FROM 2013
FIELD RESEARCH
Generated by the interests of artists, curators, and writers working around the world, Garage Field Research gives new perspectives on overlooked or little-known events, philosophies, places, or people relating to Russian culture.
Generated by the interests of artists, curators, and writers working around the world, each Field Research project re-evaluates Russian-oriented issues in a global context prioritizing central themes in Garage Programs, which in 2014 includes the Russian avant-garde, historical periods relevant to understanding conditions today such as the 60s and the 90s; concepts such as "The New International" and the post-Post Soviet condition.

Each research project lasts one to three years and has no predetermined outcome. There are regular public presentations charting the progress of each initiative from the point of view of the participating artists and curators, as well as seminars with specialists that provide a broader context for each initiative. Finally, it is hoped that the body of accumulated research will contribute to the development of a new artwork, film, exhibition, archive, database, lecture, or publication, for example.

Currently there are several Field Research projects at various stages of development:
Photo 1
Anton Vidokle
Film still from This Is Cosmos!, 2014.
Courtesy of the artist
Photo 2
Anton Vidokle
Film still from This Is Cosmos!, 2014.
Courtesy of the artist
Photo 3
Installation view, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015
© Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Anton Vidokle: This is Cosmos!
accomplished

This is Cosmos is the first film in a planned trilogy inspired by the ideas of Russian cosmism, which is a unique phenomenon that emerged in the late 19th century, bringing together religious, philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic theories united by a common idea of the cosmos as a universal order.

Drawing widely on poems, philosophical texts, scientific writings, academic papers, and historical studies from followers of Cosmism, Anton Vidokle has focused on the writings of philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, the founder of the movement. In creating his theories of the "Common Cause," Fyodorov advocated for the development of scientific methods for the radical extension of life and the resurrection of the dead, believing that death was a mistake, "because the energy of cosmos is indestructible, because true religion is a cult of ancestors, because true social equality is immortality for all."

This is Cosmos was filmed at locations in the Moscow and Arkhangelsk regions, Altai, Kazakhstan, and Crimea—regions and places that have played an important part in the history of the movement. As a non-linear history of ideas and practices related to cosmism, the film is an aesthetic exploration of the potential immanent in the utopian idea of a better world. In this way Vidokle recalls the tradition of the Russian avant-garde with their totality of thinking.
Face-to-face: The American National exhibition in Moscow, 1959/2015 in collaboration with the Museum of American Art in Berlin (MoAA)
accomplished

Working closely with the MoAA, Face-to-Face: The American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959/2015 explored the uncharted reverberations this exhibition, held in Moscow, had on culture in Soviet Russia. Through the perspective of the socio-political situation today, the "resurrection" of this legendary show aimed at highlighting how crucial such "face to face" encounters were not only for culture, but also potentially for altering the course of the Cold War.

Partial reconstructions of the elements in the original exhibition, including artworks and aspects of the design were presented alongside rare primary materials and artifacts, historical reviews, films, recollections and comments from visitors and tour guides. Moscow-based Americanist, Dr. Victoria Zhuravleva and historian Alexander Shubin have provided academic guidance in building the cultural, as well as geopolitical context to reassess the importance of this event today.
Koyo Kouoh and Rasha Salti: Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab cinema in The era of Soviet cultural diplomacy
accomplished

Saving Bruce Lee is an introductory presentation of a two-year project focused on retracing the destinies of African and Arab filmmakers who studied in Soviet Russia. By making public the research-in-progress (June 12–August 23, 2015), visitors of Garage could get to know the 17 "protagonists" and their journeys to Moscow, the key context for which was Soviet cultural diplomacy in the African and Arab worlds respectively. The research is the first of its kind to trace the influence of Soviet cinema on the work of these acclaimed filmmakers.

