CASH: IX Shiryaevo Biennale of Contemporary Art




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Back 2011: Strangers creative lab


“Strangers: between Europe and Asia”

The choice of topic is dictated by conflicting sentiments in different layers of society and the ambiguous position of contemporary art in it.Despite the fact that contemporary art is being actively promoted at various levels of life, for most people it still remains a foreign phenomenon.In Russian, "a stranger" is not "an alien", but the one who came from a different "country", or rather from the "other side", from an unknown side, possibly from the other side of the moon. And, of course, he is "strange", meaning "incomprehensible."
The ability of adherents of contemporary art to doubt everything, and especially themselves, but to realize the regular volatility, as a new constant, is an attempt to reincarnate without destroying themselves.August 20 was the date of the Nomadic Show of the 7th Shiryaevo Biennale "Strangers: between Europe and Asia." Three ships of spectators have arrived.  We showed everything that we’d done during our 2 weeks stay in Shiryaevo - 28 new works.By itself, the experience of a small group of new values’ carriers, who enter the territory of the "reserves", with a commitment to the tradition and folklore of the Soviet past, intricately fused with "new Russian" way of life, is a courageous action.In the Russian village there are its own "taboos" and therefore it is extremely important for artists to establish communication with the local mental layer, to talk about common problems.Why did everybody become “strange” to each other?How did we all get into the system of total control?How does regulation of action arrest our minds?Right now, when I’m writing these lines, I feel it is especially vivid.It is impossible to express the passion through the pressing of a pen. There’s no pen. Your touching the keyboard should be soft. Handwriting is not easy to disappear. The correction of actions entails the correction of meanings. It is reflected particularly strong on the artists of contemporary art, as they often use new technologies. There appears a dissonance between a revolutionary thought and a constant physical constraint. It's like a total militaristic discipline, but in a more rigid form. This rigidity has taken a strange form of softness - being angry, a soldier may march harder and this informal statement will help him to win. And if you want to be friends with the system, you should put a card in the ATM in the same smooth motion…In this situation of the global discipline the artist's body, as a carrier of non-verbal expressions, loses energy.The format of the creative laboratory in Shiryaevo aims to release (at least temporary) the artist from the universal dogma of coded actions. A bright example was "People Detector" - the work of Greta Weibull and Klas Eriksson. It is important to note that this creative team has developed spontaneously in Shiryaevo and this was their first work. From the beginning, they were interested in the system of pass and control, they wanted to make a paraphrase of a performance by Marina Abromovich – to pass the viewers between their naked bodies, turned their backs to each other. However, after several days of living there the authors changed the shape of the project, probably realizing that only the naked body will attract attention in the village area. As a result, they managed to create the incredibly explicit project, which showed a marvelous readiness of people for inspection. Dressed in the uniform of peace officers, the artists built an obedient queue, which was passed through a narrow slit of "detectors." Unfortunately, this framework, implemented in all sectors of our life, has quietly become a symbol of the everyday routine. Why, being for the first time in a foreign country, even in the relaxed atmosphere of the summer village, with its deliberate and dispensable lifestyle, young Europeans put forward a system of inspection as the most acute and fresh impression? It is unlikely that this is the attitude to Russia specifically, although the reasons are more than enough. More likely it is a basic knowledge of today's global system."People Detector" met visitors near the pier, at the time of entry onto the territory of art, clearly marking "the other" area. A merry and unbridled couple of policemen showed their complete freedom of action in contrast to the forced waiting of the crowd. No, they were not rude, they just announced a smoke break or went for beer, and in general they were delicately “rude”.The other work of Greta Weibull and Klas Eriksson "Public Whisper" adds the story of the Russian gas pipe as if going nowhere and coming from nowhere to the subject of control and people.An artist from Kazakhstan Erbosyn Meldibekov shows the opposite mental outlook. The graffiti in the swamp - "Susanin."Only one word is inscribed on the green duckweed covering the surface pond - Susanin. Meter letters reveal the dark depths of the pond. The Brutality of hand indicates the width of the board used as a pen. There reveals the deep layer of experience that involves, above all, understanding of eternity and weakness of humans before nature. The exact combination of verbal and nonverbal values is found. In front of your eyes algae begin to swallow the inscription. And you have time to remember the details of the historic event, the name of which is vanishing in front of your eyes, you may even hear the same-titled opera, revealing the abyss of revenge where Susanin brought conquerors to the depths of the forest, where there was no way back. Erbol surprisingly revealed common pagan origins of Russian and Kazakh mentality. Old Kazakh cemeteries can be remembered. Suddenly appearing in the desert, from a distance they resemble a real city, only smaller. And there is the name of the owner on each house-mausoleum.
