This story is over 5 years old.


In Berlin, Palace of Peace Exhibit Turns Art Gallery Into Trippy Sci-Fi Spiritual Haven

Artist Viktor Timofeev creates an unusual religious experience involving projection mapping, QR codes, and squid ink gruel.

Transforming galleries into spiritual havens, Latvian artist Viktor Timofeev’s latest performanceThe Palace of Peace and Reconciliationoffers everything from a multimedia lecture to a hearty meal doused in squid ink.

Inspired by the actual Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a pyramid built in Astana to host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, Timofeev has created an imaginative narrative around the palace. Ceremonial in nature, the recent Berlin performance had spooky sounds paired with white candles scattered throughout the gallery, giving it a churchy, occultish vibe. The abstract projections looked like something out of Star Trek. Smoke filled the room. All in all, it was pretty sci fi.


The real Palace of Peace.

The artist calls the whole thing “an experiment.” No rules were set up in the beginning and the performance grew freely. By drawing different collaborators in each city, the show takes us to another dimension by drawing on fictional languages and alternate histories.

A traveling project which started last year, Timofeev is gearing up for the series’ final performance, And Reconciliation, on February 28 at London’s Arcadia Missa. In the meantime, he speaks to us about the Ferengi language and putting links in zines.

Creator’s Project: What is the Palace of Peace?
Victor Timofeev: The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is an umbrella title for a body of work, a personal state of mind, and period of time. I guess one can call it a single "work" or a project, but I prefer the former. This summer, I had an opportunity to organize something at Fitness in Bushwick, Brooklyn and was it was the first place where this world came together. It ended up evolving into a traveling exhibition of an installation that incorporates drawings, texts, sounds, animations and food, and will conclude with the release of a vinyl, CDR, and book artist-object of the same name this spring in London.

When did you start doing this and what inspired it?
It started around early 2012 and is currently wrapping up. I was having some health issues at the time, and was going up to Hunter Mountain, in upstate New York, pretty often to recollect myself and spend time with family after being away for a few years. While there, I found a rendering of the atrium of Norman Foster's planned structure for the city of Astana called The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, in an older copy of Architecture Now!, and just fell into it. The general vibes I was working on felt like they belonged to the world of this rendering, one and the same. It’s funny, I didn't really care about the actual building--I made up my own story about it, the purpose, the vibe of it--which was a lot more interesting and inspiring. Being upstate and in a weakened physical state was an influence. It was also on the heels of completing Neal Stephenson's Anathem, so its residual impact can't be denied!


Parallel to this I was reaching a kind of crisis with my work, realizing that the little experience I had with traditional methods of exhibiting left me pretty unfulfilled; also having arrived at the standard "object crisis". The Palace of Peace format was one of the ways I began to step out of this paralysis.

At your recent performance, you shared sensitive documents. What were they?
The language I use for the invites and Facebook events is standardized - succinct and ambiguous. "Viktor Timofeev… will deliver an audio-visual lecture, share some recent sensitive documents and serve an all-purpose, nutritious gruel with a pasteurised elixir" - it loosely imitates some kind of educational or promotional presentation, or self-help discussion group. I suppose it is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the documents I refer to are drawings, collages, texts and brochures such as this one this one. 

What is in the pamphlets which are available at each performance you do?
The pamphlets are on the one hand a compressed version of the exhibition--press release, map, guide, or whatever and on the other, an extension of it. They are presented inside a typical perspex brochure stand and have been renewed at each event. They came out of wanting to release a handful of CDRs, or DVDs at each show, but opting for something more economically and spatially viable, yet still physical. The brochures have a bunch of links scattered throughout, to mp3s of early takes, b-sides or just new songs from the upcoming release.


What is this recurring image in your performances? 
That is just a flyer image I used for the event at LEAP in Berlin, a 3ds Max doodle that only coincidentally fit the world. Unless you're talking about the black and white animated pictograms I've been projecting on mesh fabric and printing in the brochure, the latter came out of finding out that the Ferengi language is incredibly imaginative and complex. I have a strong interest in icons and pictograms, particularly fictional, idiosyncratic ones; I've built up a small library of them--invented, altered or just borrowed, that I've been dipping in, including for Palace of Peace and other works.

What was in the gruel you served? How is this a part of your piece?
The "gruel", seen here from the Fitness, Bushwick show, and here from the kitchen in LEAP in Berlin before the event, is very much part of the exhibition. It is my way of taking the identity of the world of Palace of Peace to an absurd place, rounding out the multi-sensory experience. It also feeds into this atmosphere I would like to create that, as I mentioned above, loosely mirrors self-help events and educational or promotional or presentations, which are usually followed by receptions with drinks and food. I add squid ink to mashed potatoes, together with nuts, cheese, sugar and eggs to make something that looks pretty alienating, but also nutritious, rich and quite dense.

What was your favourite moment during your Berlin performance?
Collaborating with Felix and Lars from NADA (a side project of Sun Worship) was a definite highlight from the event at LEAP. I've been a big fan of theirs since I discovered one song called Photon from their first release, so I was psyched they were into the event. Generally art and music crossovers can be pretty weird and easily have the potential to go the wrong way.The vibe of the Berlin event went to a place that was pretty unique so far. Felix brought a bunch of bells and acoustic percussive toys--together with the atmospheric black metal sound, and my own stuff, it turned the room into quite a meditative place, which wasn't totally intentional. Like this photo.

Your work has spiritual or otherworldly overtones, is this intentional? If so, what significance does it hold?
Science fiction has provided me with a great deal of escapist channels in the past, so its influence is pretty wide. I do like to approach things with a sense of humour and some degree of reflexivity, but that doesn't stop me from falling into things like fictional languages and alternate histories. We need these others worlds to project into, in the course of our daily lives, even if we aren't entirely convinced by them. There is a balance to be had there that I'm trying to find myself, between one's subjective reality, transformative or transcendent experience, and self-awareness of the mechanisms at work.

You have performed the Palace of Peace in New York, Berlin and Riga. What made the Palace of Peace different in each venue?
I brought some new works to each event, including new collages, projected animations, and brochures. I also invited friends from each place to contribute something, which was all realized in different ways. In New York, there was an after event where some of my friends performed their music, such as Bryce Hackford and Rebecca Gaffney. In Riga, I ended up making some jams after the show at Kanepes Kulturas Centrs in the home of one of my friends, Kaspars Grosevs. During Frieze Week in London, I joined with my friend Umi and put up a mobile version of the event down the street from the fair in her nomadic exhibition venue. In Berlin I invited Nick Jeffrey to contribute a floor piece and a new film. In London, I am collaborating on drawings with Simon Werner, and I invited Cindie Cheung and Clifford Sage to share some recent work.