The V Moscow International Biennale for Young Art entitled Deep Inside ran at Trekhgornaya Manufaktura in summer 2016. Aksenov Family Foundation supported the discussion and educational programme ‘Digital Ecology: Art after Internet’ held as a part of the biennale.
The debate ‘Towards Deep Inside’ between the Russian artist Oleg Kulik and the curator of the main project of the biennale Nadim Samman served as an epigraph for the educational programme and the biennale as a whole. Acting as antagonists and representing two generations, the elder and the younger one, they looked back and discussed changes in Russia and the Russian art that have taken place in the recent decades. Nadim Samman shared his vision of such concepts as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ in contemporary world, which, one the one hand, provides tools for overcoming huge distance barriers and splitting of atoms, while, on the other hand, places us within certain macrosystems and hence deprives us of an opportunity to observe them from outside.
The programme, developed by the curator and art historian Darya Pyrkina, was centred around the same themes as the ones highlighted by Nadim Samman in his exhibition project: new technologies and the problem of digital thought, art after internet, different dimensions of corporeality, ecology issues and the subtleties of human interaction with nature, etc.
In addition to discussions with the authors of the main and strategic projects (‘What Hides Deep Inside’ with Nadim Samman, João Laia, Valeria Mancinelli, and the exhibitors), an important part of the programme was the cycle The Steamship of Modernity. The title refers to the manifesto of Russian Cubo-Futurists, deposers of old art and artists, the ‘proshlyaks’. Within the programme, young Russian artists met with the older generation of artists to have a public discussion about changes in the arts which modernity brings on. In addition to fascinating clashes of views of ‘fathers and sons’, which revealed all aspects of conflicts and problems of contemporary art, the discussion was a way to build a connection between generations, show both continuity and break of traditions, without which it is impossible to understand the current artistic processes. The artist and winner of the Kandinsky Prize in the nomination ‘Young Artist’ (2015) Olga Kroytor debated Leonid Tishkov; the artist and member of the Radek society Valery Chtak debated Yuri Zlotnikov; artist and curator Vladimir Logutov debated Alexander Ponomarev.
Nadim Samman shared his vision of such concepts as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ in contemporary world, which, one the one hand, provides tools for overcoming huge distance barriers and splitting of atoms, while, on the other hand, places us within certain macrosystems and hence deprives us of an opportunity to observe them from outside.
One of the key events of the programme was the arrival of Elvia Wilk, art critic and art theorist who lives and works in Berlin. Wilk’s articles have been published in Frieze magazine, e-flux, The Architectural Review, Art in America, die Zeit; she is also the founding editor at uncube magazine from 2012–2016; contributing editor at Rhizome.org, and is publications editor for transmediale: festival for arts and digital culture. Wilk gave a lecture titled ‘Time Machine: Eco Art and the Art of Prehistory’, which explored the history of art practices that engage ecological systems and cycles. In her study, she used the works of the American writer and art critic Lucy Lippard, who published the book called Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory in 1983. In the book, art is interpreted as a kind of time machine; Lippard, in studying visual forms from prehistoric to modern, detected different ‘overlay’ or ‘alignment’, which the title speaks of: the combination of rhythms of the human body and terrestrial cycles, the imposition of cultures, viewpoints and religions against each other. The main object of the study was land art, which originated in the late 1960s. Land art had clear aesthetic references to what Lippard called primal forms: Wilk showcases it through the examples of pairs, like the Ring of Brodgar (2500 AD) and Richard Long’s A Stone Circle in the Andes (1972), the Dowth Mound (2500 AD) and Hans Haacke’s Grass Grows (1969), etc. As site-specific art and consequently a fundamentally contextual practice, land art opposed modernist art, which was artificially removed from the natural environment and natural time.
In the midst of the Moscow Biennale for Young Art Wilk noted that the strategies used by land art artists in the 20th century are still alive and relevant today. For example, a participant of the biennale Juliana Cerqueira Leite creates the sculptural group Three Dances: plaster sculptures produced on site through impressions from her body as she performed dance movements, which serve as a record of time passing. Eli Maria Lundgaard shows a video called Hundred Explanations for a Single Thing, which is a documentation of a forest walk with a first person narration of how her present tense experience is mediated through memories. Wilk explains that the difference between the land art of 1960s – 1970s and the current eco-art artists is that whereas land artists tended to draw a clear hierarchy between the event as artwork and its documentation as secondary product, now the active production exists on a flat hierarchy with its evidentiary product (partially due to the internet which blurred the boundary between a physical happening and its circulation online). Therefore, to the list of Lucy Lippard’s ‘overlays’, with which she began to lecture, Wilk would also add the ‘overlay’ of digital on physical and vice versa: as, for example, in the video work by Davide Quayola, Pleasant Places. Again quoting Lucy Lippard, Wilk says that ‘primal people made sense of the Universe through visual metaphors’. According to her, however complicated and refracted and commodified our relationships to these forms have become in late stage capitalism, we still can and do try to make sense of the Universe in that way.