Why Russia’s 2021 Venice pavilion is broadcasting online art from its bathroom

Why Russia’s 2021 Venice pavilion is broadcasting online art from its bathroom
Image: Screenshot from We Are All In The Same Bot

16 July 2021

Tongue-in-cheek video game We’re All in the Same Bot presents art aficionados with the ultimate challenge: creating their own art exhibition. Produced by the architecture and art independent group Lion & Unicorn with game designers Dasha Nasonova and Dimitry Vesnin for this year’s Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the satirical chat bot sees players take one of three roles: artist, curator, or intern. By simulating real art world crises, the game forces players to face down moral, financial, and aesthetic challenges, negotiating with commissioners and government officials.

But while players can tackle the game online, the exhibit itself is stashed in a more surprising location: in the Russian Pavilion’s newly renovated toilet. The choice is designed to spotlight how bathrooms reflect socio-economic development — including in Russia, where 30 million people do not have access to indoor toilets.

It’s just one way that curators are using the platform of video games and virtual worlds to answer the biennial’s overarching theme: “How will we live together?”

Also available online, the show brings together critical perspectives on the history and politics of video games and virtual environments, as well as artistic projects. By straying into the digital realm, visitors can mope in the Russian suburbs with Ilya Mazo’s poetic game It’s Winter, or check out Sanatorium Anthropocene: a glimpse into a deserted version of the pavilion in a post-apocalyptic Venice. Once there, players swap between a humanoid, a virus, and a robot, as they all try to figure out the cause of the destruction.

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