On June 4th the Dom Radio in St. Petersburg hosted the opening of the Summer Exhibition of Contemporary Art, which gave St. Petersburg a chance to enjoy an echo of the Summer Exhibition in London – the longest running art exhibition in the world, held by the Royal Academy since 1769 (the only skip was in summer 2020 due to the pandemic).
“Summer Exhibition” in St. Petersburg marked the beginning of a joint visual arts project by MusicAeterna in partnership with the Aksenov Family Foundation, with the active participation of the Vienna contemporary art fair viennacontemporary. The format of the selection of artists and galleries for the Summer Exhibition was set by their participation in viennacontemporary in different years of the fair. The exhibition at the Dom Radio showcases works that are available for purchase. This particular feature of the project is an homage to the annual Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy in London.
Thematically, the exhibition explores the phenomenon of memory, revealing visual images of space and time. In this sense the Dom Radio – former building of Noble Assembly (1912-1914) – is extremely significant object for St. Petersburg. In 2019, the MusicAeterna musical ensemble took up residence here. The leader of the ensemble, the conductor Teodor Currentzis came up with the idea of a conceptual reincarnation of the Bauhaus in the Dom Radio, which is being developed by musicians, artists and theatre. This is how the cross-disciplinary project of the R. A. D. I. O. Cultural and Educational Center came into being.
The “Summer Exhibition” is located in fragments on all six floors of the Dom Radio, cultivating in its emphatically Soviet atmosphere the spirit of contemporary art, not so much nostalgic for the past, but aiming at the future. But the voice of recent history resounds so clear within these walls that the viewer involuntarily flinches when wall signs categorically forbid taking the elevator “in coats and galoshes.” The ban hints opaquely at the questionable appropriateness in such strict interior regulations of barefoot grotesque objects by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, placed politically correct by the curators – in the whiteness of the new ground-floor gallery. Despite the interior stiffness that has been preserved from Soviet times, the various spaces of the Radio House allow to exhibit the majority of works in sufficient isolation from each other – that contributes to revealing the vivid imagery of each art object.
The journey through the floors culminates in a large-scale video installation by Mat Collishaw, one of the leading artists of Damien Hirst’s Young British artists team, thanks to whose explosive creativity London still retains its status as world art capital. “Echolocation” is an eleven-meter, three-channel video installation that aims to “grope” and recreate the architectural space of Kingston’s lost history of over a thousand years. The video is projected onto a semi-transparent fine mesh made from a stretched fishing net. This gives the images a depth and ethereal quality, as if the free-flowing history of the invisible past creates a ghostly palimpsest, erased by the flight of a bat.
“Echolocation”, which has made a lot of noise, is on display in an underpass in London, and the Dom Radio has a former reading room dedicated to it. But the sense of an echoing story cannot be contained in any enclosed space: the “echolocation” of the house of radio itself follows the viewer through all the floors, reflecting sounds from the past in the emptiness of sombre Soviet corridors, then in the neoclassical interiors of the foyer and the “Renaissance” double staircase (colonnades, mirrors, paintings on the ceiling). However, the visuals will not overpower the echoes, it is not for nothing that the House of Radio has always been reigned a cult of sound.