As we approach the first year anniversary of the pandemic quarantine it’s a given that there are many big things to mourn. And we do. And we should.
It’s also true that it’s been hard to have slide past unmarked or unattended all the little pleasurable events with which we usually mark the year.
I mean, yes, you can have a lockdown stay at home Zoom party birthday, and actually quite fun those are too, but if you always spend some of June in a muddy field in Glastonbury, it’s a wrench to have to seen that week go by and only have the comfort of the music festival’s greatest hits on TV.
A guilty wrench, maybe, because of all the more important things to be upset about, but a wrench nevertheless.
One of the things Mama was really looking forward to for 2020 was the 2nd Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art. Given that she had had to wait three years since the last one for it, I think she can be forgiven a slight internal scream of frustration when it was cancelled last summer.
Perhaps you can also understand why she did a little jig of joy when it was rescheduled for the autumn.
But events conspired against her, and Mama did not make it to the Garage Triennial in the autumn.
Then another lockdown happened.
And to cut a long story short, here we are finally writing about the 2nd Triennial quite shortly before it closes again at the end of February.
This is probably a good thing, mind you. The only exhibition Mama has ever visited and managed to write up promptly was the one that closed abruptly about two minutes later because of covid. Mama thinks she may have jinxed it.
Anyway. You may remember that the idea of the Garage Triennial is to showcase modern art from all over the large territory that is the Russian Federation. The way they ensured a diverse range of participants this time was to ask last time’s exhibitor’s to choose who to include.
Thus each exhibit gives the relationship between the artist and their recommender. These have been explained by the artists themselves, and inevitably if you know anything about Russians, there are some quite entertaining labels such as ‘guru – sect member’ or ‘Siberian past – handing ladders and recreation therapy’ or ‘landmark – satellite’ or ‘accomplice’ or (Mama’s personal favourite) ‘<~#*^//:+=>#:_ _ _ #~<||’.
The 2nd Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art, not content with an already long title is also called ‘A Beautiful Night for All the People’, which I, for one pre-teen girl, do not agree with.
The exhibition was not full of beautiful things; it was full of weird things.
Chief of those in my loudly voiced opinion was the canvases of gopniks. I do not consider gopniks (Slavic chavs, for those of you in the UK, but with more Adidas tracksuits and squatting) a suitable subject for art. Mama just wants to know where I have heard about them in the first place, and is contemplating, once again, limiting my access to YouTube.
Luckily, the notes to the 2nd Garage Triennial say that the title is not the theme. It is taken from a book by a Russian mathematician, which was written in ‘a special process-based language’ using no symbols, allowing for many readings without a definite plot.
A much better description of the overall idea in fact.
Thus I was also inclined to be severe about the communication skills of the talking bushes, which my Bemused Big Brother and I both tried to have lengthy and quite nonsensical conversations with, without much success. Can’t think why not.
And Mama rather boggled at the story behind this piece which includes the artist getting thrown out of their job, making gravestone art, for subversive behaviour. Punk’s Not Dead and all that, but it’s a commitment to the idea Mama actively found herself blinking at. I suspect she, too, is showing her (increasingly stodgy) age.
We did rather like the captioned toy dioramas, mainly because we are, after all, children of the meme generation, and also because some of them were quite funny. Although it was Mama who grinned at this one, which says ‘another angel has fallen from heaven’. She says she’s thinking of a pickup line, but that leaves me none the wiser.
Mama and I quite disagree about this room. She thinks that it is strikingly attractive, whereas it gave me vertigio.
Mama also spent actual minutes in front of this piece telling us about lace making and how it is a specialty of the place where our ancestral village is. Which would have been more uplifting if out of the corner of our eye we couldn’t see the accompanying video with the headdresses, masks for what are apparently Russian aliens, in action.
But we were delighted to find coffee machines for Mama.
And all of us really enjoyed the waiting room. You choose from a list of things to anticipate, enter the booth and experience hanging around for things like 12 midnight on NYE, with the image of a clock ticking back and forth a few seconds before the big moment, with the very beginning of the chime sound on loop. Or the end of Russia, which contrary to our apprehension, was footage from inside a train carriage carrying you towards, presumably, the border going on and on and on and on on and on and on and on. Mama actually snorted with appreciative laughter over that one. Russia is, after all, very very very big.
There were also some hands on exhibits, which are always welcome, and the jump scare we got when we turned round and found the docent in the corner of a blacked out tent with us was real and exciting, if an entirely unintended part of the installation, which was about spinning things.
I did approve of the name of this one, which is ‘Battle Cats’.
Although quite why we spent ten minutes each having our aura mapped I do not know as what we found was that while mine is round, Mama’s and my Bemused Big Brother’s are somewhat squiggly. But it did allow Mama to tell the story (again) of how she got assessed for psychic ability in the Tate Modern once.
Perhaps, all unsuspectingly, the Garage Triennial has managed to capture the basic ludicrousness of the last year and us all having our normal routines and comfort upended. Certainly a point made by the piece called ‘a portrait of my Babushka’, which is in fact an illustrated story of some of the more memorable moments from her life.
A life which was not, as you can imagine, all joy. Yet, here is one of the pictures.
And in the end you take your enjoyment where you can find it. For us, since Mama was so pleased to be out of the house, we were delighted to be treated to lunch in the Garage cafe (we recommend the soups, the hummus and the chicken cutlets) AND a trip to Burger King later in the day.
Plus the location of the Garage Art Gallery, Gorky Park, is quite delightful in the snow, and well worth a gallop round after you have been culturally satiated.
If you have the opportunity to trundle down to the 2nd Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art (A Beautiful Night for All the People) before it closes at the end of February, you will find it wildly inventive, quite bonkers in places, probably not pretty, and definitely not disappointing.
If you cannot attend this year’s, make plans for the next one, in 2023. Mama has certainly already pencilled it in.
Address: 9/32 Krymsky Val, 119049, Moscow
Opening: The 2nd Garage Triennial of Contemporary Russian Art is on until 28th February 2021. 11 am to 10pm daily.
Admission: 500 roubles for adults. Children under 11 are free. Children over 11 cost 150 roubles. Currently, you need to buy tickets in advance for timed slots.
Public transport: The Garage gallery is in Gorky Park. The two nearest metro stations are Oktyabrskaya (brown and orange lines) and Park Kultury (brown and red lines).