The Structure of the Ural Biennial

Briefly about all the biennial programs and directions


The Main Project is a major international exhibition introducing the main topic of the Biennial and taking place in spaces related to the industrial history of the Ural region. The exhibition is created by an invited curator. Among the curators of the past projects were Ekaterina Degot, Cosmin Costinas, David Riff, Iara Boubnova, Biljana Ciric, Li Zhenhua, João Ribas, Xiaoyu Weng. In various years, the venues of the exhibition were the former Ural Worker printing house, the former Iset Hotel, the former Instrument-Making Plant and the Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant.

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The Program began with the second issue of the Biennial. Unlike classic studio residences, the Artist-in-Residence Program of the Ural Biennial welcomes artists from different countries and cities in the Urals to create artworks on operating industrial sites. From the logic ‘a factory to every artist,’ the program switched to a collective research art project and initiated the practice of industrial art routes in the Urals; the program works not only on sites, but also at industrial territories (dams, mines, quarries). An archive of citizens’ opinions on industriality, collected by curators in 2017, is one of the results of the program. In 2019, the priority was given to the creation of site-specific projects at the enterprises participating in the project.

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It is an extensive research and educational program including both regular lectures and non-recurrent major symposia and forums. Conceptually, the Platform is a mainstay of all the Biennial programs, providing a foundation for research in various thematic areas. Over the years, the themes of the Biennial symposia and seminars were: Industry at the Bifurcation Point, (Non)exhibitional Strategies of Contemporary Art, Art in the Era of Post-Fordism: Critique of the Total Context, Mobilization of Reality, Art as an Enterprise, Everyday Revolution. The Intellectual Platform is of cross-disciplinary nature, ensuring the Biennial’s relevance to professionals from different fields of knowledge.

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The Biennial program of special projects relates to the topic of industriality and allows revealing specific aspects of the main theme. The geography of special projects is quite broad and covers various territories united by the industrial specifics. Special projects of the Biennial are created in collaboration with major art institutions, independent curators and curators of the Ural NCCA, the main organizer of the biennial. Each time the Biennial produces a special research project about a venue, where the main exhibition takes place. In 2017, it was the exhibition Man at the Plant about the Instrument-Making Plant, which offered a new type of artistic understanding of the history of the functioning plant. In 2015, a research project about the constructivist complex Chekist Town united a team of researchers, who today continue promoting the importance of constructivist architecture.

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The Performance Platform launched during the third issue of the Biennial as a series of shows, created specially for the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art. As the Biennial inquires into the potential of non-exhibition venues, so the Performance Platform provides an opportunity to create projects in nontheatrical spaces; it is the place of collaboration between directors, actors, artists, musicians, dancers, performers, playwrights and composers. Their collaborative work results in performances and shows of varied formats. Participants of the Platform create interdisciplinary projects aimed at developing contemporary theater and performative practices. Among the realized projects are: Ural Lights oratorio at the Verkh-Isetsky Center for Culture and Arts (2017), H2O experimental ballet at the Ural Heavy Engineering Plant (2015), The Poetry of Shock Work performance-concert and The Breach performance promenade at the former Ural Worker printing house (2015).

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The Parallel Program of the Biennial was originally launched to unite the cultural institutions of Ekaterinburg and the Ural region into a shared biennial movement and to create an aggregate event context for the audience. The Parallel Program has significantly expanded the circle of participants and the geography of the biennial movement. Within the 4th biennial, a special expert committee was convened to select projects for the Parallel Program. These projects were focused on the topic of development of the urban environment in the industrial and post-industrial eras and its reflection in the artistic practices of both local and international artists. In 2019, the extensive Parallel Program was replaced by several special projects selected by the biennial team.

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The mission of the Ural Biennial is a constant mindful work with the public of various kinds and interests. Mediation is a contemporary strategy of work with the audience, whish assumes active involvement of citizens in a dialogue and co-creation. The main objective of mediation is to provide each visitor with an interesting and inspiring experience. The Biennial invites viewers to share their opinions and to participate in discussions, which ensures a better understanding of artworks and helps accepting these even to those viewers, who consider themselves to be far from contemporary art. The five-months mediator training program is a multi-component educational course. It includes a broad specter of formal and informal educational practices for a wide audience, as well as labs and projects. The latter are developed by mediators themselves under the guidance of the NCCA educational department and are aimed at involving particular communities or social groups. Mediators study visitors’ demands, keep diaries and make reports, which allows picturing a profile of the Biennial audience and analyzing their motivation and attitude to contemporary art. An active work with the audience resulted in the first Russian sociological study of the contemporary art audience.

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