MONGOLIA: PERCEPTION AND UTOPIA  
Travel and Exhibition Exchange Project 2005-2009
 

www.perceptionandutopia.net

The international travel and exhibition project brings together 19 participants from 8 different countries. This far, the group has traveled and exhibited in Mongolia both in 2005 and 2006, created a network between artists from Mongolia and Europe, and established a joint exhibition project. The theme of the exhibition addresses the various effects of recent changes in Modern Mongolia: it concentrates on observing surroundings in architectural and urbanized dimensions, but also the ecologic and aesthetic aspects of landscape. For the future the project is inviting participating artists for a series of joint exhibitions accompanied with an exhibition catalogue and a multi-disciplinary seminar, starting from Kerava Art Museum in 25th March–8th June, 2008.


The project is coordinated by Annu Wilenius (visual artist and independent curator), Saara Hacklin (researcher of aesthetic, University of Helsinki and independent curator) and Pirkko Siitari (ditector of the Kerava Art Museum, Finland). Background
The initiative for the exhibition comes from Swedish-Finnish group that fulfilled a travel and exhibition project in the fall 2005. The project was inspired by, among other things, Finnish geographer J. G. Granö’s travels to Mongolia in the beginning of 20th Century consisted of traveling by Trans-Siberian train to Ulaanbaatar for an exhibition. The goal was to study the Mongolian country, culture and – above all – create contacts within the local contemporary art scene, in order to find artists with similar interests to work together with. The group established co-operation contacts with both Blue Sun Contemporary Art Centre and Union of Mongolian Artists. In 2006 Gallery of Union of Mongolian Artists hosted an exhibition titled Perception and Utopia, presenting contemporary artists from Mongolia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Iceland, and Sweden. Even though the event served as an independent exhibition, it also acted as preliminary phase for the exhibition series in Europe, introducing the group of artists to the Mongolian audience but also to each other and to the thematic of the project.

 

Why Mongolia?

Mongolia has undergone a series of rapid changes since 1990. It abandoned communism for radical capitalism and striving for attracting international enterprises. Simultaneously, it began a massive reassessment of its culture, reintroducing Buddhism and Chinggis Khan, both prohibited during the Soviet-era. These two processes – establishing modern market economy and instituting a new, brave national identity – are considered equally necessary for today’s Mongolia, yet they seem to pose a contradictory setting: the search for ideals is directed into the past drawing inspiration from the success of 13th century Mongolians and still practiced nomadic way of living, whereas the market economy and free competition brings in supranational companies and demands for renewal and modernization.

Mongolia’s natural resources are well know, and besides its awe-inspiring past, it is known for its nature: Altai and Khangai mountains, Gobi desert, and the vast steppes inhabited by herders and Przewalski's horses, remain as inspiration for today’s tourists craving for experiencing their share of the wild nature. Mongolia’s ecosystem has been preserved astonishingly well, albeit it is uncertain how long the situation can last – the ongoing socioeconomic development sets its pressure on nature, too. For instance the international mining companies (copper, gold), cause environmental problems such as reduce of water in the rivers. All the changes upon nature threaten the traditional nomadic way of life.

The rapid economical changes in Mongolia together with the country's dramatic history and nature form a unique setting. Capital Ulaanbaatar with its modern residential area projects and internet cafes and the countryside with its gers, horses and camels – often almost out of reach for cars, but sometimes equipped with satellite antennas – serve as a fruitful surrounding for observation of the environment, its architectural and urbanized dimensions, but also the ecologic and aesthetic aspects of landscape.

 

Intersecting views

The exhibition project “Mongolia: Perception and Utopia” approaches today’s Mongolia through the eyes of both local contemporary visual artists as well as foreign artists. Intertwining various viewpoints it wishes to address the diverse utopias and perceptions Mongolia serves as a stage for. Many of the Mongolia’s collective utopias draw strength from the mythical past give birth to futuristic visions, yet also the individual utopias can be as fictitious as these shared visions.
The various ways in which utopias and perception of our environment intertwine lies in the heart of the project: By reflecting their expectations and memories to the environing world, the participants will also re-evaluate what is familiar to them, namely their own world view and values. An important part of the project is therefore a mutual process of rethinking ourselves and our position in the world. The project wishes to encourage a reciprocal process, where the participants would, through a change in their environment reflect their own comprehension of the surrounding culture. This is enabled in a concrete way by inviting artists to visit Mongolia, as was done in summer 2006, and later on to Europe, as will be done in 2008.

 

List of participants

D. Bat-Erdene (Mongolia)
Budbazarin Batbileg (Mongolia/Finland)
Myagmar Bayarmagnai (Mongolia)
Chinbat (Mongolia)
Dalkh-Ochir Yondonjunai (Mongolia)
Dolgor Ser-Odin (Mongolia)
Agnes Domke & Christian Richter (Germany)
Enkhbold (Mongolia)
Saara Hacklin (researcher in aesthetics, Finland)
Rasmus Kjellberg (Sweden)
Sonia Leimer (Italy/Austria)
Christian Mayer (Germany/Austria)
Tiina Mielonen (Finland)
Pink Twins (Juha Vehviläinen & Vesa Vehviläinen, Finland)
Rádhildur Ingadóttir (Iceland)
Sarantsatralt Ser-Odin (Mongolia)
Pirkko Siitari (museum director, Kerava Art museum)
Annu Wilenius (Finland)

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