2016 – 2018; 5th Moscow biennale for young art

Community-based participative managerial project
Duration: 2 years
Project start: Jan 2016
Key figures: Alexandra Novozhenova, Anastasia Ryabova, Alexander Minchenko, Anton Baranov, Ilona Vladovskaya, Sofya Ovchinnikova
Complete list of participants can be found on the image carousel above
(in Russian only)

Artists collective led by the COMMITTEE–XXI elaborated a letter of intent, and it follows.

The committee has grown out of a chaotic yet strictly administered collaboration between the appallingly disconnected members of a group formed around an epic workshop, INTRODUCTION TO THE PROFESSION–XXI CENTURY.

Burdened by mutual influences, common dependency, and their ceaseless struggle against each other, they have been trying to make anything but an exhibition. In a moment when time seems to have come to an end, they are ready to put their enigmatic but still groundless ambitions to use in an attempt to find out which of them will define art in a hundred years.

Their struggle will become visible in a number of places which this new gang has annexed driven by greed to build their supra-institutional fortress. Making use of the square meters they have found in a house, museum, shop, America, on the outskirts, in a palace has become the primary goal for the group of artists, in which each one is not only eager to show their work, but gets involved in what their neighbors are doing, plotting and collaborating against them.

We say: touch the other (let him move over)! Hoorah!

Cascade of the openings route scheme

Exhibition plan at Moscow museum of modern art

The Committee–XXI (or the Committee of the twenty-first century) is an attempt to build a community whose primary task is not a result, but a process of communication, ranging from overcoming pinpoints of bureaucratic structures of state institutions to social media marketing tools to presentations of imaginary projects.

Putting communication at the central position of community tasks, the abilities to talk, listen and negotiate are the critical points for many self-organized alliances. However, in our case, the most significant problem was the very possibility of the existence of this association. Periodically it seemed that everything could end at any moment: the community built on weak and episodic links could not form a firm structure.

The Committee emerged during Introduction to the profession. XXI Century seminar sessions, organized by art historian Alexandra Novozhenova and artist Anastasia Ryabova in the Rodchenko art school, Institute for contemporary art, and Baza institute.

Many participants were personally aware of the uncertainty and impossibility of finding their subjects of research, problematics and favorite media, and the only stimulus for unification was a specific time and place of meetings, as well as regular online communication, followed by a complete lack of activity during its breaks. This uncertainty was a significant moment that excluded the emergence of a leader and a steady course towards development.

The ability to build various models of cooperation and interaction within the community which – we really believe in this statement – has a much higher potential for consistent artistic progress than a rigidly established vertical of competences and responsibilities.

Biennale newsmakers: Danila Stratovich, Nadim Samman, Ekaterina Kibovskaya, Joseph Backstein (photos from personal facebook pages)

Committee–XXI members (Rodchenko art–school)

For outsiders, the Committee seeks to maintain the image of a successful structure with all goals set and all resources for their implementation reserved. Availability of projects and willingness to present them to selective commissions and boards are crucial in this case.

Even at the first stage of development, the Committee has avoided the risk of staying in a gray zone because of acting as a formally created enterprise structure, rather than an artistic community, which made it more familiar with official institutions.

The directive task, the reservation of the largest number of places and sites for the “cascade of exhibitions openings,” was implemented with promotion methods used by institutions, commercial and state companies.

Finally, several completely different places were chosen: a music club, a skate park, Central architects’ house (the ex-Soviet club for the professional community), music and arts festival Forma, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Smirnov and Sorokin art fund workshops, and the US apartment of the artist Viktor Skersis. Some of the mentioned places turned out to be unavailable after intensive legal document exchange and talks (possibly their administrators had figured out our real intentions).

In 2015-2016, the process of turning museums into cultural industry units became noticeable, as did the flow of their ads in social media. PR-agencies started promotion campaigns of events using their selling texts and catching pictures without any adaptation to the new category of clients. The main form to present art has transformed into festivals, offering an excessive number of events and entertainment activities evenly distributed across the city center.

The Committee of the XXI century was at the top of its strength during the preparation and opening of the 5th Moscow Biennale for Young Art. New promotional trends led to the decision to “capture” the Biennale media space with the implementation of their techniques, reversed.

We worked as an event-agency with the aim to provide good attendance and positive feedback for the project activities united under “dom – dvorets – salon – muzei – amerika – otshib (house – palace – saloon – museum – america – outskirts)” name, while striving to:
– minimize the volume of the unique content created (all posts were generated automatically using a special script that mixed phrases and pictures from the posts by Russian key figures in the cultural industry);
– fill in all reserved places (the volume is more important than the content);
– try to avoid talking with site owners and curators about specific projects during the reservation of the places;
– provide the maximum conversion into visitors with the help of advertising methods.

Sure, because of the large number of the Committee participants, the ratio and degree of inclusion varied. Some regarded it as a project of a “serious” exhibition planning, some as an art project by Ryabova and Novozhenova.

All of the various types of activities, many of which ended immediately after the action in one place or another, were represented via the careful documentation.

The project management itself aimed to find means and other resources to promote events, is perhaps the main result of the Committee activities and the only artwork presented during its functioning.

Forma festival (Pravda art-centre)
19 Bumazhny proezd, Moscow

Otshib (Smirnov and Sorokin art fund workshops)
27 Burakova, Moscow

The event was shown online only, and the connections with the art fund workshops and its curator were used as a symbolic promotion during other official talks.

After long talks and preliminary acceptance of the Committee’s exhibition, the chief director started to demand fee as for a commercial rent.

The day of our planned exhibition opening, the other one was presented, and it was dedicated to young architects’ educational achievements. We got connected with the students and held an open talk with them discussing their view on art and the differences between art and architecture. The meeting was announced in media as part of the Moscow Biennale educational program.

Dvorets (Sukhanovo manor)
Sukhanovo, Leninsky district, Moscow region

This place has become unavailable after some talks with the district administration. The main work planned here was the installation of a light beacon on the old manor’s tower and its live video streaming to one of the official Moscow art spaces.

The idea with the beacon was realized illegally. It was carried along the manor’s fence at night, and the documentation of the performance appeared at Forma arts festival.

Salon (Aglomerat club)
3/12 Kostomarovsky, Moscow

The Committee members took part at the exhibition opening show while Skotoboinya (Slaughterhouse), the underground rave fest, was at its full power behind the door.

Muzei (Moscow museum of modern art)
10 Gogolevsky, Moscow

The Committee, as a supposedly legal organization, had to appear on the official media. The Biennale’s strategic project exhibition could not be a better place for our art show.

America (Viktor Skersis residence)
880 Laurel Drive, Bethlehem, PA, 18017, USA

The telepresentation exhibition was held in the USA with the help of Viktor Skersis, Russian conceptual artist. The members of the Committee have shown their works via video streaming services, discussed them with Viktor and took part in a short discussion after that.

Alexandra Novozhenova and Anastasia Ryabova’s discussion on Committee XXI (moderated by Gleeb Napreenko), originally published on

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Committee XXI case study by Anastasia Ryabova

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