From March 10th until May 14th The Garage Museum located in Moscow’s Gorky Park, is holding the Triennial of Moscow Contemporary Art. Coinciding with a centenary of the Russian Revolution, this exhibition brings together artists from across Russia, including the Crimea, and is the museum’s contribution to the centenary celebrations, looking forward into Russia’s present and future, instead of back into the past as is often done on anniversaries. The idea behind it is to create a network of young contemporary artists across the country, promote inclusivity, and give artists who have a lesser access to resources and opportunities the chance to exhibit their work at a leading Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. While working with artists across the huge Russian landmass, there is no unified theme that easily links them all in one thread or idea. However, the curators decided to display the art in seven thematically organised sections, which they feel broadly encapsulate themes present in Russian art practice today. ‘Master Figure’ centres on artists who have had major influence over a local art scene or artistic tendency, while ‘Art in Action’ promotes the nascent Russian activist movement among artists. Other vectors include ‘Fidelity to Place’, which as Director Anton Belov states,
seems at first to be a localised project, but in fact covers global issues that are not restricted by their geography. ‘Personal Mythologies’ explores myths surrounding ‘Russianness’. ‘Common Language’ utilises the international history of art to examine themes that could be explored all over the world. The remaining two vectors are ‘Local Histories of Art’, which expands the Triennial beyond the Garage itself by inviting speakers from across the country to give lectures and performances, and ‘Street Morphology’, which represent the street art that is prevalent throughout Russia, and gives Russian artists who have minimal resources available to them an opportunity to display their art. Whilst currently there are just seven vectors, Belov has voiced the idea that in the future there may be more or less, depending on how the Russian art will be evolving and changing. This exhibition is the first step of many that the Garage Museum is taking in order to strengthen the infrastructure for contemporary art across Russia. Alongside the opening of this exhibition the gallery will hold a series of lectures and conferences, as well as expanding artists’ grants and the museum’s archive collection. It is also worth to observe that each visitor receives a small free catalogue with the artists’ biographies and descriptions providing conceptual and historical background to their work. So far, the catalogue is only in Russian but we hope that future catalogues might be bilingual or at least contain some snippets of useful information in English. The Garage Triennial of Moscow Contemporary Art is a project of inclusion. At its centre is a three-storey structure
designed by the artist Irina Korina. The Tail Wags the Comet represents ‘the frustration of longing for something you will never see or achieve and the notion of a desired future that is met with nothing but mundane reality’. Korina took her inspiration in part from the building itself, which had been left to ruin before becoming the Garage Museum in 2015. Korina’s work tands across two floors at the centre of the Garage Museum, and thus whilst her sculpture does not belong to one particular vector, it provides a doorway into the exhibition itself by connecting its various planes and aspects. Belov noted that ‘she is excluded from the project of Triennial, but at the same time she is at its core… we are talking about inclusion, everybody is separate but she becomes the heart of the project’. Korina’s work is not just included in the Garage; she is also taking part in the Biennale in Venice this year, thus showing the inclusion of Russian art into the Western market. She has also recently become part of Hans Ulrich Obrist’ post-it based curatorial project.
One of the key aims of the Garage Triennial is to create an infrastructure that allows audiences from all over the world to access some of the most recent and relevant forms of Russian art and get in touch with Russian artists. Likewise, as part of the Triennial, Garage is currently hosting the work of Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. ‘My age, your age and the age of the rainbow’ is Rondinone’s first project in Russia, and consists in part of a fence made up of rainbows drawn by 1,500 different children from across Russia, including children with varying disabilities, as well as a ten-metre long rainbow on the roof spelling out ‘Our Magic Hour’. The work as a whole brings a strong message of inclusion on many levels. It gives Russian children the unique opportunity to be included in the Garage Triennial of Moscow Contemporary Art, whilst the rainbow, which brings happiness and light through the rain, sits at a contradiction with a fence, a symbol of exclusion. Currently there is a great deal of tension between Russia and the West. However, as both Korina and Rondinone have shown, artists are ready and keen to work within both the Western and Eastern market, and expand this message of inclusion throughout the art world.
As is always the case with contemporary art, new forms and themes are developed and explored, and Garage is no different in this respect. Garage has an impressive archive, and Toward the Source invites artists to use it to create a new work or interpretation based on their archival discoveries. The aim of this exhibition is to bridge the gap between past and present, allowing the current artist to reflect the archival artist in their new work. This has provided a new challenge to the already very established artists involved. For Olga Chernysheva, the archival project was not something she was initially drawn to, as it seemed that to work within an archive would mean working within an already constructed framework, and as an artist she was more interested in the shift between different forms of art, and what is seen as art and what is not. However, the discovery of letters from art collector and archivist Leonid Talochkin during the 1990’s changed her perspective. Her interest grew when she discovered that the writer of these letters was in fact still alive, and was very happy to contribute to this project. The letters, which are on display at the exhibition alongside Chernysheva’s video screens, seemed to her to be isolated, a sort of forgotten social commentary of the 1990’s. For her the project became about time, and times or experiences in your life that are already isolated from you. For Chernysheva, art is an opportunity to look at yourself, and this project enabled her to look at the 1990’s with a new perspective. She found that when she tried to view some old films from that era, they were no longer in the correct format to be viewed, and so had themselves become objects of an archive. As well as giving a new collaborative aspect to archival work, Toward the Source allows artists of today the opportunity to reflect back on work from the Soviet era and the more turbulent 1990’s, as Russia this year look at the last 100 years as a whole. The Triennial not only presents the audience with an opportunity to see some of the most current artwork from across Russia, but also the opportunity to explore a huge variety of themes and techniques, covering a wide range of issues. These range from the Shevmy sewing cooperative’s performance 12-Hour Workday, which raises awareness of the conditions faced by clothes factory workers in Russia, to Katrin Nenasheva’s Punishment, which sheds light on Soviet corrective psychiatry and social justice through her twenty one day journey around Moscow with a metal bed frame on her back, to Danil Akimov’s sound art installation exploring the sounds of gender. This exhibition not only succeeds in bringing different artists, themes and techniques together in a cohesive and well-constructed exhibition, but also gives an interesting insight into the less explored side of how Russians view themselves, their country and the world around them.