Festival Break Potemkin Village / The Village
Fabrizio and Gabriele Ajello (Italy); Fouad Asfour & Catrin Bolt (Libanon / Austria); EIA (Germany); Rafal Jakubowicz (Poland); Dejan Kljun (Croatia); OPA Collective (Macedonia); Not an Alternative Collective (USA); Pulska grupa (Slovenia / Croatia).
When Catherine II announced her decision to make a grand tour of the Ukraine and the Crimea region together with foreign diplomats, Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin, governor-general of the concerned regions, faced a critical situation. These areas were devastated by turmoil and poverty. How thus to prepare a display that would hide this unfit reality? As much of the royal procession was conducted via riverboat, Potemkin ordered the construction of entire pasteboard villages to be set up on the banks of the Dnieper. He imported peasants, flocks, and herds from a thousand other villages to make a show of prosperity, thereby triggering famine in the depopulated hinterlands. Once the procession had passed, he had the entire meretricious apparatus dismantled and reconstructed several versts downstream in order to deceive the imperial court anew.
Turned into a commonplace that designates all sorts of manipulated social and political situations, the Potemkin village has had a fruitful career, investing each realm of life, from pasteboard decorum to media agency, from staging of political regimes to tourism-oriented urban planning, from TV 'reality shows' to historical museums - a successful "architecture", probably unique in transcending so many epochs, frontiers, genres, or ideologies, and a ad hoc setup that clearly poses the question of participation and collaboration. Initiators, actors, and spectators are all involved. If an unfortunate gesture was to disrupt the play, it would pass unnoticed, for the Potemkin village is anchored in credulity, compliance, and deliberate blindness. This is why it proves such a paradoxical device. As much as it hides in a situation, it reveals, in the crudest light, perceptions and phantasms that would otherwise remain unknown.
By undertaking such expedition, the festival Break 2.4 calls for the reflection upon artistic practices and discourses. Belief that art can reflect anything of reality, whatever opaque it is, or on the contrary that reality exceeds any representational possibility; dedication, by conviction or opportunism, to political agendas, from the bold lie-machine of totalitarian regimes to more insidious forms of recuperation; marketization and institutionalization that progressively turn the art system into trend-ruled ghetto; artworks out of the white cube, down to the street and the people. These are only few of the many situations that express the complex relation that art has had, at all times, to the Potemkin village - a relation that does not only shake the very nature of the artistic gesture, but also forces each person involved in art-making and cultural issues (artists, curators, theoreticians, critics, museum directors.) to define her position facing the audience, the professional milieu, the establishment, the power.
The Potemkin village questions the way art gives account of reality. Even more, it asks how we take part in the making-visible and create meanings to be displayed within the common sensible. As such, it challenges our responsibility, the responsibility to say that "the king is naked".
Through art projects, performances, and lectures, the festival Break 2.4 invites to consider social, political, and cultural conditions of art creation, production, and presentation, as well as individual paths meandering between the illusion and its demystification.