Critics’ Picks

Icing of Architects, Scaffolding in the Woods, 2002.



Kliazmenskoe Reservoir Resort
Moscow Region
August 29–September 9

More than two hundred participants from all over Russia and from countries as far-flung as the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic converged on this abandoned Soviet-era trade unionists' resort to take part in the second annual ArtKliazma festival. In Moscow, this kind of open-air contemporary art event has functioned primarily as a means of institutional critique ever since the “Bulldozer Show” in September 1974, which manifested dissent and dissatisfaction with Soviet policies (and which was violently terminated by the authorities). Following in the footsteps of tradition, ArtKliazma takes aim at the post-Soviet gallery system and government-subsidized art institutions. The festival presents art that is too noncommercial, too experimental, or just too unwieldy to show in Russia's existing venues. Many of the works are site-specific; among the most successful in this category are Olga Yegorova's audio tour A Walk Around Kliazma, 2003, and Scaffolding in the Woods, 2002, by the collective Icing of Architects (the name is an untranslatable Russian joke). The Architects’ project is a giant construction that allows you to view the nearby woods from different heights; in so doing, your spatial perceptions and sense of scale are constantly readjusted. But many of the projects—such as a grouping of paintings by Nina Kotel, Dmitriy Vilensky, and others—have no conceptual connection to the site: They appear to be dislocated gallery pieces. Such works seem almost forlorn in these romantically decrepit surroundings, but their very dislocation underscores the show's critical aims, forcing viewers to wonder why Russia's art institutions can't find them a more congenial home.