PRINT September 2011


Documentary photographs, string from Collective Actions performance Time of Action, 1978, Russian pavilion, Venice, 2011. From “Empty Zones.” Photo: Kate Lacey.

HOW LONG IS A PIECE OF STRING? This is the banal question prompted by the twine trailing down the wall in the first room of the Russian pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Emerging from seemingly nowhere, it beckons one to pull it—and lengths of it have already piled up on the floor, a record of previous tugs from passersby. The situation is one without any real origin or end. And it is, therefore, an apt introduction to the work of the Collective Actions group, which married futility with visceral experience in a kind of never-ending now.

By choosing Collective Actions, and its founder and leader, Andrei Monastyrski, to represent Russia, curator Boris Groys faced a daunting challenge: How to make the archival documentation of the group’s remarkably elusive activities speak to the viewer, and how to render its endeavors legible without eliding their original context and

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