“The Shutters Will Close on October 31” (Manifesta 10)

Two absolutely (in)compatible claims from the topsy turvy world of Manifesta 10:

1. Manifesta 10 is the most law-abiding art biennial ever held and ingratiating to a fault with the “conservative part of society” (i.e., drooling fascists).

Local Petersburg TV “culture correspondent” Pavel Nikiforov (in a report viewable here):

Despite all the fears, despite the cautious attitude of the museum сommunity and the conservative part of society, all three programs, all the exhibits in these programs are fully consistent with the laws of the Russian Federation. Moreover, at the opening of the Biennale [State Hermitage director Mikhail] Piotrovsky paid special attention to this point.

Mikhail Piotrovsky (in the same TV report):

We had a legal consultation with our lawyers. And nothing presented at Manifesta violates the laws of the Russian Federation.

(The segment in question starts at the 2:40 mark.)

2. Manifesta 10 is an oasis of total, uncensored political freedom endorsed by the entire Russian LGBT movement.

After her, Hedwig Fijen, who came directly from St Petersburg where she was responsible for Manifesta for which she has been a director for since quite some time. Like we all know, Manifesta has been bombarded with an enormous amount of critique for being situated where it is this year, in Russia, in St. Petersburg and in the Eremitage [sic] . She mentioned how none of the artistic projects had been in any way been object of political pressure and that there had been internal discussions all along the process about staying or leaving Russia and the decision to stay was not taking lightly nor naïvely. She mentioned that the LGBT-movement in Russia had wanted them to stay to avoid further isolation and to keep an open channel, and that in the end, with all the talk about boycott, only three artists decided to withdraw from participating in the biennial. Kaspar [sic] König was in the audience, but never said anything.

source

(Thanks to Comrade CLA for the second part.)

___________

P.S. The last lines of that TV report are priceless (and cheaply prophetic):

Like Petersburg once upon a time, Manifesta is a window, only now it works both ways. The shutters will close on October 31.

the-triumph-of-the-russian-fleet

Let’s Boycott All Contemporary Art

Editor’s Note. I’ve had it with “contemporary art” in general, not just Russian contemporary art or international art events held in Russia, fabled land of officially enforced homophobia. We think all people everywhere, progressive humanity and regressive humanity, the indifferent and the enthusiastic, everyone from Maine to Moscow to Melbourne, should boycott contemporary art. Otherwise, mouth breathers like the eurocuratorial nightmares caught shilling for the Putin regime in the article, below, will keep getting away with this fraud, which sucks up tons of intellectual, physical, financial, and technical resources that could be put to much better and more imaginative use elsewhere.

haka-desktop
When threatened by contemporary art, do the haka!

www.theartnewspaper.com
Moscow biennial curator and artists explain why we shouldn’t boycott Russia
While critics cry out against the country’s draconian anti-gay laws, cultural exchange is still important
By Sophia Kishkovsky
9 September 2013

Despite recent controversy over the country’s restrictive anti-gay laws, the curator of the Fifth Moscow Biennale says this is not the time to reject Russia. Her comments follow similar responses from the organisers of the Manifesta biennial, as critics call for a cultural boycott.

“I feel I am responsible to keep the platform going,” the Belgian-born Catherine de Zegher tells The Art Newspaper. The latest edition of the contemporary art exhibition opens on 19 September at the Manege Exhibition Hall.

De Zegher says that the biennale’s organisers have not placed any restrictions on what she can show. She adds that “only one or two” artists, whom she refused to identify, said they would pull out of the biennial because of the situation in Russia, but she convinced them to reconsider.

Visitors, however, are unlikely to see much art that aggressively confronts the country’s conservative laws. “I’m not a big believer in provocation,” De Zegher says. “Art that is very provocative is like fast food almost. It flares up, then it’s finished. Of course I do believe in activist gestures, and movement and action, but I think art works in a different way.”

Her comments echo those of the veteran German curator Kasper Konig, who is organising the next edition of Manifesta, Europe’s roving contemporary art biennial. Speaking at a news conference at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg on 5 September, Konig said the 2014 biennial will avoid “cheap provocations”. A petition calling for the biennial’s organisers to choose another city, postpone or cancel the exhibition has drawn nearly 2,000 signatures. Manifesta has responded with a statement on its website, expressing concern about the anti-gay laws but stressing that the biennial is based on “dialogue with those with whom we may disagree”. The biennial’s founding director, Hedwig Fijen, says that isolating Russia is wrong “especially as it deprives younger people of access to a broader scope of voices and points of view”.

“I think the 20th century was very much about shock and awe,” De Zegher says. “We’re entering another age, where there is more about collaboration, collective thinking.” Artists at the biennale are addressing controversial issues, she said, “but they are in nobody’s face”.

In the Moscow Biennale for example, the Chechen artist Aslan Gaisumov’s work touches on the intersection of religion and secularity, Islam and its relationship with Western culture, but does so with a sense of the “ambiguity of the negotiation between cultures, between religions, between the sexes, between ethnicities”, she says.

The Polish-born artist Gosia Wlodarczak, who has been working in Australia since the 1990s, is coming to Russia for the first time for the biennial. She explains why foreign artists should come to Moscow now by recalling her days as a student in Poland, when Communist rulers tried to crush the opposition Solidarity movement with martial law.

“I remember how important it was when anybody actually came [to Poland] instead of avoiding us. Every visit from somewhere else meant that people cared instead of just abandoning you, leaving you to your own,” the artist told The Art Newspaper as she worked on her intricate glass drawing installation in Manege, where the Kremlin is always in sight next door, outside the windows. “Every visit was like a contribution, and every exchange of dialogue was valued, because that’s how things change.”