Pavillion of Limited Liability 3.0:
House exhibition in the opening days of 57th Venice Biennale
Piazza San Marco
The Limited Liability Pavilion is a project initiated in 2015 by the Public Association "Eurasian Cultural Alliance" and independent curator-artist Nikita Kadan in the form of a small pop up exhibition set up in a Venice apartment during the 56th Venice Biennale. The exhibition explored the relationship between the artist and social superstructures in the form of those imperatives sent or not sent down from the state or institutions, and, as a consequence, the artist's independence in the post-Soviet context.
The project continued with an exhibition held at Closer Gallery in Kiev in December of 2016, which was an attempt of a deeper study of the "artist-system" relationship. The location was selected consciously. The political situation in Ukraine had exposed the mechanism whereby an ideology imposes specific cultural identities that are expedient for its goals at a particular time, and how art, sincere and horizontal, resists this process. It is precisely this which in itself forms the identification of the country and culture, without the utopian superposition, but through the critical one. At the same time, the artist experiences a strong attachment to whatever context they were born or worked in.
The Pavilion of Limited Liability was conceived as a response to the lack of sufficient support from state institutions in the field of contemporary art. Eventually, the project resulted in an artistic understanding of the role of institutions in shaping the artist's view. This topic proved to be relevant not only to the context in Kazakhstan, but also to the entire post-Soviet space. In addition, it uncovered some other aspects of causes and consequences which have led to the current situation. The third stage of the project is an attempt to draw attention to the Kazakhstan art and to the lack of its representation as a national pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. On the other hand, it is a desire to show young Kazakhstan artists whose works are relevant not only to our country. The young art from Kazakhstan is not isolated from the world art process. It has something to say to the viewer outside the local community.
The Third Pavilion was created with the participation of an independent curator, Ph.D., Yulia Sorokina, curator of the Central Asian Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale:
The pavilion of Central Asia or Kazakhstan is crucial for our contemporary art. It's not just a whim or show-off, it's a political manifesto, it marks its legitimate presence on the global art scene. It is the participation in world exhibitions that make the presence of a country or region on the art map illusory or real. At the time, our art community exerted enormous united effort to create the Central Asian pavilion. Without the government support, without any guaranteed funding, artists and curators from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on their own did what other institutions and ministries do in other countries. Unfortunately, only five pavilions were organized, after which the tradition was put on hold due to various circumstances. It's a good thing that there has appeared and already been tested the apartment version, which, I hope, will grow into a pavilion. I would like to quote the well-known artist Rustam Khalfin: "if you have a good will, you can do anything!" It's not an easy task putting together an exhibition and keeping it on display for six months in Venice, but the result is worth it.
Vladislav Sludsky, curator:
The fundamental difference of the third "Pavilion" is its participants: two young artists Zoya Falkova and Anvar Musrepov. Both were born and grew up in Kazakhstan, and both has critically interpreted the situation in the modern ideological and cultural field in terms of how the independent Kazakhstan pictures and understands its identity. An interesting feature of the country is that different cultural groups have been offered different cultural narratives over the past 25 years – on centralized and economic poles people are offered to feel themselves living in a state with progressive liberal views. There is also a rhetoric of a return to the Tengrian roots and the nomadic "imaginaire," the idea of moderate Islamization along with the proximity to Russia and China. A multicultural state such as Kazakhstan needs a multi-vector approach. Apparently contradictory narratives have coexisted peacefully side by side, which makes the country quite a unique cultural field in the post-Soviet space. Both artists question the myth of the past, aware of its ideological implementation, so they recognize the impossibility of objectifying the past and work more with its visible remnants, which are still distinguishable.
We have offered the two artists with varying critical approaches and understanding of the identity to propose their vision of the past and its ability to integrate into the future. The works of art will refer specifically to the younger generation of artists, not to the masters, as it was in the past "Pavilions," and, therefore, the dialogue will be built around topics that are sensitive to the country right now: the integration into the international community while preserving the national archetypes and, respectively, obstacles to such integration.
Falkova studies the post-Soviet – the still discernible traces of the bygone era, which the artist claims to have not been an eyewitness of, but still works with the list of contradictions and situations inherited from the past. Unfolding the history, including that which is being written today, is quite a tricky task, given the polarity of the attitudes to this history of various members of society, who sometimes suffer a "postcolonial" trauma, and sometimes, on the contrary, do not think that a trauma exists.
Musrepov is focused on the opposite type of criticism of the same past. His search applies not to the deconstruction by means of the national, but to the construction of the national by means of the present. The artist believes that an identity is something virtual in the sense of the constructive ability of the national, where the national is always in the state of assembly. If the identification is found and a new narrative is formed, what barriers arise between the country and the world community, if they arise at all? The artist's work lies in the plane of the perception and construction of the national, as well as within the boundaries of this construction.
Olga Veselova, co-curator:
The young artists from Kazakhstan were born in the period of the decline of the Soviet civilization, but on the other hand – in times of the search for a national identity. The collective idea of universal equality comes into contact with the local uniqueness of a particular nation. How to be unique in the global context? How to preserve one’s identity in the process of unification through multiculturalism? What should be determined as one’s own, special and distinguishing, at a time when it is the difference and diversity that are put in the basis by the ideologists of violence in the modern world? These issues are topical for both Kazakhstan and other countries involved in the process of globalization. And eventually, it is these issues that Zoya and Anvar are dealing with.
The Limited Liability Pavilion is, on the one hand, a story about the limited responsibility of making a decision by each individual on how to identify themselves, which history to associate with, which group to relate to. But on the other hand, it is an attempt to demonstrate the influence of an artistic gesture on the history and society in which this gesture exists. Artists, as contemporaries of the ideological paradigm changes, capture them and are the first who comprehend the modern Kazakhstan realities in the context of the world historical process. In addition to questions of self-identification, the two artists demonstrate two different ways of the artistic transformation of reality. The works of Zoya are emphatically material, she seems to work with a tangible reality. She describes her field of artistic research as the "gray zone" left after the collapse of the Soviet Union and gaining of the independence by its all former member countries. Zoya perceives the history reflected in the present as a given, she tries to comprehend it as something preset.
Anvar draws our attention to a virtual self-identity. He works with the cultural identification in the space of the virtual world, which, in a broad sense, denies the idea of a common umbrella identity. The artist perceives history as a "virtual pliant environment," where everyone is able to create their own identity image. According to Anvar, everyone is able to reconstruct their self-perception, based on a story which is, in fact, virtual.