Perhaps “People Detector” and “Susanin” reveal the main vectors of the Nomadic show of the year: the generation of culture in the public consciousness and its usage.
A young artist Ihrman Ingela in her work addresses the theme of animals as eternity, with its constant transformation and immutability. Human has too little time to see and understand the integrity of life. And if he finds himself in the skin of an animal, other knowledge can be instantly assumed. You can understand what water is only when you enter water. In tunnels, Ingel showed "the Zoological Museum in Shiryaevo", taking the form of a goat. Indeed, there are a lot of goats in Shiryaevo and they often use the tunnel as shelter from the summer heat. In the twilight of the cave the animal bleated piteously, gazing at the strangers. But, despite the possibility to guess that the animal costume was made of grass stalks, a sense of facing a paranormal phenomenon remained very noticeable.
Kalle Brolin and Kristina Müntzing in the installation “Strike" presented the theater of shadows, where children played a leading role. Young actors had to work, holding huge letters above their heads. But they are set to strike and are not willing to obey. After some fuss and confusion, the audience can read the word CTAYKA, as if growing out of children's silhouettes; the print and the name explicitly copy the intro of Eisenstein’s film.The artists saw their task in connecting the idea and the image of resistance.For this very purpose they suggest to take a look at our children like at others, pushing their silhouettes aside behind the screen. In the beginning, the authors wanted to make a performance at night to strengthen the dramatic effect of the situation and probably draw a parallel with the feeling of terror, caused by a pram rolling down the hill in Eisenstein's film.Later they decided to make a performance in the daylight. The sun played the role of a stage spotlight, as if legalizing certain forms of child compulsion, which turned the work into the direction of philosophical understanding of life of the next generation and our own mortality.The performance "Prayer" by Elena Dendiberja and Anatoly Haiduk looked very cinematic.Being under the spell of creative work of the director Sergei Paradzhanov, the artists chose a tree as a cult hero of the action. The tree as a metaphor of the road, as a way to reach another world - a common motif of Slavic beliefs and rituals associated with death. Beautiful Helen was sitting on the branches in a white dress, pulling down on the ground like an unfolded scroll ten meters long. A man wrote a Georgian prayer on the hem of the dress in red wine.After he finished writing, the girl went down to the ground, leaving the dress on the branches.Thinking about strangers the phenomenon of cinema (or video, as a derivative phenomenon) can be considered as an indicator of reality perception, where life itself instead of its semblance bursts into art together with cinema.I found it interesting in the Russian village atmosphere to show videos on TV, which is the most expensive part of the furniture, about the strike in 2007 in Paris against the Sarkozy’s regime, where black women demanded recognition of their rights.For me a very important question is to what extent I (and my fellow artists) may assume the land where we have been conducting Shiryaevo Biennale for 12 years as ours. Some  villagers provide us full support, while others say they do not want to tolerate art which is strange to them.I remember when we first arrived at Shiryaevo with a group of friends to hold the first creative laboratory, out of which the tradition of the Biennale grew, we were fascinated by the unique lifestyle of local people, small wooden houses with triangular roofs and strived to reveal this true beauty. The house I chose to show the video with demonstrators is a part of history. This empty hut was chosen by us due to its humane hostess - aunt Clara and the absence of a fence, which allowed us to make fires in the courtyard, the main place for creative conferences. There were lovely houses around, most of which are currently replaced by new buildings. We have witnessed a paradoxical situation: inspired by the metaphysics of the place, we became the accomplices of a sharp rise in land prices, which was dangerous for the land itself. It is impossible not to recognize that international resonance of Shiryaevo Biennale provoked the rebooting of the place. A Unique place, the reserve, where the plants survived preglacial period. Unfortunately, this reboot is not configured to preserve uniqueness. Now, when the construction of a huge tourist complex in Shiryaevo is being planned, the presence of carriers of modern art in this area gains protective character.
