Community Art. Two References

  • Iris Honderdos and Arno Peeters (The Netherlands)
    public talk and discussion

    High School of Arts, Mekhitar Sebastatsi Edicational Complex, Yerevan

Iris Honderdos (installation-art, visuals) and Arno Peeters (media and sound) are what could be called ‘community-based’ artists, and they have wide experience in this field. Iris has been working extensively in former Yugoslavia, right after the war, and in Russia and Korea as well. Since 2003, the artistic duo has been living and working together and has realized community-based projects in Czech Republic (with former miners and their wives), Ukraine (during the Orange Revolution), and Vietnam (HIV-infected women and ex-drug users).

The public talk presented specific ways of artistic cooperation with non-artistic communities. It expanded on their method of working when the artists consciously avoid any prepared features and plans as they need to ‘tap in’ on the community they will work with. After a process of research, followed by a period of reflection on the subject, sketching and modeling, the actual work on the installation and/or performance itself can begin. Up until now, the results mostly consisted of installations that were sometimes accompanied by sound or video and were presented to the audience during a performance. The final result is in all cases a gift to the community and is there to stay.

Video documentations of two projects as vivid examples of community-based works were presented by the artists at the High School of Arts of the Mekhitar Sebastatsi Educational Complex where the ‘Art Commune’ Residency cluster is located and where the artists staying and working on a new ‘community’ project in Armenia.

The first video documentation was about the Orange Revolution in Ukraine entitled ‘Ukraine – Under Construction – a Tribute to the Revolution’ (Kiev, 2004-2005). At the end of 2004, the artists were inspired by the images they saw on the news of people standing up for their rights on Maydan Square. The artists spent several weeks talking to people, interviewing and recording them. Not only did they meet with the Orange side, the Yushchenko supporters camping on the Khreshchatyk, but also with the Blue Yanukovich camp, PORA-demonstrators, and independent observers. The artists translated their impressions for the strong longings for freedom and democracy into an installation, as a tribute to the Revolution.

The second video narrative entitled ‘Turning to Raseborg’ (Finland, 2008) was based on the upcoming merger of three towns in the bilingual part of Finland–Pojo, Karis and Ekenäs–into ‘Raseborg’. Although this was merely an administrative process and for economic reasons, it left the inhabitants feeling insecure and powerless in some ways. Duplicate street names would have to change and the towns would lose their own shields to be replaced by a new one. And there were certainly more serious issues concerning local schools, healthcare systems, and other economic topics that would have to be decided during the upcoming local elections. After its initial presentation to the audience on September 27, 2008, the installation had been put on a raft in the water and transported to the other two towns for people to see. Afterwards, it had been finally set afloat in the water of Pojoviken, at the exact center between the three towns. The presentation was accompanied by a dedicated electronic composition in 5.1 surround aided by the live performance of a professional soprano.