Curator and commissioner
The Russian pavilion focuses on the past, present and future of the Russian railways. These tracks have become the lifeblood of the country, where many parts are uninhabitable, even to the extent that roads cannot be built. The exhibition explores how the railways traverse the vast and often empty expanse of the Russian landscape.
The Russian pavilion has been transformed into a train station with 5 ‘Halls’. Within these ‘Halls’, contemporary Russian architects, designers and artists use sound and multimedia installations, as well as photographs, models and artefacts, to explore the past of the network and to present their vision of its future.
The first hall ‘The geography of free space’ demonstrates the complexity of the railway system that spreads throughout Russia’s vast empty spaces and multiple time zones. In ‘The architectural depot’ and ‘The waiting hall of the future’, you can find plans and models of impressive train stations, such as the renovated station at Sochi. A large-scale installation recreates the first Russian voksal – or Vauxhall – a train station and Pleasure Gardens in the suburb of Pavlovsk, built in the early 19th century, which functioned both as a terminus for the first Russian railway and as a summer retreat for St Petersburg’s elite. Downstairs, in ‘The crypt of memories’, the walls are lined with steel cabinets, mimicking a traditional luggage room. The lockers hold ‘lost and found’ property: historical artefacts, including Soviet memorabilia, which reveal the history of the material world behind the Russian Railway. Finally, ‘Aboard the free space’ shows a short-film by director Daniil Zinchenko of his journey from Moscow to Vladivostok, an excursion of 9,300 km along the route of the Trans-Siberian Express.
Semyon Mikhailovsky is the Rector of the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he serves as Associate Professor at the Chair of Architectural Theory and History. Semyon Mikhailovsky is Professor Emeritus at the Moscow Architectural Institute and Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. He is a member of the Council for Arts and Culture of the President of Russia. Semyon Mikhailovsky has been the curator, co-curator and organizer of exhibitions of Russian art in Stockholm, Venice, Taipei, Miami, Ravenna, Bologna, Rome, Madrid and other cities. He has served as advisor for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (2005), and as Commissioner of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2014, 2016, 2017). In 2017, he curated the exhibition Theatrum Orbis at the Russian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale.
The Russian pavilion in Giardini was ceremonially opened by Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia at a ceremony in 1914. It was the 7th foreign pavilion in Giardini. The pavilion was however closed in the same year due to the outbreak of the war and reopened in 1920. The pavilion was designed by Alexey Shchusev, who was also responsible for the Kazansky Railway Station. This was the Moscow terminus of the line which first connected the capital with Ryazan, in the south east of the country, and beyond, to Kazakhstan and central Asia.
Review by The Venice Insider
The pavilion of Russia is one of my favourite pavilions of this year’s Biennale, as you can read in ‘7 pavilions you cannot miss at the Architecture Biennale 2018’. The pavilion, supported by JSC Russian Railways, immerses you in the world of exuberant train stations around Russia. Even though there are plenty of beautiful train stations in Europe, several stations in Russia bring that concept to a higher level.
The models of different railway and train stations give you an idea of the magnitude of some of these projects. The model of the Sochi station for instance, which was built for the Winter Olympics, shows this at a single glance. It became Russia’s first railway station certified in accordance with environmental BREEAM standards. The exhibition is well-documented, so you can discover a lot of facts and figures behind these projects. Russia has also the longest train ride in the world. The Trans-Siberian Express takes 7 days to cross 9,300 km. You can take part in this journey from Moscow to Vladivostok by watching the 7 minutes short film by director Daniil Zinchenko, which captures the 7 days in high speed. Finally, you can discover ‘The Crypt of Memories’ with lockers from an old luggage room together with abandoned suitcases. In some of these robust looking steel cabinets, you can read the travel stories of famous train travellers such as David Bowie. Unfortunately, these texts are quite hard to read in the dark, but the set-up is stunning.
If you want to know more about the Architecture Biennale 2018 and the other national participations, you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Architecture Biennale 2018‘ or have a look at this overview page which links to all the articles related to the Biennale. If you want to be informed about new previews of national pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Pavlovsk Vauxhall, Station Russia, Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, courtesy the Russian Pavilion, Venice)
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