Inside the hut Janno Bergman created the installation "Picasso on the Moon" by pasting wallpapers, made of newspapers with Picasso’s interviews, on the walls. The publication, made in two languages, reported on new views and creative plans of the genius, who left for the moon.The house was a once spacious five-wall log house, consisting of two halves connected by a long corridor with a large backyard, a garden and several entrances, but currently it was uninhabited and badly damaged. However, the old housekeeper, who believed in the inexhaustible potential of the house, sometimes found the guests. Indeed, the house had its "charisma" and our artists often lived there, being charmed with the echoing emptiness of abandonment, the beautiful view and the democratic character of the owner, who allowed to lead the entire crowd of spectators through the house during the Nomadic show. It was the place where Janno Bergman and Joonas Andrus stayed. The currents of the Earth could be felt in this place, and there appeared a hope to find your emptiness. And, of course, this place with traces of various periods of time, revealing from the shadows of oblivion, had impact on the character of the works created or planned under this roof. And there is hope that the spectators who read the information on the walls about "Picasso on the Moon", glancing at a kitschy statue, at a bordered carpet, breathing in the scent of old wood, were imbued with foreign ideas. Two days before the presentation Yano put the newspapers with the news from the moon into the villagers’ mailboxes. He also showed an installation "Cultural invasion” in the style of alien dreams. Several cylindrical objects landed on the hillside not far from the cemetery. The spectator immediately guesses they are rusty buckets that can be used as a toilet.However, their proper form and material in contrast to the vague weeds around, involves contact with an extraterrestrial civilization.
"The Nomadic show" bases on the rules of the mystery play (mass performance) with a large number of participants. The action, happening in the valley of Zhiguli Mountains on the bank of the Volga River, begins with the arrival of steamers, pushes off from the nearest mountain, reaches the opposite, and as if with the reverse wave comes back with the obligatory climbing in cold caves. Of course, the leading roles here belong to artists. But ... but, remember, what strong impression big choruses or just crowds produce even on stage? Its buzz and mood?In this situation non-stop actions and actions aimed at permanent contact with the audience become a significant structure. There were four of them, four intricately interlacing lines.
Right after "Detector" the performance "Let's go!" by a French group "Stagecoach project" started. A girl and a chimera are in focus.This chimera is her father, dressed in a camel suit with cosmic elements. The Costume conceals a pampered traveler. The name of the project is Yuri Gagarin’s call during his first trip to space. A mysterious family accompanied the crowd for the whole day, first dissolving then attracting its attention by unpretentious methods of nomadic Gypsies.In bizarre clothes with "golden" trunks Andrews Jonas showed a standup performance “Aledoia. A miraculous bird and an evil goat". The main Audience Award was given to the author's monologue "This is art - this is not art," accompanied by taking the "golden" accessory on and off."Trans Media performance" by Hanns-Michael Rupprechter consisted in outlining the general contour of the way with a red thread with columns of weather vanes made of foil.
Martina Geiger-Gerlach pulled quite a different line. To be specific it was a pipe made of plastic bottles. Together with Kathrin Sohn, Barbara Karsch-Chaïeb, Rosa Rücker, she carried this Shiryaevo gas pipeline analogue to the national anthem, "Thank you Repin!". It sounded especially true when the procession passed along the Putin road. This road was paved in 2000 during one night, preparing for the visit of the President to Shiryaevo. The President visited the main attraction of the village – the Repin museum. The situation with gas became better.A prominent Russian painter Ilya Efimovich Repin is really a cult hero in Shiryaevo. It seems that Shiryaevo Biennale is possible in this place due to his endeavors. When in 1870 he together with with F.A.Vasiliev came to Shiryaevo in search of models for his painting "Barge Haulers on the Volga" the local peasants took him severely and did not want him to draw the village girls. (Shiryaevo is a rich village, with its foundations; for more than two hundred years people mined limestone in its surroundings).However, a friendly spirit, leasing a local apartment and buying an expensive samovar, allowed the artist to find the way to the heart of the villagers. The author lived there and left inspired to write his great picture to St. Petersburg. Years passed, the governments changed, the mining stopped, but the Repin museum remained, its visitors feed the village. That is why now obscure contemporary art has a chance to survive in this place, for here the experience of creative impulses’ winning can be found. Thank Repin!The other group work of these German artists, "To the rod from the island..." is also related to a story. They were so shocked by the song about Stenka Razin, who had thrown the Persian princess into the river that they decided to sing it at the time of entering the Volga. The girls were walking singing the song until the water burst into their mouths. Suddenly, going out from a beach locker room, with a clear accent, softly and beautifully they were singing a rollicking men’s part. Their singing was so confident, that they made the noisy crowd become quiet and go after them. Now it sounded like a hymn of feminists, they were modern time heroes, ready to drown rather than to be a toy in somebody’s hands. It was another team formed in Shiryaevo.
