Enter a boxy four-walled, ‘open sky’ space at the first floor of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. Select the work of one of the five artists (all part of one collective) on the digital screen at the left entrance to instantly launch a virtual solo exhibition on the walls surrounding the space, in a mix of animation and juxtaposition of photographs, paintings, etchings, sounds and colours: Tasia Korotkova’s hyper-realistic, strikingly precise etchings of machinery; Olya Kroytor’s retro-futuristic collages; Pavel Kiselev’s abstract animated sculptures; Alexande Lysov’s flashing light optical compositions; art duo MishMash’s juxtaposition of crowd-sourced urban photography and their abstract transpositions (they’re currently collecting snapshots of Berlin – send in yours!)… V_Museum simultaneously shows in a single space the work of six young artists who are supposed to stand for the sheer and inspiring diversity of the Moscow off-art scene.
It takes a few good minutes to get into it; the juxtaposition of so many different styles and media can be disorienting, especially when interrupted by the constant resetting of new visitors – it feels a bit like trying to watch a TV programme while your 4-year-old plays with the remote control – zap, zap and zap. You just feel like screaming at the idiot who just interrupted the exhibit you were starting to enjoy. Of course, you can try to fight over the control screen – maybe that’s what they mean by ‘interactive’! They even boast they let you “participate in the shaping of the exhibition” – and after all, this might the best way to return to flesh and blood communication in this boxy digital kingdom.
The ‘virtual exhibition space’ concept was first developed in Moscow as an educational project. Taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies in order to dodge usual curating challenges (institutional and logistical) and making contemporary art accessible to as many as possible is particularly relevant in a continent-sized country plagued by unusually heavy bureaucracy.
On this particular score the Berlin materialisation might of course feel a bit gimmicky (it’s not as if we’re missing opportunities to see art here!). Nevertheless, while not all of the work is equally captivating, one can’t help feeling the appeal of the format, not just as a logistical solution but also as a creative impetus for each artist: they were all asked to work with the specific digital format – and the exhibition is also the result of their exploring possibilities they were not necessarily used to.
“That was a first time. They were experimenting with the medium,” says V_Museum organiser Christina Steinbrecher. The Kazhakstan-born Russian boasts striking looks (short platinum hair, mint colour retro dress) and art credentials from Manchester (where she scored an MA) to Vienna (Viennafair) to Moscow (where she’s currently the artistic director of Art Moscow and the Moscow Central House of Artists and also runs the Innovation Prize of the National Centre for Contemporary Art!). Not yet 30, she’s already a hip protagonist on the European art-curating scene and the exhibition is the result of collaboration between her Sputnik Art Foundation and the Berliner Festspiele. “Now that they see the result, they can explore further, do more, it triggers more ideas.” And yes, the potential and what each artist did with it is probably what makes this exhibition especially worth seeing.
V_Museum – Platform Moscow, through Dec 9 | Haus der Berliner Festspiele