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Aug 30, 2021
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Are betting on new art formats

Sound projects are becoming the mainstream of contemporary art, hybrid multimedia formats are finally replacing painting, and experimental art practices of the past are in the focus of attention of viewers and researchers. Such conclusions can be drawn from the distribution of the “Innovation” statuettes – the main state award in the field of contemporary art. The ceremony, held in Nizhny Novgorod, was full of surprises and controversial decisions, but, probably, in such a turbulent time, it could not be otherwise. Izvestia got acquainted with the nominees and appreciated the choice of the jury.

In a garden of sounds

For the third year in a row, “Innovation” is based in Nizhny Novgorod, and is conducted by the NCCA “Arsenal”, which became the Volgo-Vyatka branch of the Pushkin Museum im. Pushkin. And if the location is not supposed to change, the organizational form will soon be seriously reformed: from 2022, the Pushkin Museum will share “innovative” responsibility with other leading art institutions of the country, including the Hermitage and the Tretyakov Gallery. Marina Loshak, director of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, recalled this in her speech at the ceremony.

Undoubtedly, the changes will affect the status of “Innovation” in the best way, but even now it is hardly possible to blame the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts for lobbying some figures or friendly projects. The list of nominees is as varied as possible and, which is indicative, is more focused on new faces and experimental projects. This is definitely not a situation when masters hang medals on each other, and institutions act according to the principle of “earrings for all sisters.”

So, this year there were no stars among the applicants in the “Artist of the Year” and “New Generation” nominations. And, what is even more revealing, there were no major metropolitan museums behind the winners. Sergey Filatov was recognized as the Artist of the Year for the project “Garden of Escaping Sonors: Sound Architecture”, implemented in Novosibirsk. The basis of the installation is suspended metal plate-shields with motion sensors and hammers controlled by the program. As soon as the viewer is in the space between objects, he hears light strikes on the plates, reminiscent of the sound of rain drops.

– I work with the acoustic properties of various materials (polymers, metals, water, air) and create an audio environment from this. The main idea is to combine several works in one space, which begin to interact and build a certain state. Sound sculptures exist according to a given algorithm – I program myself, give life to these objects, using modern technologies, ”Sergey Filatov told Izvestia.

The decision to mark this particular work is controversial, in the same nomination there were things stronger in terms of emotional impact and visual range. For example, a large series “What if?” Maria Safronova. Some of the paintings represent nostalgic and ironic images of life safety classes (children dismantle machines, march in gas masks), while others show apocalyptic views of abandoned, crumbling school classes, as if from a disaster zone. Well, the installation of 2019, “Blizzard”, which is part of the same cycle, cannot be called anything other than a prophecy: in a large glass hemisphere there is an empty playground pasted over with forbidding tapes under artificial snow. Isn’t it a metaphor for quarantine?

If we talk about sound art, we were impressed by “Symbiont” – installation and performance by Nikolai Golikov and Vladimir Ermachenkov. In the center of an ingenious design with metal plates, a half-naked man is tied with wires to his limbs. Electrical impulses make the performer’s muscles contract, he touches the plates with his hands and feet, thereby involuntarily giving rise to specific music. The program that controls the current, the person and the structure exist in an eerie symbiosis (remember the “Matrix”), and who is in charge here is a question.

“Symbiont”. Nikolay Golikov, Vladimir Ermachenkov / Photo: Alexey Shevtsov

One way or another, the jury made a choice in favor of a more abstract and at the same time, in its own way, resonating with a covid worldview of the work. Although there is something in common between the works.

– We saw projects that are associated with awareness of the density of the surrounding space, with attempts to slow down, meditate, feel loneliness – not in everyday life, but in the high, philosophical sense of the word. And from this follows a subtle listening to the sound, body, volumes around you. This is the result of slowness, a forced pause, a sense of the separateness of human existence, – Marina Loshak shared with Izvestia.

Freedom without barricades

As in the past and the year before last, the works of all nominees in the sections “Artist of the Year” and “New Generation” can be seen in the Arsenal of the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin. However, the exhibition opened for the first time not after the announcement of the winners, but long before. Thus, visitors were able to form their opinion and cheer for their favorite works during the live broadcast of the awards ceremony.

