"Too long to escape"
Interactive slide installation. 51 Venice Biennale, Russian pavilion, Gardini, Venice

The history of art is a history of a boundary.

There, on the futher side, stays a human artist - here, on this side, staysa human viewer.

Or a human crowd.

The surface of a painting is a no man's land, where an encounter might become possible.

When it becomes possible, the boundary will be destroyed.

However, then the Art will die.

Two pedestrians simultaneously take off from two points toward each other at the speed of X.

One of them is artist.

The artist wishes to do away with the Art because he knows that the Art is a golden cage, he has built for himself.

He believes that there is a human viewer moving toward him.

He believes that the viewer wishes to meet him as much as he does, and that it will be possible to cross the border.

He believes that the New World will come and there will be no artist or
viewer, no customer or commodity, and the lion shall lie down with the lamb. However when the way-worn artist, approaches to the boundary, which separates the art and the life, he will not see that sole viewer toward whom he has taken off.

There will be an anormous and silent crowd.

It doesn't wish to cress the boundary, it doesn't wish to do away with Art, it doesn t wish the New World to come.
It stares fixedly at him.

The artist makes another step.


B. Mamonov

Russian Pavillion

The exhibition in the Russian pavilion reveals the dialectics of interaction between the artist and his public. The authors of the installations create the communicative space in such a way that the works of art find their realization only with the participation of the viewers. A work of art is a reference object, which necessitates negotiations and implies the Other. These thoughts are very relevant in Russia, where the contemporary art still remains a blind spot on the map of culture.

Communication and miscommunication are the uppermost subject in the creative work of the artists from Moscow, members of the ESCAPE program. Blending the public and the private, they offer viewers various modes of "implication": to look in the privacies of artists' everyday life, to buy their paraphernalia or pirate copies of works by famous Russian artists, to participate in the ceremony of Invention of the Motherland. The artists establish an alternative touring agency, where they act as guide-instructors. Close communication produces involuntary scepsis and disillusionment. Impossibility or unwillingness to listen and to understand each other are reflected upon in a delicate video "Quartette", where the image of execution of an opus by Beethoven is combined with a sound-track by Shostakovich. The "Vertigo" installation arranges the meeting of the artist and the viewers in a bunker, specially built from rusty metal, the scene of general mutual alienation seen by a viewer (who has spent quite a time in the queue) raises pessimistic questions. Maybe, this metal-clad building is a symbol of aloofness and self-sufficiency of the contemporary art.

Interactive video installation "Too Long to Escape", created specially for the Venice Biennale offers viewers an interactive game with the artists, who move towards the public with the speed proportional to the quantity of the viewers entering in the hall. The attempt to describe the problem arithmetically: the more the viewers, the faster the approach; reveals relativism and formalism of mass strategies. Besides the irony about the wish to please viewers, the artists raise the question of whether these interactive performances are no more than a simulation of dialogism, which hides passive solitude of the viewer. Evident reminiscences from the Russian Vanguard (the composition of the scene takes inspiration in Red Calvary by K. Malevich) develop the theme in historic perspective, reminding of leftist experiments in mass production and consumption of art.

Galina Myznikova and Sergey Provorov, artists from Nizhniy Novgorod, who work with the topical concept of "public space" don't consider the relationships with the public to be so dramatic. They treat viewers as consumers of a specific info-visual product. Their long-term project can be located somewhere between public art and advertising, design and experimental cinema and TV. Unfamiliar with alienation from the society, the artists try to remain within, easily combining the positions of a consumer and a sober cool-headed analyst, judging the situation from the outside. This flexible approach inspires them to work over social projects, suggesting innovative ways of communication. For example, in projects of interactive icon-stands and cemeteries enable viewers to manually (using mouse or touch pad) find their way to the transcendence or to turn from a simple observer of an advertising action into a participant in a mass performance. Voluntary dwelling in instable and marginal areas, where usual cultural codes become invalid, the artists begin to interact with the mass culture instead of opposing to it. That's why they are constantly fascinated with the possibilities of producing new objects, images and rites destined to subsequent mass copying. However, this approach does not interfere with critical perception of the reality and constant alarming on seemingly safest things.

This is the case at the "Idiot wind" installation at the Venice Biennale. Standing in an aero-acoustic space, the viewer becomes the main character of this work of art, who should feel the power of art with his own psycho-somatic senses. In the first section of the pavilion one can easily touch and try to catch the wind, but then he/she becomes strongly influenced by the increasing power of windblasts. The force of physical action arouses complex metaphysical feelings, and its visual minimalism suggests numerous mythopoetic connotations of wind, air and elements

Liubov Saprykina

What's there to discuss with you?!

Like mythological Saturn the Art devours its children. It turns prospering artists into abstract common-use signs, taking away their individual traits and venial faults. There is not much to discuss with a direction sign, which supports only one-way communication. Rationalized gloria mundi fabrication processes don't tolerate alchemic involuntariness. Their composition lacks miracle - including the miracle of human communication.

Nowadays, in the age of video installations, digital animation, new media and absolute interactivity, the miracle is substituted by crafty technological juggler's delusions. They can provide finest simulations of ethical and esthetic interaction between the author and the viewer. However, these transient emotions are soon forgotten in the open air outside exhibition halls. In the reality, the contemporary art is nowadays much more distant from the viewers than the conventional art making a cult of a god-like creator.

The notion of "esthetics of participation", universally popular for a decade already, was suggested as an operational hypothesis by Nicola Burrio. This idea owes its longevity to the existential drama, a sad endless story, engaging the artist and the viewer against their will. The artists from the Russian pavilion take another attempt to stage their impossible rendezvous and to establish a desirable but unachievable contact.

