PUST is an interdisciplinary project that explored the mythologization of a specific historical event—the Belavezha Accords of 1991. The project included a light installation, dance, sound, multi-channel video, along with found and specially created objects.
The title PUST refers to events that took place on December 7 and 8, 1991, during which time the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords, officially dissolving the Soviet Union. This event took place in a hunting cabin in the woods of the Belavezha Forest (Belarus) under the veil of secrecy and is still mythologized to this day. Various sources have claimed that a variety of controversial events took place. Some assert that the premises where the treaty was signed had been surrounded by secret services who did not intervene in what was taking place. Others claim that the treaties were signed in a drunken state. There is one particularly prevalent rumor that, once signed, the documents temporarily disappeared and were then found in the trash bin the following day. Others conjecture that the signatories feared being accused of treason and had made preparations to flee across the border to Poland by walking through the forest.
The artists behind the PUST project are representatives of a generation that was caught up in the collapse of the USSR and felt the consequences of this breakup over two eras, although they themselves did not directly participate in the related events due to their young age at the time. The PUST project is an attempt to fill in gaps in one’s own “mental map” and make this event a part of a restored historical memory.
Incorporating multiple artistic methods and approaches, the collective attempts to imagine the events in the Belavezha Forest from the perspective of its participants, drawing parallels between fear of the “wild forest” and fear of wild politics, between being completely adrift but also spontaneously decisive, between the enormous impact of this historical political decision and a series of unpredictable and absurd factors that influenced it behind the scenes.
The title PUST has several connotations: On the one hand, it signifies a “wild, uninhabited, dense, pathless forest” (Belavezha Forest) that would otherwise be primarily defined by emptiness and desolation. At the same time, the word means “let it be,” which signifies a kind of acceptance of having to inhabit the political wilderness. This is a criticism of society and ourselves.
PUST was the resulting project of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory—a large-scale project of Goethe-Institut Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In 2016, the collective worked as guest artists in Karlsruhe and, as an outcome of the residency, presented the first outline of PUST in ZKM. In 2017, the collective visited the site of the historical event, the Belavezha Forest, and collected audio and video material for the exhibit. The final presentation took place from November 23 to 26, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
Viewing the Belavezha event as an act of creating political myths with a kind of fairy tale behind it, various symbolic objects were found: brushwood, fern, anthill, wild animals and other images filled with paganism, ceremonial alcohol as an invariable attribute of fantasy and conjecture, Soviet crystal, a long negotiation table, the document itself and the bizarre story of its creation and disappearance. The team created an eight-channel synthesizer that uses phase-shifted analog sine-waves to generate constantly changing ambient-noise landscapes in real-time. The light installation Schwarzwald acted as a stand alone object during the exhibition, providing scenography for the performance and allowing visitors to enter the conditional forest. The video was produced in the woods of the Belavezha Forest (Belarus) and in Schwarzwald (Germany) and built into the exhibition as a multi-channel installation. The choreography consisted of various bodily patterns: movements of ordinary Soviet citizens (the social body), images of forest phantoms and natural / political savagery, the plasticity of politicians, including the facial expressions of Belarusian President Stanislav Shushkevich and a dance of Boris Yeltsin.
- Original idea, design, objects
- Sergey Shabohin
- Concept, performance: Isadorino Gore Dance co-op (Daria Plokhova, Alexandra Portyannikova)
- Costumes: VOLNA
- Light installation
- Concept, production: VOLNA (Nikita Golyshev, Snezhana Vinogradova)
- Electronic assembly support: Nikita Savinyh
- Assembly: VOLNA (Dmitry Gavkalyuk, Katerina Morza)
- Composer: Yuri Akbalkan
- Development and programming of digital synthesizer: Sergey Kostyrko
- Video installation
- Concept, editing, production: VOLNA
- Camera: Alexey Kubasov, Sergey Shabohin
- Project documentation
- Camera: Polina Korotaeva, VOLNA
- Photo: Valery Smirnov
- Goethe-Institut St. Petersburg
- Director: Dr. Günther Hasenkamp
- Initiator of the project, Director of Goethe-Institut St. Petersburg, 2014-2017: Dr. Angelika Eder
- Project coordinators: Jana Soboleva, Snezhana Vinogradova
- ZKM Karlsruhe
- Head of the Institute of Music and Acoustics: Ludger Brümmer
- Light: Hans Gass
- Tonmeister: Sebastian Schottke
- Sound engineering: Matthias Müller
- Musical informatics: Götz Dipper
- Audio recording: Anton Kossjanenko
- Technical specialists: Bernhard Sturm, David Luchov
- Software Development: Chikashi Miyama
- Coordinators: Yannick Hofmann, Luise Wiesenmüller
- Mediaartbase.de: Daniel Höpfer
- Video documentation: Anna Titova, Christina Zartmann, Sofia Kessel
- Special thanks
- Alexey Bratochkin, William Cohen, Ksenia Diodorova, Vera Dzedok, Viktor Fiht, Justina Fink, Zhanna Gladko, Tatjana Kirianova, Beate Körner, Evgeny Korniag, Roman Krasilnikov, Klim Losovsky, Alexey Lunev, Simon Matikashvili, Pavel Preobrazhensky, Tatjana Pronina, Nemanja Sarbajic, Agata Semenova, Viktor Smolensky, Nikola Spesivtsev, Dzina Zhuk, Tatjana Zhukova