– The team preparing the exposition did not know who would win. We tried to present the projects of all the nominees as fully and as closely as possible to how they were shown initially, ”the curator of the exhibition Daria Tkacheva shared with Izvestia.

Ironically, it was Sergey Filatov’s project that became an exception – in Nizhny Novgorod this installation was only a part of the exposition; the Arsenal’s space did not allow showing the entire Garden. But the installation “Freedom. 1919. 2020 “, which brought Elizaveta Konovalova a victory in the” New Generation “nomination, is demonstrated in Nizhny Novgorod in full growth – in the literal sense.

“Freedom. 1919.2020 “. Elizaveta Konovalova / Photo: Anastasia Ponomareva

A huge (several meters high) vertical banner contains a photograph of a cast bas-relief from Moscow’s Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge. Nearby is a replica in the form of a cast-iron sculpture. The artist found out that this is an image of the Statue of Liberty, which was installed in 1919 on Sovetskaya (now Tverskaya) Square and has not survived to this day. But over time, the bas-relief also changed: its contours were distorted due to endless staining and renovation. This transformation is seen as a metaphor for the transformation of the very concept of freedom.

And again we note that the beauty of the idea prevails here over the expressiveness of the image. Whereas, for example, Danila Tkachenko, who photographed abandoned houses in the dead cities of the Far North and turned on the light in several windows, the visual and conceptual exist in harmony (the Planetarium project). Yes, and Evgenia Rzheznikova too. She invited the audience to read into the microphone a fragment from Dead Souls and watch the sound waves turn into landscapes of the Russian countryside and Gogol’s characters on the screen (“Dead Souls. Card index of landscapes of the Russian Empire”). Rzheznikova, however, received a special prize from the French Institute at the French Embassy in Russia – the possibility of a three-month internship in Paris. The audience greeted the announcement with enthusiasm: the work of Dmitry Krymov’s student fell in love with many of those present.

Forward to the past

And in the choice of the jury in favor of “Freedom. 1919, 2020 ”, and in the decisions on several other nominations one more trend was read: interest in the study of the past, an attempt to see in the art experiments and subjects of the Soviet years the motives consonant with the present day. This is exactly how the victory in the category “Regional project” of the exhibition of the Pushkin Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan “Prometheus of the Space Age”, dedicated to the Kazan artist of the last century Timur Galeev, who created light and music performances using new technologies at the student design bureau, looks like. The “Book of the Year” rhymes with “Prometheus” – “In Search of the Lost Sound. Experimental Sound Culture of Russia and the USSR in the First Half of the 20th Century ”by Andrey Smirnov (again – sound!).

Exhibition “Laboratory of the Future. Kinetic Art in Russia “at the Tretyakov Gallery / Photo: RIA Novosti / Sergei Pyatakov

Finally, “Project of the Year” – the exposition of the St. Petersburg Manege and the Tretyakov Gallery “Laboratory of the Future. Kinetic Art in Russia ”is also a kind of research and publication of Soviet experiments. Although this victory was predictable: competing exhibitions – albeit original, bright, but chamber, they cannot compete with one of the main blockbusters of the season. Equally indisputable is the success in the “Curator of the Year” nomination for the virtual undertaking of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Pushkin “100 Ways to Live a Minute”. Launched at the height of the lockdown, the site allowed art connoisseurs to see the video art of the world’s largest artists and offered a creative interpretation of the self-isolation experience so new at that time.

What is significant: among the winning projects, there is not a single one dedicated to painting. Perhaps, in part, the “Laboratory of the Future”, but even there the paintings do not dominate at all. True to its name, the Innovation Prize decisively relies on new formats of artistic expression. It also encourages not so much to see a work of art as to hear, know, understand and feel. Maybe these abilities will be more useful to us in the changed world?

Sergey Uvarov

Cover photo: Garden of Escaping Sonors: Sound Architecture. Sergey Filatov / Photo: Anastasia Ponomarev



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