Critics’ Picks

Margarita Marx, Project 1 (1) (detail), 2015–16, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Saint Petersburg

“Transpositions II: How We Find Our Way to Transcendental Homelessness”

Museum of Nonconformist Art
Pushkinskaya Street 10 Entrance from Ligovsky prospect 53
March 11 - April 9

Many artists move through the contemporary art world as nomads, partaking in a burgeoning global infrastructure of short-term artist-in-residence programs. Have such programs produced this transient identity? Or is it post-Wende globalization that has destabilized the meaning of home, distributed capital, and fated us to roam? These questions motivate “Transpositions II,” which presents works by the twelve participants in the Saint Petersburg Arts Residence between 2015 and 2017.

All of the artists accept nomadism because they believe it keeps them critical of themselves and the institutions in which they partake. Often, however, their projects veer toward self-absorption. Compelling works include Project 1 (1), 2015–16, by Margarita Marx, for whom homelessness means a political commitment to comprehending her family’s diasporic past. Marx traveled five thousand miles by train from Berlin to her birthplace in Kazakhstan, mostly without eating. She documented her torturous journey by weaving a carpet, evoking a centuries-old Kazakh tradition. Exhibited with the knotty underside up, the carpet exposes its messy inner life and recalls the painful exhilaration of homecoming. Johannes Gérard’s film Neither Here—Nor There, 2017, combines footage from his residency projects in Saint Petersburg, Taipei, and Bangladesh. Shot in black-and-white, it soulfully softens differences between the locations. Agathe Simon rejects the idea of a site-specific residence altogether: In her installation Heart is Home, 2017, she tells visitors how to draw their heartbeats.

The participants in this show make it clear that to be an artist today is to understand working and living as temporarily belonging. Yet nearly all of their biographies in an accompanying brochure mention that the artists have exhibited or maintain studios in Berlin, Paris, or New York. Even these global nomads need the cultural and financial capital of the art world’s magnetic home bases.