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Now is the time to create a new language”: Anna Bouali about the art scene and education in Russia


Many have left the country in the last two months. But even more, people remained - we decided to talk with them about what the future holds for those living in Russia. With art director of the OSI Foundation and co-curator of the New Media Department of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Pushkin and the direction of "Pushkin XXI" Anna Bouali talked to the editor-in-chief of "Afisha Daily" Trifon Bebutov.

You have been responsible for international cooperation at the Pushkin Museum for a long time. What was your job?

- I co-curated the Pushkin XXI project and still stay there with my department. We are engaged in cinema and media art. For example, we did an exhibition of Bill Viola's interventions in the classic collection. Our task is to create projects with living artists from Russia or other countries. The Pushkin Museum is basically oriented towards international dialogue.

What is happening in your field right now?


— We had to rebuild all the plans and projects. Not all topics are relevant now, not all can continue to cooperate.

But large museum collections remain, through which you look into eternity - they will continue to work, and nothing will happen to them.

I have been teaching new media in contemporary art for quite a long time—I have my own course at Britanka, at the Moscow School of Contemporary Art. It helped me get through difficult times.  The educational process turned out to be the most productive and sustainable. e. In laboratory format, you can experiment inside the class, and there is no risk of spoiling anything. At first, the students could not do anything, we thought about procedural practices and diary entries. But after a while, they came to the conclusion that they have something to do here. There are questions that they can no longer ignore, it is necessary to formulate a language for the future.

- And you decided to create the "Now" fund?

— The Foundation is called the Society for the Promotion of the Arts (OSI), and our first program is called Now. It turned out that now - this is the only thing I can answer for. My first desire was to support the artists, to allocate funds so that they can live, all my friends do this. But the foundation is aimed, no matter how difficult it is now, at a systematic view of the future, at those who will formulate the language of Russian art in three to five years. We want to focus on those who are just choosing their path. During the first five years, the formation of a reputation, instruments, the first orders, exhibitions, and collectors appear. All the curators and dealers in the world are on the hunt for emerging artists and new names. Everyone wants to find their Basquiat.

— How can an artist realize himself and become famous today?

— The path of an artist in Russia is terra incognita, his professional trajectory is not formulated anywhere. In the West, this is taught in colleges and art universities. I would say, to be honest, that they pay a lot of attention to this there, and in general, the streaming of the entire industry has been set up there for many, many years. Everything that we have was created over the past 30 years, since nothing was possible in the Soviet Union except for state orders. At the Venice Biennale, three artists of Russian origin are now represented. They all graduated from Stieglitz, but then one went to Paris, and the other studied and worked in Denmark. Independent schools, additional education, and, and residences are ways to go beyond and integrate into a modern context.

As a foundation, we want to systematically support professionals from the regions who do incredible things and gather in communities - school leaders, curators, tutors, and artists. We will help them cope with the difficulties that have arisen: they do not know how not to get the status of a foreign agent, and they do not understand how to find new partnerships and save sites. In every major Russian city, there are one or two institutions that explain to young people that they can become professional artists, realize themselves, and build an international career. It is important that these places of power do not close. If this happens, entire communities will be lost.

- So you will be a unifying force?


- I think we will be a platform for dialogue - we all really need this. To the question of what awaits us, now no one will answer. There is no future, it must be created.

I think the future belongs to independent strong regional

communities from the creative environment.

Do you notice the cultural isolation of Russia?


— When we talk about the cultural isolation of Russia, we don’t mean that someone wants to deliberately “kennel” us and make sure that our artists cannot exhibit. This is a competitive struggle of ideas, and we are still very young in it: we, as I said, have been collecting it all by hand for the last 30 years. In fact, we all work for common great values ​​- artistic expression, and human life. My experience shows that everyone is determined to maintain a dialogue with us.

- People communicate like human beings, but is it more difficult with projects?

— You need to do strong, independent things. It has never been easy, and now it is even more difficult. Not because Russian artists are less well prepared, but because the mechanisms of integration have been destroyed or temporarily suspended.

What are these mechanisms?

- They largely lie in the field of early career: go to the first residence, participate in a portfolio review with a well-known curator. Everything is unclear for the near future, but there is an opportunity to find like-minded people here and try to build your own independent new visual languages.

— How do attract the attention of the audience, collectors, and institutions to Russian artists? And to make sure that it is beneficial for everyone?

— For the art market to work in Russia, we need collectors. How many now? One hundred? One hundred fifty? Two hundred? Well, a thousand people plus decorators and impulsive purchases. At the same time, collecting is not about the desire to buy a work for one's living room, but about the desire to support the artist, to take a personal part in his fate, the fate of the school or direction. To be with them, to see how they grow and change. This is a deep dive into art. We have all lost our bearings, we do not know what to believe in and where to move. And this is an opportunity to find something new, and I would definitely use it now, becauseany cultural breakdown provokes colossal changes, creates a new language that will be spoken in 10-15 years. The search is now open.

- Do you see this search as the goal of your project?

- Yes, I never liked the position of "just survive." We need much more - the creation of new formats and the rethinking of artistic production.

We must try to go the other way, take advantage of the fact that in some sense we are excluded from the big capitalist process, and choose support and mutual assistance.

Are we talking about the fact that we have to formulate something of our own, and then integrate it into the global process?


- I think yes. New local languages ​​are in demand in all countries. Yakut cinema has already become a phenomenon at international festivals. So far, this has not happened to Russian visual art, despite the presence of several names in the international context. We, perhaps, as in the 1980s and 1990s, need lawyers in the world. Like Boris Groy, who told other countries what avant-garde, non-conformist art, Moscow conceptualism is, he translated local works and explained their value. We need criticism and a professional, institutional view of the practices and languages ​​that are emerging here. Subsequently, someone has to build them into world philosophy. It is not clear where events will develop in the next decades - perhaps not in New York and London.

Are these centers changing?

“We've been watching art and buyers from China change the market for a decade now. I would look more closely towards alternative centers, the global south.


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