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Welcome to the Pavilion of the Russian Federation! Photo © Andrea Avezzu, Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia
If you want to understand Modernity you need to have fun with it
By Thomas Wagner
6/10/2014

Is this really true? I guess no one really cares. What we can safely say, however, is that Anton Kalgaev, Brendan McGetrick, Daria Paramonova and the “Streika Institute for Media, Architecture and Design” have under the title “Fair Enough” transformed the pavilion of the Russian Federation into a mega-fun event that likewise serves as a critical revision of the Modern Age. Once you read the neon writing forming the slogan “Russia’s Past, Our Present” above the balcony at the rear exit of the pavilion you will understand (if you haven’t already) that the Russian architecture of the past 100 years has been re-edited for a global audience here – or better: The promise for the present has been re-activated. Where the other participants are keen to fulfill Rem Koolhaas’ thematic brief, examining on paper or by model all those things that Modernity has absorbed in their country and how it was absorbed itself, the Russians get the global game of modern architecture down to a tee. New Man – what Modernism only dreamed of, has now become a reality. Who would want to miss out on that?

So instead of once again verifying or rejecting a masterly narration full of heroes, its consequences are being presented from a modern-day perspective: global Modernity as expo and trade fair. Or put differently: Modern Age culminates in the economization of everything and anything. Consumerism and marketing have transformed ideas and aspirations into globally available commodities. The imaginary offerings, however, are extensive and enticing, promising a solution to many a problem. This may sound rather prosaic but is by no means meant like that.

And the stuff you get to experience! Once you have made your way past the metal detector and the reception with attendant hostess, you will find yourself immersed in veritable trade-fair architecture. One booth follows another. The sophisticated design is professionally executed. The “Prefab Corp”, which bears the name of “Re-Use”, promises sustainable supplies of pre-fabricated parts. At the booth of “Estetika Ltd.” you will discover Russian or Neo-Russian-style architectural elements. “Narkomfin” is a revolutionary residential project from the 1920s that promises communal life with a dash of wellness thrown in, while the NPO “Khidekel Elements” markets under #suprematismforhumanity simple formwork by the name of “Ramablok” that enables users to erect genuine suprematist prefabs without any fuss in the true spirit of Kazimir Malevich and his Black Square. And those still up for more can in the spirit of Modernity engage in “VKhUTEMAS training” or travel with “Archipelago Tours” to Cuba or to a bread-baking factory that Russian architects built in Afghanistan. No matter what you are interested in and which booth you approach – you will always be greeted by friendly people keen to explain everything you might want to know so that you will not miss out on anything that’s on offer.

Can this approach be considered left-wing, critical of capitalism, indeed Marxist? Fact is: Never before did the Soviet Modernists’ aspirations seem so tangible. Never before was the Modern Age so readily available. You don’t believe me? “Se non è vero, è ben trovato” – even if the story isn’t true, it’s still a great story, as the Italian proverb goes, which supposedly goes back to Giordano Bruno. He too was a heretic. Fair enough!


Read more about the 14th Architecture Biennale
Rem Koolhaas’ foundations
Architecture Know-How in Museum and Archive
Italian affairs
Germany’s Ex-Top Models
Please touch
A Clockwork Modernism
Modernism and its uncle
Import – Export
The dream of an open society

"Fair Enough" emblazoned on the wall and is also the title of the show. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Instead of master narratives, the consequences will be presented from the perspective of the present out: global modernity as Expo and Fair. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepak
The “Prefab Corp”, which bears the name of “Re-Use”, promises sustainable supplies of pre-fabricated parts.
Photo © Nikolay Zverkov
At the booth of “Estetika Ltd.” you will discover Russian or Neo-Russian-style architectural elements.
Photo © Nikolay Zverkov
The NPO “Khidekel Elements” markets under #suprematismforhumanity simple formwork by the name of “Ramablok”. Foto © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Once you have made your way past the metal detector and the reception with attendant hostess, you will find yourself immersed in veritable trade-fair architecture. Photo © Nikolay Zverkov
Travel with “Archipelago Tours” to Cuba or to a bread-baking factory that Russian architects built in Afghanistan. Photo © Nikolay Zverkov
The slogan “Russia’s Past, Our Present” above the balcony at the rear exit of the pavilion. Photo © Robert Volhard, Stylepark