Critics’ Picks

Ariadna Arendt, Red Square and Actionists, 2017–18, GIF animation of oil paintings.

Moscow

“Portal Zaryadye”

Shchusev Museum of Architecture
Vozdvizhenka, 5/25
July 24 - August 12

When Zaryadye Park opened in Moscow in September 2017, it had a profound effect on how its visitors viewed the city. The designer space collects Russian climate zones and cuisines in the tradition of world’s fairs, using eco-futuristic technology and modern landscape design. Over eight million people have since wandered through it, photographing the adjacent Kremlin from the park’s artificial hills. Until “Portal Zaryadye,” however, Moscow has lacked a vantage from which to examine the project itself. Buoyed by thematic tension and critical drive, this multimedia exhibition excavates the aesthetic and sociopolitical issues raised by Zaryadye.

Can a democratic space be produced for the public by authoritarian means? To some extent, all redevelopment programs are technocratic mechanisms, transforming cities to enable state control. But in the sound piece, Zaryadye, Return of the Gift, 2018, the dance collective Isedorino Gore suggests that the park also invents culture and homogenizes the identity of its users. On an alternative audio guide, a voice instructs listeners to perform ritualistic movements particular to certain cultural regions represented in the park. Ariadne Arendt’s animation, Red Square and Actionists, 2017–18, nonetheless recalls art’s protest potential. With a sense of color as vivid as a set designer’s, she has loaded her graphics with funny, enthralling details from recent art actions on Red Square.

While watching Egor Isaev’s documentary short, On the Other Side of the Wall, 2018, a rare portrayal of the laborers who built the park, a man turned to me and said, somewhat shocked, “That’s us, there.” He was one of the workers interviewed in the film. His comment amplified a collective anxiety already resonating through the museum’s cavernous building: in Moscow’s newest “public space,” we are all en route to what the curators provocatively call “a portal to heaven—and to hell.”