The Russian Federation's participation in the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale will take place entirely online this year, the country's Ministry of Culture has decided, despite the international event being rescheduled for late August.
"The postponement of the biennial due to the COVID-19 outbreak brought up a number of fundamental questions about the economic, social and environmental impact of global cultural events," said pavilion organizers in a statement. "Given the seriousness of the wider context of the pandemic and the resulting global economic crisis, it is impossible to simply resume the project as if nothing had happened. Caught amid this uncertainty are all the young artists and cultural activists whom we invited to work on the pavilion. Going digital ensures the continuation of their projects."
Milan-based architect Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, founder of studio 2050+ and curator of "Open?"—this year's exhibition—called the decision "an opportunity to experiment with a different 'space' and with different formats, and to question the role and functions of cultural institutions."
The pavilion has launched a website, pavilionrus.com, that will host podcasts, video interviews and lectures, and live music over the coming months as contributors adapt their work to a web-based format. Some projects are already well suited for this new paradigm: the film program “Other Zones,” curated by Vladimir Nadein, the co-founder and director of the Moscow International Experimental Film Festival, will introduce audiences to young Russian filmmakers through a series of bi-weekly online screenings. Others, meanwhile, seem especially prescient for the times: a video game by Moscovite artist and game designer Mikhail Maximov, launching June 6, follows the post-apocalyptic adventures of a character exploring the deserted Russian pavilion in an effort to reconstruct a fictional event that changed the course of history.
Despite the digital move, a physical renovation of the building at the Giardini, designed by KASA architects, will continue as scheduled.
“The pandemic has challenged our understanding of the role of cultural institutions and has called for a radical reconsideration of the framework of major cultural events," said commissioner Teresa Iarocci Mavica in a statement. "The focus must shift to what is essential: our responsibility for the local creative professionals invited to participate in the exhibition and the planned work on the pavilion, both in terms of renovation and programming content.”