Moscow Biennale I
Dialects of Hope
2005

In november 2004 I was invited to come to Moscow in Russia as the authorities wanted to explore the possibilities of setting up a biënnale for contemporary art. It was only a couple of years before the word “biënnale” litterally got out of it’s context and around the world countries and cities started producing biënnales in the broadest sense of the word, often out of context and often only using the word biënnale as an umbrella for any kind of event. The word biënnale became rapidly a commo-dity, an international word for global entertainment. Pitty, but globalization is and was not only restricted to economy; art and culture were penetrated and affected too and it will take a number of years before a new stable basis will be found again of what a biënnale and it’s contents stands for.

However, the Russians came still at the right time and had exiting ideas combined with a limited budget and no location for the exhibition ! This cocktail exited me enough to explore the challenge whether such would be possible. What made the task bearable was that there was an enormous will and desire from the Russians to lift such an event of the ground although restricted by limited means and no experience since the Sovjet Union collapsed.

I decided to step in dark, face the challenge and start to work. To find a location for the exhibition itself was the topic I started with upon my arrival. Surprisingly enough me and my mini team were able to interest and commit serious organizations to the biënnale exhibition, namely ; (former) Lenin Museum, Pushkin Museum, MUAR Museum & metro station ! Exiting locations and all on walking distance from each other in the centre of Moscow. The Pushkin Museum and the MUAR Museum were open and in public function but the former Lenin Museum was actually closed for already many years. Nothing was working properly in this museum which meant that a lot of extra work needed to be done. But to obtain a location that was litterally 100 mtr opposite of the Kremlin can’t be ignored even though the only thing working was the key of the front door, and 15 guards that were still there doing nothing all these years (a job is a job after all !) and all the rest of the building was in a shocking state. The decision was made to renovate (a cosmetic pimp–up) the Lenin Museum in order so that it could function as the main location for the first Moscow biënnale of Contemporary Art and the other venues would operate as location sites where additional projects would take place.

Since there was an electrifying kind of positive energy from the Ministry of Culture down to the actual workers to realize this biënnale (title: “Dialects of Hope”) and it was amazing to see the number of people and organizations who wanted to get involved and willing to participate one way or another. All of the renovation works, producing all the new art works and installations of the international selected artists had to be done at the same time and holding on to that special momentum which lasted till way after the official opening. The curatorial team consisted out of 6 well known names, namely; Daniel Birnbaum, Rosa Martinez, Iara Boubnova, Joseph Backstein, Hans Ulrich Obrist, & Nicolas Bourriaud. The formula consisted out of the following curatorial ideas; in all the major venues the main projects of the biennale took place which was based on inviting young artists and producing new art works or installations. The special projects were based on artists that were already well known in the international art scene and they made new installations on site specific locations in the city of Moscow and the third element was the side projects. These were projects with predominately Russian artists and a large number of shows were made in many other venues spread out of the city of Moscow.

The same curatorial team would also curate the second biënnale two years later. The timing for the event itself was also perfect and very Russian; in the middle of the winter (early February) with temperatures around minus 20 degrees, lot’s of snow and sometimes snow storms. Nevertheless the entire operation was done in time spread out over a string of months and when the actual opening took place, right in the middle of a snow blizzard; it looked almost like a kick-off of a pop festival where people were attending too. An amazing experience, combined with relief and excitement at the same time as the video compilations shows.

Participating artists
Boris Achour  -  Saadane Afif  -  Pilar Albarracin  -  Pawel Althamer  -  Vasco Araujo
Micol Assael  -  Michel Beutler  -  Johanna Billing  -  Christian Boltanski  -  Blue Noses  -  Blue Soup  -  John Bock  -  Chung & Maeda  -  Santiago Cirugeda Parejo
Jemery Deller  -  Trisha Donnely  -  Sam Durant  -  Cao Fei  -  Yang Fudong  -  Carlos Garaicoa Manso  -  Gelitin  -  Subodh Gupta  -  Koo Jeong-A  -  Alexei Kallima
Irina Korina  -  Constantin Luser  -  Ivan Moudov  -  Aydan Murtezaoglu  -  Jun Nuygen Hatsushiba  -  Melik Ohanian  -  Paulina Olowska  -  Diego Perrone
Michael S. Riedel  -  De Rijke & De Rooij  -  Tomas Saraceno  -  Tino Sehgal
Santiago Sierra  -  Rostan Tavasiev  -  David Ter-Oganyan  -  Fatimah Tuggar
Clemens von Wedemeyer

Video impression of Moscow Biennale I

Photo impression of Moscow Biennale I