The Russian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale will present Irina Nakhova’s The Green Pavilion. Since the mid-1970s, Nakhova (b. 1955) has made a significant contribution to the development of Moscow Conceptualism, infusing its logocentric model with visual intensity and a critical edge. In the early 1980s, using one of the rooms in her Moscow apartment, Nakhova embarked on a series of environments entitled “Rooms”. The series anticipated Ilya Kabakov’s iconic Moscow installation The Man Who Flew into the Cosmos from His Room, which he later dubbed a “total installation.” Both artists made the step into three-dimensional space as a revolt against the stagnating conditions of the production and reception of Moscow vanguard art in the pre-perestroika era. Together with the Russian Pavilion curator, Margarita Tupitsyn, an internationally renowned expert on the Russian avant-garde and contemporary art, Nakhova has here realized a series of ambitious environments that revisit the paradigms of the Russian avant-garde, as well as explore and redefine Nakhova’s concepts of spatial relations and viewer interaction.
This year, the Russian Pavilion is painted green, a color deliberately chosen to evoke the original appearance of the building, designed by Aleksei Shchusev in 1914. With the pavilion, Shchusev created a building uniquely suited to accommodate and enhance various artistic practices. Nakhova’s project deliberately fuses the functionality of Shchusev’s structure with her own use of the latest technologies. According to Tupitsyn, the Green Pavilion should also be seen as engaged in a dialogue with Kabakov’s Red Pavilion, executed for the 45th Venice Biennale, of 1993. With The Red Pavilion, Kabakov demonstrated the importance of color discourse for both Russian modernist and postmodernist artists, who shifted the approach to color from one of formalism to “socio-formalism.” Kabakov erected the Red Pavilion on the building’s grounds, leaving the pavilion itself empty—a potent metaphor that embodied the non-institutional status of vanguard artists and their non-participation in the Soviet culture industry. While Kabakov’s Red Pavilion marked the end of the Moscow vanguard’s hermetic phase, Nakhova’s Green Pavilion resumes the debate concerning these artists’ departure from local contexts in favor of more global significance in the post-Soviet era.