The Russia Federation is the largest country in the world, although despite its size, much of the country lacks decent soils and climates for agriculture. Meaning much of the population is living in the large cities, like Moscow, the capital, population eleven million. The varieties in Russia’s geography allows for landmasses that break worldwide records, like Mount El’brus, which is Europe’s tallest mountain, and Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. In December of 1922 the Soviet Union was established, and lasted until August of 1991. During the seventy years that Russians were under the veil of the USSR, they went through different opinions concerning art and other aspects of culture, eventually ending with Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika. This reform movement was implemented to improve the needs of the Soviet consumers, and is believed to have lead to the fall of the USSR. Today’s population in Russia exceeds 142 million people. Current issues include, political upheaval in 2011, ongoing boarder conflicts, and the recent implementation of laws restricting nongovernmental organizations and freedoms of assembly, and expression. Although with the current issues effecting the government, and continued violence, only 6.6 percent of the labor force is unemployed. Russia is a diverse federation that consists of 160 ethnic groups, with eighty one percent of the population being ethically Russian. Since the mid-1990s until recently Russia experienced a demographic decline, but with contemporary immigration laws the demographics of the country began to increase. The death rates for the population are relatively low, due to preventable causes like smoking, alcohol poisoning, and violent crimes.
Russian Pavilion, 2013:
The Russian pavilion, titled, “Danae,” was envisioned, and created based around the Greek myth of the Argos princess Danae, but displayed with a modern retelling. Danae was imprisoned because of a prophecy that her son would kill her. So Danea’s father locked her up, but the Greek god Zeus impregnated her, acting as a guise of a golden shower. She then conceived Zeus a son, Perseus. The pavilion is experienced through two levels. The lower level is open to females, a cave-like womb space, the visitors are now turned into participants and are asked to take some coins from the pile and put them into the bucket, and to keep one coin for good luck. From the lower floor, the female visitors cannot see how the system works. This is only understood from the top floor, where the conveyer belt is taking the gold coins to the ceiling, and then they fall to the bottom floor in intervals. Both men and women are allowed on the upper level, where there is an opening in the middle of the room with kneeling-stools so one can observe the lower floor, and one can experience the process of the materialization of the myth. The last component, a man sitting in the rafters occasionally eating peanuts, with the words behind him, “…the time has come to confess our Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, banality, and Greed, Cynicism, Robbery, Speculation, Wastefulness, Gluttony, Seduction, Envy, and Stupidity.” The artist, Vadim Zakharov, mentions that he does not like to explain his work; he simply invites the viewers to think and observe the art exhibition as if it were a mirror.
The Russian Ministry of Culture is charged with picking the group that will partially fund the pavilion, in 2013, the Stella Art Foundation was chosen. The state provided 24 million roubles (22,852 euros), which is an unprecedented amount for the history of the Russian government and it’s funding of the Venice Biennale. This is also the first year that Russian government has shown interest in contemporary art. Since 1993, and Ilya Kabakov’s “Red Curtain” no remarkable artistic achievements have been made in the Russian pavilion. The lack of interest from the artistic global community could be the reason the government finally decided to support the contemporary arts, and the conceptual artist, Vadim Zakharov. The Russian pavilion was one of the most crowed during the press preview days leading up to the Biennale this year. There are several reasons why the Russian pavilion was successful this year as opposed to the country’s lackluster history; the exponential increase in funds, the choice of contemporary curator, Udo Kittelmann, and artist, Zakharov, and concept of the inspirational connection to today’s society through the use of storytelling of the past. Zakharov was a the artist chosen because of his involvement in the contemporary art scene in Russia, particularly in Moscow, and the Moscow School of Conceptualism, which made him a prime candidate to get the public’s attention in this years exhibition.
Biography of Artist:
Vadim Zakharov was born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which was part of the USSR when Zakharov was born, now the country is functioning as an independent country. The artist attended Moscow State and has a background in history and theory. He is now a leading figurehead in the Moscow School of Conceptualism. Zakharov works tend to focus around “modern” mediums ranging from installations, performances, videos, and objects. The most notable exhibition that Zakharov is involved with is called, Unofficial Art, and was created as a reaction against socialism by highlighting the dissonance during the Soviet Union, and its lasting effects after its demise. Another trope of Zakharov’s work is the disregard of the predetermined trademarks of Russian art, which include he tradition of Russian icons, and the avant-garde movement. Zakharov’s background in theory and history is prevalent in much of his art, by creating a tangled web built around complex theories, but remains grounded by the ephemeral quality of the archival tendencies of the work. Zakharov splits his time between Moscow, Russia, and Berlin, Germany. In his twenty-five years spent between the two cities, the artist claims the difference between the two is in the nuances; basically Berlin is ahead of Moscow in contemporary art because of the cultural hiatus during the rein of the USSR.