Сonference is focusing on Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning. Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will attempt to overcome the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture.
In the summer of 2015 Garage Museum of Contemporary Art moved to its first permanent home, which was the former Vremena Goda restaurant in Gorky Park designed by Igor Vinogradsky in 1968. Architect Rem Koolhaas and OMA took a pioneering approach to the renovation of the building by making very little visible intervention into the original concrete structure, as well as preserving a number of Soviet-era elements such as mosaics and brickwork that have, until now, been accorded little architectural value or historic relevance. For Koolhaas, the preservation of such quotidian elements, together with the minimal approach to construction, avoids what he calls “the exaggeration of standards and scale” that he considers as ubiquitous in new art spaces around the world. For Garage, the architect’s approach has not only provided a unique museum space for the 21stcentury, but also the opportunity to develop a program of events and exhibitions that enable a rethinking and unearthing of the experience of Soviet Modernist architecture and culture in an international context.
Garage’s new initiative includes a number of projects with artists, historians, architects, and curators that will take different forms to bring public access to the cultural heritage of the Soviet epoch as a living entity. This fall, new projects include artists Dmitry Gutov and David Riff producing If Our Soup Can Could Speak: Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixtiesfor Garage Field Research (from October 13, 2015); and a series of lectures by architectural historian Anna Bronovitskaya (November 12, 2015—March 3, 2016).
The most extensive program to be launched is a three-year exploration of Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning led by Georg Schöllhammer, Garage International Advisor, starting with a two-day international conference, A Long, Happy Life on Friday 30 and Saturday 31 October.
The conference is inspired by the post-Soviet cities we inhabit today—where many Soviet monuments have changed function, gaining a new life and energy—and by the fact that we are now sufficiently distanced from the Modernist era to attempt an analysis of its complex social and political connotations.
In 1955, the famous State decree, “On elimination of excesses in design and construction” allowed Soviet architects to join the international Modernist movement, and to create the modern cityscape we can see today. The conference recalls and reinterprets Soviet Modernism; its aesthetics and styles; its ideological bias; and the economic views, cultural imagery, and major figures that were the driving forces behind it.
Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will explore the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture. Each day proceedings will end with a poetic, musical, or theatrical intervention. On the first day—referencing the tradition of poetry readings at the Polytechnic Museum and on Triumphalnaya Square—Garage Teens Team and the Polytechnic Museum’s SKVT Community will transform Garage Atrium into a space for public performances of poetry by the Soviet poets of the 1960s; the European and American heroes of the revolutions of 1968; and contemporary writers in a similar vein. The second day’s intervention will be dedicated to cinematography—an art form that defined the image of the Soviet 1960s. Especially for this occasion, Oleg Nesterov and Megapolis have created a new version of their performance From the Life of the Planets: Music for Unshot Fims of the 1960s.
Conference concept: Georg Schöllhammer, Garage International Advisor
Garage curators: Katya Inozemtseva, Anastasia Mityushina
Main academic partner: Institute of Modernism, Moscow
Research curator: Ruben Arevshatyan