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Venice diary: riffing on Russia’s revolutionary past at the V-A-C Foundation

by Louisa Buck  |  12.05.2017
Venice diary: riffing on Russia’s revolutionary past at the V-A-C Foundation
Your correspondent taking part in Tanya Brugiera's piece by being portrayed by the young Russian sculptor Katya Kovalenko
Leonid Mikhelson’s V-A-C Foundation launched its new Venetian home in the Palazzo delle Zattere with a grand performative flourish during Biennale opening week. V-A-C is marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution by inviting more than two dozen contemporary artists from Russia and beyond to respond to a series of reconstructions of early Soviet objects and spaces as well as a large number of original historic works from the revolutionary period. 

Among those riffing on Russia’s revolutionary past is Tania Bruguera, who has been inviting members of public to have their likeness sculpted in clay, only then to watch their image be destroyed and reformed as a portrait of the next visitor in line, all set against a backdrop of classic Soviet monuments celebrating Lenin et al. 

Katya Kovalenko, Louisa Buck, Taus Makhacheva and the two portraits merging
Your correspondent was very happy take part in this trenchant institutional critique and was especially thrilled when her own clay portrait image was made to merge with that of another participating Biennale and V-A-C artist Taus Makhacheva. The Russian-Dagestani artist is not only showing her toe-curling film of a tightrope walker carrying artworks between two mountains in the Caucasus in the Biennale’s Central Pavilion, but is also contributing her own performative work to the V-A-C’s Space/Force/Construction show. This involves her dispensing carrots wrapped in a poem by Mayakovsky, as well as lollipops in shape of Lenin’s head, accompanied by a loudspeaker broadcasting ominous sounds of rumbling stomachs. So far, so absurdist, until you learn the sobering subtext that it refers to Stalin’s starvation of millions in the Ukraine and Makhacheva’s native Caucasus. 

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