History of the Ural Biennial

All the issues of the Ural Biennial from 2010 onwards

The 4th Ural Biennial. Special project. Timofey Radya. What Are We? Where Do We Come From? Where Are We Going?
Photo: Timofey Radya
International Festival of Contemporary Art "Art Plant"
Venue – Tele Club, Ekaterinburg
International Festival of Contemporary Art "Art Plant"
Venue – Worsted Combine, Ekaterinburg
The 1st Ural Industrial Biennial | The Industry of Meanings
Main project title "Shockworkers of the Mobile Images." 59 artists from 19 countries. Curators of the Main project: Ekaterina Degot, Cosmin Costinas, David Riff. Venues: The former Ural Worker printing house, The Ural Heavy Engineering Plant
The 2nd Ural Industrial Biennial | Production and Appropriation
Main Project Title "The Eye Never Sees Itself" 31 artists from 18 countries. Main project curator: Iara Boubnova. Main venue: The former Ural Worker printing house
The 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial | Mobilization
Main project title "Spaces for Maneuver — Between Abstraction and Accumulation." Curator: Biljana Ciric. 24 artists from 16 countries. "No Real Body." Curator: Li Zhenhua. 40 artists from 10 countries. Main venue: The former Iset Hotel
The 4th Ural Industrial Biennial | New Literacy
Main project title "Image as witness / Capitalism choreographies / Persistent word." Curator: João Ribas. 62 artists from 22 countries. Main venue: The former Ural Instrument-Making Plant
The 5th Ural Industrial Biennial | Immortality
Main project title "For a Multitude of Futures: Overcome the Limits of Immortality." Curator: Xiaoyu Weng. 70 artists and art groups from 23 countries. Main venues: The Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant and the Coliseum Cinema

The 1st Ural Industrial Biennial, 2010

Theme: The Industry of Meanings

Main venue: The former Ural Worker printing house

Curators of the Main Project: Ekaterina Degot, Cosmin Costinas, David Riff

The theme of the 1st Ural Biennial was based on the interpretation of new creative and artistic production in connection with historical memory. The Biennial has been a temporary art factory inside a former industrial plant — the Ural Worker printing house. The main project titled The Shock-Workers of Mobile Images attempted to answer the questions: What was it like to be a shock-worker in the Soviet times and what does this mean today? What does it mean to produce art commissioned by superfast modernization?

In 2010, the Biennial has formed its basic structure: the main and special projects, as well as an extensive parallel program were attended by more than 60,000 people. Six industrial sites were involved, and exhibitions occupied an overall space of over 40,000 square meters. The Biennial has included Soviet history in the context of contemporary art as a full-fledged industrial and artistic heritage.

The 2nd Ural Industrial Biennial, 2012

Theme: Production and Appropriation

Main venue: The former Ural Worker printing house

Main project Curator: Iara Boubnova

The 2nd Ural Biennial focused on special projects and art residences in industrial towns of the Ural region. Site-specific contemporary artworks created specially for the project in unique places were a distinctive feature of the Biennial, whereas their diversity and dispersion over a large area involved the public in the study of uncustomary and previously closed industrial sites.

The main project titled The Eye Never Sees Itself was located at the same venue, the former Ural Worker printing house, and brought together thirty artists from different countries. This exhibition explained how artists use their vision to ‘defuse’ threats. Such threats are, for instance, the past as such, the impact of industry on the environment, politics, violence, war, street riots, and terrorism.

The 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial, 2015

Theme: Mobilization

Main venue: The former Iset Hotel

Main Project Curators: Biljana Ciric, Li Zhenhua

The 3rd Ural Biennial focused on mobilization as a driving force of culture and has introduced a study of mobilization practices accessible to contemporary artistic, business and research communities. Addressing the experience of Asian countries, the Biennial focused on the crucial role of the Urals as the border between Europe and Asia, and suggested the viewer a new vision, provided by the curators — Li Zhenhua and Biljana Ciric. The main project consisted of two curators’ exhibitions, which united 61 artists and art groups from 21 countries. The 3rd Biennial has launched the Performance Platform as a series of performances created specially to be shown in the marginal abandoned spaces of the former printing house. The Artist-in-Residence Program presented the works of 12 artists from 7 countries. Besides this, the Biennial presented large-scale special exhibition projects: the curatorial project by Kirill Svetlyakov The Museum of Modern Art: Department of Labor and Employment at the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, a total installation by Katya Bochavar Factories. Direct Speech at the Ural branch of the NCCA and the project by the Italian artist Michele Giangrande in the operating workshops of the Uralhimmash plant.

One of the main team achievements was the program of art mediation, which is unique to Russia. A mediator is a new job in the museum sphere. Mediators not only guide the viewers, but also involve them in a discussion and encourage them to express their own opinions on artworks; mediators help the viewers to find contact with artworks and to learn understanding them and thinking independently.

The 4th Ural Industrial Biennial, 2017

Theme: New Literacy

Main venue: The former Ural Instrument-Making Plant

Main Project Curator: João Ribas

The 4th Biennial has abandoned the old terms and definitions; its “industriality” is rather a practical, instrumental category. This is no longer an object of research, but an essential characteristic of the entire institute of the Biennial. The theme of the 4th Biennial, New Literacy, was dedicated to labor and leisure of the near future, it anticipated the changes that would happen in the social, economic and cultural spheres. Once again, the main project has united an international team of artists in a unique space, the former Instrument-Making Plant.

One of the most striking projects of the Biennial has taken place at the stage of the Verkh-Isetsky Center for Culture and Arts – the oratorio Ural Lights was introduced as part of the Performance Platform.

The Artist-in-Residence Program has expanded to include specially organized routes across the Ural towns accessible to everyone. The artists of the Program worked on their projects at the Kyshtym Copper Electrolyte Plant, the Taiginsky Mining and Processing Plant and other industrial enterprises, many of which opened their doors to visitors for the first time. The program of art mediation has become a permanent tool for interaction with the audience. As a result of the art mediation program, the formats of work with the audience have become more diverse, including many options, such as reading groups, workshops and storytelling.

The 5th Ural Industrial Biennial, 2019

Theme: Immortality

Main venue: The Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant

Main Project Curator: Xiaoyu Weng

Within the constant process of understanding industriality, the Ural Biennial considers this phenomenon from a new angle every time. From thinking about the production results and the specificity of industrial process, which centers around circulation repeatability, the topic of the Biennial – Immortality – allowed shifting to the consideration of universal phenomena and broad concepts.

This Biennial focused on digital immortality, questioning how and why digital methods make it possible to restore lost artworks, create realistic models of spaces, which cannot be visited otherwise. Another important aspect of this topic was social immortality. How and why do artworks claim to be ‘eternal,’ to be included in the great canon, which everyone is required to know? Of special interest was the connection between immortality, science and technology; the futurological potential of this topic opens the door to the multiple futures, where immortality is the natural crown of technological progress.

When turning to immortality, we become the participants of an eternal conversation about time and space, about a place of an individual in any new emerging or constructed reality and their right to a particular relation to it. Immortality is the reason to speak about cultural memory, about the ways to preserve human identity intact on a winding thread of time.