Freehome project

Ekaterina Smirnova is currently completing a Masters degree in Cultures and Literatures of Central and Eastern Europe at the Humboldt Universität in Berlin. As part of her course, she signed up for a project seminar with Berlin-based artist and curator Vadim Zakharov. In 2016, Zakharov founded the “FREEHOME – Artist to Artist” community in Berlin, a project that is something of a contemporary parallel to the underground Apt-art movement of the 1980s, which nurtured individualism in art against the restrictions enforced by the Communist regime in the former USSR. Smirnova tells WOM more about a recent exhibition hosted by Freehome, and what the project can offer both artists and audience alike.

“In my first semester at the Humboldt Universität in Berlin I signed up for a project seminar with artist since then I have been a part of the Freehome community – a project that gives artists the opportunity to exhibit their works in a free format: no galleries and curators, no fees, insurance and complete conceptual freedom.

The Arnold Dreyblatt exhibition fits into the Freehome context, because it is not just an art space, but also a residential apartment, a creative studio and an archive. Everything matches with the ethos of Freehome perfectly: diversity, text as a principle mode of communication, memory and associations, randomness and accurate calculation. The exhibition builds a bridge between the archive of Moscow conceptualism by Vadim Zakharov and the archive of Arnold Dreyblatt, artistically designed specifically for the exhibition between various games featuring the texts of the American artist and the Russian conceptual art group. Such a connection could be built because of the particular character of Freehome space.

Photo of Arnold Dreyblatt © Vadim Zakharov

Most importantly, unlike in galleries and other institutions, the Freehome exhibition format preserved the versatility of Arnold Dreyblatt – from his sound experiments and searches in the field of minimalist music to his art projects and his text performances.

I was inspired by the text performance based on the materials of the archive of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The artist read out marks on folders with materials: “traces of cuts, traces of brown spots, missing pages, white spots, traces of fire”, traces, traces, traces (association with Derrida), poetry of memory and poetry of technical files, names and objects destined to be traces in memory locked in an archive under a specific category. An obscure, difficult, delicate and sophisticated work in combination with the text.

Archives from the Jewish Museum, photo courtesy of Ekaterina Smirnova

A random and non-random selection of words and sentences from a sizeable text or image archive, along with the structuring elements (only the alphabetical order of the initial letters and formal criteria, for example, sentences not longer than 5 words) have created a very special form on poesy. A monotonous reading, in which the rhythm gradually manifests itself, and seemingly random phrases built up a multifaceted whole, are linked by voice and intonation, source and repetition. 

Photo courtesy of Ekaterina Smirnova

In a conversation after the performance, Arnold Dreyblatt told me about his method: the programme counts words and numbers from references in the text, then a kind of text map is drawn up, the artist chooses words and sentences in which they are used, randomly subordinates them to alphabetical order and turns out the flow of words separated from the original meaning, receiving a new sound. The archive of lost and acquired values is itself being born during the performance.

The video below shows a holographic text from the exhibition. As the viewer moves, the lines of text appear different, resulting in a superimposition of different values which are combined and mixed in an interesting way.”

by Ekaterina Smirnova