Transcarpathia: Inside and Outside Project was scheduled for May 2020 as an international residency program for participants from Ukraine (Odessa and Uzhhorod) and countries that border with the Transcarpathian region, namely Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. The program partners included various art institutions from these cities and countries who in their turn nominated artists to participate in the art residency.
In spring 2020, forty nominated by institutions artists were surveyed to learn about their motivations for the participation and readiness for working on announced themes, as well as their profiles are thoroughly analysed. As a result, twelve participants from the EU countries and eight Ukrainians were selected for the art residency program.
However, Ukraine announced a lockdown, and the art residency was postponed till autumn, 6-21 September 2020.
In June 2020, the communication campaign was commenced. We made a video about the Transcarpathian region and Uzhhorod in Ukrainian and English, in which residency mentors, who were Uzhhorod art activists, spoke about their city and region. We initiated contacts and introduced residency participants via Dofa Fund Facebook page, and discussed key topics and media for project implementation. Three weeks before the start the situation with the pandemic in Ukraine and Europe aggravated rapidly, and new restrictions for border crossing were imposed. Eleven out of twelve European participants informed that they cancelled their trips to Ukraine. Hence, we had to revoke the art residency program.
As the House of Europe kindly understood the situation and offered a contract extension, we resumed our project work in March 2021. Unfortunately, EU-country participants could not confirm their participation, so we faced the challenge of re-designing the project.
We developed a concept of virtual tunnels, which we tried to lay not to depend on any restrictions and borders. These virtual reality (VR) spaces could have been filled with the experiences and impressions the participant had about the Carpathian region. However, the EU participants responded they would be very much interested in learning and experiencing in real, and saw no future for working in an on-line mode. Therefore, the final setup of the art residency was made of four Ukrainian teams each having artists from Uzhhorod and Odessa, a mentor (expert) in a particular subject from Uzhhorod, and XR-expert (Kyiv/Kharkiv). A team consisted of four members. Each team worked on a specific geographical direction and topic, i.e. Poland – neighbourhood, Slovakia/Czech Republic – urban development and architectural heritage, Romania – environment protection and borders.
The art residency was joined by European VR and 3D-mapping experts Ágnes Bakk (Hungary https://www.facebook.com/bakkagnesitoka) and Adrian Manolescu (Romania https://www.facebook.com/adrian.manolescu.1). They conducted master classes, shared their experience in international projects and specialized festivals, as well as provided individual consultancy to participants.
The art residency took place on 30 May till 21 June in Uzhhorod. Smart Point Hub became the main venue of the event.
The participants were inexperienced in VR media, and the majority had no skills in 3D modelling whatsoever. Therefore, a three-week program was largely reshaped into XR-media school. From Monday till Friday, the artists had workshops and masterclasses from XR-experts, three times a week the teams communicated and toured with their Uzhhorod mentors to get into the depth of their issues and to define ideas and concepts of future projects.
The participants also had a two-day study tour across the Transcarpathian region. During its journey a group of 21 people visited:
- Berehove City, a centre of Hungarian culture in the region
- A picture gallery in a small village of Pijterfolvo at the border with Hungary and Romania
- Khust City that got developed due to a potent Jewish community and has a unique functioning synagogue
- Nyzhnie Selysche and Longo Mai co-operative that stimulates the development of the community with its entrepreneurial and art activities
- Gymba Mountain of Borzhava mountain group which is under close attention of technological innovators and ecologists
- Shypit waterfall near Pylypets Mountain, a favourite place for hippies and hipsters, a venue of the international festival.
For three weeks, the art residency programme offered events, which were made open to public from Uzhhorod, and visited by about two hundred people.
- NFT, Crypto Art by Nikita Khudiakov
- Discussions on ingenuity in video art with Adrian Manolescu, an expert from Romania who organises 3D-mapping festivals
- Discussions about the film on the creation of the Mandalorian with Daryna Fest
- Lecture on Art of New Media by Oleksandr Sirous
- Review of materials from international 3D-mapping forums from ArtZebs team
- Lecture on From Idea to Money about fundraising and project management by Olha Sahaydak
- Audio-visual Jam from VR-makers and ArtZebs in a courtyard of a popular youth bar Bruford.
The results of the teams, i.e. four VR projects were presented on 19-20 June in city public places: Smart Point Hub, atrium of Zakarpattia Stage Regional Administration, Zakarpattia Regional Art Museum. The participants spoke about the problems tackled by their projects, introduced VR media to the audience, and shared their experience of the art residency. The projects were seen by about 250 people.
ArtZebs team, who joined the art residency and collected 3D content created by the participants, prepared an audio-visual performance for citizens. On 19 June, 22:00 till 23:30, 3D-mapping presentation took place. It was a light show projected on a façade of the historic building of the choral synagogue (now the Regional Philharmonic Hall). Hundreds of Uzhhorod citizens gathered on Teatralna Square to experience new art media that showed the local content.
The art residency project invigorated important discourses of the Carpathian region, i.e. environment protection, cultural heritage, neighbourhood, socio-cultural impacts. The studies became a rich ground for new concepts, which in their turn got new forms due to modern technologies.
Nine artists received new knowledge and skills in 3D and VR technologies.
3D-mapping performance was created and displayed.
Joint work, studies, researches and communications with the participants from different cities of Ukraine strengthened the relationship within the art network. Key XR-media centres are Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv, but Odessa and Uzhhorod are now familiar with and fond of these technologies.
Virtual spaces, which have been created on Mozilla Hub platform, could be further developed by the project participants and provided for people from other regions to join and contribute. The participants plan to finalize their ‘tunnels’ and invite their European colleagues who missed the art residency.