Guide to the Moscow Biennale: How to find your way through Clouds and Forests

Guide to the Moscow Biennale: How to find your way through Clouds and Forests
Installation by Laure Prouvost. France, 2017
The New Tretyakov Gallery will host the main project of the Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Clouds⇄Forests, bringing together world famous contemporary artists and young Russian painters. This article has everything you should know about the biennale.

Curator: Yuko Hasegawa

Yuko Hasegawa, art director of the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, is the curator of the 7th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. She has an impressive work history: she was art director of the 7th Istanbul Biennale (2001), co-curator of the 4th Shanghai Biennale (2002), commissar of the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2003), art counsellor at the 12th Architectural Biennale in Venice, curator of the Sharjah Biennale (2013).

Yuko Hasegawa is a member of the Asian Art Council at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, adviser at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, and she also teaches curatorship plus theory of art at the Tokyo Tama Art University.

Being a curator “is like a knowledgeable shepherd who gives free rein to his/her animals while being fully aware of when and how to protect them from any danger,” she said.

Theme: Clouds⇄Forests

The theme of the Moscow Biennale sounds like a title of a fantasy novel, but the Clouds and Forest made up by Yuko Hasegawa, do not belong to a fairy kingdom. In her concept, which is full of metaphors, the Forest is the recent past of the human society, based on the principles of good neighbourhood and cooperation; people live in trees that form an ecosystem in which everything is interconnected. Clouds are the present with the internet, cloud services, social network and media of all kinds; people now live on clouds, each on its own, and the previous connections are broken.

Hasegawa believes that the future lies in uniting Forests and Clouds while preserving the advantages of both systems. Special, highly perceptive people – artists who work with new technology and who know the old creative language − will help people adapt to a new environment. Hasegawa has repeatedly addressed the ecology issue in her projects.

Works of some of the artists reflect the theme almost literally. For instance, Marie-Luce Nadal (France) will present a multimedia project dedicated to the clouds the artist has seen during flights, while artist and space lover Michael Najjar (Germany) will bring his 2013 project Space Garden where he puts trees in a weightless environment.


The list of the participants in the main project of the biennale has many world famous artists: Pierre Huyghe, Theaster Gates, Laure Prouvost, Forensic Architecture, Hussein Chalayan, Olafur Eliasson, Matthew Barney and Bjork. The latter two were spouses and their divorce in 2014 was long discussed because of Bjork’s album Vulnicura which was inspired by her personal drama. The title means “healing wound” in Latin, and the album was a remedy of sorts for the singer.

The Moscow Biennale will feature the Bjork Digital project which consists of six audio and video installations created for the Vulnicura album and presented to the audience in the US, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Japan and other countries. All videos, from the crazy Mouth Mantra, shot inside the singer’s mouth, to the confessional Stonemilker where Bjork appears at the background of her native Icelandic nature, use the virtual reality technology.

Matthew Barney is an American all-around artist, he does videos, sculpture, drawing and performance (it was him who got Bjork involved in the world of art). He will present his new work, Space Hunting, a series of drawings featuring wolves surrounded by shining celestial bodies.

Danish-Icelandic sculptor and installation maker Olafur Eliasson, whose works are in the collection of New York’s MoMA and Guggenheim Museum, London’s Tate Modern, Basel’s Kunstmuseum and other major institutions, will also present a new work, the light installation, Space Resonates Regardless of Our Presence.

Russian artists

Yuko Hasegawa has received over 600 applications from Russian artists. She picked mostly young ones. Among them are the Urals art group Where the Dogs Run, who work on the borderline of art and science; Alina Gutkina, graduate from the Free Studios under the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art; Alexei Martins, who ironically calls his wooden installations “Siberian involuntary”, comparing himself with the Arte Povera movement; as well as Anastasia Potyomkina, Ilya Fedotov-Fyodorov, Valya Fetisov and Mikhail Tolmachev.

Concurrent programme

The programme of the biennale looks impressive: 69 exhibitions in 49 cultural facilities throughout the city. Among the venues are the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art, the Apothecary Garden of the Moscow State University, the Winzavod Centre of Contemporary Art. Most exhibitions are already open or will open soon.

The programme also features European Art Nouveau: the Multimedia Art Museum which on 15 September, opened an exhibition of the founder of abstract art Constantin Brancusi from the Georges Pompidou Centre.

The Darwin Museum features the project, Expanding Lands: The Department of Lost Areas and New Memories, dedicated to the lost places and roads that lie far from popular routes.

The Biology Museum hosts an exhibition of Swedish and German artists, Our Birches, Your Birches. Displayed are works by Karin Karlsson, Ulrika Christell, Thomas Liden, Camilla Linden, Fredrik Soederberg, Lars-Joran Yevdokimchikov-Malmqvist, who work in different techniques and devoted their works to the birch, the cultural symbol not only in Russia.

Russian artists Lyudmila Baronina, the Underground Typography association, Tatyana Akhmetgaliyeva, Tina Vasyanina, Misha Most, Alise Ioffe, Yulia Kazas, Irina Petrakova, Irina Korina, Alexander Ugai, Ilya Pilipenko and Anton Akimov contemplate on the aftermath of the 1917−1922 Civil War. The exhibition, Truce Here, will open at the Zdes Na Taganke gallery on 20 September.

How to find your way round exhibitions and venues

A free app for iOS and Android has been released specially for the Moscow Biennale. It features detailed descriptions of events and several audio guides on the main project read by Fyodor Bondarchuk (the main guide), Tatyana Navka (the guide for children), Nikolai Uskov (the guide for the most expensive works of art) and Boris Barabanov (about Bjork Digital).