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The story of a grassroots art-collective in Vladikavkaz

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Author: Tamara Agkatseva

The youth in Vladikavkaz are concerned: the ‘Portal’ art-collective has ceased to exist.

Two years ago, Albert Togoyev, who used to work as a watchman at the abandoned construction site of the National Museum of North Ossetia, located in the centre of Vladikavkaz, brought friends who worked as street artists to the site. They created their own special meeting place, which is difficult to categorize with just one word: it was both a cafe, a concert ground, an exhibition hall, a place for reading poetry and a place to sit by a fire and talk.

They called the place Portal, as in, a portal to another world: that of creativity and beauty. One of their first, regular activities was free film-nights by a fire. Instead of purchasing an entry ticket, the audience was encouraged to bring fruits and sweets; alcohol was not permitted on the premises.

Portal became a destination for those interested in artistic self-realization, regardless of age. Musical collectives from the neighboring republics of the North Caucasus performed there, a local amateur theatre held its rehearsals on the grounds and exhibitions were also put on display – tourists passing by stopped there as well.

Portal became widely known thanks to its fairs which featured hand-made Khikond items. The word ‘Khikond’ is an abbreviation in Ossetian meaning ‘made by’.

The fair was visited by five to six thousand people per day: not a small number for a city of 350 000. There were only five Khikond fairs, sll held without even the smallest bit of help from the municipal authorities.

But this is all in the past. The owners of the National Museum was in the end discontent with the fact that outsiders were on the grounds of the construction site. The authorities of North Ossetia then made an announcement concerning the resumption of the construction of the National Museum.

Portal offered a compromise: the artists suggested that municipal authorities consider an integration project with the National Museum of North Ossetia, in which they requested that they be left ‘the long empty plot of land’. According to participants of the union, both sides would benefit from the cooperation.

In the beginning it seemed that it would all work out. The head of the republic, Vyacheslav Bitarov, even spoke out in favor of Portal’s project. In particular, he called for ‘legal status’ to be given to the youth, but he did not specify whether the youth would be allowed to remain on the museum grounds.

In the end, they didn’t allow them to stay there, and the project refused. The artists had to give up everything and leave.

But this was not the end of the story, as one might imagine. After requests and negotiations with city authorities, Portal was given an abandoned piece of land on which former workshops are located. The location is far from the center and in rather bad condition, but the artists have already begun working.

 

  • Posted on: September 16, 2017
  • Posted in: CAC works

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