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Trustee of the Moscow Biennale: “These will be an Extremely Fascinating 10 Days”

25-Aug-2015 / Charity & Sponsorship Recently the trustee of the VI Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art Nicolaus Schafhausen visited an exhibition in Riga of the artist Ieva Epnere, who will represent Latvia at the forum.

The general partner of the Biennale , which will open in Moscow at VDNKh on 22 September, is Rietumu Bank.


( Nicolaus Schafhausen )

In his interview given in Riga, the biennale trustee and the Director of Kunsthalle Wien Nicolaus Schafhausen told about the preparation of the forum and about his evaluation of the Latvian artist’s work.

In your opinion, what is the main difference with the Moscow biennale from numerous other projects you take part in?

At this biennale we will hear the key speakers of contemporary art. And, together with them, we will search for a reply to pressing issues, which are primarily the following: how should we live together in the modern world, in the conditions of a quite complicated political and sociological environment? Do Russia and Europe match each other in the emotional and intellectual context, or do we live in different worlds?

It is obvious that our systems and governmental structures differ, but what makes importance is whether we really live in different worlds or whether this difference is rather elusive. And I think that the main issue in connection with this, the one we have to find a reply to, is how we fit together and what we are striving towards.

Besides, the event and discussion part of the biennale will be quite compressed. We have just 10 days and the programme is very saturated, so we will keep on meeting and talking until late into the night…

Will there be something principally new presented in Moscow, something we have not yet seen?

Even the very format of this biennale is a novelty. What usually takes a couple of months, will be held for just 10 days. And I am sure that these will be an extremely fascinating 10 days – there are 80 participants from 23 countries!

The composition of trustees is also interesting. Apart from me, a German by origin, there will be a Belgian Bart De Baere –Director of the MUHKA contemporary art museum in Antwerp), and Defne Ayas, born in Turkey –Director of the Witte de With centre for contemporary art in Rotterdam). This makes an interesting combination, especially taking into account the fact that none of us are Russian.

And besides, new interesting films, still in the process of shooting, will be presented at this biennale.

How is the preparation for the biennale going on?

When we, the trustees, were invited to take part in the biennale, the plans were somewhat different. But due to the EU sanctions against Russia, the budget has been reduced considerably – from EUR 2 million to 800 000.

Therefore we had to introduce corrections in the concept. As a result, we decided not to transport the “physical” works, which is quite unusual for a biennale. We decided to show films, video, to hold a lot of debates and meetings. We decided to make something like, figuratively speaking, an exhibition-festival lasting for 10 days.

In my opinion, it is a very interesting and fascinating experiment. This is also confirmed by public evaluations we have already received.

Please tell us about your work with Ieva Epnere. What is your attitude towards her art?

Ieva Epnere is one of the key figures at this biennale. The preparation is going on very well, let us see what will come out of it, as Moscow is a big city and everything takes much more time there.

I have known Ieva for a long time– I was her teacher when she studied in Ghent, Belgium. She was one of my 24 students, and, moreover, she was the only one I defined at once as an artist and a creator.

I think that Ieva is the personification of a modern artist, like one must be. She creates on two levels – emotional and intellectual. What she does, is created simultaneously on an emotional, academic and intellectual basis. It is very important, and I will say even more –it is great, as it is rare that an artist can do this.

I had not seen Ieva’s recent works prior to the opening of the exhibition, and I am pleasantly surprised. These works symbolise the main issue – the issue of belonging. Her exhibition is about the feeling of belonging to the wonderful place she has been to (now it is an abandoned former Soviet miners’ settlement Pyramid, on the Norwegian Isle of Svalbard ) .In her works, Ieva metaphorically and very emotionally interprets her belonging to Pyramid, the longing and aspiration. It is very touching.

Eleonora Gailisha
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