Developed by curators Koyo Kouoh and Rasha Salti, the research spans three generations of filmmakers who studied in the USSR at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) from the 1960s to the late 1980s. By bringing to light their little-known stories in Moscow and in other regions of the former Soviet Union, as well as influences that contributed to the aesthetic and ideological language of their films, the project represents a major breakthrough in the understanding of African and Arab film studies and history. Saving Bruce Lee is an attempt to re-write the cinematic canons and explore the place these "third world" VGIK graduates occupy within it by acknowledging and researching Soviet stylistic influences in their work.

On July 30, 2015 a seminar took place with Koyo Kouoh, Rasha Salti, Catarina Simão, Ali Essafi, Filipa César and Philippe Rekacewicz. Curators and artists were reflecting on the academic canon of film studies.

Photo 1
Production still from Congo in Struggle (1960), directed by Leonid Varlamov. Photographic print transferred to digital image.Archive of Vladlen Troshkin.
Photo 2
Сurators Rasha Salti in the Eisenstein library, March 2015
Photo: Sergey Shilovs

Photo 3
The connections between African and Arab filmmakers and their mentors at VGIK.
© Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Taryn Simon: Black Square XVII
in process

Taryn Simon collaborated with Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) to prepare a work of art made from nuclear material. In the year 3015, approximately one thousand years after its creation, a black square made from vitrified nuclear waste will be permanently displayed at Garage in a custom designed void that has been integrated into the new museum building. In 2016 Garage will present Simon's new project, presenting her expanded investigations into invisible or latent social, political, and economic systems that affect how we comprehend the world around us.
Taryn Simon: Black Square XVII, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015
© Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Dmitry Gutov/David Riff. If our soup can could speak ... Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties
in process

If our soup can could speak ... is a new Garage Field Research project examining the complex meaning of 1968 in Soviet society, in relation to the unique relevance of aesthetic philosopher and cultural critic Mikhail Lifshitz (1905–1983). Famous in the West as a year of social transformation and revolt, in the former socialist block in Soviet Russia the relevance of 1968 is more ambivalent: for the hopeful generation of the sixties it ushered in a frosty political climate after the demise of Premier Khrushchev's Thaw.

Over the course of two years, this Field Research project will accumulate material to produce a multi-layered film, in which a textually reconstructed Lifshitz will narrate a critical Soviet vision of 1968. This will be a narrative as full of paradoxes, juxtapositions, and subtle jibes as Lifshitz's book. The research will also produce an English translation of The Crisis of Ugliness and related texts, as well as public events with invited guests and film screenings from fall 2015 through winter 2016. Online webisodes will document the research process and offer previews and contextualization. The project will conclude with an exhibition and with the presentation of the final film (2018).

The project is developed and executed by artist Dmitry Gutov, founder of the Lifshitz Institute and long-standing researcher of Lifshitz's textual legacy, and curator David Riff, translator of several of Lifshitz's key texts, including an unabridged and expanded version of The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx (forthcoming).
Presentation of the project "If our soup can could speak ... Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet
Sixties" by Dmitry Gutov and David Riff at Garage Museum, October 13, 2015
Mariam Ghani: What We Left Unfinished
in process

Artist, filmmaker, and writer Mariam Ghani will dedicate the months of October through December 2016 to conduct part of her ongoing research What We Left Unfinished in Russia. Her long-term investigations are centered around five unfinished Afghan feature films shot between 1978 and 1992, years that encompass the Afghan Communist coup d'état and strong Soviet influence in the country. In Moscow, Ghani will focus on collecting cinematic material in order to explore how the Afghan war was constructed cinematically for the Soviet people, and how it was framed for the Afghan people—through cinematic methods influenced by Soviet filmmakers. During her time in Russia, Ghani will also organize screenings of the five unfinished films, along with improvised live commentaries by local cultural producers. Her field research will culminate in a day-long seminar with local and international filmmakers and film archivists.
Mariam Ghani, from left to right: poster for Falling, poster for Wrong Way, poster for The Black Diamond, 2014
Courtesy of the artist
Alexandra Sukhareva: Comb in the Grass (small descriptive models that have turned into action)
in process


