Arseny Zhilyaev

Arseny Zhilyaev (*1984 in Voronezh) lives and works in Moscow and Voronezh. Using artistic, political, scientific, and museological histories to uncover and propose potential futures, Zhilyaev explores a productive space between fiction and non-fiction. Within his recent projects, the artist casts a revisionist lens on the heritage of Soviet museology, for example ‘Museum of Proletarian Culture. The Industrialisation of the Bohemian’ at Tretyakov State Gallery (Moscow, 2012); ‘Pedagogical poem’ (in collaboration with Ilya Budraitskis and the project collective) at Presnya Historical Memorial Museum, V-a-c Foundation (Moscow, 2012); M.I.R.: ‘New paths to the objects’ at Kadist Art Foundation (Paris, 2014) and M.I.R.: ‘Polite Guests from the Future’ at Kadist Art Foundation (San Francisco, 2014). Since 2011, Zhilyaev has also been a member of the editorial board of ‘Khudozhestvennyi Zhurnal’, a Moscow art magazine. He is a contributor to e-flux Journal and others. As an artist and activist (member of the Russian Socialist Movement and Union of Creative Workers), he was involved in intense debates around precarity. Zhilyaev graduated from the Philosophy Department at Voronezh State University (2006) and Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art (2008). He also holds an MA in International Programs from Valand School of Fine Arts, Goteborg, Sweden (2010). Recent accolades include the Innovation 2010 Russian State Award in the field of contemporary art, the Soratnik [Companion-in-Arms] awards in 2010 and 2012, and a nomination for the Visible Award 2013 and the Absolute Award 2015.

Pedagogical Poem. The Archive of the Future Museum of History

The project ’Pedagogical Poem. The Archive of the Future Museum of History’ was implemented in 2011 and 2012 in the former Revolution Museum in the Moscow district of Presnya. This was an uneasy and ambiguous time in the history of Russia, therefore this initially educational initiative aiming at updating the potential of the museum as a medium quickly reached a political dimension. It became one of the few platforms in Moscow perceived as a school of civic participation. At the same time, the history of ’Pedagogical Poem’, first and foremost reflecting the history of the Presnya district as an epicentre of political revolutionary events in 20th century, has evolved to depict the history of the OccupyAbay camp taking place in the same area. In doing so, it reflects its symbolic meaning of hope for social change at the beginning of 21st century that has not come to fruition. To an even greater extent, this project provided an obvious example of the current relationship between artists and art institutions in Russia, between the necessity to talk about history and revolution on the one hand and the fact that such talk is absolutely impossible on the other, between the neo-liberal maxim of museum innovation and late Soviet conservatism.

A whole community emerged on the basis of the project ’Pedagogical Poem. The Archive of the Future Museum of History’ and continued to exist even after the active phase of the project was finished. For several years, it acted as activist self-education initiative serving as a rare example of self-organization in Russia and raising the question of final purposes of politicised art. The array of questions raised by the project has brought to the surface important trends in political and cultural life in Russia regarding its relationship to the modern art practices at the beginning of 2010s. It means that looking for the answers remains an important task today.