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Egor Larichev :

St. Petersburg : Manifesta Orange Pill

Jordi Colomer · Nofuture St. Petersburg, 2014. Foto: Dmitrii Bariudin ©ProLitteris. This is the first piece of art, that the public encounters in the General Staff Building.

For the first time over three hundred years Saint-Petersburg receives a massive landing-party of European contemporary art - at the end of June the Manifesta 10 Biennale curated by Kasper Koenig had openned here. Probably the Helvetian Dominico Tresini, Italians Bartalomeo Rastrelli and Carlo Rossi with the Frenchman Auguste Montferrand would disagree with me. With more than two hundred other European artists they had constructed and decorated the palaces and cathedrals accomplishing the great "Saint-Petersburg experience” - the creation of the new capital of Russian Empire on the boggy margins of Neva river. This was the showing-off plug-in-European-culture city and even the Hermitage that now hosts Manifesta's main venue was built to cherish the Royal Western art collection than as the Tzar's habitual residence.
Last century had cut the former capital off the vitalizing exchange links fixing it's beauty of fading: it had passed through two world wars, two revolutions, blockade, repressions, stagnation and perestroika. That is why we all enjoy going here - it's like a time travel. Since the beginning of 2000s better times are back here as the locals leaded by Mr. Putin are governing the country. The city shell has been restored consistently but had got no other sense than showing newly polished signs of former pride and glory still. The orange pill of Manifesta Biennale could be a remedy updating dead links and temporally connecting the citizens and guests of the city to the flow of contemporary European culture.
There are two main project venues - at Hermitage and at General Staff Building nearby just reconstructed to host big museum shows. The artistic interventions by Yasumasa Morimura, Gerhard Richter, Karla Black and even Louise Bourgeois in Hermitage are so delicate that they are tend to vanish in its reach and diverse historical expositions without a trace. Smaller in scale they are almost unfindable there and do not even create a holdup for the crowd in search for Leonardo's Madonna. It's like whisper on a rock concert.
The exposition in the General Staff Building is in contrast very clear, measured and has much more air. It reads in curatorial statement that it's of the homogeneous nature and has no conceptual spine. So, the reflections and visions by Francis Alys (who travelled to Hermitage on an old Soviet Lada car and bumped it in one the trees), Pavel Pepperstein (with his alarmist vision of Russia - so actual this Autumn), Thomas Hirschhorn (who had put real avant-garde paintings in the fake communal flat interiors of a destroyed house), Bruce Nauman (showing his empty worksop), Wael Shawky (with the Crusades story played by old marionettes) and Timur Novikov (iconic for Saint-Petersburg neoacademic movement) are put together in a posh adaptation of Empire style office building to a contemporary exhibition hall which can probably fit another dozen of installation with ease.
The exhibition is nice one but it gives a sensation of a price-free teaser or a meal in a classy restaurant where you go to taste something new, not to eat your fill. If you came for Biennale just for that feeling - just visit the Parallel Program majorly hosted in the former Cadet Corps ruined building on Vassilievsky island - one of forty location around the city. Here you can find the new Federal Exhibition of Contemporary Art Design Achievments - the different artists from all parts for Russia contest in their comprehension of being contemporary to be seen and recognized by Manifesta professional visitors and curators. Mostly they are designing understandable trendy and handy pieces - future seeds for the international art field. There someone can see a disconnection between two projects - Manifesta curators are adopting the exhibition to general public with a wide use of multilevel educational program, the Russian artists tend to show how actual they really are - these are the arrows that are running in different directions and can meet only as a matter of chance. But let us hope so.

Bis: 31.10.2014


Anfang Zurück zum Anfang
Ausgabe 10  2014
Ausstellungen Manifesta 10 [28.06.14-31.10.14]
Institutionen State Hermitage Museum [St. Petersburg/Russland]
Autor/in Egor Larichev
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