The Field Reserch project suggested by Alexandra Sukhareva (b. 1983) focuses on an intriguing and little studied episode in Russian cultural history. The Siege of Leningrad (September 8, 1941, to January 27, 1944) was among the most tragic episodes of World War Two. The 872 days of the blockade have traumatized an entire generation, and many events of the time have been repressed in collective memory. With memory and memory construction among the central themes of her art practice, Alexandra Sukhareva's research project focuses on secret societies and alternative spiritual practices that started emerging in the besieged city from the first days of the blockade and reflected its inhabitants' need of a new spiritual framework that would define what was normal in a world beyond good and evil, a world where people no longer believed in god, communism or humanity. Most information and documents relating to such practices are still classified or continue to exist as secret. Collecting tiny bits of evidence in public and private archives, as well as in interviews, Sukhareva aims to reconstruct the picture of the spiritual upheaval of the period that brought about a number of mystical movements and even occultist groups. She is also interested in the lives of particular participants of those events, such as Sofya Ostrovskaya—one of the important figures of the Leningrad cultural scene who later turned out to have been a KGB agent.

An important aspect of Alexandra Sukhareva's project is her analysis of the besieged city as a specific media zone with new channels of information distribution. The lack of reliable news from the front line created new patterns of information exchange and redefined the very value of information. Information became largely a matter guesswork and predictions, which the artist believes was similar to the phenomena we can witness today: production of opinions based on hearsay and incomplete or unverified reports and ultimately, production of mass obscurantism.

Alexandra Sukhareva's project includes archive research in The State Museum of the History of Religion, Tsarskoye Selo, The Museum of the Defense and Blockade of Leningrad, the Saint Petersburg Roerich Family Museum and Institute and the Central State Archive of Political and Historic Documents of Saint Petersburg. The sources studied include Tatyana Gnedich, Stranitsy plena i stranitsy slavy [Pages of Captivity and Pages of Glory], Saint Petersburg: Genio Loci 2008; Sofya Ostrovskaya, Dnevnik [Diary], Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2013; Maria Malikova, ed., Konets institutsiy kultury dvadstatykh godov v Leningrade. Po arkhivnym materialam [The End of the 1920s' Cultural Institutions in Leningrad. Based on Archived Documents], Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2014; Sergey Svistun, ed., Sankt-Pererburgskaya psikhiatricheskaya bolnitsa sv. Nikolaya-Chudotvortsa. K 140-letiyu [Saint Nikholas the Wonderworker Psychiatric Asylum in Saint Petersburg. 140th Anniversary], Saint Petersburg: Kosta, 2012; Alexander Etkind. Eros nevozmozhnogo. Istoriya psykhoanaliza v Rossii [Impossible Eros. The History of Psychoanalysis in Russia], Moscow: Klass, 2016; Mikhail Shakhnovich. Peterburgskiye mistiki [The Mystics of Saint Petersburg], Saint Petersburg: Nevskiy Glashatay, 1996; and Sabina Shpilrein. Psikhoanaliticheskiye Trudy [Writings in Psychoanalysis], Izhevsk: Ergo, 2008.
Photo 1
Alexandra Sukhareva, Good bye, gaze, 2015.
Installation detail
Courtesy of the artist
Photo 2
Sofia Ostrovskaya.
Photograph reproduced from her diaries
Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2013.
Photo 3
Alexandra Sukhareva, Bracket. Bayham Abbey, September 6, 2013. Digital documentation
Courtesy of the artist
Susanna Gyulamiryan and Raffie Davtian: Political and Cultural Paradoxes of Vladimir Shukhov
in process


This research project by the Armenian curator Susanna Gyulamiryan and Irano-Armenian artist Raffie Davtian is focused on the famous Russian architect and engineer Vladimir Shukhov, whose inventions were ahead of their time and include hyperboloid structures and innovative roof structures. One example of his work is the roof of Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, where Garage Museum of Contemporary Art was initially housed and was named after.

