Limited Liability Pavilion 1.0
Pop-Up Exhibition Coinciding with the Opening of the 56th Venice Biennale
Piazza San Marco, Venice
8 May, 2015
Curators: Nikita Kadan, Vladislav Sludskiy
Vladislav Sludskiy, curator:
Kazakhstan became independent 24 years ago, which provides 12 reasons to open a pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The country has been actively involved in the integration processes in sports, politics, and economics, but there is limited activity in the sphere of culture. In Kazakhstan, there are no contemporary art museums, galleries, or biennials; there is no art fair; and in general, there is no infrastructure for creating, storing, and exporting contemporary culture. Therefore, for a long time most Kazakhstani artists have existed within communities that they built themselves. A distinctive feature of the artistic world in post-Soviet countries is a practice of belonging to oneself, counting on oneself, building oneself as an artist, all the while simultaneously dealing with reality, often unprepared. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, artists got access to unlimited informational resources and quickly found guidelines for development, while the surrounding institutions were just beginning to adjust from a socialist to a capitalist model without fully understanding how to undergo such a transition. Thus, the artists have become modern, while the world around them has not. As a result, they live in a unique environment where, after 70 years of constant presence of a Big Brother and regulatory authorities, they have succumbed to partial isolation and independent decision-making.
In this sense, the lack of a permanent pavilion of one of the richest and most ambitious countries in Central Asia is not surprising; it seems like a continuation of preceding trends. For this reason, Kazakhstani organizations and people continue to integrate their culture through private initiatives, which, in this case, takes the form of a house exhibition. It is an inversion of the institutionalized and academic Biennale, where every presented artist unwittingly or knowingly becomes the herald of the state. There is no state flag hanging above the door; Limited Liability Pavilion 1.0’s attempt to embed itself into the Biennale’s cultural environment is of a more personal than a systemic nature. However, the dialogue exists even in the absence of a platform for it, which underlines the urgency to create the necessary conditions for maintenance and continuation of this dialogue.
Nikita Kadan, curator:
How did this exhibition start? It was initiated by a set of circumstances (the simultaneous presence of initiators in Venice during the opening of the Biennale), improvisation, and some ideas that emerged in an idle conversation. Hence, the root of such themes as private matter, limited liability, irresponsibility or, more precisely, out-of-responsibility. Expectations, projected by the local artistic environment, on artists and curators to serve as country representatives at the Biennale shaped the form of Limited Liability Pavilion 1.0. In post-Soviet countries, such expectations are particularly strong and often mixed with frustration, anxiety, and demands. At the same time, the cultural bureaucracy of post-Soviet countries often lacks opportunity and desire to provide power for machines of artistic production and display of neoliberal era. Unsurprisingly then, the "facelift" type of work, over-exploitation, transformation of representation in an empty bureaucratic ritual, and frustration stemmed from high expectations are the subsequent by-products.
In the end, the exhibition became a commentary on recent and specific institutional subjects, i.e. the closure of the Central Asian Pavilion, which united artists of the whole region, and a lack of national pavilions of Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries at the current Biennale.
Circling around the edge of an empty space of national representation can outline it and make it visible. It becomes an independent event that does not seek external purposes.