Play SMBA 3 - Debates on Division: When the Private Becomes Public

Interactive performance and a public procession by Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya), curated by Anna Bitkina

Tuesday, April 26, 7.00 p.m. - 9.00 p.m.

Please RSVP before April 25 via e-mail:

On April 26, a new version of ‘Debates on Division’ will be presented at SMBA as part of the Play SMBA program. Adapted to the local context of Amsterdam, the performance takes the current refugee crisis as its point of departure. The project ‘Debates on Division’, first presented at the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theater in 2014 in St. Petersburg as part of Manifesta 10’s public program, was developed as a collaboration between curator Anna Bitkina and artist Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya). The idea was to provide a nomadic and discursive platform for the voices of those who have become victimized by “the system”, collectively reflecting upon and analyzing current local socio-political conflicts and their global implications.

In her artistic projects, Gluklya is guided by the principle that ‘the place of the artist is on the side of the vulnerable’, opening up spaces in which the voices of non-artists, non-heroes, non-local, and ‘the other’ can be heard. At SMBA, the debates unfold around three stories of migrants and recent refugees from Syria and Azerbaijan that currently live in Amsterdam, as they speak about pieces of clothing significant to their experience. Addressing the personal stories of her characters, Gluklya analyses the relationship between the private and the public, exposing the conflict between the inner world of these individuals and the political system that categorizes them as 'selected' or 'non-selected'. Through the foregrounding of the poetic and dramatic dimensions of these stories, ques-tions surrounding current migrant policy in The Netherlands will be raised: Who decides on the status of current refugees and long-term residents without a legal status? Based on what requirements could they stay in the Netherlands? If they have to leave the country, where should - or could - they go?

The performance is organized as a TV talk show, comprising a show host, a group of experts, and the audience, and concluding with a procession to a public space. Theorist and critic Denis Maksimov- who previously performed in Gluklya’s show ‘Garden of Vigilant Clothes’, in the Akinci gallery, Amsterdam - will host the debates at SMBA, serving as a mediator between the audience, the participants, and a select panel of experts invited to comment on and evaluate the presented stories. Covering a cross-section of disciplines, the confirmed experts include: Gabrielle Schleijpen, director of The Dutch Art Institute; Nicoline van Harskamp, artist; Steven Pemberton, researcher at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica; Katya Krupennikova, curator; Nehad Abboudi, computer engineer; Ebel Kemeling, strategy advisor and business initiator; and Irina Souch, professor of literature, among others. Their commentary and expertise will be drawn upon to help formulate a more complex socio-political picture of contemporary Netherlands, as well as to look at the position of migrants and refugees in Europe on both local and global scales.

‘Debates on Division’ builds on Gluklya's previous project the ‘Museum of Utopian Clothes’, started in 2012. The museum – which aimed to bridge the gap between the government and citizens by facilitating self-organiztion - proposed a new institutional format, which both honoured and respected the position of the individual, and the social and historical value of their stories. At ‘Play SMBA 3 - Debates on Division’, the audience will be invited to take part in discussion, add to the experts’ comments, and place their vote. This collective selection of historical artefacts for the ‘Museum of People’, will bring the process of building a museum collection – collaboratively, transparently and democratically - to life.

The staging of the project at SMBA will contain performative, audio and video elements, as well as pieces of clothing with conceptual significance organized as an installation. A film documenting the projects previous iteration - the St Petersburg version - will also feature, allowing for connections between past and ongoing aspects of the performance to be made. The debates will conclude with a procession, carrying the ‘utopian clothes’ on sticks from the museum to an open public place – the Dam square. During this journey, the dis-cussion about migration policy and its recent changes will continue, seeking to gain mo-mentum by inviting surrounding members of the public and passes-by to join the conversation.


Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya (artist name: Gluklya) is based in St. Petersburg and Amsterdam. She is represented by Akinci gallery in Amsterdam. Her installation ‘The Clothes for the Demonstration Against False Vladimir Putin Election 2011-2015’ was presented at the last year’s Venice Biennial in the exhibition ‘All the World’s Futures’, curated by Okwui Enwezor. More info: YouTube,, and


Anna Bitkina is an independent curator, director and co-founder of The Creative Association of Curators TOK, an art organization based in St. Petersburg that initiates and curates large-scale projects of contemporary art in Russia and abroad. Since 2010, TOK conducts interdisciplinary projects in the fields of contemporary art, 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. In her curatorial practice, Anna Bitkina focuses on socially and politically engaged art as well as on issues related to public spaces. In her projects she explores the changing role of artists and curators, and possibilities presented by creative practices in different social spheres.


Denis Maksimov is a theorist, art critic, curator and political analyst. He researches the complex relations between aesthetics and power in various fields. Maksimov has been working in political expertise since 2006 in Moscow, and has continued the practice in Brussels where he has been living since 2009. Maksimov transitioned into the art scene after mov-ing to Belgium. He is a co-founder of Avenir Institute (, and associate curator at Harlan Levey Projects ( His recent projects were presented in the de Brakke Grond Arts Centre in Amsterdam, Marres House for Contem-porary Culture in Maastricht, in the context of the 56th Venice Biennale 'All the Worlds' Futures', Off Biennale Cairo 'Something Else', Sao Paulo Matilha Cultural, Brussels Pop-positions Fair, etc.


Image: Gluklya, 'Debates on Devision: When the Private Becomes Public', 2014, drawing of a silent procession along Nevskiy Prospect, St Petersburg. © Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya).