InSight. Scenes from Russian Art Life 1986 1992
September 17 December 13, 2015
Organisers: The Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, E.K.ArtBureau, MANI museum
Project sponsor: GC "Stroyteks"
Curators: Joseph Backstein, Alexandra Danilova, Elena Kuprina-Lyakhovich, Larisa Kashuk, Sergei Mironenko, Julia Ovchinnikova, Fedor Romer
Curators-assistants: Natalia Alexander, Maria Nazarova, Marina Rudenko, Anna Santalova, Anna Zhurba
The InSight exhibition has been conceived as an experimental project which does not aim to provide visitors with readymade answer but prompts them to take an active part in comprehending and interpreting contemporary art scene instead. The show is dedicated to the so called heroic period of new Russian art during the last quarter of the 20th century.
In mid-1985s, last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev initiated a package of reforms, known collectively as perestroika, or restructuring, which heralded the end of the Iron Curtain era. The sweeping reforms also set the tone for the entire decade ahead as perestroika revealed just how absurd and unrealistic the Soviet myth was while also giving the new generation of Soviet citizens a feeling of unrestricted freedom. Everything that has been suppressed for so long strived to be finally recognized, hence the numerous art exhibitions and performance works, concerts and avant-garde fashion shows.
However, the situation was aggravated by the lack of any contemporary art institutions whatsoever. There were hardly any relevant galleries, museums, art fairs, newspapers of magazines in Russia back then. Or to be more precise, all of the above functioned in a specifically Russian, family-like way, with artists, critics and viewers being old cronies. In 1990s, the other art, which, unlike official Soviet art, had been for quite a while only available for initiates, looked to gain wide recognition and a new social status. And this is what the InSight project is all about the show aims to capture the beginning of this complicated and intricate process, even though its curators do not seek to compile a comprehensive picture of the epoch but have purposely decided not to structure or analyze it, as it is usually done.
The curators behind the project have made an earnest attempt to reconstruct the unique ambiance of the time when energy, enthusiasm and the goodwill of everyone involved in contemporary art were its principal driving forces. The exhibition is a kind of sketch or rough drawing reenacting certain episodes of the Russian art scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s in broad brush strokes. Back then, contemporary Russian art endured a tough process of bringing down old mechanism of culture and creating new ones to supplant them as being widely popular, commercially successful and universally acclaimed became a factor in a system previously dominated by self-archiving and self-museumification. In conditions like these, the number of exhibitions and other art events increased drastically, with each becoming a crucial emotional experience both for artists and visitors, which leads to any show being interpreted in countless ways. This emotionally rich ambiance of the time became the keynote of the exhibition, while also providing a stimulus and a platform for everyone who has to do with art of that period to share their memories.