CASH: IX Shiryaevo Biennale of Contemporary Art

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НЕЛЯ КОРЖОВА | NELYA KORZHOVA

Nomadic show or what to do when there is nobody to blame

This year's Shiryaevo biennale of contemporary art “between Europe and Asia” is held for the fifth time, as always in August of odd years in a Volga village of Shiryaevo and Samara art galleries. Previous years' themes were “province”, “tactility”, “food”, and “love”.
The theme of 2007 biennale is “Home” as a means of dwelling, as an artist's independent space.
Outlining this independent space allowed to define event's conceptual priorities. It became clear why this event is still alive and is of current interest. Most likely it happened because Shiryaevo biennale is a counterbalance to the common doctrine of “white cube”, which necessity is tended to be understood by artist community.

Basically, this aesthetic doctrine, which captured the whole field of modern art, suited everyone: buyer, gallery owner, museum community and spectator. There is only one problem: it no more suits an artist because this theory makes the whole artistic process orientate to the market. Of course, it would be fine if everyone could continuously derive inspiration and create “new” artistic product, one better than another…
Only then “white cube” would be perceived as a desirable clean sheet and not a PA (Piece of Art) acceptance form. But there are no these PA-s capable of astounding the universe: all artistic community is locked into its own world. An artist is all the time “between”: between institutions and grants, gallery owners and buyers, exhausted by the question – what to do when there is nobody to blame?
Maybe it is better to relax the situation, create conditions when method of dwelling is an artistic value; to shorten the gap between creating and exhibiting a piece of art to dig deep to an artist essence: what is he? what is he inside? does anybody and, primarily, he himself need him? To recall forgotten words about “selfness of a creator unequal to himself”, since an artist as such cannot exist without them.
Moscow conceptualist Dmitry Gutov voiced a pro-active stand as to an artist's place in modern reality by organizing “Straightened” performance discussion by the so named democrat writer Gleb Ouspensky story. Particularly, he said the problem is there are no real “stars” in modern art. Lack of names similar to a deity. In this artist's opinion that should be one “demiurge' whom everyone should adore. He will be the spiritual leader whom one can follow, and this system will resist the market, since we will escape purchase and sale relations and will work with fundamentally different values.
This point of view was also supported by a Moscow artist Yury Albert, who implemented “Blindfold Excursion” performance project in Samara art museum.
An opposite idea was expressed by German and Austrian artists – Hans-Michael Rupprechter, Gero Goertze, Krishna Subramanian, Johan Herbert Schleder, etc., who advocate independent positioning of everyone. This perspective assumes all artists need free expression; art practice is, primarily, a visual impact, a “picture”. And the impression it makes, no matter whether it is a photograph, performance or installation, can “say” more than words. “It is crucial to record everything, shoot videos, take photos,” says, for instance, Hans-Michael Rupprechter, a supervisor of German group of artists, “and then we will be free. Free of words”. That was their consistent position, which was expressed in pieces both, framed by the final show, and not framed ones.
According to our reckoning the theme of “Home” is vital also because modern artists want a kind of shelter, which will give them freedom of stamps and ranks. All want age of freedom to come,

