Moscow Biennale II
Footnotes on Geopolitics, Market and Amnesia

After the enormous success of the first Moscow Biennale, it was inevitable that a new edition was to be produced for which I was asked again. Nice but also a bit of a surprise as one never knows entirely how politics develop and who is actually pulling on which (financial)  string. Moscow is the only city that really matters in Russia and the city rhythm and infrastructure are based on a cocktail that consists out of politics, money, glamour, mafia, madness, power, have all or have nothing, and circa 15 million people. The city of Moscow never sleeps and anything is possible if you can make contact to the right people and come to the right terms and conditions. Exhausting but at the same time also addictive and one needs a steel stamina in order to survive ! The preparations for the second Moscow Biënnale started in time and next to the Lenin Museum, the Muar Museum would partici-pate again, as well as new venues such as Winzavod (former wine factory) and Tsum. The Tsum location was very different from the rest as it is a luxurious warehouse for the very rich.., and  also privately owned.  There are two of these luxurious warehouses, namely Tsum and Gum. Both are also located in the immediate vicinity of the Kremlin. At the time of the preparations of the second biënnale Tsum was building an entire new wing of their existing warehouse. For the biënnale we were allowed to use the entire huge  4th floor and in itself amazing as visitors had to pass through the warehouse itself in order to visit part the biënnale exhibition. This space was later on used also for the exhibition of Yoko Ono. All went well until approximately 2 months before the opening when we lost the main headquarters of the Moscow Biënnale, namely the Lenin Museum. The Lenin Museum actually belonged to three different parties; the Russian State, the city of Moscow and the Historical Museum (which is located immediately next to the Lenin Museum). For the first biënnale this troika could agree that we could use it but the second biennale they started to argue amongst themselves which resulted in the fact that they could not come to terms and we couldn’t use therefore. That was a serious set back as the opening was approaching fast and apart from finding a huge new location it meant that all installation plans of the artwork styled and in production progress for the Lenin Museum needed to be altered accordingly. Madness really but giving up wasn’t an option, so we started to look for alternative spaces and for nearly 2,5 weeks in a row we were driving around Moscow in order to look for suitable accommodation. To cut a long story short; we managed to find in the end an alternative location, namely a skyscraper ! In the financial district of Moscow huge skyscrapers were built and we managed to get in one particular sky scraper 4 huge entire floors that could serve as basis for the main Moscow Biënnale exhibition. The skyscraper was called the Federation Tower and the construction works were far from completed when we entered. From the 80 floors about 60 were realized in hull setting (just the concrete rough frame work and glass windows and nothing more) and the remaining floors were being constructed non stop 24/ 7, seven days a week. One could feel the wind blowing through the entire building but we were happy enough to find a new temporary basis from which we could operate. It was as if the horror scenario of the first biënnale never left (to produce everything super fast) , as again for about 5 /6 weeks we had to work also around the clock in order to get all and everything done. Like during the first edition large number of construction and installation crews worked ongoing to get the work done. The Federation Tower became the Tower of Babylon as so many different nationalities were working there, next to the Turkish and Chinese workers that partly lived and operated on the top floors of the building itself. It looked like one giant machine that was in working & progress non-stop. Impressive indeed ! We managed as we did with the first biennale but it was a roller coaster ride that left a deep mark for all that were involved one way or another. However hectic it was a the Federation Tower, all other works at the other venues went on fine and steady and it was almost a complete different world; peace & time, space and no crazy environmental circumstances.

After the second Moscow Biënnale, the third edition (Against Exclusion) took place in a much more proper setting than the fist two editions, namely the Garage. A beautiful and large location on the Jewish compound in Moscow. During the communist years the space was transformed into a bus station (Garage) and during the late nineties these premises were given back to the Jewish community who completely renovated the entire compound but kept the name Garage. Although the new exhibition place was and is amazingly beautiful, it was also the time when a new political & curatorial wind was blowing. It was decided to let the biennale take place in September instead of hard core winter and to work no longer with new art works and installations but existing ones. A fatal mistake, as the exhibition and works might still be of interest to the Russian people, but on a world scale of important biënnales taken place, the Moscow Biënnale rapidly lots it’s place and position as for foreign curators, museum directors, artists and art loves it is not worth the hassle to come over to Moscow and see those things that have already been exposed anywhere else. A pitty indeed but things go as they go and for me time to let go of an exiting adventure that lasted a substantial time and was amazing experience. When we started with the first biennale there were only a limited number of art galleries in Moscow, and since that moment a lot of things have changed radical. Now there are a large number of galleries, substantial art institutes that can organize major events, and because of that, the role of the biennale itself (a fourth edition recently took place) ironically reduced itself because it limited it’s own horizon by changing a successful formula into one that is questionable.

Participating artists
Lida Abdul  –  Viktor Alimpiev  –  Darren Almond  –  Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla  –  Narda Alvarado  –  Julieta Aranda  –  Edgar Arceneaux  –  Kutlug Ataman  –  Shoja Azari  –  Maja Bajevic  –  Mats Bigert & Lars Bergstrom
Bernadette Corporation  –  Monica Bonvinci  –  Jennifer Bornstein  –  Mike Bouchet
Luchezar Boyadjiev  –  Sergey Bratkov  –  Xavier Cha  –  Paul Chan  –  Olga Chernysheva  –  Kerstin Cmelka  –  Peter Coffin  –  Ben Coonley  –  Keren Cytter
Biljana Djurdjevic  –  Trisha Donnely  –  El Perro  –  Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset  Kendell Geers  –  Piero Golia  –  Loris Greaud  –  Carmella Gross  –  Jonathan Hernandez  –  Federico Herrero  –  Gary Hill  –  Christian Holstad  –  Barnaby Hosking  John Kormeling  –  Diana Machulina  –  Matt McCormick  –  Josephine Meckseper
Ana Mendieta  –  Melvin Motti  –  Gianni Motti  –  Casten Nicolai  –  Donna Ong  –  Dan Perjovschi  –  Pippiloti Rist  –  Mika Rottenberg  –  Michael Sailstorfer  –  Anri Sala
Franck Scurti  –  Nedko Solakov  –  Meredyth Sparks  –  Superflex –  Jordan Wolfson  Carey Young

Video impression of Moscow Biennale II

Photo impression of Moscow Biennale II