The installation “Fair Enough” in the Russian Pavilion in the Giardini this year, welcomes visitors to a fair within a fair. On first impression upon entering the pavilion, it seems completely crazy: the space packed by tiny booths, with hosts and hostesses smiling and greeting each visitor, before bombarding them with sales pitches. It takes a while to get over the shock and realise that this is in fact a rather clever, tongue-in-cheek “trade show of ideas”.
Each booth displays a “commodity”, from traditional Russian ornament and stained glass, to a socially-responsible upcycling plant or a cultural organisation dedicated to reviving the rich, but slowly dissipating, footprint of Russian modernism abroad. The entire show is dripping with satire and irony, displaying Russian socialist ideals, reworked for a capitalist context, to be commodified and sold in the marketplace – a show that partially turns satire into harsh criticism – a brave display even more remarkable considering its chief curator, Grigroy Revzin, was fired just three months ago by the Russian Minister of Culture after writing a critical text about Russia’s military actions in the Crimea.
After Revzin left, “Fair Enough” was continued by three curators from Moscow’s Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design: Anton Kalgaev, Daria Paramonova, and Brendan McGetrick. Their tradeshow format gestures towards one source of modernity’s standardisation, where architectural elements are bought and sold and where cultural exchange happens through commodity. The show also refers to the commercial context of modern-day architecture, and of the biennale itself, it being a form of incremental cultural exchange, where the exhibition takes on the garb of an expo.
We talked to curator Brendan McGetrick about fair-ness in the Russian pavilion: