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PRINT April 2005

RUSSIAN FRONT: THE MOSCOW BIENNALE

I am not complaining about anything and I like everything here, although I have never been here and know nothing about this place.

—Collective Action Group, Slogan ’77, 1977

Moscow mixes the surface energies of Las Vegas with pages from Kafka’s Castle. On the one hand, there is actual wildness and popular images of it: flashy casinos and raging discos, quasi-legal prostitution (the age of consent only sixteen), ever-flowing vodka, and the massive influx of luxury goods (Dior, Chanel, a block-long Rolex billboard across from Red Square), in addition to Russia’s mythic oligarchs and gangsters, who put our versions of these figures to shame as far as bling, badness, and influence go. On the other hand, there are unsmiling uniforms at the front desk, overly complex and time-consuming procedures in place of our cheery service economy’s efficiency, high prices and police hassles, all of which make

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