While relations between the two states have been somewhat of a question mark lately, a spectrum of almost identical patterns occurs, particularly concerning consistent cuts of support for contemporary culture in all forms. A point at which socio-political art discontents both governments is by far gone and a vast majority of emerging artists lives in a state of uncertainty being unprotected from the forms of pressure that they expect to follow.
As a result, censorship is becoming a common practice. In Turkey, despite legal provisions, freedom of speech and media has steadily deteriorated from 2010 to 2016. This situation is marked by increased censorship of social media accounts, arrested journalists, closed printing houses and newspapers, and (self-)censorship of art practices as the inevitable result of cancelled art exhibitions and banned artworks/artists. Russian authorities became interested with independent media, cultural clusters & individuals mostly after the wave of protests in 2011—2012. As of 2016, freedom of speech has been effectively strangled by passing a number of notorious bills among which are the blasphemy and gay propaganda laws.
At this specific point in time, direct imageries seem to lose not only their possibility to exist but also their emotional relevance, especially in politically oppressed communities. Artists face a situation in which they are being censored or induced with self-censorship, thus having to find a way to express themselves through more subtle conceptual frameworks to be heard by the audience and to be able to raise awareness locally and internationally. Because of current existing governmental control mechanisms and censorships of artistic and cultural events, there is a necessity to establish alternative methods to deal with these fragile and urgent topics. Otherwise, there is a possibility of losing even a scarce number of public or private spaces for artists to be heard, to exhibit artworks and to talk about them.
“Survival Kit” can be perceived as an attempt to remove the ambiguity by establishing a certain framework that may or may not be mandatory for contemporary art to function in the future to come. By collaborating for six months, five Turkish and five Russian artists will research different methodologies, such as camouflage and irony, to create works that are both united by the idea of “subtle art” yet divided by their specific subjects & practices.