The Venice Biennale is surely at the top of the list here – a place for strong voices, clever ideas and perspectives, all side by side in a surrounding that cannot compete with anything else. Still, like many other biennales, it's challenging to get an overview; and having to share the space with so many people not only challenges your patience, but it does also sometimes affect one's perception.
Biennale Arte 2015. Samson Kambalu
I highly appreciated the selection following the theme of “All the World's Futures”, which aimed to present the current state of things and our negotiation through an “age of anxiety”, to use Baratta's own words – in all, a highly relevant point of departure. As expected, Okwui Enwezor opened up the room with a great list of current African artists, among them the conceptual artist and filmmaker Samson Kambalu (Malawi), who through his Nyau Cinema manifesto presents interesting new perspectives and philosophies on and about film. Kambalu also caused (unintentionally) what was, perhaps, the most interesting happening of all: copying freely from the Situationist archive at Yale, and then presenting it at as his own installation; the whole thing ended up in a trial between the Italian writer Gianfranco Sanguinetti and the Biennale. This incident raised questions on the original core ideas behind Situationism, which strongly rejected any form of copyright work. Kambalu and the Biennale won the case.
I would also like to point out the LOOP Art Fair in Barcelona (June 4-6), dedicated to video art and urgent debates within the moving image industry. The fair presented a great line of galleries that focus on video art, as well as who represent artists that take the medium to new levels. And it was just how an art fair and symposium should be: a place to meet, inspire and connect, all in an intimate and interesting atmosphere. Thanks for that.
I also highly appreciated Momentum, the 8th Nordic Biennal of Contemporary Art in Moss, Norway. Entitled Tunnel Vision, it took us on a sensory experience and a journey between what is virtual and what is real, confronting us as active participants and navigators in between the Big Data, and how this affects our perception. Well-curated by a group that certainly could be called one of today's most interesting Nordic curators. They managed to bring together ideas, turning them into a line between the artists' works, and created inspiring encounters in this little town far up North.
GLOBALE: Reset Modernity!
Dmitri Bulatov, curator (Russia)
Among the many cultural events of this past year, the one I would like to highlight is the grand programme of exhibitions and events united under the title of ‘Globale’, launched in June 2015 at the ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. This is an impressive network of events that includes over forty exhibitions (some of them, like ‘Infosphere’, ‘Exo-Evolution’, ‘Global Games’, ‘Global Control and Censorship’, etc., quite large-scale), numerous festivals, symposia and conferences, publishing initiatives and educational projects. The actual programme is scheduled to run for 300 days, marking the 300th founding anniversary of the city of Karlsruhe. We normally expect this kind of official events to be quite bland and shabby, but this has not been the case in Karlsruhe. The ZKM team have managed to take the typical spirit of radical exhibitions and projects of contemporary art and bring it to the extreme: art, science, politics, aesthetics and the latest technologies exist separately from each other only in the slightest degree possible. The programme continues next year with a string of equally impressive events, one of which I am looking forward to with particular enthusiasm: it is the ‘GLOBALE: Reset Modernity!’ exhibition curated by the prominent philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour.
Andrew Miksys, photographer (Lithuania/USA)
I’m not a huge fan of festivals, biennales, triennials, and art fairs… They often seem to be more for curators than artists. It’s more interesting when cultural events seem to appear out of nowhere, without all of the art-world hoopla. Just this month, Prince finally allowed the 2008 video of him performing Radiohead’s Creep, liveat Coachella, to be available online. Radiohead always wanted the video to be online, but Prince fought against it and sent “takedown” notices to anyone who posted a video of the performance on YouTube. Luckily, we can all enjoy it now. Prince shreds on guitar.
TEFAF. Exhibitor: Applicat-Prazan. Jean Hélion (Couterne 1904-1987 Paris). Dos au pain
Milena Orlova, art critic, Editor-in-Chief of The Art Newspaper Russia
I am going to name the Venice Biennale once again – not as an art exhibition this time but as an art festival of unprecedented scope. Speaking of art fairs, I was lucky enough to pay my first visit to the TEFAF in Maastricht this year, the most colourful and rich – in every sense of the word – antiques fair where you can find, among other things, quite a few examples of contemporary world – within the context of the global history of art. Of course, Art Basel is also among the top events of the art world – but I would like to make a mention of the young viennacontemporary art fair where artists and galleries – including ones from Russia and Eastern Europe – that have not as yet become part of the global establishment are given a chance to prove themselves. And it is at this art fair in Vienna that you should and could discover new and fresh names.
