Jura Shust, Neophyte III: On the Eve of the Shortest Night, 2023, still

Management is pleased to premiere Neophyte III: On The Eve of the Shortest Night, the third installment in Berlin-based artist Jura Shust’s Neophyte Project, at LOOP Fair.

The Neophyte Project (2019 - ongoing) is a multimedia project that delves into the profound connection between the human psyche and the natural world in conditions of socio-political crisis.

For the newest installment in the Neophyte Project, Shust immerses viewers in his interpretation of the Slavic Summer Solstice celebration, Kupala Night. In Neophyte III, young Belarusian refugees in Poland perform a ritualistic procession at the Belarusian border dedicated to the archaic notion of temporal circularity, traversing fire and water, and melding with pine resin, the ancient quintessence of vitality and rebirth.

Neophyte I (2019) captures young people wandering in the woods searching for the mythical Fern Flower. According to the Slavic legend, a Fern Flower blooms once a year on the night of Ivan Kupala (a traditional Slavic holiday related to the Summer Solstice celebration). In line with the myth, the one who finds the mythical flower will fulfill his/her innermost wishes and will get the ability to see all buried treasures. Therefore, the video analogizes the pursuit of the mythical flower with the popular in Eastern Europe drug trafficking method called 'zakladka', using digital anonymizers to spread prohibited substances.

Neophyte II (2021) was filmed during the crackdown of the Belarusian uprising, at the time when the protests morphed from public gatherings to clandestine partisan activities. Neophyte II features a group of Belarusian Zoomers that find themselves in a parallel reality of a forest. Accompanied by an artist who is both a mediator and a cameraman, young people explore decentralized nature by performing a series of rituals, referencing both pagan myths and the aimless pastimes of modern youth: they make drawings on the ground, burn a tree stump, sing in unison and beating each other with nettle decoding burns to predict the future afterward. As a shelter for magical and partisan forces, the forest becomes a place of protection, the territory of nonlinearity and freedom.

Jura Shust explores the relationship between ritual and escapism. Intrigued by semantic polysemy, informational intoxication, and ubiquitous aspiration for transcendent, he reflects on how the mythological overlaps with the technological. The sacral idea of incorporating the human mind into a global network, with its tendency for decentralization, inspires the artist to redefine the concept of spiritual ecology. As a metaphor for a parallel world, the artist sees a forest as a shelter for magical and partisan forces, a space of non-linearity and freedom. Based on scientific research, Shust’s practice merges sculpture, video, and installation to construct mental landscapes illuminated by ethnoreligious beliefs and flooded by biopolitical intentions.

Jura Shust (*1983, Belarus) lives and works in Berlin. Since 2012, Shust has exhibited at institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, GfZK (Leipzig, DE), Badischer Kunstverein (Karlsruhe, DE), Contemporary Art Museum S.M.A.K. (Ghent, BE), EXILE (Vienna, AT), Calvert 22 Foundation (London, UK), Blaffer Art Museum (Houston, US), Management (New York, US), Museum de Domijnen (Sittard, NL), Mystetskyi Arsenal (Kyiv, UA), Tranzit.sk (Bratislava, SK), Arsenal Gallery (Białystok, PL) and other galleries. He also participated in the 14th Baltic Triennial, CAC (Vilnius, LT), and the 4th Art Encounters Biennial (Timișoara, RO). Shust will present new work at the Gwangju Biennial in 2024.

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