Open Group, Synonym for "wait", 2015, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.
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Portfolio: Open GroupYuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach and Anton Varga

Open Group (Anton Varga, Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina)
Open Group (Anton Varga, Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach) photo by Marta Czyż

Оpen Group was founded in August 2012 in Lviv by six Ukrainian artists. The group’s structure changed over the years, and its presently members are: Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach and Anton Varga. They occasionally invite other artists or others to take part in their projects and join the Open Group. Group’s work is based on research of the interaction and communication between people, artists, situation and space. Also artistic practice is based on the study of the concept of «collective work».

Group members have been running independent art spaces, such as Detenpyla Gallery or Еfremova26 Gallery (2013-2014) in Lviv, since 2011.

Open Group won the Special Distinction of the PinchukArtCentre Prize in 2013, and the Main Prize in 2015. Their works were featured at the Ukrainian National Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. In 2016, the Open Group curated the show entitled Dependence Degree, Collective Practices of Young Ukrainian Artists 2000-2016 (Wrocław, Poland). In 2017, the group’s work was presented in frames of the Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017 (collateral events of the 57th Venice Biennale). In 2019, the Open Group was the curator of the National Pavilion of Ukraine at the 58th La Biennale di Venezia.


Open Group, We were somewhere among you, 2021, photo by Alina Uzala
Open Group, We were somewhere among you, 2021, Entangled Transposition, Khabarovsk, Russia, photo by Alina Uzala, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, We were somewhere among you, 2021, photo by Alina Uzala
Open Group, We were somewhere among you, 2021, Entangled Transposition, Khabarovsk, Russia, photo by Alina Uzala, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, We were somewhere among you, 2021, photo by Alina Uzala
Open Group, We were somewhere among you, 2021, Entangled Transposition, Khabarovsk, Russia, photo by Alina Uzala, courtesy to the artists.

OPEN GROUP
(Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Anton Varga)

WE WERE SOMEWHERE AMONG YOU, 2021
Action, plane, banner with text, size 150 x 3300 cm.
Project of Entangled Transposition, Hotel Intourist in Khabarovsk, Russia.

The sole project of Entangled Transposition that occurs outside the walls of the Hotel Intourist in Khabarovsk, Open Group’s iteration of their work WE WERE SOMEWHERE AMONG YOU visits the city of Khabarovsk with a number of questions. Having previously shown the work in Katowice, Poland in 2018, the transposition sees little formally altered: A local plane was contracted from the nearby airport to fly over the city from 15:30–17:00 on February 11th towing an aerial banner advertisement, bearing the titular phrase in Russian. Open Group has previously stated that the action poses questions about human presence/absence, as well as presenting an ambiguity about who is “we” and who is “you”. The group members themselves, who notably attended the arts festival in Katowice but left the day before the project’s previous installment, were never in Khabarovsk at all, further complicating any simple reading of this simple phrase.

Each of the complications produces an uneasy connection rather than a clear separation. If “we” and “you” are ambiguous, might they be interchangeable? And if positionality is the only attribute that establishes their distinction, then why does it feel as if they were so close? Because the authors themselves were never physically there, this “we” is free to embed itself in who “you” are, and vice versa. However viewers ought to be wary of shadows within such deductions as they track the flight path of this action. Given some of the more deep rooted aspects of the project’s context, there are risks in extrapolating the innuendos to certain ends. But this narrow field of vision is not the venue for appreciating Open Group’s work. The banner, trailing an aging but unflagging AN-2 biplane, sails lightly by above the knotted contradictions. There is more than just “we” and “you” in the relationship described by these fluttering words. There is, as always, the space and time between us, and what we choose to do with it.

text – Clemens Poole


Open Group, The Same Places, 2016, photo by Mykhailo Melnychenko
Open Group, The Same Places, 2016, photo by Mykhailo Melnychenko
Open Group, The Same Places, 2016, photo by Mykhailo Melnychenko
Open Group, The Same Places, 2016, photo by Mykhailo Melnychenko

OPEN GROUP
(Anton Varga, Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina)

THE SAME PLACES, 201630 boards, 95×95 cm, 2 videos i intervies and trip video documentation.Exhibition, «Indentity.Behind the curtain of uncertainty», National Museum in Kiev, Ukraine.Photo by Mykhailo Melnychenko.

The same places is an action trip to different places with the objects of Zakarpats’ka Art Association of the Soviet Ukraine. The trip lasted for 12 hours. The participants travelled to 13 places by bus. In every location, where over 30 years ago there had been a building, the travellers took a group photo as a gesture of “fixating the fact of presence”. After the trip, during the exhibition opening, the participants could view the documentation of their presence in the same places. The trip is a part of a project that consists of 15 boards were created by artists and made by J. Rejtij in the 1990s as a report on the performance of duties. 15 copies of the boards with group photos were also added to the project. 


