Curator of the 4th Moscow Contemporary Art Biennial, Peter Weibel. Press photo.

In answering your question on how the tradition of art collecting could change, I'd like to point out that we definitely shouldn't return to the paradigm of the private collector. The only solution that avoids that is for people to stand up and say that they want works of art to be seen as public property for the common good.  The worst part is that in today's society, there are few who really care about art. And we can't expect evolution if people don't stand up for it. As soon as society stops fighting for such universal goods such as air, water, energy resources, etc., they become privatized. That's what happens. And the same applies to works of art. In my opinion, it is a tragedy that art as a common good is slowly becoming private property.

In the Biennial catalog's essay, you write about globalization being a characteristic of contemporary culture, where there is no dominating country in art, no dominating medium. What kind of role does the artist's local environment and native culture play in this situation?

A very large role. I emphasize that culture is a phenomenon that survives only thanks to its differences. And differences arise in the dialectics between the local and the international, between the local and the global. The traditions of native culture are one of the sources of inspiration for the contemporary artist. This is also a distinct difference between contemporary and modern artists. Modern art tried to be international but ended up – American. Pop-art also wanted to be international, but it is really quite American with its Coca Cola and other symbols of the “hamburger nation”. I don't shy away from calling Andy Warhol the truest ethnic artist because he depicted his cultural heroes: Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, etc.

How did you select works for the Biennial?

The main criterion was adherence to the concept of the exhibition – “rewriting” – both in the technical and metaphorical senses. Technically, those are things like programming and solving codes. Take, for instance, one of the Biennial's works, “Life Writer” (2006), by Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, in which an observer writes something on a typewriter, which is then changed by a computer into a row of of symbols, which are then changed into insects projected onto a piece of paper. Metaphorically, rewriting means getting involved in the political and economic system, it is an active approach. The concept and goal of this year's Biennial is to, through art, initiate active participation in the construing of the world. Because art is also part of what is going on. By engaging in the act of art, you are also participating in the changing of the world. That is why interactive art is so very important today; it has great power. Namely, participating in a work of art is just one level; the next level is for the viewer to understand that art is a model of the world, and that through this interaction, you participate in the world. If you don't rewrite the world, it will rewrite you.


A work from the Biennial: Electroboutique (Aristarkh Chernyshev & Alexei Shulgin, Russia, est. 2005) A Big, Talking Cross. 2011

What brought you to include the work “Blood Light”, by the Latvian artist, Gints Gabrāns, in the Biennial?

By including artists from the Baltic States in the Biennial [artists from both Estonia and Latvia are represented in the Biennial – AI], I wanted to show that in these countries, which were for a long time oppressed and part of the soviet system, there was also pressure from the West. Meaning that although the West was largely unconcerned about Eastern Europe – which resulted in the East being cut out of the loop – there is a very strong presence of contemporary art here and it is not in the least behind the rest of Europe.