reports from Moscow

AES+F, The Feast of Trimalchio (detail), 2008–, HD digital projections, photographs, sculptures, dimensions variable. Shown: Triptych 1, Panorama 3, 2010, ink on paper, 35 1/2 x 88 1/2". Photo: Claire Oliver.

IN MOSCOW, ideological struggles take place over cocktails. At one such soiree, I was approached by Olga Sviblova, the grande dame of the Moscow art establishment, curator of the city’s Photobiennale and director of its ambitious new Multimedia Art Museum, which hosts the art school where I teach. It was obvious she was appalled. “I was told you’ve been teaching students dangerous ideas,” she whispered. “One says you teach them Marxism!”

By “you” she meant me and my colleague David Riff, and we have indeed been reading modern art history through the lens of Marxist notions. Our school is named after Aleksandr Rodchenko, after all. I tried to console Sviblova by saying something about Marxist theory being commonplace in Western universities, a mainstream thing not to be scared of, but it only made things worse. She thought I was being sarcastic and started to scream that she hated

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