V–A–C Foundation announces GES-2 opening date and site-specific project by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.

GES-2. Rendering © RPBW

Following the international conference ‘Discovering GES-2’ in Moscow on 29th October, V–A–C Foundation is excited to announce that its future home, GES-2, will open in September 2020 with a site-specific project by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.

V–A–C was first established in Moscow in 2009 by Leonid Mikhelson and Teresa Iarocci Mavica and has produced a constant calendar of exhibitions, live performances, sociocultural programmes as well as co-produced projects with partners from across the world since its inception. The Foundation has cultural production at the heart of its mission.

GES-2 is a disused power station dating back to 1907, located on Bolotnaya Embankment on the Balchug island in the centre of Moscow. V–A–C Foundation acquired the main building and surrounding area in 2014 and commissioned Renzo Piano Building Workshop to design a major new cultural destination for the city of Moscow. The main building is being transformed into an open-plan activity area and will also serve as a sheltered walkway for pedestrians. GES-2 will feature spaces for exhibitions, performative and learning programmes as well as a 420-seat, glass-front playhouse overlooking a birch grove. The complex will also include a library, a shop, cafés and a restaurant, and a residency block. GES-2 will be energy efficient via the use of solar panels and a system that collects and recycles rainwater. A historic vaulted redbrick structure on the site (a former Smirnoff vodka warehouse) will be transformed into an open workshop facility for the creative community, becoming GES-2’s centre for experimentation and cultural production.

Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976, Reykjavik) is an internationally acclaimed performance artist, whose work explores emotional states: sorrow, melancholy and loneliness as well as deep love and the power of joy. He uses music — scoping such distant genres as pop, punk, folk and opera — and theatrical props, costumes and scenery for extended performances (often lasting several hours), which employ repetition to achieve a monotonous and, at the same time, transfixing and bewitching effect.

V–A–C has invited Kjartansson to occupy the whole of GES-2 for the inaugural six month period. Entitled ‘Santa Barbara’, his project will involve a series of interconnected exhibitions, film screenings, music programmes and learning activities as well as a TV studio set. His intervention will be developed around Santa Barbara, the first American telenovela to be broadcast on Russian TV and the country’s longest-ever running soap opera. The popularity of Santa Barbara in Russia coincided with the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the country’s transition to a different economic, social and cultural framework. It has been suggested that the country’s immersion in Santa Barbara played an important role in shaping the first generation of post-Soviet Russians. Fascinated by the emotional power of soap operas and the impact of Santa Barbara’s extended and repetitive narrative centred on rich families in California and their struggles for love, power and money, Kjartansson set himself the task of building makeshift TV studio sets throughout the main building. This gigantic stage will be used to re-enact live and film on camera the episodes of Santa Barbara that were televised in Russia between 1992 and 2002. This enterprising task highlights the artist’s obsession with the act of staging, the cultural impact of clichés and the practical impossibility of re-staging 1,823 episodes in a limited timeframe.