top of page

To Paul To Matthew To Philip, 2015

with Hanna Zubkova

site-specific performance 

Former NATO submarine base

Olavsvern, Tromso, Norvège 


The green velvet curtain of 12m in height was installed at the end of a submarine dock of about 400m long. It hanged from a cargo crane down to the water, going into the depth of it.


On one of the curtain sides there was a video projection of two hands moving towards each other in a very slow tempo: Hanna’s hand passing a glass of water to Katya's hand. The passage lasted for about 11 minutes.


Simultaneously behind the curtain the same gesture was performed live but in a reverse, mirror-like movement: a glass of water was passed to Hanna.


The project  To Paul To Mattew To Philip was elaborated as a project in situ during the residence in Olasvern in Tromso, Norway, a former NATO naval military base built in a massive fjord during the Cold War. The residence at Olavsvern united 14 Russian and Norwegian artists under the theme “Nothing Will Grow Together Because Nothing Belongs Together”, questioning notions of freedom and control, revising the identity of the place and revealing the imaginary connected to relations between the ex-sides of the conflict.

“Iron Curtain” is an expression, used by Churchill in his Fulton speech, following Goebbels who coined the metaphor in this particular sense in his article “Das Jahr 2000”. The metaphor became a symbol of an epoch of separation, while the “fall of the Iron Curtain” marked the beginning of the Cold War. An image of an enemy appeared, of the Other behind the curtain who doesn’t belong to the place of yours. 


Guy Debord describes this conflict as a spectacle, where the spectacular images alienate the genuine living and exclude dialogue. The mirror-structure with illusionary two sides, which is represented in the conflict of Cold War, means that the curtain always has only one side, and the Other who is on the other imaginary side, is actually you, reflected. The curtain as an image of detachment appears in a sense of separation, also bringing to life the idea of disguised, hidden. It is a rupture, a border that creates two sides out of unity. The ambiguity of the Iron Curtain lies in the mutual agreement of both sides to intensify fear and tension.

A passage of a glass of water, a simple ordinary gesture, transmission of the vital element for a human being makes here an echo to an image of Graal. The passage of a glass of water, is one of the basic form of extra-linguistic, primary communication between two humans and at the same time a transmission of the most essential element for life of a human-being. Through meditative choreography of a simple profane and essential gesture a dynamic potentiality of two forces approaching each other is mediated as a general feeling of tension, anticipation through mutual effort of approaching. 


Giving and receiving of a glass is reminiscent to standardized unified life in common as that of in the base and at the same echoing the Graal image. The passage of the water, accomplished in an extremely slow motion, created a sculpture-like vision of two figures in a uniting dynamics towards each other and turned attention to the subtlety in the context of oppressing grim military environment.

The title of the project, To Paul To Matthew To Philip, refers to one of the scenes of Pasolini's film "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" : the moment during the Last Supper when apostols pass a glass to each other. Saint Philip is performed by Giorgio Agamben whose text "Notes on gesture" was one of major references for the project.

Through a combination of performance, sculpture and video installation, the project creates a new form of plasticity in which the metaphor deploys on several levels. A mundane gesture develops into a spatial spectacle, which springs of the socio-political actuality of the place. The sculptuality and the choreography of the project respond to the architecture of the Base and open up semantic fields, from Kubrick’s monolith to the Black Square of Malevich. The structure of the project is a polysemic chronotop which questions the situation of the Cold War as a mirror. The spectacular and monumental concentrates in the minimalistic dramatical interaction that contains exertion and resolution of a conflict through a ordinary gesture referring to Agamben’s idea of a gesture which opens the sphere of ethos as that of humanistical as this gesture neither produce nor executes, but holds and suspends itself.


Le projet To Paul To Matthew To Phillip a été élaboré in situ durant la résidence à Olavsvern (Tromso, Norvège), une ancienne base de l’OTAN construite pendant la Guerre Froide à l’intérieur d’un fjord massif. La résidence à Olavsvern réunissait quatorze artistes russes et norvégiens pour le projet intitulé  “Nothing Will Grow Together Because Nothing Belongs Together”. Le projet questionnait les notions de la liberté et du contrôle en explorant l’identité du lieu (la base) à travers l’imaginaire du confit de la Guerre Froide.


" The title refers to Billy Brandt’s saying "Now what belongs together will grow together" allegedly dropped in 1989 when the demolition of the Berlin Wall started (...) Brandt in a way served as the zeitgeist’s medium(...)

The historical background of Olavsvern base poses the same problem: What can be done with the strong implications in this particular space; is there a chance to break through its semantic and spatial pressure? Particularly, what can an artistic freedom do in such strict settings?

According to the online statement, the opposition of freedom and control is something that the curators took as a starting point for the project. Now, when the post-cold war euphoria has gone, the exhibition title sounds more like a diagnosis rather than a futuristic scenario..."   >> lire la suite

from "Zeitgeist" by Pavel Borisov


2 short documentaries (in Norwegian) by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) about the former Top-Secret Naval Base 'Olavsvern' - where the exhibition 'Nothing Will Grow Together Because Nothing Belongs Together' took place:

bottom of page