Although he was far removed from politics, Shukhov could not completely avoid contact with the repressive machine of the Soviet state, and spent years without regular work, while still receiving prestigious state awards. Shukhov has come to be seen as a paradoxical agent of history—a riddle we have yet to solve and a phenomenon we need to revisit in the post-Soviet context. While exploring Shukhov's way of combining and blending different ideologies and approaches in his architectural practice, Gyulamiryan and Davtian are interested in tracing how new cultural and architectural discourses typically start to develop after revolutions, looking in particular at the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Iranian Revolution of 1978–1979. Through the biography of Vladimir Shukhov, the researchers will also try to examine how "the history of aesthetics becomes the history of power."
Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage before reconstruction, 2008
© Photo Yuri Avvakumov
Sammy Baloji: Research on the Soviet influence in Congo
in process


Artist Sammy Baloji is interested in exploring the Belgian Congo's transition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the later formation of Mobutu Sese Seko's dictatorship; and the role of Patrice Lumumba in the country's independence. His focus will not be solely on the politics of the Cold War, as he is mainly interested in exploring his native country's culture and way of life during Zairianization—the official state ideology of the Mobutu regime.

Baloji will aim to examine the influence of communism on Congolese culture, explore the development of local artistic practices during that three-decade period, and analyze the resemblance of Mobutu's regime and policies to communist methods of ruling. At the beginning of 2017, Baloji plans to come to Moscow where he will visit the Moscow Institute of African Studies (the creation of which was proposed to Nikita Khrushev by W.E.B Du Bois in 1959); as well as meet with the Congolese community to explore its local narrative and little-known histories.
Sammy Baloji
© Rolex/Tomas Bertelsen
Chto Delat: The Soviet Houses of Cultures
in process


The Soviet Houses of Culture were supposedly based on the idea of the Worker's Club proposed by Alexander Rodchenko in 1925 for the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris. The idea postulated that the club should function not only to provide workers with a navigational base in political matters, but also to supply them with aesthetic experiences, which they should receive through artistic and practical group activities, as well as lectures and seminars. The Houses of Culture, which spread like wildfire across the entire Soviet Union, were designed by leading architects and typically contained a cinema and a theater, a public library, a gym, a dance studio, drawing and photography studios, a ham radio club, rehearsal areas for musicians, a chorus, and a café.

Chto Delat will actualize the genealogy of the Soviet Houses of Culture, exploring them as spaces where different emancipatory encounters with art and culture happened, and investigating how these experiences can be translated into current day counter culture practices. A particular focus will be on provincial cities in the Far Northern regions where the Soviet philosophy of education confronted and influenced ethnic patterns of education and traditions.
Chto Delat, Activist Club, 2007. Installation view at "Plug In #51," 2009, at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Photo Peter Cox
Collection of Van Abbemuseum
For more information on these projects, please email Field Research coordinator at field_research@garagemca.org.
Борис Гройс «Русский космизм»
Антология, посвященная малоизученному направлению в русской философии двадцатого века — русскому космизму. Сборник эссе выдающихся последователей этого течения составил Борис Гройс, один из ведущих философов и теоретиков культуры современности.
Field Research: A Progress Report
Established in 2013, this is the first cross-disciplinary platform in a contemporary art museum in Russia. Generated by the interests of artists, curators, and writers working around the world, the program gives a new perspective on overlooked or little-known events, philosophies, places, or people relating to Russian culture.
Research as Suture
Participants reflected on and interrogated the academic canon of film studies, exploring how to reconcile the dissonance between oral histories and institutional archives.
Research as suture. Film archives and ruptured histories: Perspectives from artistic and curatorial practices
Participants of the seminar reflected on and interrogated the academic canon of film studies, exploring how to reconcile the dissonance between oral histories and institutional archives.
Public talk: Taryn Simon and Nikita Medyantsev, ROSATOM specialist
Garage hosted a discussion between artist Taryn Simon and Nikita Medyantsev, Head of Public and International Relationship at The Federal State Unitary Enterprise «National Operator For Radioactive Waste Managment» at ROSATOM State Nuclear Energy Corporation.
Dmitry Gutov/David Riff. If our soup can could speak ... Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
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