Museeum loves museums! So when we heard of ANTImuseum project in Moscow’s Electro Museum, we rushed there with intent of defending museum’s place in public life. Instead in Electro Museum we met famous artists and inspiring curators Alexei Shulgin and Aristarkh Chernyshev, who created a space that welcomes emerging talents and brushes off mediocrity early on.
Electro Museum opened its doors in 2013 to exhibit media-art, interactive art and sound art. Past exhibitions include “GIF-GIF-GAF” dedicated to animated gifs as subtext of contemporary art (where visitors generated gifs) and “On the brink of art” about cultural codes of Internet-memes (where visitors designed new memes). As you see, it is an Electro Museum quite literally: a place where you can take part in exhibitions and many other museum activities. Alexei Shulgin gave us a tour of ANTImuseum project and told us what Electro Museum is all about.
Here we can see more than 30 works united by one theme in an art space, so why ANTImuseum?
"It is anti museum in a traditional sense. Let’s take anti-café for instance. The owners provide a space and everyone brings their own tea, coffee and food. We provided a space and everyone brought their own art. The works’ subjects are different, they are drawn together by the method we gathered them and we didn’t actually “gather” them. Here by means of technology, we establish the way technology affects society and culture. We can talk about various perspectives – from purely aesthetic aspects of new technologies creating a new aesthetic, to new communication opportunities. Therefore, the works turn spectators into participants. At the same time, as you can see, visual work are associated with new aesthetics. Here are also works where artists document their interventions in public spaces. This kind of documentation is also new media art. Interventions are not seen by anyone outside of the territory, where they suddenly take place, but then interventions are published on YouTube, recorded on video and photographs".
"We deliberately rejected the idea of a curatorial concept, instead we formulated a strict set of directives, purely technical regulations that roughly describe new media art", - Alexei Shulgin.
They can also become memes and gifs that can be considered a part of contemporary art today, right? So in the framework of ANTImuseum project, what is the main challenge, the goal of Electro Museum?
"Our main task and challenge is to expand the idea of art, the narrative of media art. We try to reach as many creative individuals as possible and not only the “so-called” artists, who are labeled as artists and function within the art system, since the system seek to restrict the space of a creative person and his statement, placing markers: this is art, and this isn’t. We consciously decided not to label art. To have a clear idea of what art is, you need to have a clear definition. While we live in a free world there can be no single definition, it is entirely subjective, you perceive something to be art, but there can be no conceptual criteria. Our criteria are purely technical and the result is evidently good".
But how can you say if the result is good if there are no criteria?
"I sometimes visit young art exhibitions and see that Electro Museum is on a different level, because all works are associated with technology. Artists who use technology bare more responsibility for what they are doing because they invest more time and money. If you are already creating a labor-intensive project, you will not be careless, doing something for the sake of doing anything at all, hit-or-miss. Young artists all over the world are under pressure, there are so many of them! And they run around and try to exhibit and exhibit anywhere. So the external pressure results in less proficient works. An artist hears of a deadline and urgently does an overnight project. On a napkin, using makeshift tools, whatever is available, he draws just something, colors it and there you go! It can be a masterpiece if it’s a genius, but usually even geniuses take time to work. In Electro Museum it is simply not possible, technically not possible".
How can artists find you? How can they present their works for ANTImuseum project?
We set up open calls, earlier they were only in Russian, so whoever spoke Russian or used Google translate could participate. At the last ANTImuseum exhibition we had artists from Ukraine and Azerbaijan, but mainly Russians. Soon we will have the English version of our site, and then everyone is welcome!
We were very impressed by the work "Curiosity index". Which one is you favorite?
"“Curiosity index” that makes you thrust your fingers into the socket and hear that scary electric sound is playing with stereotypes. It is much more than just overcoming fear, it has many implications, but I cannot say which work is my favorite. I like them all".
"Electro museum is not a museum in a traditional sense, we do not have the storage, storerooms, no keepers and there are no special grannies, who dust off the works".
"We have great exposition capabilities with video and audio equipment. Contemporary art increasingly often comes in the form of files, so we can exhibit works from around the world. It can be a file or a file in conjunction with an object. Lets walk to our sound art gallery, or SA)) gallery. Here we have a dark music studio curated by the most famous Russian sound artist Sergey Kasich. Anyone can connect to this computer and upload their music, and we can sit here and listen. This is a collective mind, which brings together people from around the world".
So visitors can be spectators, but it is more fun to participate in the museum.
"Exactly, we have so many activities, including Fem Club that has a meeting right this evening. We host events with audio and video artists who have their special evenings with screenings and musical sets, we hold “Warm vinyl evenings”, where the vinyl collectors speak about different aspects of the music industry, the history of music, sometimes even lectures about technical reparations, so we become a DIY club".
The main building will be under repair, when will it be opened?
Yes, the entire five-story apartment house on Rostokinskaya street, where our museum is situated, is undergoing major repairs: replacement of pipes, windows, etc. So until the end of summer we work with our partners.
We loved the banners at the entrance, will they be back after you are back in your main building?
"Banners at the entrance are a part of ANTImuseum project that is over now, but will be continued. The banners were created by Permian street artist Sasha Zhunev, who performs in various techniques. Here you can see portraits of Nikola Tesla and Elon Musk made of colored tape. We stretched chain wire and he affixed and glued duct tape right before everyone’s eyes creating a portrait. True street art, but not on a wall, rather on a chain wire".
Electro Museum appeared to be not ANTImuseum, but rather PROmuseum. Although there is no permanent collection we wish the pillow could stay. It is such an ironic mockery of indoctrination, where you can hear the horrible TV propaganda read in soothing voice with tranquilizing music on the background and it makes you laugh. When we sincerely laugh about something bad, we rise above it and let art be the judge.