21ST.PROJECTS is pleased to announce a viewing of Yevgeniy Fiks’s A Gift to Birobidzhan from September 11 to October 19, 2014. For more information or to make an appointment to see the collection contact Yevgeniy Fiks. Viewing is by prior appointment only.
In 2009, artist Yevgeniy Fiks originated a project called A Gift to Birobidzhan. Established in the Soviet Union in 1934 as the Autonomous Jewish Region of the USSR, Birobidzhan was for a time considered a rival to Israel. Although located in a remote area near China, Birobidzhan caught the world’s imagination. In 1936, two hundred works of art was collected in the United States by activists as the foundation for the Birobidzhan Art Museum. The collection included works by Stuart Davis, Adolf Dehn, Hugo Gellert, Harry Gottlieb, and William Gropper among others. The collection was first exhibited in New York and Boston, and in late 1936, it was shipped to the Soviet Union. The collection never reached its final destination in Birobidzhan. By late 1937, Stalin had purged the leadership from Birobidzhan at which time the collection vanished into government or private hands.
Taking this microhistorical narrative as his starting point, Fiks invited 25 contemporary international artists to donate works of their choosing to the existing museum of Birobidzhan. After initially agreeing to exhibit and accept the works into its collection, the museum in Birobidzhan conditionally retracted the offer, in part to avoid confrontation with a conflicted past and the fact that Birobidzhan now consist of a small Jewish population. Granting Fiks the role of steward, the artists agreed to let Fiks store the collection until it could reach its intended destination.
A Gift to Birobidzhan of 2009 was an attempt to repeat and complete — seventy years later — the gesture of “a gift to Birobidzhan” in 1936. As of 2014, it remains still a rejected gift and a “state-less collection,” packed in boxes in Fiks’ apartment in the Lower East Side. A Gift to Birobidzhan evokes the utopian promise of Birobidzhan — a Socialist alternative to a Jewish state — as a point of departure for discussions on broad 20th century’s impossible territorial politics, identity, national self-determination, and a common “seeking of happiness.” At present, we find that many of the same questions from the early 20th century have resurfaced again.
Yevgeniy Fiks thanks Erin Sickler, Anya Pantuyeva, and Sara Reisman.
Artists in the Collection:
Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri
Christopher K. Ho
Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev
Lin + Lam
Dmitry Vilensky with Chto Delat
more info and images
Critical Practices Inc. is a response to the complex and changing conditions that affect the emergence of new practices and ideas within the field of cultural production. By means of artists projects (21ST.PROJECTS) and roundtables discussions (LaTableRonde), Critical Practices seeks to provide platforms for the exchange of the diverse points of views necessary for the evaluation of those current critical, theoretical, and practical objectives that impact cultural production.
21ST.PROJECTS is located at 162 West 21 Street in Chelsea.