class company of other ‘real’ full-time curators. I wondered what I could possibly teach these young curators, which the other presenters would not be able to do better, as they work with the subject every day.

Then I thought, if I am invited for this, there must be something valuable and special which I can add to this workshop. The organisers believed in me and trusted that I am exactly the right person for this. They would not have approached me if it was otherwise. And I realised that yes, I always believed that I have so much to share that would be helpful and inspirational to others, and now I have the chance to do it. We all have a specific combination of superpowers that make us who we are and let us live our life’s purpose. And I have unique experiences, views and ideas that are worth sharing with others (and so have each of you, by the way).

So I chose to share my personal experiences related to the challenges as an artist in Namibia and in the world and the solutions and alternatives that I have found for myself. I shared what worked for me and why, and what did not. Suddenly I realised that even my frustrations and failures had value in guiding me in a perfect way on my journey and by sharing these (and how I have been able to overcome them, or move on from them) I can really help others.

From the feedback and the many ‘thank you’s’, which I got, I am deeply honoured and can say with gratitude that my aim to inspire and enrich these young curators was successful. Here are messages I received from two of the participants, which so much warmed my heart:

“Thank you to incredible Imke Rust for the fact that no matter what the circumstances, not taking into account any impossibility, seeking the most noble and most necessary to improve this planet. For her contagious faith in something that everyone is able to change the world for the better. For her projects, for her unique experience and most importantly, for her desire to share this experience.” Владислава Ильинская
Dear Imke, thank you so much for the workshop you did in Kharkiv! It was really inspiring and motivating. You have a very particular charm and energy, that there are no doubts that you can make it rain. 🙂
Thank you a lot and wish you all the best in your projects! Olena Kasperovych/ Kharkiv, Ukraine

(They were both translated from Ukrainian to English via the Google translator.)

Even though I had a positive feeling about the workshop, I cannot tell you how much it means  to me to get personal feedback and assurance like this! Because unfortunately, no matter how much I have achieved or how confident I appear to be, I often feel so insecure and am worrying if what I am doing is good enough… (Note to self: give more positive feedback to others when it is merited. Not only will it be appreciated, but very often it helps that person to overcome their insecurities and doubts a little bit more. And I guess we all have some of those.)

While the participants could hopefully take many lessons home, I can say for sure that I did too.

I learned that

  • it is important to share ones experiences in a way which inspires others.
  • we need to trust in our unique strengths and talents and use them like superpowers.
  • We need to stay true to ourselves.
  • It is a beautiful gift to be able to understand each other (even if that means you need a translator)
  • Little by little all our actions can and do add up, so make even the smallest one count.
  • there are so many young, engaged people out there who are ready to change the world.
  • Even if outer circumstances differ, usually the patterns of the problems we are facing seem to be very similar. After all we are all human and struggle with similar issues.
  • my name looks like this in Ukrainian letters:  Имке Руст

Besides the workshop and exhibition, I also have been interviewed for an hour by the Ukrainian National television, as well as giving two interviews for local magazines, about my art and I presented an open public lecture at the gallery… Working hard and loving it! The TV interview was really surreal and I am very curious to see the show and I will forever wonder how much got lost or changed in translation? But I do believe the essence will always seep through if we share and receive with an open heart.

I am grateful for having had this opportunity, for meeting so many new and special people and artists, for getting to know a new country and culture, for being able to inspire others and be a blessing in their lives, for realising that it is indeed possible for me to travel with hand-baggage only and how empowering it can be to face and overcome my own fears (like being alone in a foreign country of which I do not understand the language).

I realised that I enjoy sharing my ideas and knowledge in order to help, enrich and inspire others, so I hope that life will present me with many more similar opportunities.

My very special thanks goes to Nastia, who is the kindest, hardworking and committed young curator of the Municipal Gallery of Kharkiv, who also has been my very capable Ukrainian voice (translator) most of the time.

And here are some Kharkiv impressions:

I hope you enjoyed this summary and pictures of my trip to the Ukraine.