At this morning’s press conference for the 5th Moscow Biennale (slated to run from September 19- October 20, 2013, in the new Manege space broken in recently by AES+F), the focus was on the funding: namely the 90 million rubles (for those too languid to google, this currently comes to just shy of 3 million USD) set aside by the Ministry of Culture (who have been making overtures at slashing allowances for these big-budget ventures .)
As commissar Joseph Backstein remarked, this was about the budget of the last addition, held in the Artplay factory space, but it’s important to note that this is strictly the estimate for government contributions, and not the total budget of the biennale.
It is also important to note that this was just a press conference. It’s connection to reality is tenuous at best.
I believe we have to get away from the conventional thematic approach of biennales, and let the currency of ideas materialize in the working together with artists, how they act in an increasingly interdependent world, and how they think with us and the audiences. Let’s be inspired and innovative! I would like to promote a new seeing, with deep, intense attention for the ‘small’ actuality of the present condition, not projecting a hoped-for-present in a future elsewhere, but being in a lived social reality, with art that moves us. As I have always done, I will work with artists from around the globe, with here a focus on artists from and around Russia. The exhibition project will be intercultural and intergenerational. There must be both a sense of timeliness and a sense of the continuities accruing to the event over time—the sense that artists and audiences are engaged in making the present and history in ways that great art does. When time is activated in this way, what emerges is a space-time as ‘here and now’ addressing socio-political issues in the present and introducing new necessary thought patterns through manifold art practices.
At today’s press conference, RIA Novosti quoted de Zegher with the more succinct, but equally vague: “The exhibition will be deeply involved with social processes, and I hope that it will visually represent the contemporary situation in the world.”
While the press conference also brushed over the fact that there was as yet no theme for the biennale, de Zegher took an interview with Artguide as a moment to explain her rationale for this [what follows is OUR TRANSLATION, for the purposes of this blog only. Find the original Russian here.]:
Everyone always wants to see a theme, but I am not going to pick a theme until I understand what I mean by it. I want to work with the process, not with a given topic. A curator is working in a field where many different ideas and different perspectives converge, and she has to try to grab onto them and visualize a way they can come together, so that the viewer can get a general picture of a new way of thinking.
She also got in a nice line defining art as the distance between the object and the viewer, referring to her position as one of simply recognizing those connections. Read the whole interview (in Russian) here.
In the meantime, Backstein was busy this weekend, quietly hosting a philosophical conference entitled “Judgement Day, or the Problem of Aesthetic Discernment,” as part of the Biennale program (a throw back perhaps to the Thinking Worlds conference accompanying the second biennale, which brought together Boris Groys, Chantal Mouffe, and Saskia Sassen.) This edition seemed slightly scaled-back, with seven participants including scholar Svetlana Boym (who basically invented the imagination of the “Kommunalka” for America), John Rajchman and Keti Chukrov. It’s not clear if there will be a publication for this conference, but one might imagine, with 90 million rubles theoretically at one’s disposal, it could be arranged.