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Politics & aesthetics of Putin’s Russia as seen through Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Zaryadye Park

“Portal Zaryadye” – an exhibition just opened at Moscow’s Schusev Museum of Architecture – cracks open Moscow’s high-profile park and offers an insight into modern Russia and where it is headed.

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Anya Shevchenko, "Putin in Every Paving Stone"

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Hanna Zubkova, "The Ideology of the Working Class Does Not Impose Any Boundaries On Love" / Photo: Michal Murawski

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Maxim Spivakov, "Was Not"

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Marina Moskalenko, "The Delegation"

Last week saw the opening of the “Portal Zaryadye” exhibition at Moscow’s Shchusev Museum of Architecture. The show consists of works from 18 different artists and collectives, having grown out of a year-long research project called “Zaryadyology”. This unique project was the product of students and academics at Higher School of Economics (HSE)’s Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism, and was guided by architectural anthropologist Michal Murawski. The premise of the exhibition was to explore some of the sociopolitical and aesthetic aspects of Zaryadye Park as one of the most outstanding cultural and urban phenomenons of contemporary Moscow in the modern era, and as a new microcosm of the country – just as the VDNKh exposition center manifested the broader Soviet Union. Strelka Mag discussed the show with Murawski and curator Daria Kravchuk.

 

'A SACRED GIFT'

Zaryadye Park was chosen as the perfect platform to interpret the state of modern Russia’s urban and political landscapes, side-by-side. Situated right next to the Kremlin and designed by the US architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, this futuristic and ambitious hybrid of inventive landscaping and contemporary architecture currently enjoys the status of being one of the most successful urban projects (on a par with the My Street renovation program) in the city. Praised and promoted by the international press and Instagramed by millions of Muscovites and tourists, this park provides rich grounds for the exploration of both past and the present, revealing several familiar ideological concepts.

Among the ideas addressed by artists as part of the “Portal Zaryadye” exhibition is the idea of the park as a “sacred gift” to people (the park was “presented” to Muscovites on the annual City Day), as well as the concept of “internal colonization.”

“Zaryadye Park is the sacred centre of post-Luzhkov, Sobyanin-era Moscow – so it is the perfect site from which to try to make sense of what the political-aesthetic new order of Moscow means, of how it looks and of where it is heading,” Michal Murawski said referring to the former and current mayors of Moscow. “Zaryadye is, according to the name of our exhibition, a “portal” into – or a microcosm of – the political-aesthetic new normal of late-Putinist/late capitalist Russia.”

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Anton Zabrodin, "The New Flag of Zaryadye"

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Alexander Morozov, "The Architecture of Providence"

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Ariadne Arendt, "Red Square and the Actionists"

The image of the cell-like tile utilized in Zaryadye Park proved especially popular among artists: at least three works offered an interpretation of its motif.

One was Anya Shevchenko, whose work, “In every paving stone” featured fragments of Vladimir Putin on paving slabs, reflecting critical attitudes towards renovation programs in Moscow. Several works explored the performative potential of the park — for example, art collective Isadorino Gore staged and documented a project called “Return of the gift” – a ritual exploration of the significance of Zaryadye Park’s sovereign “gifting” to Moscow. Park visitors can download Isadorino Gore’s alternative audio-guide to Zaryadye, and delve into the ritual themselves.

Other works fitted perfectly into the exhibition concept despite having no direct connection to the park – this is especially true of Ariadne Arendt’s animation “Red Square and the Actionists” (developed from an oil painting completed in 2017), uniting key figures of Russian actionism and their performances on the most important square in Russia (and on a birch-tree-laden space of excess in the corner of the canvas, eerily corresponding to the location of Zaryadye Park itself).

 

ART OBJECTS AS ARTIFACTS

Portal Zaryadye takes place in the “Ruin” wing of the Museum of Architecture, which only recently opened after renovations. The space represents a meticulous conservation of various layers of Moscow and its architecture across centuries. Zaryadye itself is a stark example of ruinization and destruction as a creative strategy – the area has undergone several demolitions to make way for what was later imposed as “new Russia” and the park is yet another example of this practice.

“The Ruin played the role of an archaeological site, where all of the artistic objects became artefacts. In this way, our show recollects the multi-layered history and material composition – from the Middle Ages, via the demolitions of the Soviet years, to the planned high-rise, the Hotel Rossiya, and the unbuilt plans of the Luzhkov years – of the Zaryadye site itself, largely ignored in the design of the park,” said Daria Kravchuk.

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Alexey Taruts, "Touch to Change"

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Sergey Kishchenko and Max Ilyukhin, "Tsar Mountains (King of The Hill)"

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Maria Kremer, "Curtain"

Visitors to the exhibition can examine works in detail on the ground and first floors. Then, on the second floor, they can get an overview of the art on show from the balcony – as well as a closer look at Alexei Taruts’s work “Touch to change” attached to one of the upper beams; and of Alexei Korsi’s “Presentiment of Love”, which radiates a muzak-like soundtrack throughout the entire exhibition, Shazzammed by the artist from Zaryadye Park itself.

 

POLYPHONY OF VOICES

Artists were selected via an Open Call and through direct commissions to emphasize the trans-disciplinary, research-driven nature of the project. They work in a wide variety of mediums from photography and sculpture to performance art and are all based in Russia.

“The exhibition brought together a polyphony of voices: established and emerging artists, artists from diverse backgrounds: architecture, journalism, and design fields. The final concept – as crystallized in the Museum of Architecture and within accompanying events of the parallel program – was informed by the diverse artistic, scholarly and ethnographic voices we have encountered in the process,” said Kravchuk.

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Natalia Timofeeva, "Fragmentary Absence"

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Kiril Melamud and the “More” (Sea) Group, "Tent"

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Isadorino Gore, "Zaryadye: The Return of the Gift" / Still from video by Isadorino Gore

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A4-16, "Heavenly Thickets"

She added that artists were invited to respond to the work-in-progress results of the Zaryadyology project and offer their interpretations of collected ethnographic material as well as attended the students’ research presentations and a tour of Zaryadye Park.

The exhibition “Portal Zaryadye” runs through August 29.

Photos: Vlad Chizhenkov

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