Garage Museum of Contemporary Art has embarked on the largest-ever survey of art practice across Russia in preparation for the first Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art. Presenting works made by more than 60 artists from across the country, the exhibition captures the zeitgeist of some of the most active and influential figures of the past five years, offering insight into the diversity of social tendencies that constitute the underexplored Russian art scene.
Over the last year, a curatorial team of six has traveled through the country’s eight federal districts, visiting more than 40 cities and towns from the Pacific to the Arctic oceans, crossing eleven time zones, in climates that range from the subtropical to subarctic. Geographically the largest country in the world—it takes eleven hours to fly from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok—Russia is also culturally vast, encompassing more than 200 nationalities and over 100 minority languages. Physically bordering both European and Asian territories, three quarters of the landmass is officially in Asia, but only one fifth of the country’s 146.5 million population lives there.
Working with Garage’s regional network of art practitioners as specialists of each local context, the curators met with over 200 artists, ranging from 19 to 69 years old. From this research they identified seven “vectors,” or tendencies, through which the current art life of the country can be broadly understood. These range from a strong fidelity to place and a drive to create elaborate mythological worlds, to the use of art practice as activism or as a mechanism to participate in international discourse. Often isolated and working in the absence of established cultural infrastructure, what unites the artists is resourcefulness and a powerful belief in art as a way of life.
Seven “vectors” have been identified through which the current art life of the country can be broadly understood. Artists selected for the Triennial are presented according to these tendencies:
These artists have an authoritative artistic language, which extends beyond the place where they live and work. They influence creative life in Russia; form the basis of younger generation’s artistic ideals; and provide examples of a successful career as an artist living and working in the country. Exhibiting artists: Pavel Aksenov, Dmitry Bulatov, Ilgizar Khasanov, Andrei Monastyrsky, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Dmitri Prigov, 33+1.
This section includes artists who have developed complex aesthetic systems through a holistic approach to art practice that goes beyond stylistic boundaries. The rich visual worlds they create employ all available means of expression, often reflecting on existing myths about Russia—or “Russianness”—that live in the collective consciousness of the nation. At other times, the highly introspective worlds of these artists serve as an escape, or a refuge, from the ordinary course of daily life.
Exhibiting artists: Evgeny Antufiev, Vladimir Arkhipov, Alexander Bayun-Gnutov, Gentle Women group, Micro-art-group Gorod Ustinov, Anfim Khanykov, Damir Muratov, Nikolai Panafidin, Pavel Pepperstein, Alexander Povzner, Mikhail Smaglyuk, Albert Soldatov, Olga Subbotina and Mikhail Pavlukevich, Dimitri Venkov.
Fidelity to Place
The theme of “place” and the specific nature of each context and history of geography might easily be termed intransient. Within the Russian multicultural context, this way of thinking occupies a special position. The diversity of the country and the consequent logistical difficulties—alongside the rich historical context—inspire artists to reflect on that which can be found close to hand, seeking meaning in their surroundings. Exhibiting artists: Anastasia Bogomolova, Ilya Dolgov, Aslan Gaisumov, Kirill Garshin, Evgeny Ivanov, Anna Kabisova and Evgeny Ivanov, Murad Khalilov, Taus Makhacheva, Alexander Matveev, Sergey Poteryaev, Vladimir Seleznyov, Andrey Syailev.
This section brings together artists working with the international language of contemporary art, thus requiring no “translation” in terms of common cultural understanding. In their work, these practitioners refer to themes such as collective memory, strategies of communication, artificial intelligence, or human suffering in ways that can be understood beyond the nation state or individual identification. Exhibiting artists: Agency of Singular Investigations (Stanislav Shuripa, Anna Titova), Danil Akimov, Victor Alimpiev, BlueSoup group, Evgeny Granilshchikov, Kirill Makarov, Roman Mokrov, Mayana Nasybullova, Ivan Novikov, Alexandra Paperno, Anna Parkina, Sasha Pirogova, Sveta Shuvaeva, Elena Slobtseva, Alexandra Sukhareva, Zaurbek Tsugaev, Where Dogs Run, Anton Zabrodin, ZIP group.
Art in Action
Many artists are driven by the lived, sociopolitical realities that they experience. They make innovative use of public space, working with relevant themes and calling communities to action. This vector is divided into three sections that reflect the most pressing concerns of artists now: the street as a platform for change, social drawing, and feminist agendas. Exhibiting artists: Chto Delat, Genda Fluid (Antonina Baever), Alexey Iorsh, Victoria Lomasko, Artem Loskutov, Nadenka creative association, Katrin Nenasheva, Anastasia Potemkina, Shvemy sewing cooperative, Urbanfeminism, Alisa Yoffe.
In places where there is limited institutional support and a lack of opportunities to create and show work, many artists turn to street art as a creative practice. In this habitat, there is an endless resource for artists to focus on urban issues such as the destruction of historic buildings and insensitive use of advertising within the cityscape. Exhibiting artists: Kirill Lebedev (Kto), Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai, TOY, Udmurt, ZLYE art group.