perhaps in a spirit of 1960-es. Nowadays, everybody is equipped with means of communication but these means in no way can replace energy of contact, it just captures it. It is important for us. That's why the main event of our biennale is “nomadic show”, which takes place in the final part of our two-week residence in the village. It is such a “trip”, which is jointly built, and every participant can express himself in a varying degree. The latter depends not only on to what extent one is ready. Rather on to what extent one is charged with energy at that time and is ready to charge others. “Nomadic show” begins from Shiryaevo quay with arrival of a morning ship from Samara. Crowd, consisting of audience, press, artists and inhabitants move along the village from piece to piece and finish their way atop in mountain drifts in the evening.
This year, the show started a French artist Emmanuel Rodoreda with a project called “Inside / Outside”. He presented an object at the quay – a wooden door of a suitcase size, which can be carried by one and opened in any place. This surreal thing that plays with space called up recollections about chilling dream at the end of which there finally was found a way out.
Several minutes walk – and a magnificent project of a St.-Petersburg and German artist Alexei Kostroma “Plumage” waited for us. Inexorably hot sun, village road, and, instead of usual bus-stop, – unexpected paradise – downy bulk of the whitest feathers. And as a continuation of a delusive story in front of it in light stony wrecks the author arranged debunking game of golf. Main names of worldwide contemporary art written on condoms went all to pieces at well-directed spectators' hits.
The crowd moved on to I. Repin's museum.
Half-way the public was stopped by Sabine Pfeiser's “Russian evolution” photo installation. The project placed on Bibliotechnaya street 6 fence snapshoot textbook truth of Russian reality – small shots gave evidence of “little people” life, big ones were about “new-Russian” being.
At the museum scaffold we were awaited by German performance “Home… animal culture of humdrum” of Helen Rein and Iris Helrigel in neon shades of fuchsia and cerulean. Positioning of these artists for Shiryaevo biennale is of utmost importance. Their concept is based on assumption that “contemporary dance (contemporary art) can emerge only in democratic communities, totalitarianism is fraught with folklore, marches, and parades”. Their project expresses idea of freedom implied in the format of “nomadic show”. Helen and Iris did not enter into direct discussion with representatives of Moscow conceptualism but this ideological opposition was obvious. When idea of power vertical in art is opposed to freedom of individuality. Basically either of the authors are against capitalistic serfdom of an artist but some of them see daylight in constructing hierarchic vertical with a “star” leader at the top, while others see it in idea of extrasystemic gesture of everyone. Spontaneous plastic arts are opposed to ceremonial moves, like rock-n-roll is opposed to roundelay or polonaises.
In the course of discussion behind a turn the spectators were awaited by irreproachable work of Diana Machulina “Russian”. In timbered room of a village remake Moscow artist made “living sculpture” of 7 men – “… a spectator is invited to appraise compositional structure of a next to real law of life. Vertical axis is built of beams lying one on another, horizontal axis is made of napes of boors sitting close to each other”. Template of imperial hierarchy of power was superimposed to village housebuilding. But it is still not clear: does the artist criticize this system or she admires it?
One of the best projects was Mare Trall's and Mary Kartau's (Siram) performance “My body is my castle”. Two brutally denuded women bodies on the river bank using as assistants 3 men “of different nationalities” dressed in stockings, read instructions on intimate hygiene in terms of “not allowed”. For instance: periods without tampax – “not allowed”, sex without condom – “not allowed”, and so on. Reading is accompanied by “primitive” pantomime like in a plane. European men “inserted” into Russian weather strips read quotations from constitutions in Estonian, French, and German in parallel. At the end of recitative one of the girls turns out to be enlaced with cotton wool from head to foot. The idea of protection becomes a trap. Discarding the cocoon the girls swim away into the Volga distances. It turns out to be an ironic picture of open corporality, “native nature”, and “difficulties of translation”.
Empty Shiryaevo school has taken fancy of biennale participants for a long time, as an arty space with authentic stalker-like lacunas. The building accumulated stormy artistic life around it both from inside and outside.
“French Pavilion” on a glade under Marlene Perronet supervision evidenced “mega artistic” aspect of a piece of art existence before an artist starts to be chased by a pathology called “Stendhal syndrome”.
Johnny Woker made advances to a cow; Romain Gibert bared duality of reality in a gym by presenting a picture series with elusively duplicated things. Johan Gerbert Schleder hanged on a door of a sick-room “Feverish delirium”, an ironical passage about fitting into other culture. Anna Broche gracefully installed “School Pantheon. Relations”, a series of portraits of school program great persons rethought in a manner of clip perception of present-day pupils. Nata Morozova in “Beneath Petticoat” performance presented her universe machinery when under three-meter frame of women crinoline there was enough space for everybody or those who just came to have some tea.
And as always Hans-Michael Rupprechter, the king of living art, “let get off”. In memory of died friends he broke a huge tomato against his chest and placing stones on old synthesizer he played sarcastic song “House of PR Businessman” in which sequence of “for anything” turned into “to anything”.
Strong charge of freedom was felt in this perversion - when change of positions takes place and the artist of “notes on market and geopolitics margins” rank turns into the life itself. Into the very same source which feeds the trailing cars of fashion, design, political image making.

Wearied by the sun spectators ascended into mountains to see a house on fire set by an artist Balandin and fall into a trance in chilly drifts alongside of German Vinogradov's shamanistic project. And Krishna Subramanian's happening saltations completed the overall picture of “nomadic show”.

Catalog 2007

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