Digitization of cultural heritage
An open online archive of Ukrainian conceptual art(co)archive is a joint project of Odesa civic organisation The Centre for Development operating out of the premises of the the Museum of Odessa Modern Art, the Kharkiv Art Gallery and the National Art Museum of Ukraine.
Culture Bridges grant has provided the project coordinators with the opportunity to digitize their own collection, organize the material and create a website where archival documents and photographs of works by Odessa conceptualists and other local contemporary artists are published through further collaboration with collectors, artists, researchers and institutions.
Odessa conceptualism was spawned in 1982 at the acquaintanceship and artistic cooperation between Leonid Voitsekhov and Sergey Anufriyev. It wasn't long before they were joined by Yuri Leiderman, Igor Chatzkin, the Pepper Group (Oleg Petrenko and Liudmyla Skrypkin) and Larisa Rezun-Zvezdochotova. At that time, most of the artists began producing their first works between the ages of 17-19. These were courageous young people without any artistic education, and most important, unintimidated by the older generation of artists or by the State. They put on home (apartment) exhibits, performances and events both at home and in public. Conceptual art shifted the focus from form to idea and in this way redefined the function of art in particular and culture in general.

But what is unique about the phenomenon of Odesa conceptualism? What distinguishes it from western or Moscow-based art? Unfortunately, little is known about this circle of artists, and what's more there's a wealth of myth and incorrect information. Odesa conceptualism requires more thorough study; the first step is having available material on the topic. Archive and collection publication has become a common practice in large museums and cultural heritage projects. For example, the Europeana Collections project already contains more than 58 million documents. In a similar fashion, vital to the presentation of the development of Ukrainian art is the creation of open-source online archives.
Odesa conceptualists
The project is made up primarily from the holdings of the Museum of Odesa Modern Art with archival photos, videos, texts and interviews dating from the 1960s and forward. Of particular value is the material on the 1980s artistic scene: documentation of actions and performances by Odesa conceptualists; and that of the 1990s, a singular period in Odesa cultural history, marked by the emergence of video art and installations and the formation of the seminal institutions of Ukrainian contemporary art, art-criticism and active curatorial efforts.

In putting together the art(co)archive, team of art(co)archive chose to pursue a gradual, incremental release of the MOMA and private collection material. The first step was the publication of archival documentation and work related to the 1980s and the conceptual practices of the Odesa artists. An important task related to the research and archiving of Odesa conceptualism involves the analysis and publication of the work of Vadim Besprozvany, who assembled a large collection of reproductions of works and documents between 1996-1999 and created a cross-section of the artistic period of the 1980s.
Online project art(co)archive is aimed at providing open access to the holdings and archives of museums, galleries and private collections, and at contributing to the digitization of the nation's cultural heritage.
Works of Odesa conceptualists
The (co) in the name art(co)archive stands for collaboration as the basis of the project – one in which the team actively collaborates with partner institutions, private collectors, artists, critics and art historians.
As a project develops, artists and curators begin bringing archival documents to the Museum. For instance, we had very little of the work or archival material of Andriy Marinyuk, and then the artist brought an entire folder filled with his work, photographs and things like documentation from interior designs that he'd been busy with in the 1990s. Unfortunately, it was only a few months later we had to we had to bring these materials back to set up a room for a posthumous exhibition of the artist. We're also grateful to curator and critic Mikhail Rashkovetsky, who had been previously associated with some of the projects in the 1990s, but now has presented us with his private archive. His donation documents key exhibitions that took place in Odesa in the past and represents our first look at projects we had only ever read about.
Natalia Revko, Odesa civic organisation The Centre for Development
While delivering the project the coordinators established collaboration with a professor from the University of Michigan, Vadim Bezprozvany. Between 1996-1999 he conducted interviews with Odesa artists: those inside and closely related to the Odesa conceptualists. He also put together a substantial digital archive of their work and documentation that we're working through currently. It is the most comprehensive source of information on the phenomenon of Odesa conceptualism in existence. From him, the team of art(co)archive learned that in Odesa, in addition to his texts and reproductions there are also the audio recordings of his interviews. They did their best to find these cassettes and have them digitized. Now anyone who wants to research this work can see for themselves the resource of these artists that were working in the 1980s. Professor Besprozvany teaches at the University of Michigan School of Information and this collaboration will help to make technical and conceptual changes to our website.
Over 500 images have been digitized and more than 200 works and archival documents have been published
When one is fully immersed in a subject, every document that illustrates something you have just read or heard brings incredible joy. For example, there is one work by Leonid Voitshekhov - "Who are you, masters of the Renaissance" - a banner from 1987 that was located on a cruise ship. Later on, the work was stolen from an exhibition and destroyed, and now in the Museum of Contemporary Art there hangs an original copy of the work. We were so delighted when the Yuri Albert sent us not only a photo of the original banner but also an archival photo showing where it hung on the ship.
Natalia Revko, Odesa civic organisation The Centre for Development
Archival photographs and performance documentation
Odesa civic organisation The Centre for Development continues to work closely with its partners. In April, an exhibition by Armenian artist and writer-conceptualis, Vagrich Bakhchanyan, took place at the Museum of Odessa Modern Art. The curators were drawn from the team at the Kharkiv Municipal Gallery. By communicating with the artist's wife, Iryna Bakhchanyan, they employed their research to mount an exhibition that they say is the most comprehensive yet in Ukraine of the artist's work and activity. Some of this material is currently available on the website, but there is a plan to put them together in a special project that presents an exhaustive look at the artist, his life and work.
Presentation of the project
The website is operational in beta mode, it's being currently tested. The team contiues to upload content. A number of technical changes are planned and on the concept level as well.
The decision was made to expand the historical timeframe and to focus on more than just Odesa conceptualism. Coordinators have analyzed existing problems: for example, they need to add more context to assist in the understanding or artistic creativity; they need to correct some technical nuances; they need to make the site more appealing and user-friendly. They also plan special projects designed to introduce an artist in a way that is more publicly accessiblethat would reveal an author or an era or a phenomenon in more accessible form.
Next, we'd like to publish work and archival documents about other personalities, starting with Valentin Khrushch, Vladimir Naumets and Oleg Sokolov. I'm also picturing in my mind uploading material, photos and videos from the 1990s – a period of flowering in video art, installations, curatorial projects and active artistic criticism in Odesa.

In addition, the archive of the Museum of Odesa Modern Art will soon be made available to researchers in offline mode. In the next few months we will have all the material completely systematized and have established conditions for comfortable, secure work with the resource. Also, information about the collection and archive will be added to the Collective Access System for convent document searches (some of the information is already included in the system). Last year we tested running a research residency and have decided to conduct these regularly.
Natalia Revko, Odesa civic organisation The Centre for Development
The purpose of most projects of this type is to provide access to collections and documents for research, and in that, our archive is no exception. Coordinators wanted to establish a resource that would have a convenient, imaged-based search and document management system so that any researcher or journalist accessing the data for information or illustrations for their articles could quickly get to know what is in th collections without complications or necessitating travel to another city. The project will promote research, education, the development of critical thought and the emergence of more analytical material on the Ukrainian artistic ecosphere.
Photo credits: «art(co)archive», the Centre for Development
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