Paradoxically enough, both projects employ "mechanical amusement devices" to create the emotion. The replacement of "pure lyrics" by astute machinery reflects sober pessimism of the authors, who don't believe in successful experiments with transgression of protected boundaries of the Art. The scenario of theatrical, equally temporal and spatial interactive installations only confirms the presentiment. On both storeys of the pavilion, the latent mutual alienation of artists and viewers finally reveals itself in an ultimately spectacular aerodynamic way.

Cyclonic air masses chuck viewers out of the last hall by Provorov and Myznikova, while the members of the Escape group take off in their flight to a show-covered far-away, as if coming butt against an elastic invisible screen. This tragic final contrasts with the cheerful beginning and the triumphant pace of the artists moving towards viewers. Rain or shine, they'll never meet.

This is a paradox, but such a showy, cheerful and synchronized (it is not even a duet (in the number of Russian projects), but a full sextet (in the number of artists)) denial of any possibility of communication, can't help but set thinking about certain merits of discommunication. An artist takes a habit of solitude, but as soon as he has to communicate with his viewer, the latter has is inevitably infected with the artist's solipsism. The vanguard has shifted artistic energy from the familiar surface of a painting (relegated to zero of form by Malevich) to virgin 3D spaces of revolutionary reality, however, its holistic and revivalist ambitions were nourished by a reactionary subjective idealism, which takes a reasoning (painting) individual for the center of the Universe and the whole outer reality for the fruit of his mind. The radicals from the Escape traverse a white field similar to a horizontal virgin canvas, in aggressively red uniform, which can be closely associated with "proto-closes" by Rodchenko and Stepanova. Rodchenko and Stepanova were the most consistent experiment-makers breeding the art and the life. This breeding had been conceived to triumph the first but resulted in the victory of the second. Socialist communal mass digested utopian pathos of the vanguard. The slide-show by the Escape, where the increasing number of viewers leads to an infamous end of artists, is somewhat of a dialectic historical and esthetical allegory.

If socially engaged Escapists appeal to the brutal experience of the historical vanguard, Sergey Provorov and Galina Myznikova, successfully working in mass-culture, keep in mind a comfortable atmosphere of consumerist havens: solaria, different "beauty and health centers" and "one day resort clubs" with their thermal procedures. The Idiot Wind installation is a resort in-vitro, whose healing devices gradually get beyond control bringing temperature and moisture conditions to their natural unpredictability. Soft breeze generated by a fan suddenly turns into a hurricane and the visitor of a beauty saloon finds himself in the eye of a storm before any alert. The artist is not a superhuman and all-mighty elementalist, he is the invisible and uncontrollable Element itself, and he threatens fragile civilization. The "windy" art makes viewers experience such deplorable consequences as a messed-up hair or a skirt raised in public, brutally trespassing cultural codes and thus, amplifying obvious discommunication. After a visit to the Russian pavilion, the tourists will have to get away to the hotel to arrange themselves - a beautiful evening in Venice will be spoilt. This discomfort is an adequate price for the happy thrill created by the installation. The effectiveness of art is measured by its ability to break the usual communication, its addiction to egoistic unsociality and inherent vanguard unculturedness. While the Escape installation shows the crisis of this will, giving an image of a non-interlocutory utopian artistic consciousness beat up by the crowd, a minimalist and ascetic show by Provorov and Myznikova embodies the triumph of will and somehow is a benefit performance of the Art itself.

Of the art, that truly demands sacrifice. On the part of the viewer, who experiences unpredicted tactile feelings, and on the part of the artist, who is doomed to be tragically alone. At that the process of decisive alienation concerns the authors themselves - the "Escapists" acting as heroes and models in their own installation can be easier associated with conceptualist red letters marching across the blue sky background than with real Aizenberg, Litvin, Mamonov and Morozova. The Art turns the artist into a fake hieroglyph, an empty sign or a signified without a signifier. This is a true Saturn, however, we owe to this amateur of gastronomic incest for saturnalia - early predecessors of the Venice biennale. These are the laws of the Art, revealed once again in the works by the artists exhibited in the Russian pavilion.

Fedor Romer

- Keep a little to the right!

- Okay, but one of us jumped ahead!

- I can't catch up to you, you are moving too quickly!

- Hey, you are going the wrong way, you might leave the frame!

- I'm curious, if there is any life off the screen!

- You are confusing life with its feelings!

- You want to bring honesty, integrity, and fairness, but it's all from your guilt and remorse.

- I agree, our mission is impossible!

- But it's not that far!

- We'll reach it, the place where we are going is close, but that doesn't matter!

- Yet we went from the horizon! We departed a long time ago and I lost count!

- The color is not visible from afar, and every person will appear like a black spot!

- They must see us and go to us! So we'll get there in half the time.

- If they will go toward us!

- But they might also go away from us, in the same direction, and not look back!

- If we, they, and the horizon, move the same speed, we will never meet each other!

- We are expecting too much from this meeting and it was right to come empty-handed.

- But they are not coming closer because of an impenetrable hindrance! A glass wall!

- They won't lose anything by waiting what they are waiting for!

- People can convince themselves about anything!

- Actually we can belief that there is nothing else but the mirror wall in front of us.

- It's unthinkable that all this time we did not get anywhere!

- It is very good that we are going empty-handed!

- It is very good that we are not going empty-handed!

  Valeriy Ayzenberg

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