Here in RA+C we are always excited to explore new art spaces and projects, particularly those that work with and support artists from Russia and Eastern Europe. Exposed Arts Projects is one of the places that we immediately fell in love with. Aimed at research-led artistic practices it became the first institution of this kind to be opened in Kensington. Marina Maximova of RA+C met with Exposed founder Sasha Burkhanova-Khabadze to find out more about what they do.
Marina Maximova: Tell us about your space?
Sasha Burkhanova-Khabadze: Exposed Arts Projects is a non-profit art space that was set up to support and showcase the work of artists and curators, whose practices are grounded in research. Even though, you can say, all artists today are to some extend engage themselves in research, there are not many art spaces I am aware of, which would prioritise the research process — approaches and methodologies — over the “resulting” artworks in their programme and display. If by “research” we understand a particular way of thinking — a critical inquiry into something; a systematic collection and analysis of dispersed information — then at Exposed we are mostly interested in delivering the ways of “thinking as an artist” to our audiences. For some artists, that would correspond to turning their PhD research into an exhibition; for others, it would mean showcasing their project in a way that may not be, strictly speaking, recognised as an artwork. The very notion of ‘artistic research’ is something that we don’t take for granted — but challenge, negotiate and define each time anew with our collaborators.
M.M.: How did you come up with an idea?
S.B-Kh.: Starting Exposed was a response to the personal urge that I felt while doing my practice-based PhD at Central Saint Martins. I was surprised that there were hardly any art space, where I could present my research findings and methodology outside the Academia. There are plenty of opportunities for a peer-to-peer discussion with fellow-researchers, although I can’t think of many places, which would include the diverse non-academic audiences in such a discussion. The more I talked about it with other artists and curators, the more vivid felt the idea of launching the art space like that myself.
M.M.: Can you explain how you put together the public programme at Exposed?
S.B-Kh.: I was much inspired by the occasional art projects, which featured artistic research: at Whitechapel Gallery, ICA, and Camden Arts Centre among other art institutions. At Exposed, however, my intention was to invite art practitioner to “apply” their artistic thinking not to some abstract, all-too-philosophical subject matters, but to the themes and problems we all deal with on daily basis. Hence, our 2018 programme — entitled “Intraactions” — was developed to understand how collaborative, collective, joint ways of production (artistic as much as any other) affect our self-perception as a creative agent. In 2019, in the “Empowerments” series, we will look into the notion of ‘power’ as a productive, rather than repressive, force — and interrogate how else can we understand power relations, if not through the comforting dualities of “victims VS villains”: “powerful vs powerless”. When I say “we”, I mean both artists and audiences that are meeting in a multiform unrushed conversation to exchange perspectives and lived experiences, to negotiate and argue.
M.M.: Do you work with Russian artists?
S.B-Kh.: We do work with artists born in Russia, occasionally. In 2018, we did a show with artist and geographer Sofia Gavrilova, presenting her research project about the current ecological and political state of Chukotka. We proudly hosted the Brain-wave performance by artist and PhD researcher Anna Nazzo. In 2019, we are planning two very ambitious exhibitions — with film-maker Alyona Larionova in Winter, and Kirill Savchenkov in Spring. In all these cases, however, we haven’t looked at the artists’ nationality as a factor to affect our choice.
M.M.: You are also very familiar with the Moscow art scene. Are artist and curator run spaces common there? Do research led practices get enough attention and support in Russia?
Before Exposed, I curated many projects in Moscow — and there were already many. They proliferated around the city, emerging at old factories and industrial buildings: like Elektrozavod or Trehgornaya Manufactura. Now it must be even more. However, I don’t think that research-led practices get any special attention or support. In the UK, we are privileged to have various funding opportunities to enable our art projects and sustain non-profit art spaces. It Russia, things are much harder for artists. Unless you sell, you can hardly support yourself — while showcasing artistic research is not the most profitable activity. In Russia, only museums can afford it, but it does not seem to be a common practice. I know that GARAGE does it, the Biennales (in Russian we have quite a few) — but who else? Not sure.
M.M.: Tell us a bit about your upcoming show and your future programme?
S.B-Kh.: Our next show opens on the 2nd of November, and it is the last show in our “Interactions” series of 2018. It will be a collaborative project in decrypting and encrypting anew, conducted by two artists — Candida Powell-Williams and Thomas Yeomans. It will also be a manifestation of friendship as their unchosen artistic strategy. Powell-Williams and Yeomans know each other for ages, yet haven’t had many opportunities to explore: what kind of an art project can emerge out of their relationship, if their artistic strategies, interests and methods would freely intertwine and merge into something third? The resulting exhibition reminds a magical riddle: an enciphered message that would serve as a portal to a different reality if encoded. The one, to which the animations and sculptures by Powell-Williams and Yeomans’ CGIs belong. Join us for the opening if you can. It should be fun.