Constructing Virtual Bridges, The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde in Second Life

The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde – Bryn Oh (general)

Timing is, as they say, everything. This year, 2014, was designated the bi-lateral UK-Russia Year of Culture with the official endorsement and support of both governments. The possibility that political realities might interfere was not anticipated.

One of the projects selected by the British Council was The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde, a multi-media installation by Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke. Filling the 5,000 sqm main exhibition hall of Moscow’s Manege, this project animates “more than (1,000) masterpieces of Russian avant-garde. With the help of multimedia techniques, rare pieces of Russian avant-garde from the collections of the Russian Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Schusev Architectural Museum, the Bakhrushin Theatre Museum and private collections (are included). “Black Square” by Kazimir Malevich – perhaps the most famous Russian avant-garde work – (is) used as the basis and the central metaphor of the exhibition”.

The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde – Soror Nishi (general)

You may or may not be familiar with their names, but if I say that Saskia Boddeke is more commonly known in Second Life as Rose Borchovski, you might start to understand why I’m telling you all of this.

As part of this enormous undertaking (see Russian TV coverage here), Saskia/Rose gathered together a group of artists to build an inworld exhibit which is connected to the real life installation and viewable/explorable by visitors to the Moscow venue.

The virtual world exhibition is featured on four interactive viewing stations within the Museum and was created by Alpha Auer (Turkey), Bryn Oh (Canada), Caer Balogh (USA), Eupalinos Ugajin, Jo Ellsmere (USA), Nessuno Myoo (Italy) and Soror Nishi (UK). You will find more details on the artists and the Russian Avant-Garde works they were assigned as their inspiration at the landing spot and in Quan’s post here.

The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde – Nessuno Myoo (general)

This exhibit, both virtual and physical, has required many, many months of effort on the part of the two principals (Peter & Saskia), museum staff, funding bodies, and Second Life artists. You can probably imagine their feelings when events erupted in Ukraine.

The notion of art as a vehicle for cross-cultural communication, and even peace-building, is not new and is one of the reasons that the project was not abandoned. There was some concern that the key players would not be able to travel to Moscow, but that luckily proved to be untrue.

It is fitting I think that the subject of the installation is Russian Avant-Garde art – Bryn points out that the genre, known as Constructivism “was an artistic and architectural movement in Russia from 1914 to 1924 which dismissed “pure” art in favour of art used as an instrument for social purposes, namely, the construction of the socialist system”. When Stalin took power, this movement was suppressed and the artists were forced to emigrate or submit to standardized cultural norms.

The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde – Alpha Auer (general)

The inworld component of this vast installation opened for real life visitors at the same time as the entire exhibit on April 18. It officially opens its doors to Second Life residents this afternoon at 1:00 pm. The constructivists tried to create works that would make the viewer an active participant of the artwork.” As this is what I love about immersive art in the virtual, it means that SL is a perfect venue for these works.

Whether you know anything about Avant-Garde (Russian or otherwise), Constructivism, or the famous Black Square, I think you’ll enjoy this experience. You won’t be alone in your explorations. I mentioned that there are 4 viewing stations in the Manege Museum and they allow the visitors to control one of 4 avatars – AvanteGarde001, AvantGarde002, AvantGarde003, AvantGarde004.

You might see these individuals walking around, or standing, or flying – docents in the Museum reset them periodically. It’s an interesting experience standing to next to one while you’re looking at the works.

The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde – Eupalinos Ugajin (general)

I want to give you a couple of tips to help ease your journey. First, at the landing spot you’ll find a number of gorgeous art avatars created by Alpha Auer – they’re free and they now occupy a folder in my inventory. You’ll recognize the 4 visitor avatars as they each wear one of these artistic creations.

My second tip is that moving around the exhibit is much easier than it might appear. You’ll see a red line on the floor near those free avatars, follow it through a glowing doorway into Bryn’s fabulous build. If you look up and around you will see metal catwalks – using them will take you to each of the artists’ areas.

I enjoyed all of the builds, but I have to tell you that the freakiest one to me was Jo Ellsmere’s. You’ll see a figure on the bottom right of the next image – he gets up and moves around and dances. However, when he does you realize that “he” is in fact 5 separate beings who emerge and converge and interact. It is a dance of the impossible and it’s a great example of how technology and art come together. Their timing is perfect. :)

The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde – Jo Ellsmere (general)
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  1. Thanks Honour


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