East by Northeast (2018) was my MA graduation artistic research conducted for the Live Art and Performance Studies programme in Helsinki, Finland. It was the most challenging and the most elaborate art and research work I have realized so far (from the first planning steps in spring 2017 until the submission of the written master thesis at the end of 2019, it took me almost three years to finalize the project).
In the main phase of the research (Feb – Jul 2018) I have traveled from my home town Příbor (CZ) via Ukraine to Moscow (RU), continued with the Trans-Siberian Railway to Ulaanbaatar (MN) and Beijing (CN), then returned back with the Trans-Siberian again via Chita (RU) (and Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow, etc.) to Helsinki (FI), and finally returned via Belarus and Ukraine back to Příbor (CZ).
The main (impossible?) goal/research question was finding ways how to articulate, how to perform (mega)cities through the movement of the body through their transportation networks. The project generated photos, videos, audios, writings, maps, performances, discussions, presentations, artist talks, and one workshop. I have presented the selected material as an exhibition in the Space For Free Arts in Helsinki (June 2018).
In each one of the main research cities (Moscow, Ulaanbaatar, Beijing) I stayed for approximately one month. There are many differences between the three selected urban environments but also several important similarities. They are all interconnected by the Trans-Siberian Railway, the largest transportation network of its kind on Earth. They are all capitals, core cities in which the need for both the efficient urban planning and control over the movement of crowds are very high. All share a socialist past and all were strongly influenced by the Soviet urban planning. Finally, all are currently experiencing impacts of a certain kind of free-market economics.
Aside from the micro-level movement within cities, the issues of global mobility and tourism were also important for the project. Why, where, and how do people travel and what are the factors influencing their mobilities? What is my position as a white European male researcher-tourist in the context of global travel and how can I move around the world in a non-exploitative, non-offensive, environmentally justifiable way? Apart from trying to find new ways of how to ‘perform (mega)cities’, these were some of the issues I was concerned with during the project and they also appear and disappear throughout the thesis text.
project supervisors: Ray Langenbach, Giacomo Bottà
project examiners: Anna Thuring, Lea Kantonen
The full text of the thesis can be accessed here.
Příbor (CZ), before departure, photographer: Táňa Brindová