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'CoSA Garden - Museum of the St. Petersburg Avant-Garde' (RU). (2018-2022)
A project by LATERNA // Marianne Skjeldal and Inger-Reidun Olsen

CoSA Garden St. Petersburg is part of the project ‘CoSA – Concerning the Spiritual in Art’ (2018-2022). Since 2017 LATERNA has regularly visited and worked at the Museum of St. Petersburg Avantgarde and is well acquainted with the museum, its history and its staff.

With the CoSA-project as a whole, we also draw lines a 100-years back to artists who were active then, busy with similar topics. By initiating this project we wish to contextualize the spiritual in art today and draw lines and connections to the spiritual in art about 100 years ago. The 2010- and onwards has a profound connection to what happened in the world in the 1910s and 20s. With political, economic and technological changes, we as artists see a strong parallel with the past. Art has always, through the history of humanity, been used as a tool to link the unknown and mystical with the everyday.

By naming our project “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, linking it directly to the book with the same name by Wassily Kandinsky published in 1911 which had a profound influence on art through history, we wish to shed light on how ‘the spiritual’ in artistic praxis and expression has been quite hidden in the mainstream art world for the last 50 years. With newfound work and international exhibitions by artists, such as Hilma Af Klint, new interest in the spiritual in art is on the rise as many contemporary artists, such as ourselves, are influenced and inspired by their work and practices.

Other artists that inspire us are Emma Kunz and the Russian Avantgarde, especially Guro and Malevich. In bringing the Museum Garden back to life, as an art project, we (as artists) look back at the artists who resided and worked at the house on Pesochnaya during the 1910s and 1920s and formed the Russian Avantgarde, to understand the genius loci of this place. We also get information from the museum archive on former plants and trees in the garden (as well as existing ones), as well as researching and learning from the garden itself as place. We are inspired by Elena Guro (1877-1913), with her profound love and insightful understanding of nature. And it is in this spirit we are looking back at the 1910s and 20s, in respect of the house and the garden, with its oasis of calm, with a wish to again make the garden a place for people to come together, to learn, to interact with plants, to find calm and inspiration as well as elements of play and surprise ,- all of nature's premisses, and in dialogue with nature itself.

Pollinary Dances - An artistic ecology 
During 2018-2021 LATERNA is regularly visiting St.Petersburg, collaborating with the Museum of St. Petersburg Avantgarde where we are revitalizing the museum garden in collaboration with amongst others, the Botanical Garden (Komarov Institute). In this part of the project, which we so far call CoSA Garden St. Petersburg//Pollinary Dances, we have invited three local contemporary Russian artists and aspiring artists from Stieglitz Academy of the Arts, to think and work alongside ourselves, to create art-pieces specifically for the museum garden. Other amazing partners whom we couldn't have made it without are Anastasia Zakharova from the State Museum of St. Petersburg and eminent curator and producer Anastasia Patsey.

The works of LATERNA are grounded in an artistic ecology, where everything exists in a context and develops over time through regular practice and methodological investigations. Tracing history and gathering collectives, LATERNA create new ways of shaping communities - as in our works in ‘CoSA’, taking place at historical sites like Monte Verità (CH), Steilneset (NO), at Black Box Theatre in Oslo, and here, at the Museum of St. Petersburg Avantgarde. Besides LATERNA and already mentioned collaborators CoSA Garden involves gardeners and the neighbouring community and wish to invite to the museum garden as a green oasis, open and available to the people - in the middle of Petrogradskaya. 


Movements - Communities
The project has an overall ecological thinking as its foundation, so that the human/plant connection can be explored, at the same time researching genius loci - spirit of the place. As dance artists and choreographers, we wish to see how the building and growing of the garden can create movements – and communities - in smaller - and larger scale, as a choreography/ Pollinary Dance between plants, pollinators and people.

By involving local artists to contribute with artworks created specifically for CoSA Garden, students from Stieglitz Academy to contribute with seating arrangements in the form of social sculptures and neighbours to take part in activities in the garden involving plants and compost, children to learn about plants and ecology, our hope and belief is that all these people involved will develop an ownership to the garden, and wanting to continue to visit and care for the garden, also after the official opening planned for September 2021.

The future aim is for the garden to become a training area for school groups/educational programs and other groups (neighbours/elders) wanting to learn and exchange knowledge about plants, gardening, compost and ecology. Another aim is that the garden will become an attractive meeting place for culture projects and events. With the Russian Dacha culture there is so much existing knowledge concerning plants and gardening, that our hope is that the CoSA Garden in the future will keep on growing and changing with the help of neighbours, school children, elders and plant enthusiasts.

As part of the project CoSA, LATERNA is parallel building a ‘sister-garden’ in Oslo Norway at the facade of Black Box theater, which is also a study of plants in relation to choreography, ecology, people, community and historical sites.

Anastasia Patsey
Anastasia Zakharova
The Botanical Garden* /Yuri Kalugin
The Stieglitz Academy of the Arts/ MA students from Furniture department
The gardening company, OOO Limited Liability Company OTBI/ Dmitry

Ingeborg S. Olerud
Ekaterina Shelganova
Liza Bobkova
Anastasya Kizilova
Kristjan Belgau

The project is supported by: Norwegian Arts Council and stikk.no

*St. Petersburg's Botanical Garden - or, to give it its full title, the Botanical Garden of the V.L. Komarov Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences - is located on the Petrograd side, and is one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in the country. The Garden was founded in 1714 by order of Peter the Great as the Apothecary's Garden, and soon became a center for horticultural research that was the equal of any other in Europe in terms of the importance and size of its collection. Originally the Apothecary's Garden focused mainly on growing medicinal herbs, but soon people began bringing saplings and seeds of rare and exotic plants - for which a greenhouse was specially built. Expeditions to various parts of the earth regularly augmented the Botanical Garden's collection with new sorts of trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants.

                         ALL RIGHTS SERVED Inger-Reidun Olsen // 2022