Open Group, Synonym for "wait", 2015, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, Synonym for “wait”, 2015, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, Synonim of Wait, 2015, photo by Sergey Illin
Open Group, Synonym for “wait”, 2015, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, Synonim of Wait, 2015, photo by Sergey Illin
Open Group, Synonym for “wait”, 2015, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.

OPEN GROUP
(Anton Varga, Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina)

SYNONYM FOR «WAIT», 2015
performance 6.05.2015 – 31.07.2015, live streaming video, foto 6

«Hope!» Ukraine National Pavilion at the 56 th International Art Exhibition in Venice – La Biennale di Venezia (2015). Created with the support of PinchukArtCenter, Kyiv, Ukraine.

A video wall composed of nine screens is transmitting live streams from nine front doors of the family homes of recently drafted Ukrainian soldiers, all living in different parts of the country. To the backsides of the screens framed photographs of the families’ dinner tables are hung, a reference to the life behind these doors. During the period of the exhibition, one member of Open Group sits in front of the live stream, at a similar, typically Ukrainian table, waiting for the soldiers to return home and refusing to eat during this period.

The work moves between presence, absence and anticipation. The performative act

requires a test of endurance, which is a quality shared by the families, the soldiers and Ukrainian society as a whole. It expresses hope for the soldiers’ return and an end to this conflict. Through its simple and honest form, this work deals with people and their fears. It reveals the helplessness of people drawn into a violent conflict while suggesting the hopes that allow them to find new ways of making life go on.


Open Group, Backyard, 2015, photo by Małgorzata Kujda
Open Group, Backyard, 2015, photo by Мałgorzata Кujda, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, Backyard, 2015, photo by Małgorzata Kujda
Open Group, Backyard, 2015, photo by Мałgorzata Кujda, courtesy to the artists.

OPEN GROUP
(Anton Varga, Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina)

BACKYARD, 2015
Video installation, video 55’11’’, video 85’21’’, architectural models

Exhibition «Dispossession», organizer Wrocław European Capital of Culture 2016, an official event on the 56 Venice Biennale, 2015.

The “Backyard’ includes the understanding of privacy and ownership. It incorporates the understanding of safety. Safety ensured by the walls, by the right to private property, the state law. The notion of “home” refers to a place that seemingly belongs only to you, contrary to the rest of the surrounding world, which is not yours, is not so private and safe.

The “Backyard” also signifies something extraordinary, which is going to remain even after the building is demolished and it disappears.

This work allows the viewers to see a building that was destroyed during the war. For the participants of the project who lost their homes, it is another chance to imagine them and recreate them in their memory.

Filomena Kuriata and Svietlana Sysoyeva are the participants of the project, who lost their homes as a result of internal resettlement during the war. F. Kuriata – during the IIWW and S. Sysoyeva – during the Russian military intervention in Eastern Ukraine.

The authors of the project had one task for the participants – to recreate from memory the detailed internal and external description of their homes.


Open Group, Diorama, 2017, photo by Sergey Illin
Open Group, Diorama, 2017, Exhibition «Future Generation Art Prize 2017», PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv, Ukraine, courtesy to the artists.

OPEN GROUP
(Yuriy Biley, Anton Varga, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina)

DIORAMA, 2017
film, 41’ 45’’

Exhibition «Future Generation Art Prize 2017», PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv, Ukraine. Carried out with the support of PinchukArtCenter, Kyiv, Ukraine.

The work progresses in the film presented at the exhibition as well as around it. The basis of the work is the return to our „group-forming” and long-lasting theme of defining the space of potential art, that is to projects like „Open Gallery”, „Ars Longa Vita Brevis”, „Object Passport”, „Cubic Meter”, „1000 km view”. We are still interested in the concept of space, however, our approach to it is changing. This time we do not define the space with its potentiality that assumes filling it with certain activity or event. We act as initiators of a situation that enables the creation of a particular space, which, at the same time, is accessible only with a very subjective understanding.

