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Russian art collective Voina’s penis painting on the St. Petersburg Bridge
Russian art collective Voina’s penis painting on the St. Petersburg Bridge

BERLIN BIENNALE LOOKS EAST, LEFT

Nov. 29, 2011

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The Berlin Biennale, founded by MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach in 1996 when he headed the Berlin Kunst-Werke, is going radical this year with the appointment of activist Russian art collective Voina as co-curators, along with Laura Palmer Foundation director Joanna Warsza, for the seventh edition of the exhibition, Apr. 27-July 1, 2012.

Voina, formed in 2005 by Oleg Vorotnikov, Natalya Sokol, Leonid Nikolajew and Kasper Nienagliadny Sokol (and whose name translates as "war"), adheres to the motto, “the artist who denies political awareness is just a designer.” Members of the group have been in and out of jail, a result of provocative public performances that have included staging an orgy at a museum in Moscow, letting loose cockroaches in a courthouse and painting an enormous penis on the St. Petersburg drawbridge.

Warsza, who is co-organizing the biennale with Artur Zmijewski, said in a joint statement, “We do not expect that the Voina group will be practicing an ordinary curatorship. Maybe they will knock at the doors of artists’ studios, but not to check the art works, but to remind us about the ethos of the artist. They are among the last few believers who practice an art that is a direct political job. They continue their own, limitless, erratic and serious practice in Russia. Have they already done their ‘best artwork?’ Is it maybe the huge dick on Litiejnyj brigde in St. Petersburg? We do not think so. Their best artwork is the reminder that as the art world, we are on the way to just become a neoliberal elite who plays for financial gain and the accumulation of symbolic capital.”

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