Local Histories of Art
Recognizing that the Triennial ultimately takes place in Moscow, in Gorky Park, in Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, which is contrary to many culturally- or site-specific ways of working across the country, this section adds a corrective to the broad and diverse visual display of practices in the capital city, by making space for an open-ended, discursive platform that expands both participation in and the perspectives of the exhibition. Every two weeks, for the duration of the Triennial, artists, philosophers, curators, museum staff, and art historians from across the country expand on the art scene in Russia's disparate cities and regions through a series of events that include lectures, performances, actions, and music. Participants: Leyly Aslanova Oksana Budulak Guzel Faizrakhmanova Artem Filatov Tamara Galeyeva Alexander Gorodniy Sergey Gorshkov Elena Kasimova Natalia Matveeva Marina Pugina Ekaterina Sharova Svetlana Shlyapnikova Konstantin Skotnikov Sergei Spirikhin Aleksei Trubetskov Olesya Turkina Maria Udovydchenko Anton Valkovsky Konstantin Zatsepin
The Triennial takes place in the Museum and the surrounding area of Gorky Park. For the opening of the exhibition, all participating artists were invited to Moscow to facilitate the development of a country-wide, peer-to-peer network. Responding to the lack of resources available to many artists, the project involves a number of newly-commissioned works, as well as new installations to provide a context for works. Reflecting the diversity and specificity of the local histories of art in each region, a weekly program of lectures, roundtable discussions, screenings, and performances by artists, historians, curators, and activists from across the country provides first-hand information on culture at large.
In advance of the exhibition, Garage developed a web-based directory of contemporary Russian artists and local art scenes. The first iteration presents information based on the curators’ research trips, according to region. A multi-phase project, the website will then evolve into a comprehensive, nationwide resource in both Russian and English.
Launched in early 2017—the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution—the website and Triennial is Garage’s contribution to the centenary celebrations. Rather than looking back, however, the Museum is looking to the future. Just as the Revolution encouraged Russia’s first Avant-Garde, Garage is looking to spur the next.
Garage Triennial is the newest development in an extensive program that the Museum is undertaking to build stronger infrastructure for contemporary Russian art, ranging from the Garage Artists’ Grant program to the establishment of Garage Archive in 2012. Consisting of materials from the 1950s to the present day, the Archive is the resource from which a number of exhibitions, conferences, and publishing projects make the complex history of contemporary Russian art—what historically has been known as unofficial or underground art—more widely understood.
Coinciding with the Triennial, and bridging the gap between past and present, a second exhibition, Toward the Source involves an intergenerational group of five Russian practitioners (Olga Chernysheva, Vyacheslav Kuritsyn, Vladimir Logutov, Andrei Monastyrsky, and Kirill Savchenkov) who are making new work in response to one aspect of the Archive that they find compelling. Historically, artists have been the key protagonists in establishing and building archives, but rarely those who draw from the source that is their own collective history.
Also having opened at the same time was a Garage Atrium Commission by Irina Korina (b. 1977, Moscow). One of the leading emerging voices of the current art scene, Korina produced a three-floor, towering structure referencing the distinctively eclectic urban landscape of Moscow. In describing the concept of her new work, the artists says: “It is about the feeling of frustration which arises from longing for something you will never see or achieve, and the notion of the desired future confronted with the surrounding reality.”
THE FIRST GARAGE TRIENNIAL OF RUSSIAN CONTEMPORARY ART
March 10–May 14, 2017
Triennial Commissioner: Kate Fowle, Garage Chief Curator.
Garage Triennial Curatorial team:
Katya Inozemtseva, Snejana Krasteva, Andrey Misiano (Garage Exhibitions Department); Ilmira Bolotyan, Sasha Obukhova, Tatiana Volkova (Garage Archive Department)
Exhibiting artists: Agency of Singular Investigations (Stanislav Shuripa, Anna Titova), Danil Akimov, Pavel Aksenov, Victor Alimpiev, Evgeny Antufiev, Vladimir Arkhipov, Alexander Bayun-Gnutov, BlueSoup group, Anastasia Bogomolova, Dmitry Bulatov, Chto Delat, Ilya Dolgov, Aslan Gaisumov, Kirill Garshin, Genda Fluid (Antonina Baever), Gentle Women group, Micro-art-group Gorod Ustinov, Evgeny Granilshchikov, Alexey Iorsh, Evgeny Ivanov, Anna Kabisova and Evgeny Ivanov, Murad Khalilov, Anfim Khanykov, Ilgizar Khasanov, Kirill Lebedev (Kto), Victoria Lomasko, Artem Loskutov, Kirill Makarov, Taus Makhacheva, Alexander Matveev, Roman Mokrov, Andrei Monastyrsky, Damir Muratov, Nadenka creative association, Mayana Nasybullova, Katrin Nenasheva, Ivan Novikov, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Nikolai Panafidin, Alexandra Paperno, Anna Parkina, Pavel Pepperstein, Sasha Pirogova, Anastasia Potemkina, Sergey Poteryaev, Alexander Povzner, Dmitri Prigov, Vladimir Seleznyov, Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai, Sveta Shuvaeva, Shvemy sewing cooperative, Elena Slobtseva, Mikhail Smaglyuk, Albert Soldatov, Olga Subbotina and Mikhail Pavlukevich, Alexandra Sukhareva, Andrey Syailev, TOY, Zaurbek Tsugaev, Udmurt, Urbanfeminism, Dimitri Venkov, Where Dogs Run, Alisa Yoffe, Anton Zabrodin, ZIP group, ZLYE art group, and 33+1.
Russian Regional Districts: Central, Southern, Northwestern, Far Eastern, Siberian, Ural, Volga, and North Caucasus