Public-Art Project “Hostility/Hospitality”

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Volgograd and other Russian cities instigated a drive to construct hospitality facilities based on high international standards, but it also posed new challenges to the life of urban communities, occasioning dispute and disruption. The city of Volgograd was significantly rebuilt for the event, with new hotels popping up in places that were once home to parks and recreational areas. Citizens of Volgograd were concerned that the FIFA infrastructure would destroy the city’s public spaces. The negative effects of hospitality gave cause for serious discussions.

Historical processes of migration have made the question of hospitality and hostility especially pressing for the region. In the eighteenth century, German immigrants (Herrnhuters) began coming to Volgograd, and after the Second World War, representatives of all the constituent republics of the Soviet Union travelled to the city to witness the most ambitious Soviet construction project of the post-war period. Between 1945 and 1990, many citizens of the Soviet Union were deported to Kazakhstan, and since the 1990s, many of them have returned to their homes, passing through the territory of the Volgograd region, which is the closest Russian region to the western part of Kazakhstan. Currently, the region has become a new home for Ukrainian refugees from Lugansk and Donetsk, as well as for immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Volgograd, a border and transit city, has been attacked multiple times by terrorists from the North Caucasus, and the fact that the terrorists targeted means and places of transportation, including buses and a railway station, held symbolic weight. The city remains plagued by Islamophobia. The general mood in the city is still defined by war and hostility. The diverse ethnic and religious communities in this most poly-confessional, multinational region of Russia’s south do not interact with each other, generally remaining within their own homogenous enclaves. Nevertheless, the North Caucasus is known around the world for its hospitality: The Caucasian feast is a celebration of Uastyrdzhi, the patron saint of travellers; guests occupy a special, sacred place in Ossetian culture; and in Dagestan, Kunachestvo is a special ritual of forging bonds with foreigners.

Over the course of the project’s ten days, a multitude of site-specific public art projects by young Volgograd artists – both individuals and groups – were implemented in different public spaces throughout the city. The focus lay on participatory and community-based art. Some works were created in a series of workshops, while others were created by the individual artists in their studios; all participants, however, collaborated with the curator and project team. Artists were encouraged to reflect on the concepts of ‘Hostility/Hospitality’ in their pieces.

The second part of the project was held in the North Caucasus region in partnership with the North-Caucasian Centre for Contemporary Art. Members of the Robert Bosch Cultural Managers Network worked with North-Caucasian artists and local communities in order to investigate topics related to hospitality and to compare and contrast Caucasian conceptions of hospitality with those of the West. Two key topics were, first, thinking about hospitality as a technique for establishing relations between local communities and between citizens and newcomers, and, second, the issue of how to deal with the situation of ‘hostage of hospitality’ by turning negative effects into positives. The findings of their research were presented in Volgograd during the Public Art Project.

Partners and sponsors: North-Caucasian branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Art, NGO ‘Project Initiative’

Contact: antonvalkovsky (at)