Responding to the theme of friendly recommendation that was at the center of the 2nd Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art A Beautiful Night for All the People, the exhibition Fifth Wave presents the personal choice of 1st Triennial participant Ivan Novikov, but in an expanded format.
In the role of curator, Novikov chose to show the practices of artists who have left Russia to study or work abroad and currently reside in Austria, Belgium, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and France. These “fifth wave” artists do not share a common style or conceptual or political vision, and work in different media: from painting to complex performances. The only thing they have in common is their exclusion from the context of Russian art due to emigration.
Fifth Wave is opening during the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time when most borders remain closed and states are doing everything in their power to interrupt migration flows. Isolation and enforced disconnection across the world accentuate the alienation of migrants from the rest of the society. Cultural workers may find themselves in the toughest situation they have faced for years. With museums, theaters, and cultural centers closed, the social distancing regime aggravates their isolation.
Today, the very idea of exploring art within the borders of one country might seem conservative. But, as the year 2020 has taught us, questions of global integration remain relevant. Borders have not been erased, and in some cases they have become more evident. The neglect of migrant artists harms culture as a whole. This is why an exhibition of Russian artists who have left the country, becoming invisible for the local viewer, is so important.
The artists in this exhibition left Russia at different ages and in various circumstances. Many of them do not identify as emigrants, believing that the term belongs in the era of the Iron Curtain. Their relationship with the Russian context is also different in each case. Alexandra Anikina’s Information Field addresses the Soviet past as reflected in her family history, inspirited by an image of the old family home in the village of Chichevo outside Moscow. Natalia Grezina’s installation immerses the viewer in the cultural memory of her native city, Sevastopol. Olga Grotova’s abstractions reconstruct the dense context of the Eurasian steppe, where the artist’s great-grandmother survived a GULAG camp. Elizaveta Konovalova explores the cityscape of Kaliningrad, choosing the central square as the starting point for her visual research. Margarita Maximova’s autobiographical essay reconstructs the image of her father, who she never met.
Other participants chose not to base their works on a geographical connection to the past. Katya Ev’s installation explores the boundaries of civil liberties under the state of emergency. For Evgeny Dedov, a study of the painting surface is the foundation for an esoteric work about his own poetics, based of the repetition of ornamental motifs. Angelina Merenkova transforms images of mass culture and web infrastructures into surrealist assemblages and sculptures. Yana Smetanina’s series of paintings, Imperfections, explores the tension between the external and internal experience of beauty. Drawing on dada and futurist imagery, Igor Shuklin looks for the remains of avant-garde achievements in the philistine reality of today, while Ivan Murzin’s Sisyphus Museum is both visually and conceptually an exhibition within an exhibition, offering an absurd and inspiring alternative to slow and rigid art institutions.
Curator: Ivan Novikov