The curators of the 2020 Triennial rejected the expertise-based approach and delegated the selection of participants to artists who participated in the inaugural Triennial in 2017. The 2nd Garage Triennial celebrates corruption and love, destroys hierarchies, and explores the connections—friendly, professional, romantic, and random—that drive contemporary Russian art.
The 2nd Garage Triennial, curated by Valentin Diaconov and Anastasia Mityushina, was inspired by the book After Method: Mess in Social Science Research (2004) by British sociologist John Law. In this work, Law identified a crisis in the social sciences in today’s multipolar and multicultural world, and suggested that rigid models and classifications be replaced by a non-coherent method that brings social classes together with religious communities and subcultures with ontologies (pictures of the world). A Beautiful Night for All the People is a complex assemblage based on the inaugural Triennial, the participants of which selected the artists for the 2020 exhibition.
This approach to selecting artists was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, suspicious of the idea of expertise in a milieu as dynamic as the Russian contemporary art scene, the curators of the 2nd Garage Triennial believe that in a multinational state of great cultural and social diversity there can be no single set of criteria for evaluating art. Secondly, in a country that has, over the past century, survived several wars and episodes of forced modernization, personal connections are assigned particular weight. This often leads to trivial corruption, but also provides protection from bureaucracy and economic and social pressure.
The 2nd Garage Triennial reveals the strength and diversity of relationships operating in Russian art today. Artists from the 1st Garage Triennial were invited to take part in a social experiment and recommend artists for the 2nd Garage Triennial, with two conditions. The first was that the relationship between the recommender and the participant must be explicit (teacher/student, parent/child, seller/buyer). Secondly, the recommender had to do something for the recommended artist’s project (write a text, conduct an interview, help with the production or choice of works for the exhibition). In line with these two conditions, artists from the 1st Garage Triennial recommended not only other artists but also research projects, science labs, educational organizations, and charities.
The non-coherent method chosen by the curators is not new. Earlier Russian projects based on similar ideas include Viktor Misiano’s exhibition Experimental Research (part of the international project Molteplici Culture: itinerari dell’arte contemporanea in un mondo che cambia, Museum of Folk Art and Traditions, Rome, 1992) and Andrey Parshikov’s Intimate Capital (presented at several spaces in Moscow in 2010). These projects were based on the delegation of the selection of works to artists, discussion of a unified field of action, the problem of the motivation behind choices, and the description of various types of relationships.
The title of this year’s Garage Triennial is borrowed from a 2017 book by Russian mathematician Roman Mikhailov, written in a special, process-based language that uses no symbols and allows for many readings without a definite plot. (The title, however, is not the theme. Participants can choose to respond to the title or the book or retain complete creative independence.)
The principle of recommendation extends to several Triennial events taking place at Garage partner institutions. With the support of the Triennial, curators and managers of partner institutions have invited contemporary art professionals to give masterclasses or lectures or take part in a residency at their space. As with artists recommending participants for the 2nd Garage Triennial, the reasons for their choices are entirely the responsibility of the inviting party. Due to limitations imposed by the pandemic, most events will take place in 2021. This year, the Triennial has supported collaboration between the School of Engaged Art (St. Petersburg) and the artists and researchers Anna Engelhardt (London) and Sasha Shestakova (Moscow); a Twitch broadcast from the phantom office of the art institution Krёlex Zentr; and a seminar by independent curator, art historian, and lecturer Elena Yaichnikova (Lyon/ Moscow) at Typography Center for Contemporary Art (Krasnodar).