Russian cultural institutions in Vienna

Within the strategy of supporting Russia institutions, the Aksenov Family Foundation invited two GROUND Galleries from the State Moscow City Galleries Network, the Praktika Theatre and the MediaArtLab in collaboration with the Manege Museum and Exhibition Association to take part in the viennacontemporary 2015 Art Fair.

  • The GROUND galleries Hodynka and Peschanaya presented the “Grounding” project, which was an attempt to form a foundation for a dialogue with local inhabitants occupying the site of the former Vsehsvyatskoe village and the neighbourhood. Artists had explored local legends and myths that originated on a certain territory, which remained a single entity for its dwellers despite having been divided into two administrative units. Each artist researched these myths based on one’s personal understanding of those social rituals and features of everyday life which the artist managed to reveal. Depending on personal visions – romantic, analytical and critical or scientific – the research results were presented in a rich variety of forms ranging from video and audio recording, and collecting historical documents and artefacts, to studying the chemical composition of air and sociological studies.

  • Having outgrown the initial status of a local cultural centre, the galleries are continuing to determine their identity through their geography and relations to the Moscow districts of Oktyabrskoye pole and Sokol where they are based. Their booth at viennacontemporary became a site of attraction for viewers not only because it shifted their focus from conventional art practice into the field of urban and social initiatives, but also because it revealed the significance and charm of operating within a local context.

The booth shifted viewers’ focus from conventional art practice into the field of urban and social initiatives and revealed the significance and charm of operating within a local context.

The platform recreated a unique atmosphere of a regional gallery where visitors met to talk, express their creativity and just have a cup of tea.

  • The booth of the Praktika Theatre – an experimental theatre of contemporary drama in Moscow – was changed into a mirror room. A chair placed in the middle was meant to be a director’s and spectator’s chair simultaneously. Along with the multiplying the surrounding space mirror walls it reflected the dualism of the viewer’s behaviour: in a contemporary theatre, he can be an observer, a participant, or a co-director if he wishes to. This enabled visitors to assume the role of a director. The room was particularly popular among children and youth.

  • MediaArtLab, having worked with the Manege Museum and Exhibition Association, could introduce viewers to contemporary Russian video art born within the “Great Expectations” cycle. The project lasted for a year, having taken the form of an open forum and a laboratory at the same time. During its course, exhibitions by Evgeny Granilshchikov, Antonina Baever, Roman Mokrov, Dmitry Venkov, and other artists exploring aspects and opportunities of video as a medium were held.

“The Great Expectations” Booth by MediaArtLab and MEA Manege

Olga Shishko, a curator of the project, stressed the importance of bringing these “video observations” to both Russian and Western audiences. Artists standing on the frontier between contemporary art and cinematography, poetry, theatre or architecture, rather than documenting things were “engaged in experimentation of transformation of reality”. In Vienna, due to the support of the Aksenov Family Foundation, works by young artists were exposed not only to a wide spectator audience but also to international professionals: critics, curators, and representatives from museums and other cultural institutions.

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