Calling the spirit of piracy: «The Microbiennale of horizontal initiatives». Part 1

Виктор Жданов14/10/19 12:581.9K🔥
The Microbiennale logo by Varvara Dankova
The Microbiennale logo by Varvara Dankova

It seems that the time has come when I can start answering the questions which immediately have started to arise since the first announcement of the open call for the Microbiennale of horizontal initiatives.

The figure of the art curator*

First of all, I would like to talk about an innovation in the title of this text. However,
it is worth admitting in advance that the Microbienniale application form does not fully represent the horizontal structure. The problem consists of the existing figure of the art curator /promoter, who receives the applications, examines and selects the works for the exhibition. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to renounce to this hierarchical figure,
at least when receiving the application for the main program. Even if we look back to the experience of exhibitions in which there was absolutely no selection of works,
the figure of the art curator remains indispensable. I will make a classic example:
the exhibition “Thirty-Six Hours” of the American art curator Walter Hopps in 1978. Hopps. Hopps said that he would have accepted «everything that the author wants to define art, everything that is small enough to enter through a door. There will be no restrictions» [1]. That is, there were still restrictions, but only in size and in the undeniable name of “art” (from the point of view of the participant). Therefore, everyone who wanted and related their activities to art, freely brought their work to this exhibition within 36 hours. All this time, the curator was present in the museum,
he was involved in organizational issues, he carried out the functions of receiving
and setting the works in the exhibition space [2]. And he also found a place for the shameful page of the magazine Hustler brought to light by a tipsy guy [3]. In our case, the selection of works is important due to the fact that we focus mainly on the real artistic process and not on fine art or decorative art. By the way, despite the fact that the Hopps' exhibition was held at the Museum of Temporary Art (MOTA) in Washington, it is often cited as a christomatic example of curating outside a museum institution. This in the current Russian reality is considered at least strange, because for us any exhibition made in the space provided by an institution will most likely be considered institutional. However, an exhibition based entirely on the initiative of the art curator or on a self-organized group initiative, wherever it is held, will be considered extra-institutional if the institution does not intervene in the organizational process and in the logic of the curatorial plan.

*Curàtor (from the lat. curator, from cura — care, concern)

A source:
A source:

Pirate program

The most emancipating artist’s point of participating in the Microbiennale is the refusal (in this program) of the figure of the art curator and of the application form.

The words which I want to introduce in the vocabulary of the Microbiennale are “piracy” or “pirate program”. They have an extremely positive message in terms of self-organization. Indeed, there is a hierarchy, the relationship is between the artist and the art curator, but we insist on horizontality. I see the more horizontal attitude in the existing communication in the introduction of the so-called “pirate program”. What does it mean? It means that the artist or any other person can define their work or project as a project of the Microbiennale without informing me or the other members of the promoting team. In fact, you can do anything you want, anytime, anywhere, and say it is a piece of the Microbiennale of horizontal initiative. It can be documented in any way possible or impossible. Or not document at all. The experience of participating in a pirate program can also be included in a CV and portfolio.

Our official position is to be on the side of spontaneous and autonomous artistic production. In this context, piracy means an unhindered use of our “name” free of any copyright. It does not belong to us. Or it is better to say that it belongs to everyone. Art must be in the air, be spontaneous and anarchic. And this will be the closest and more horizontal expression of the concept of Microbiennale. It is an autonomous artistic self-government.

Meanwhile, the Microbienniale promoting group within the pirate program has a research task as Internet archaeologists: to find, publishi and catalog digital signs of participation (unless, of course, the documents for participation in the pirate program will not be found on the network).

It will be difficult to figure out how this will be revealed. For example, photographs can be easily found by hashtags: #microbiennale, #microbiennale2019, #biennalhorizontal, #микробиеннале and so on (again, if they are used).

It is also worth noting that the division into “parallel”, “main” and “pirate” programs is very relative. In fact, all these are horizontal initiatives, with varying degrees of self-organization. They are not more or less important exhibitions, they are all part of the contemporary high-level artistic process.

In the next part I would like to talk about the self-organized bienniale and the criticism of the two-year format.

Translation from Russian language: Rebecca Gilli

[1] Paul Richard. '36 Hours': Opening The Door for Artists [Electronic resource] / The Washington Post Archive. — 1978. — Access modo:, free, it needs authorization

[2] See also Ханс Ульрих Обрист. Краткая история кураторства // М.: Ад Маргинем Пресс, 2017. — 560 с. С. 14-39.

[3] Ibid., — 560 pp., p. 28.


Building solidarity beyond borders. Everybody can contribute is a community-run multilingual media platform and translocal archive.
Since 2014, researchers, artists, collectives, and cultural institutions have been publishing their work here