Art Awards Honor Memory of Local Artist

Art Awards Honor Memory of Local Artist

The Sergei Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Awards were presented on April 5 at an extravagant awards ceremony.

Published: April 10, 2013 (Issue # 1754)

As a city steeped in the visual culture of past ages, St. Petersburg is curiously resistant to the new. This manifests itself in a scarcity of outlets for young artists to showcase their works beyond a small but growing number of commercial galleries and contemporary arts centers. One thing helping to change the city’s artistic landscape is the annual Sergei Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Award, which has been recognizing young creative talent for the past four years with the support of the St. Petersburg Committee of Culture.

This year, the awards ceremony was held at the Kuryokhin Arts Center, a former cinema on Vasilievsky Island and the site of an annual music festival.

The Kuryokhin awards are presented to artists, curators, and musicians building on the revolutionary ideas first put forward by legendary local artist and musician Sergei Kuryokhin in the early 1990s. Based on Kuryokhin’s principles of “Pop Mechanica,” all of the work nominated for the awards foreground the search for a dynamic relationship between different art forms by embracing the elements of improvisation, provocation and chance.

The first awards ceremony was held in 2010. Recognizing work made the year before, the event energized the local arts community and has been eagerly anticipated each year since. This year’s awards are being held as part of the fourth annual International Art Mechanica Festival.

Customarily, the award ceremonies take the form of a multi-disciplinary performance featuring celebrated local musicians and media artists. A highlight of this year’s event was Maxim Svishchev’s panoramic video projection on three walls of the center’s auditorium set to a musical program created by avant-garde composer Alexei Aigi. The video projection and live music were accompanied by a ping-pong match and the running of vacuum cleaners.

During the ceremony the Hermitage Orchestra performed compositions by Kuryokhin that had not been performed live for the past 16 years.

Perhaps the most unique thing about the awards is that they are dedicated to supporting the artistic developments enumerated by a single artist. As a result of the award’s focus on the legacy of Kuryokhin’s practice, the categories are sometimes a bit unusual.

The Pop-Mechanica Grand Prix, for instance, is awarded to an art project that synthesizes various disciplines including visual art, live music, radical fashion and poetry. The award for Best Visual Art Project is perhaps more straightforward, with the category open to installation, painting and sculpture. Likewise, the Media Project and Public Art categories recognize excellence in video art, film and animation, and landscape art and graffiti, respectively.

This year the prize for Best Curator was awarded to Naila Allahverdiyeva for her exhibition “The Face of the Bride: Contemporary Kazakh Art,” at the PERMM museum in Perm in 2012.

St. Petersburg art critic Yekaterina Andreyeva won the prize for Best Contemporary Art Text for her book “The Dissonant Angle — The School of Nonconformity in Moscow and Leningrad 1946-1991,” a historical look at the Soviet Nonconformist Art movement.

The Archstoyanie festival of landscape art, which has been held annually in the village of Nikola-Lenivets (in the Kaluga Oblast) since 2006, received this year’s award for best public art project.

The Best Visual Art award was presented to Yelena Gubanova and Ivan Govorkov for the installation “Redshift.” The artists’ immersive, site-specific installation was first shown in an exhibition that ran parallel to the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and is based on an optical illusion that changes the viewer’s perception of space using an intense red light. The artists’ gallery said that the work springs from Gubanova’s personal experience as the daughter of an astronomer and her childhood experiences of the Pulkovo Observatory.

Viktor Alimpiyev’s video “Vot” won the nomination for Best Media Project. The video was on display at an exhibition of the same name at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

Vladimir Rannev’s Opera, “Two Acts,” based on a libretto by Dmitry Prigov, was presented with the Pop Mechanica Grand Prix. The opera premiered in the atrium of the General Staff Building at the State Hermitage Museum last year and deals “not with heroes and [grand] personalities,” according to Rannev, “but with the common man; marginalized figures who are awkward and ridiculous.” 

The Ethno Mechanica award for the best world music project was given to the album “The Dawn of the Foremothers,” by the musical group Namgar, which performs traditional Buryat and Mongolian music. The Electro Mechanica category was taken by St. Petersburg musician Monokle for his album “Saints.”

In what was perhaps one of the most touching moments of the night, eighty-three year old artist and poet Vladlen Gavrilchik, one of the greatest representatives of the Leningrad underground, received an honorary prize for his significant role in Russian culture.

In addition to cash awards, this year’s winners received blue “thumbs up” statuettes created by artist Vitaly Pushitsky, who was last year’s winner of the French Institute prize, which offers the winning artist a three-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

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