Shorthand for Fascism (The 9th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art)

A view of the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Photo: Mikhail Japaridze (TASS). Courtesy of Radio Svoboda

Russian authorities have canceled the 9th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art, which was supposed to take place at the New Tretyakov Gallery.

In a press release, the Russian Ministry of Culture said the reason was “the absolute discrepancy between the caliber of a number of the exhibits and the venue’s status […] The Tretyakov Gallery is a treasure trove of Russian art. The desire to hold the project [t]here, and not at a private or corporate venue, should go hand in hand with responsibility for the exhibition’s artistic and ethical context.”

In addition, with reference to the Tretyakov Gallery, the Ministry of Culture noted that the management of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art Foundation had not fulfilled its obligations under the contract. Among other things, they had failed to meet the deadlines for installing the exhibition and not provided the necessary paperwork, which, in turn, led to a violation of fire safety rules.

The biennale was to begin on November 7. In connection with the news that the exhibition had been canceled, a statement by the organizers and a video from the exposition, now closed and sealed off, appeared on the biennale’s website.

The event’s organizers and participating artists say they do not dispute the decision to close it, but do not agree with the “terrifying wording” of the explanation for its closure.

The exhibition’s spokespeople note that they were going to show, in particular, Sergei Bugaev’s project on the demolition of Soviet war monuments in Europe, the works of Anastasia Deineka and Adelina Shabanova, who are artists from Donetsk and Lugansk, and other projects on timely topics.

“Contemporary art is considered to be outcasts [sic]. We are suspected of hooliganism and nihilism in advance, of giving people the finger with our hand stuffed in our pocket. But we did no such thing. We decided in march 2022 that we were working for our viewers. We are all going through perhaps the most difficult test for our country and in each of our lives, and we need to at least try to go through it with dignity. We tried,” the organizers said in their statement.

Source: “Biennale of contemporary art canceled in Moscow,” Radio Svoboda, 4 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


A video survey of 9th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art at the New Tretyakov Gallery, closed by order of the Russian Ministry of Culture before its scheduled opening date of November 7, 2022.

DEAR COLLEAGUES!

LAST NIGHT, WE, THE TEAM AND THE ARTISTS OF THE 9TH MOSCOW BIENNALE LEARNED FROM THE NEWS THAT THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION HAD DECIDED TO CLOSE THE EXHIBITION. ONE DOES NOT ARGUE WITH THE MINISTRY, BUT WE CANNOT HELP BUT OBJECT TO THE HORRIFYING WORDING “THE DISCREPANCY BETWEEN THE CALIBER OF A NUMBER OF THE EXHIBITS AND THE CHOSEN VENUE’S STATUS.”

BY DECISION OF THE MOSCOW BIENNALE’S ADVISORY BOARD, ONLY RUSSIAN ARTISTS — 27 CREATORS — ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE 9TH MOSCOW BIENNALE. FOR SOME, THIS IS THEIR FIRST SERIOUS EXHIBITION, WHILE FOR OTHERS IT IS JUST ANOTHER IN A LONG LIST OF EXHIBITIONS AT LEADING VENUES AROUND THE WORLD. THEY HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON: EACH IS A TALENTED ARTIST:

TATIANA BADANINA,
MARINA BELOVA AND ALEXEI POLITOV,
YEVGENIA BURAVLEVA,
SERGEI BUGAEV,
DMITRY VOLODIN,
THUNDER GROUP:
ALEXEI LOGINOV
ARTYOM LOGINOV
OLGA MICHI
ANASTASIA DEINEKA,
VASILY ELSHIN,
PLATON INFANTE,
ANDREI KARTASHEV,
DARIA KONOVALOVA-INFANTE,

THE EXHIBITION IS CALLED “SHORTHAND FOR FEELINGS”. THE VIEWER WAS TO MOVE FROM “TENSION” THROUGH “RESPECT,” “NOSTALGIA,” “SURPRISE,” “INFINITY,” “FAITH,” “HOPE,” “TRANQUILITY,” HISTORICAL “MEMORY,” “REVERENCE,” “GRATITUDE,” “BITTERNESS OVER WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN,” “LOVE” AND “BELONGING” TO “LIGHT” AND “PEACE.”

CONTEMPORARY ART IS CONSIDERED TO BE OUTCASTS. WE ARE SUSPECTED OF HOOLIGANISM AND NIHILISM IN ADVANCE, OF GIVING PEOPLE THE FINGER WITH OUR HAND STUFFED IN OUR POCKET. BUT WE DID NO SUCH THING. WE DECIDED IN MARCH 2022 THAT WE WERE WORKING FOR OUR VIEWERS. WE ARE ALL GOING THROUGH PERHAPS THE MOST DIFFICULT TEST FOR OUR COUNTRY AND IN EACH OF OUR LIVES, AND WE NEED TO AT LEAST TRY TO GO THROUGH IT WITH DIGNITY. WE TRIED:

HOPE BY TATIANA BADANINA. PART OF THE PROJECT IS A SERIES OF WHITE SHIRTS, SIMILAR TO CHRISTENING SHIRTS, BUT IT IS CLEAR THAT SOME OF THEM HAVE SOMETHING IN THEIR POCKETS. IT IS DEDICATED TO THE NOTES CONTAINING PRAYERS THAT WIVES AND MOTHERS SEW INTO THE CLOTHING OF SOLDIERS AS THEY SEE THEM OFF TO THE FRONT, HOPING THAT HER LOVE AND HOPE FOR A REUNION WILL HELP HER HUSBAND OR SON STAY ALIVE. AND ON THE WALL NEXT TO IT IS A LETTER FROM THE FRONTLINE OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR, FROM THE AUTHOR’S FAMILY ARCHIVE.

