V-A-C Foundation announces The Way of Enthusiasts

V-A-C Foundation presents The Way of Enthusiasts open 29 August–25 November 2012. during the 13th Venice International Architecture Biennale.

This context-rich, multi-layered presentation, utilizes the architectural context of the biennale as a filter and lens through which to compile the scattered phenomena of the last decades of Russian art into a vital and comprehensive landscape.

The Way of Enthusiasts explores the artistic discourse and spatial commentaries between artists and works produced during, and subsequent to, a specific historical and cultural period in Soviet Russia, namely the collapse of the mass social housing projects in the 50s. It further deals with the impact of the failure of such experiments on contemporary artists both conceptually and practically, and utilises the urban and architectural framework as a way of constructing a parallel narrative to identify and illuminate the patterns behind the shift from the Soviet era to a capitalist, post-ideological society.

The fatal transformation of the Soviet urban landscape originated from Khrushchev’s famous 1954 speech, where he envisaged idealized environments for suburban living in line with Russia’s industrial advances. The resulting ‘microrayons’ were designed and built according to strict rules and regulations based around efficiency of living, working and production. Such an approach created uniformity on an unprecedented scale, and assured long-term domination of the landscape of Soviet cities.

For artists such as the Moscow Conceptualists, the breakdown of these public housing projects in the 70s provided the first operational urban spaces for their ‘collective actions’ and also became a source of inspiration, a way of balancing the shifted metaphysical gravity between the centre and the periphery.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s, the two waves of capitalism and liberty unleashed artistic impulses that encompassed both radical individualism and kitsch confusion. Alternative ways of living pushed art further into the streets and a new subversive artistic language was created, which physically utilized actionism, intervention, provocation, speculation and populism. Many artists strove to eradicate governmental control over space by re-appropriating public places and playing with the abandoned signs of former power representation.

Even though the contemporary generation of artists remain outside the direct effects of territorial redistribution, the investigation of how their urban environments have been transformed—especially given the recent change to socio-political balance—continues to be an artistic concern, and the artists featured, reveal practices that oscillate between observations of a fragmented present with re-creations of Soviet collectives spaces.

The show’s title comes from Moscow landmark, Shosse Entuziastov, an old Russian avenue that connects the city centre with the residential districts. Once one of the main routes to Siberian prisons and exile, it was given the rather grand name of Shosse Entuziastov (the way of enthusiasts) in the 1920s, as a way of looking towards a new world whilst romanticising the past. Today, whilst the name still has a glorious resonance, the decadent residences that line the street, mask any traces of the great Soviet dream of public housing schemes, exposing the desperate gap between the plan and the ruins, the ruins and the plans.

The Way of Enthusiasts is curated by Katerina Chuchalina and Silvia Franceschini. Architectural expertise from Daria Paramonova and Kuba Snopek.

Casa dei Tre Oci
Giudecca 43
Venice, Italy
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