On March 16, 1944, a Luftwaffe military aircraft crashed near the village of Znamenka in Crimea. The future world famous artist Joseph Beuys was on the plane. This moment becomes the key in his myth of rebirth. Boyce himself recalled: “The last thing I remember was that it was too late to jump, too late to open the parachute… The plane crashed into the ground, and that saved me, although I broke my face and skull bones… Then the plane’s tail turned over and I was completely buried in the snow. The Tatars found me one day later. I remember voices, they said „Voda“, felt from the tents, and the strong smell of melted fat and milk. They covered my body with fat to help it restore heat, and they wrapped me in felt to keep it warm.“
On January 5, 2021, the APXIV research group set off for the Crimean Peninsula on an expedition to the site of the Beuys plane crash, setting the goal of studying the “Beuys myth”. During the expedition, the APXIV team determined the exact crash point. For our research, it was important for us to feel the place with our bodies, to feel the context of the Beuys myth ourselves. Our field study came through several stages: 4 rituals of co-adjustment, interviewing the descendants of eyewitnesses of the fall and Crimean relatives of one of the group members, sampling of land and tactile analysis of soil and water, reconstruction of the fall using an unmanned aerial vehicle, bathing in low-radioactive sources of the village of Novaya Zhizn (New Life).
During the course of our research, we found that there are many problematic points in the Beuys myth. Beuys instrumentalizes the practices attributed to them by the Tatars, ignoring the context of war and occupation. The Crimean Tatars are a mono-Muslim people, most likely, there were no shamans among them, but the main thing is that there was no Tatar community at all in the Krasnogvardeisky district — that is, the Crimean Tatars mentioned in the Beuys myth did not live at the place where Beuys fell and did not practice the rituals described by him. However, in the 20s of Soviet times, Jews were resettled to this barren and sparsely populated steppe land and, according to our data, Boyes fell on the field of the former Jewish collective farm, whose inhabitants were shot by German troops at the very beginning of the occupation.
Numerous inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Beuys myth, as well as the colonial rhetoric of his artistic practice, correlate with the present reality of Crimea as a point of territorial disagreement and of an ambiguous political status. We understood that visiting a disputed territory, building a project around the myth of the German pilot and the colonial rhetoric of this myth, can raise many controversial and uneasy ethical issues. Is creating a work of art a justification for being in a disputed territory? Is it possible to recapture the discourse of power and use it as an artistic strategy, as a way to speak out bypassing restrictions?
The result of our trip was a phygital constructor of the Beuys myth of rebirth. Our mythological field does not aim to be academical, historically correct, but creates a basis for discussion, raises the question of how we can talk about historical traumas in a situation of political tension and censorship and what artistic strategies can be accepted in this case. We are convinced that art is a field of views exchange and on it’s territory the expression of positions should be as safe as possible.
Viewers will experience an interactive experience of living a new myth in a phygital space that connects the real and the virtual. This experience includes both interaction with installations, photographs and video materials, as well as with the artists themselves (and even with the revived Joseph Beuys) and other player-spectators in the virtual space.