Theatrum Orbis, a new exhibition conceived and created for the Russian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, features artists Grisha Bruskin, Recycle Group and Sasha Pirogova alongside contemporary Russian composers.
The exhibition title – translated as ‘Theatre of the World’ – takes its name from Abraham Ortelius’ atlas published in Antwerp in 1570. Marking an epoch in the history of cartography, it was the first modern atlas to unite knowledge and experience across science and culture accumulated during the Age of Discovery.
Theatrical in its concept and form, the exhibition includes sculpture, installation, video and sound across three emotively connected parts. Visitors follow a narrative throughout the pavilion, first encountering Bruskin’s installation of figurative white sculptures; then, on descending the stairs and passing through a labyrinth, further rooms contain works by Recycle Group and Pirogova. While Bruskin represents a long-established generation of Russian artists, Recycle Group and Pirogova come from a new post-digital era engaged with technology.
Grisha Bruskin’s installation Scene Change, is as implacably regulated as the wheels of a universal clockwork, where two reciprocally remote historical times, Antiquity and Modernity, meet and clash in a series of eloquent images according to the ancient rules of the “art of memory”. This uncanny landscape, marked by tens and tens of figures, represents the contradictory nature of power, incarnated by a mechanised hybrid: the two-headed bird. Dolls, dummies, hybrids and androids give shape to the threat of international terrorism, while soldiers with binoculars, drones and archaic idols equipped with antennae and radars pursue the idea of a “transparent” world where they can monitor and spy on human masses. From the ancient “art of memory” – a millenary process of organisation of different languages, Bruskin took up the ambition to create a Magnum Opus, to melt our contemporary age in the crucible of a timeless alchemist.
Video artist Pirogova focuses on motion and its capacities by exploring the territory between theatre, ritual, performance and dance to transform rational movements into metaphors. Garden is a performative video telling a story of eternal life, death and immortality expressed through notions of darkness and light. Darkness is not meant as a horrifying matter, but as a lack of light, which in turn means it has the potential to be enlightened and the human being is a source of light.
Commedia delle arti is a new work from contemporary composer Kourliandski consisting of an interactive and performative sound installation. From the façade of the building plays Commedia dell’ascolto recorded by leading Russian musicians. At the entrance to the Pavilion, visitors can pick-up ‘score-instructions’ that can be followed to create a dialogue between the artist, visitor and outside world.
About the Russian Pavilion
The Russian Pavilion in the Giardini in Venice was designed by Alexei Shchusev and ceremonially opened by Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia in 1914. Russian artists have been participating in the Biennale from the first Venice Exhibition of 1895 and since, over 800 Russian artists have participated from leading names like Repin, Malevich and Kabakov to emerging artists. Semyon Mikhailovsky was appointed Commissioner of the Russian Pavilion at the art and architecture Venice Biennales in 2016 and will hold the post until 2021. The Russian Pavilion is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Russia and ROSIZO. The core funding for the project comes from private sponsorship.