The Biennial and the Industriality

How contemporary art changes the concept of industriality

Our understanding of industriality has been changing along with the scale of the Ural Biennial. Having started working on a direct matching ‘industrial – factory,’ the team has elaborated and consolidated new interpretations of this term.

From 2010 to 2015, we used the term ‘industriality’ to describe resources used and produced by the Biennial: production capacities of partner enterprises, the nature of interaction with artists, etc.

The Biennial has an extensive experience of working with historical industrial heritage, which consists in revitalization of architectural monuments and industrial spaces. The first festival Art-Plant (2008), which preceded the Biennial, sped up the transformation of abandoned workshops at Kariernaya street. Following the festival, this space became residence to Tele-Club, the best concert venue in Ekaterinburg to date.

The Biennial has introduced to the urban fabric two architectural monuments, which in different years served as the main venue for the project. The Ural Worker printing house today turned into one of leisure centers, and the Iset Hotel, as a part of the architectural complex Chekist Town, holds promise to become the first art hotel in Ekaterinburg. In 2016, Podelniki arch-group has turned the White Tower (the former water tower of Uralmashzavod) into an unorthodox exhibition space. This became possible due to the Artist-in-Residence Program of the 2nd Biennial: a project by the invited French artist Matthieu Martin highlighted this constructivist monument in the eyes of urban community.

Thanks to the Biennial, the Chekist Town and the White Tower were included in the list of ‘particularly important avant-garde monuments’ prepared by the Shchusev Museum of Architecture by order of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The inclusion of these monuments in the program of state support guarantees close expert attention to these objects and to similar facilities across Russia.

Since 2016, the industriality has been an essential feature of the Biennial. Today the Biennial is a project ready to replicate, self-reproduce and expand. It has become a talent foundry for the regional market of Russian contemporary art. Over the years the Biennial has released over ten strong curators employed in Ekaterinburg museums and known in the international professional community.

The Biennial initiated the art-mediation school – the first Russian project to explain contemporary art to those, who has never encountered it. The school has trained over thirty specialists with basic knowledge of contemporary art and an ability to transfer this in an institutional manner.

The Biennial programs have covered more than 100 partner venues, among which more than 15% are operating and non-operating industrial spaces in Ekaterinburg and large regional cities (Nizhny Tagil, Nevyansk, Satka, Sysert, Irbit, Pervouralsk, Revda, Kasli, Verkhnyaya Salda, Degtyarsk, Verkhoturye, Arti, Alapaevsk).

The Ural Biennial is the only regional biennial to launch partnership programs with international projects of a similar focus: the ZERO1 Biennial (San Jose, California), the Industrial Art Biennial (Labin, Croatia). Since 2012, the Ural Biennial has been member of the International Biennial Association (IBA), and since 2016, the Biennial Commissioner Alisa Prudnikova has been a member of the IBA Board.

The international expert community has listed the Ural Biennial among the 10 most promising biennials in the world.

At present, the Biennial is capable of:

– launching the uninterrupted production of new leisure scenarios for citizens, be it active spectacular formats or cultural and industrial tourism programs;

– revitalizing industrial spaces — workshops and territories of Russian plants, mills and factories — and filling them with objects and activities appealing to the general public;

– initiating interdisciplinary research projects: a distributed network of experts and researchers together with task forces of local researchers produce new knowledge in the field of sociology of art, art history, oral and public history;

– anticipating dramatic social changes and — through art — preparing the viewers for these changes, telling them about new jobs, industries, planning methods and work management; since art traditionally speaks of the future, it eliminates illiteracy in matters of the forthcoming realities.