Julijonas Urbonas, artist and designer (Lithuania)
The symposium on artistic research, Smoke and Mirrors, at the Nida Doctoral School in Neringa, Lithuania.
Valentin Dyakonov, art critic and curator (Russia)
The unveiling of the renovated building of the Arsenal National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Nizhny Novgorod. This successful, wise and strategically farsighted branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts finally commands a huge exhibition space. As for its inaugural exhibition, ‘Museum of Great Expectations’ (curators Alisa Savitskaya and Vladislav Efimov), it demonstrated that we, residents of the capital, rarely give a thought to the context in which we work. The show was a brilliant attempt at bringing together a number of vastly different intellectual contexts (local non-art museums, contemporary gallery artists, street artists). In our area of work, we often focus obsessively on a very narrow progressionary way of thinking about the 20th century (from the ‘Square’ to performance, for example); here, the contemporary world was shown to be large and inclusive – and that is the right way to choose.
The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Courtesy of OMA
Marie Laurberg, curator and head of research at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
I attended the opening of the new Garage Museum in Gorky Park, Moscow, this year. After traveling from St. Petersburg to Moscow, I was intrigued by the ambition in this institution's exhibition- and research program. Projects ranging from contemporary art to Cold War politics and the meaning of the cosmos in Russian modern culture. Such an important attempt at keeping an open and critical cultural debate in today's Russia.
Dr. Vytautas Michelkevičius, commissar and curator of Lithuania's pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
The 56th Venice Art Biennale, because of two facts:
- The thoroughly unexpected coincidence that all three Baltic state pavilions dug back into the Soviet past and tried to find a contemporary take on historical traumas.
- The power of art to foresee the anxiety of the future. Iceland's pavilion at the Venice Biennale (artist: Christoph Büchel, with his project THE MOSQUE) was closed down in May because it touched upon issues that are sensitive for various cultures and religions, as well in their relationship to European culture and politics. A few months later, exactly the same issues blew up as “the migrant crisis in Europe”.
Homo Novus foreign guest-director Dries Verhoeven's work Homo Desperatus (28 June - 31 August at Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch)
Ieva Astahovska, art historian (Latvia)
The New Theatre Institute of Latvia festivalHomo Novus (Latvia), which always manages to hit the most sensitive points on the societal body; and the contemporary art festival Survival Kit (Latvia), which this year focused on themes from daily life. I see both festivals as mutually complementary – they bring the worlds of performative and visual art closer together, into a unified space of thought and emotional perception. Both festivals showed that “greatness” can also be found outside of the huge, international mega-biennales with their star-curators. Compared to the two heavyweights that I managed to see this year – the Venice and Istanbul Bienniales – both Latvian-based festivals spoke to me much more directly and honorably.
Kadri Uus and Andra Orn, founders of NOAR, an Estonian-based internet platform for art sales and information
Of course, we cannot not name the Venice Biennale, where this year the artistic director, Okwui Enwezor, left a decidedly strong and bold mark on the event.
Artist Pavlensky holds petrol can during his protest at the FSB headquarters in Moscow. Photograph: Reuters
Olesya Turkina, curator and art critic (Russia)
Instead of various festivals, biennials and triennials, it was ‘Threat’, a performance by Petr Pavlensky, that became the most significant art event of 2015. Little wonder that the burning door of the Russian Federal Security Service in Lubyanka Square has already been compared to the Fiery Gehenna and the Gates of Hell. Huge cultural events are fine at times of peace and prosperity. These days, when you cannot be sure if you are already living in hell or if you are only on your way there, an artist’s duty is questioning everything, including the very definition of art itself.
Viktor Misiano, curator and editor of the Moscow Art Magazine
I believe that we live at a time when events of this kind of format cannot be significant by definition…