October 3-13: All over the city, from the Smolny Cathedral to
the Museum of Political History, on canals and train tracks, the IV St.
Petersburg Biennale will offer a program of contemporary art.
It will include new media, video, photography, installation,
performance/actions, as well as a 3-day conference, all under the title
"Eastern Europe: Spatia Nova." By "new space," the curators are
signalling both the socio-political space brought about by the collapse
of the Soviet Union, the emergence of Newly Independent States, and
the new border-blurring RArtistS-destabilized space made possible by new
In this context, the project which the Biennale's art director,
painter/installation artist Dmitry Shubin, and his five co-curators have
taken on is pretty remarkable. With consent from the city's cultural
council but not a kopeck of financial backing, these six artists (ages
26-33) are taking what has previously been a highly uneven showcase of
predominantly local work (St. Petersburg Biennales I, II and III), and
remaking it as a provocative international exhibit of competitively
selected works which are conceptually linked.
Works include a multimedia project based on visits to the site of
Chernobyl by a group of four Byelorussian artists; a helicopter happening
(?); and panel discussions with Timur Novikov (St. Petersburg), Mikhail
Ryklin (Moscow), Kathy Rae Huffmann (Vienna) and others. The curators'
work is particularly remarkable given that a tradition of
non-state-determined curatorship as we, at least in principle, know it
has long been absent from Russia. They have had to make up the rules as
they go along. Not unlike the makers of the Russian Revolution, if you
will, Shubin's and the others' determination, and initial naiveness about
what they were getting themselves into, has made this seemingly utopian
project a reality, albeit one which may be marked by an unusual degree of
chaos. We'll see.
note: These comments are based on the author's observations during a
visit to St. Petersburg. The views expressed are not necessarily
shared by the organizers of the Biennale. Please address comments
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For more information about the IV St. Petersburg Biennale, contact:
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