How do truth and myth relate to archives? From 28 January through until 25 June, Het Nieuwe Instituut is presenting the project The Transylvania Archive by the artist duo Marta Volkova and Slava Shevelenko. The project ingeniously weaves together themes such as the relevance of an archive, how artists relate to power, and fear of strangers.
'We come from Russia, a country where archives often remain locked, which means that people can be fooled into thinking anything about history,’ according to Marta Volkova and Slava Shevelenko. Current events or phenomena are what prompt Volkova and Shevelenko to make works in which myth and reality are intertwined. The Transylvania Archive concerns a KGB archive that turned up in Romania some years ago. According to Shevelenko and Volkova, this archive reveals how the Russian secret service spent years investigating the yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman), hunting him down and eventually wiping him out.
The Transylvania Archive is an installation in three parts: an archive, some Yeti body parts, and documents relating to the tragic adventures of an artist who was on the KGB research team. It features video footage, drawings, paintings and three-dimensional objects. The questions raised by Volkova and Shevelenko concerning the relation between archives and the construction of myths are of interest to Het Nieuwe Instituut, which is charged with the important task of managing the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Design. The institute previously organized the series New Archive Interpretations and the exhibition series Surprising Finds in which personal selections of archival items led to a certain degree of myth-making. The Transylvania Archive scrutinizes the vulnerable relation between a personal perspective and the desire for objective reality, as is commonly aspired to in an archive or collection.
Marta Volkova and Slava Shevelenko have been working together as an artist duo for over a decade. Prior to that, they each had their own practice. They operate in various disciplines, making spatial installations that incorporate wooden figures, paintings, drawings, ceramics and videos. Born and raised in Saint Petersburg (Russia), they have lived in the Netherlands since 1991. Examples of recent projects are: Paintures about me at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (2013); About Space and Love at the Hermitage Amsterdam (2013), From the Life of the Beetles at KAI 10/ Arthena Foundation, Dusseldorf, and The Altai Files at the Bonnefantenmuseum (2016).
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