“I don’t know whether the Earth is spinning or not…” Lizaveta Matveeva and Francesca Altamura chose this as the title for their curatorial project that opened on 3 November at the Museum of Moscow and online as part of the 7th edition of the Moscow International Biennale for Young Art. The line, which comes from the eponymous poem by Velimir Khlebnikov, the Russian avant-garde poet famous for his experimentation with language, seems to speak to the sense of uncertainty and instability that has reached fever pitch this year. The exhibition’s digital platform appears as a reimagined and distorted landscape of Moscow, leaving the artists to deal with this unreliable reality through irony and satire, search for human connection, or contemplation of the world’s mysteries. The Calvert Journal has selected five highlights from the show, below.
Anna Afonina, an interdisciplinary artist hailing from Tolyatti, has teamed up with Maria Romanova, Valeria Ghrai, and Anastasia Korotkova to create a digital journey through time and space. The visitor/viewer is taken to a teenage summer camp somewhere by the sea, but there is no nostalgia for lazy summers. This decrepit space is itself full of longing: the glittery neon sign under the ceiling says “I want to go home,” but we are not sure where, or when, home is. This world of abandoned buildings and old web-pages has not moved into the future, like something indefinable and irretrievable that we left in our teenage years and in the slow internet of late 00s.
Whether Dagnini works in performance, painting, or embroidery, she never loses her signature style: if it is Dagnini, it is bright, it is kitsch, and it is fun. Like many other post-Soviet artists, she tries to make sense of the slightly surreal world that appeared from the clash of the communist past and the capitalist present, with new technologies and fashion trends also thrown into the mix. Dagnini’s works always take this surreality up to eleven, populating her world with fantastical characters and objects — and now they all have an opportunity to come together and have a digital summit.
In his search for a new cinematic aesthetic, Moscow-based artist and filmmaker Evgeny Granilshchikov has turned to new formats; a combination of smartphone videos and professional camera footage. In his 22-minute DRAMA, a video that runs without a concrete plot, Granilshchikov’s characters talk about depression and anxiety, a lack of connection becoming the subject of the drama as people talk of loneliness and an inability to express their feelings. Meanwhile, their monologues are interrupted, mid-word, by the editing. These unexpected cuts make the viewer aware of them and trigger a subconscious search for connection between fragments and between the characters; at the end of the video, you will be rewarded.
Nikita Seleznev often turns to the problem of limits of language in his practice and its relationship with visual art. His video project On the Tip of the Tongue, in fact, includes media such as sculpture and drawing — but they all appear in two dimensions on our screens. A similar conflict is at the centre of this work. The love story represented in the images can never be told; the right words are always on the tip of one’s tongue. The colourful drawings on concrete walls are reminiscent of cave paintings, a time when the problem of representation first arose. In a meta twist, one of them depicts people taking photos with smartphones, which creates a continuous timeline that still goes on today.
Sasha Zubritskaya is a St Petersburg-based artist working with a range of media, from video and installation, to graphics. Her multidisciplinary project Master Key balances itself not only in terms of media but in tone, too. Zubritskaya’s world is humorous and strange, and while its mysteries might not be solvable, they are more intriguing than alienating — a trait she shares with David Lynch, whose iconic series Twin Peaks is referenced in the project.