О ТОКе

 
ABOUT TOK
 
TOK is curatorial collective based in St Petersburg and founded by Anna Bitkina and Maria Veits in 2010 as a platform for conducting interdisciplinary projects in the fields of contemporary art and design and social sciences. TOK’s projects have a strong social component and deal with current issues that are widely discussed both in Russia and internationally such as migration, public space and citizens, development of education, deprivation of social resources, forming collective memory, use of natural resources, growing role of the media in the global society, changing political climate and many others. TOK curators have also always been largely interested in exploring the concept of public space in post-Soviet Russia and the former Soviet Union, as well as perception, understanding and mechanisms of use of public spaces and open areas by residents of post-Soviet cities. One of the current interests of TOK is reaction of the media to global sociopolitical processes. 
TOK was started as a grass-root initiative, a research-based art organization by the two graduates of Smolny College in St Petersburg (first liberal arts school in Russia founded by Bard College and St Petersburg State University) Anna Bitkina and Maria Veits. Working previously in different fields (visual arts and academia respectfully) the two decided to form a collective that would give them a possibility to create, curate and organize their own artistic and research projects. One of our initial motivations is to create a dialogue between Russian and international artists and curators and promote exchange of knowledge, concepts and approaches in order to generate and continuously develop a vibrant field of ideas that lead to joint projects engaging artists, curators, researchers, designers, architects, local governments and various urban communities. 
 
All publications of TOK (book, brochures, exhibitions catalogues) are available online for free downloading.
 
SELECTED PROJECTS
'Propaganda News Machine' explores the notion of propaganda, the news construction and designs of multiple realities in the media today. The project attempts to present, analyze and unveil some of the strategies that governments use in order to create specific images/views of political and social events and influence audience’s opinions when it comes to broadcasting cases in the global political arena.With the growth of mass communication channels, media wars have become a strong and powerful machine of creating, conducting and escalating conflicts between countries, nations and communities. In the current political agenda, when global relations between main players on the world’s political arena are again being reconsidered, the power of media in forming and broadcasting ideologically charged discourse becomes especially obvious and disturbing. Since television the Internet have become easily accessible and embraced by the masses, they have influenced our world views and fed us with selectively constructed news in order to shape our thinking and prevent us from critical analysis of the information we are being delivered. First exhibition in the framework of the project and accompanying it public events took place at Flux Factory, New York, where TOK curators were n residence in 2016. 
 
'Young Curators & Art Operators Network' is a curatorial network of young and emerging curators from the North-West Russia and Sweden/Nordic countries to be started by Intercult (Stockholm) and Creative Association of Curators TOK (St Petersburg). The main objective of the network is to stimulate a dialogue and cooperation between art professionals interested in sustainable curatorial and artistic practices in public spaces as well as research-based multidisciplinary projects that bring together and connect various communities. The methodology elaborated by the network will include description of different ways of how artists and curators using art projects in the public sphere can increase the awareness of the citizens of the influence of, for instance, grass root movements on various urban processes and maintain a dialogue with city authorities for a joint discussion of the city problems and challenges. 
 
Local history museums located in many public schools in contemporary Russia are the Soviet heritage - back in the USSR they served as additional ideological and information instruments. Today most of them represent small museums organized in a rather old-fashioned and outdated way so children cannot relate themselves to the message these museums broadcast. TOK curators together with the museum of local history in a school in St Petersburg work on updating the approach to school museum curating and exhibition-making by involving children and local communities into creating exhibitions  in order to make school museum be more contemporary, relevant and inclusive.
 
“Critical Mass” is the first large-scale art project in St Petersburg based on the principles of research of the urban environment, locating problems and potential of various pubic spaces and suggesting scenarios for their revitalization and development within the dialogue between curators, artists, researchers, local communities and governments. Since 2010 TOK has produced two public art exhibitions in different public places and open locations of St Petersburg for which a wide range of Russian and international artists from Denmark, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, Latvia, Estonia and Norway commissioned new works or adapted their existing pieces. For both exhibitions that were held in 2011 and in 2013 there were produced bilingual publications were the results of curatorial, artistic and social researches were reflected.  Critical Mass 2015  focused on preservation of historical heritage and studying of collectives and personal memories. Therefore, the central venue of the project was the Gromov’s dacha, a wooden mansion built in the 19th century, that had been numerously threatened to be demolished, and the Lopukhinskiy garden that surrounds the building and is loved by the local community who had been protecting it from destruction.
 
The “Mobile Archive” is a unique traveling collection of Israeli video art that belongs to the Israeli Center for Digital Art and contains more than 2500 titles. The project has traveled more than 20 countries including Brazil, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, UK and the USA. In Russia the project was curated by TOK.  The project was on view in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Nizhniy Novgorod, where all exhibitions were accompanied by screenings and artists talks. This is first project in Russia of acclaimed Israeli video artists of such scale.
 
TOK was a local contributor to Manifesta 10 that took place in St Petersburg in summer 2014 and curated three and produced two projects in the framework of the public and parallel programs of  the biennial. Represented artists included Jeremy Deller (UK), Olga Jitlina (Russia), Glyuklya (Russia), Emily Newman (US), and Maya Zack (Israel).
 
“Design Platform” is an international project of socially oriented design launched by TOK. It is aimed at bringing innovations into the learning environment of Russian public schools and make it more interesting, interactive and open for pupils using contemporary design practices and solutions.
 
The international art project “Towards the Other” offers the audience a wide range of perspectives on migration, which has become an essential part of Russian and European reality.  The project was organized by The Netherlands Institute in St. Petersburg and Creative Association of Curators TOK. 
 
The project “Nordic Art Today” initiated and organized by TOK brought contemporary artists and curators from Nordic countries to Russia. Its mission was to introduce to the local audience the most interesting examples of artistic and curatorial practices dealing with critical approach in contemporary art.  A bilingual catalogue in Russian and English was produced by TOK in 2011 for the exhibition Nordic Art Today: Conceptual Debts, Broken Dreams, New Horizons.