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Garage Museum of Contemporary Art opens "Bureau des transmissions"
Karoline H. Larsen, Collective Strings, 2017. Installation view, Trapholt Museum, Kolding, Denmark. Photo: Dorthe Alstrup.

MOSCOW.- Bureau des transmissions focuses on the production and circulation of knowledge in a museum setting. The experimental space of the project encourages visitors to look at educational strategies as an integral part of the life of the contemporary museum. Borrowed from the art historian Claude-Hubert Tatot, the original French title—which means “signal office”—refers to a place where important, usually military, information is communicated. Invoking telegraph, radio, fiber optics or any other means of generating vital connectivity, the title suggests that contemporary museums have to be competent in a variety of fields: as well as research centers and incubators for new art they act as platforms for educational experiments. Our prediction is that future museums, like universities, will be organized as campuses, with artists acting as experts and education taking on the role of social activist.

Presented as a forum with artists’ interventions, Bureau des transmissions functions in various modes: as a continuous performance, a program of master classes, and a series of meetings with the artists and educators involved in the project.

Bureau des transmissions brings together Russian and international artists interested in a range of pedagogical practices, whether they are already present in art (artistic research or art therapy) or suggested as ways of rethinking our relationship with museum culture (community engagement or institutional critique).

From the first day of the exhibition, all visitors are able to take part in Collective Strings, a performance in which Danish artist Karoline H. Larsen invites them to transform the museum space using strings of various colors. Using free movement or through semi-choreographed jumps, visitors can lace structures and objects with thread, thus taking part in a spontaneous interaction and activating the therapeutic energy of collective creative work.

St. Petersburg-based artist Olga Zhitlina uses similar methods, employing fiction and theatrical readings. For Bureau des transmissions Zhitlina has produced a new dramatization of her short story “Adar.” Based on real-life events—the death of Gambian refugee Pateh Sabally in Venice’s Grand Canal—“Adar” brings together three biographies, of a lover, a homeless man in St. Petersburg, and an African refugee, who experience three political maxims: liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Olga Zhitlina and Anna Tereshkina’s Nasreddin in Russia is another project in which artists work with migrant communities. Based on artistic research among Moscow migrants that they began in fall 2018 for Bureau des transmissions, Zhitlina and Tereshkina will publish a new issue of Nasreddin in Russia, a multi-language paper for migrants launched in 2014. It is based on weekly meetings and contests for the best joke in the spirit of Nasreddin Hodja, a character who appears in numerous anecdotes in Islamic cultures. Since the work on the publication is taking place outside of Garage, Bureau des transmissions will feature past issues of the paper and Anna Tereshkina’s original drawings.

Swiss duo microsillons (Marianne Guarino-Huet and Olivier Desvoignes) explore situations of conflict, confrontation, and dissensus, approaching them like tricksters, or perhaps like Nasreddin Hodja. They reject mediation as a solution to conflict and propose what they call “agonistic gallery education” instead. For Bureau des transmissions, the duo has developed a participatory project that explores interactions between the museum and its visitors. The Ladder Café is based on the concept of the “ladder of citizen participation” developed by Sherry Arnstein in 1969, which described eight strategies that can encourage citizens’ involvement in planning and administration. Guarino-Huet and Desvoignes invite visitors to start a dialogue with a Garage educator by picking up one of the mugs placed on the stairs. Every mug features a text or an image suggesting a topic, and the ideas that arise from the ensuing conversation will later become texts or images on other mugs.

Visitors can also play games with Garage educators. Fireworks and Gunpowder is a board game invented by artist Kirill Savchenkov. When creating this unique world Savchenkov, like microsillons, was inspired by the 1968 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Brazilian psychologist Paulo Freire. Players enter the kingdom of non-human agents and try to solve the global and complex issues that we are facing in the post-truth world, acting as a Raccoon, Artificial Intelligence, or the Ocean. Fireworks and Gunpowder has several prototypes, including the cooperative game Pandemic, where players join forces to combat deadly viruses, and Collection Deck, a training game used by the CIA. At Bureau des transmissions visitors will see the complete game for the first time in Russia.

Game format is equally important for Linda Vigdorčika, whose work is based on the canonical text about play and culture Homo Ludens (1938) by historian, philosopher, and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga, and features elements of masquerade and magic ritual. At Garage, Vigdorčika will run Translation Wardrobe, a master class where visitors can make masks of imaginary characters that represent their desires, hopes, and fears.

Other participants include Laagencia group from Colombia, Ekaterina Muromtseva, Arseny Zhilyaev, Asya Volodina from Moscow, and Lera Lerner from St. Petersburg. The project is organized by the Museum’s Education and Exhibition departments and marks ten years of education programs at Garage. During this period, Garage has organized numerous lectures, discussions, master classes, and reading groups, and in 2018 the Museum launched a long-term collaboration with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, which will educate a new generation of museum professionals.

Curators: Iaroslav Volovod and Olga Dieva

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