MEMORY BY SERGEI BUGAEV IS A PROJECT ABOUT THE DEMOLITION OF OUR MONUMENTS IN EUROPE. MOST OF THEM ARE MEMORIALS TO THE LIBERATING SOLDIERS, ERECTED AFTER THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR IN COUNTRIES LIBERATED FROM FASCISM: ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA, UKRAINE, POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC. BUT THE BUSTS OF ALEXANDER SERGEYEVICH PUSHKIN AND THE PLAQUE ON THE HOUSE WHERE MIKHAIL BULGAKOV WAS BORN HAVE ALSO SUFFERED. WE HAVE COLLECTED 102 IMAGES OF DEMOLISHED AND DESECRATED MONUMENTS: FROM MEMORIAL CEMETERIES TO BUSTS OF THE POET AND BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER IN ONE VIDEO, AND IN THE FINALE THERE IS FOOTAGE OF THE SAUR-MOGILA MEMORIAL COMPLEX IN DONETSK, RESTORED IN 2022 AFTER SIMILAR DAMAGE.

THE WALL TEXT WITH THE FULL LIST OF TITLES TOOK UP 4 METERS.

ANASTASIA DEINEKA’S PEOPLE ARE PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE LIVING IN DONETSK, PEOPLE WHO DID NOT LEAVE THE CITY EITHER IN 2014 OR NOW. THE ARTIST’S STORY ABOUT THE PERSON IN THE PORTRAIT SUPPLEMENTS EACH PORTRAIT. “THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF HEROES IN THE WORLD, ABOUT WHOM THOUSANDS OF BOOKS AND STORIES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN. NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU WILL SEE DEPICTED ON MY CANVASES, BUT YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THEM WITHOUT WORDS.”

THE CREATOR OF THE STORY OF THE BLUE HARES, ADELINA SHABANOVA, WAS BORN IN LUGANSK IN 1998. WHAT SEEMS AT FIRST GLANCE TO BE A CHEERFUL STORYBOARD FOR A CARTOON PROVES TO BE A SCARY FAIRY TALE WHEN EXAMINED CAREFULLY. THE BLUE HARES ARE LIVING THEIR NORMAL LIVES, BUT ARE IN CONSTANT TENSION. AT ANY MOMENT A BIRD OF PREY CAN BLOW UP A QUIET FAMILY DINNER, A MATH LESSON, SITTING ON THE COUCH IN FRONT OF THE TV, AND THERE IS NOWHERE TO HIDE.

PART OF THE PROJECT “LIGHT” IS ANTHONY VAN DYCK’S “PORTRAIT OF THE APOSTLE PETER,” 1618, AS A SYMBOL OF THE ETERNAL LIGHT OF GREAT ART.

PEACE — TWO ARTISTS: SASHA KUPALYAN FROM MOSCOW AND NASTYA DEINEKA FROM DONETSK, FOR TWO WEEKS COLLABORATED ON PAINTING A PEACEFUL SKY AS OUR COMMON PRAYER FOR PEACE AND CALM.

THE 9TH MOSCOW BIENNALE IS READY. WE NEEDED 1 MORE DAY TO FINISH 3 INSTALLATIONS, TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE, SET UP THE VIDEO, HANG THE CURTAINS AND SOLEMNLY MOUNT THE VAN DYCK.

MIKHAIL BORISOVICH PIOTROVSKY, A MEMBER OF THE MOSCOW BIENNALE’S ADVISORY BOARD, WAS DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN SELECTING THE CREATORS FOR THE PROJECT AND GAVE THIS QUOTE FOR THE OPENING DAY PRESS RELEASE: “RUSSIA PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN SHAPING THE ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. THE MOSCOW BIENNALE IS A CHANCE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.”

WE WEREN’T GIVEN A CHANCE. IT IS ESPECIALLY A PITY THAT MOSCOW WILL NOT SEE THE WORKS OF ARTISTS FROM DONETSK AND LUGANSK. NASTYA DEINEKA, IN ADDITION TO WORKING WITH SASHA KUPALYAN, REPPRODUCED IN HER ROOM “THE ANGEL OF DONBASS, WHICH SHE PAINTED FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE WALL OF A KINDERGARTEN BOMBED ON JUNE 1, 2022. AND WE HUNG A VIDEO OF HER WORKS ON THE WALLS OF DONETSK NEARBY.

WE MANAGED LAST NIGHT, BEFORE THE ROOMS WERE SEALED, TO FILM THE EXHIBITION AND ARE POSTING THE VIDEO. PLEASE TAKE A LOOK.

Source: 9th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art. The original text was printed in all caps. The punctuation of the original text has also been preserved where possible. Translated by the Russian Reader