The method consists of listing the space details. Words become extremely significant and, simultaneously, act as the only embodiment of the space. In this case, the parts and the basic points of the space are invented. They become elements that can be used by the viewer to form a whole. Guided by their experience, the viewers can appropriate and take it with them by means of displacement and replacement of details. In fact, the space is ordinary, there is nothing special, complicated or provocative about it. Therefore, it becomes difficult to summarize this work as it is a “summary” in itself. This imaginary space has its defined boundaries and coordinates: it is measured with dialogues and monologues of the people who summarize it, or rather, describe it. It expands with suggestions and immediately contracts by contradiction. Some people form space with imagination, some, however, fill it in with logic or knowledge. The space as a potential project for realization is complete, however, constructed in the imagination, becomes ephemeral and boundless. By the way, we have taken interest in dioramas as visual tools and cultural phenomena. The images are adapted to artificial lighting and they are very often placed in special pavilions or museums. The factors that play a critical role in the exposition of dioramas are: the equipment in the exhibition room, the structure of the audience, lighting and sound (music and narrator). This means that great attention is paid to the viewers’ point of view, the way to get them to trust the new, constructed reality. That is why, in our work, we have assumed a simultaneous existence of a number of levels of such perception, or, as we call it in the work, „steps of perception”. If we were to shortly define these steps, we would say that they are realized on such levels: us – receiver of our work- film protagonist – receiver of the diorama, diorama protagonist, who is not asleep – current diorama protagonist, who is asleep. Whereby, the last level is self-sufficient as its continuation happens in the dream sphere, which, in this case, is just as real as all the other ones. The existence of one of these steps might justify the involvement of professional actors in the project. It is also worth mentioning that most dioramas represent historical battles. In the Soviet Union they presented one of the most spectacular forms of official art as well as propaganda tools. Taking this into consideration, our goal was to find the subject of the diorama, we were interested basically in an „ordinary space”, a space with a common pre-image. For the first time in our artistic activity, we do not attempt to demarcate a specific, real place or situation, but we create a new space by calculating mean average or construing a „perfect image” of that space. In this manner, the search for a „calm space” becomes the main theme of the film, which is realized in the working process of a specialists group, who construct a diorama presenting sleep in the forest. The visible visual part is formed by nature as a symbol of unchangeability. It is of no coincidence that the main element of the diorama is a group of people resting on a small, quiet forest clearing. The forest, which dwells in its own darkness, is divided from the clearing by a ray of light. Looking back at the meanings of „around”, we have to admit that it is also an attempt to create a „perfect open group”, at least in the world of the screenplay, the image and the film. At some point, we use our own projections to create dialogue and attempt to understand the activity within the group. 

In practice, it is also a way to move away from the ready-made objects and go back to creating and organizing, return to the classical illusion of an artistic work. 


Open Group, Untitled, 2015 - ongoing, photo by Sergey Illin
Open Group, Untitled, 2015 – ongoing, Exhibition Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017, 57th Venice International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, Untitled, 2015 – ongoing, Exhibition Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017, 57th Venice International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.
Open Group, Untitled, 2015 – ongoing, Exhibition Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017, 57th Venice International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, photo by Sergey Illin, courtesy to the artists.

OPEN GROUP
(Yuriy Biley, Anton Varga, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina)

UNTITLED, 2015 – ongoing
Table, printer, internet interface, paper.

Exhibition Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017, 57th Venice International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (2017). Created with the support of PinchukArtCenter, Kyiv, Ukraine.

In January 2015, when the project began, the number of casualties in the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine had reached 5,358. This included people from both sides of the conflict, including civilians (according to UN data).  

To have an understanding of the meaning of this abstract number, each participant of the Open group (Yuriy Biley, Anton Varga, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina) started recording new acquaintances they make on daily basis, documenting:

  • name, surname, or the name the person presented himself/herself with;
  • acronym of the first letters in the name and surname of the Open Group participant who made the acquaintance;
  • the date (year, month, day) the encounter took place;
  • place of the encounter, and certain private details necessary to recall it.

As this exhibition opens, the last official count (on March 15, 2017 according to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine) documents that the number of casualties had increased to 9,940 persons. 

The Untitled project will continue to record these acquaintances until the amount of the ‘new acquaintances’ corresponds to the final number of deaths in the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The new acquaintances are registered online on a daily basis.


Projects from the photogallery:

1000KM VIEW:

OPEN GROUP
(Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Stanislav Turina, Anton Varga, Lizaveta German, Maria Lanko, Irina Leifer, Jesper Buursink, Arthur van Beek, Sergiy Klepach, Valeriy Kovalyov, Oleksandr Popko, Stanislav Palun, Anatoliy Tatarenko, Yevgen Nikiforov)

1000-km View. Part 1 – Part 2, 2015-2017
Performative action.
Exhibition “Attention! Border”, 2017, Galeria Labirynt, Lublin.

1000-km view is a performative action aimed at physical covering of the space of the “Gallery on the Stretch of the Road №2” and contemplation of its display. “Gallery on the Stretch of the Road №2” was created in 2014 with two road signs similar to those normally designating beginning and end of a city / village that were installed in the two sites – on the bank of the Stryi river in Lviv region and on the bank of the Azov sea on Biruchiy island in Kherson region. The designated area between the signs became an “Open Gallery”, a space constituted by the water flow of about 1000 km long. This was the first work of “Open Gallery” project impossible to grasp at sight.

On the trip the crew’s practice involved boat control, camping and cooking, cleaning the sites from the leftover rubbish, studying local towns and villages, interviewing people who live along the route, collecting material artifacts from those meetings and producing a collectively directed film. During the 20 days of the trip the crew made 398 km (in 2015) and 150 km (in 2017) — from the town of Stryi, Lviv region to the border with Moldova in the Chernivtsi region in Ukraine.

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