The question of different views about "friends" and "strangers" and their experience Siram "Monument". A 5 meter long transparent image of the upper contour of the mountain with a cross is lifted high above the ground. Spectators stand in such a way that their sight combined real landscape and its image. Looking closely, they notice that the contours of the real monument are changed to the contours of the Cross of Liberty, standing on the main square of Estonia. The artist read the manifesto, which stated that monuments are a tool of power that the monument shown is alien to the Estonians in Tallin and that people should build fewer monuments and plant more trees. The place chosen for this action located on the shore of the lake, in the shadow of the foot of another mountain which was planned to climb. Everything that was happening sounded like a dialogue, like an echo, rolling between two hills.
The theme of appropriation was appropriated by Jörgen P. Platzer in the installation "A strange gift" that was where he introduced a triple play with a "Trojan horse": he himself, harnessed to a wagon and a nesting doll from a sculpture of a horse in a horse. This theme was also appropriated by Erbol Meldibekov in a series of documentary photographs "The pedestal", which tells the story of the square in Tashkent, where over 10 monuments were changed during ten years. But the most invasive approach has been made in the project by Moscow artists titled "Pirates." The idea was developed by Irina Kulik and Alexander Panov, who acted as a supervisor. The Object "Torrent Tower" by Sergei Katran, which looked like a silver rectangle built from the CD-ROMs on the bank of the Volga, according to the author"... not only serves to create three thousand plashes of sunlight, but also to have an opportunity to receive information by  simple exchange. A pirate torrent taken out of virtual space into the real world to confirm or refute the idea of universal brotherhood based on informational socialism. A modern pirate is a man who does not want to pay for the intellectual work on the basis of his ideological or mercantile motives...""The Atomic Radio" by Sergey Shutov was a weatherproof horn loudspeaker placed on the porch of a village house, and under the heading “Moscow atom radio" to the author’s idea was to broadcast “Radio programs with post-apocalyptic content. It was the imitation of tuning different stations: professional, amateur, military, foreign. Recommendations for survival. Interesting facts about radiation. New cookery. Mutation of organisms, what is it? Little tricks. Buy-sell-change. And so on...", but at the last minute replaced the music.Vladimir Potapov, under the slogan “Pirates. TM” created a picture with a view of the “Earth”, surrounded with a black pirate band. "Piracy as a trademark - the absurdity of this statement implies that any individual or legal person may be given a unique right to lead a pirate activity and this right will be protected by copyright laws of the state. A contemporary artist is a pirate who is constantly seizing new territories and space. A pirate flag with the TM (trade mark) symbol will decorate the artists’ house, which essentially turned into a kind of pirate headquarters", Potapov thought and hung the canvas on the house as a flag.And the most romantic project of this set is "It has sunk" by Ivan Lungin."...In 1848, together with the First International, with revolutions happening everywhere, the inventor of the cement and concrete, Joseph Lambot builds his first ferroconcrete object – a boat. Seven years later he registers a patent for this invention.“I want to restore something like boat in the context of the festival of piracy (actually to reappropriate this subject). After floating a few dozen meters from the bank of the Volga I am going to sink it...", the author described his ideas during the preparation. After arriving at Shiryaevo he worked hard, producing cement, building framework... And it really sank, but a little bit earlier than expected. Wanting to rehearse the action, Lungin floated off the undried boat  into the water. The balance was disturbed and having scooped up some water, the boat went to the bottom. The spectators who came to that place helped to raise it from the bottom. 
Hanns-Michael Rupprechter lead the image of the stranger across the border of life and death in his action "PPPPPPDED." The name is the nine letters from the children's counting-out rhyme. Suddenly the audience finds a "lifeless" body of a tall middle-aged man sprawled near the house. Infolded in silence, the audience examine the man, noticing his strange entourage: a long black manicure on his hands with a lot of rings, colorful and fanciful glasses, an earring, varnished shoes on high heels come off his leggs, a dark T-shirt with a playboy bunny, a silk jacket with hieroglyphs in the hands. A night carnival costume reveals personal secrets. The man was not prepared for what happened, and now some questions can’t be avoided: why is there a duck toy on wheels near him? And why is there a fish sticking out of his mouth? Why is a half-smoked cigarette lying next to him and why is there a flower in his hand? Little by little the spectators disperse but the show continues. Soon a familiar figure flickers in a crowd. Under the big umbrella a woman’s hat with a veil can be seen, clouds of smoke steep a revived figure.This is a scheduled work of an artist who has lost his mother. When I asked him to describe the idea of the performance, he wrote a story about how one day at dinner in a poor family a piece of bread fell butter on top. The frightened family, suspecting the intervention of evil spirits, turned to a magician. He spent a lot of time searching old books and finally said there was nothing to worry about, there was no magic, just the butter had been smeared on the wrong side.

Nelya Korzhova,Biennale curator

Catalog 2011







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