The Art of Stealing: Moscow Ziennale by Valentine Bo
Moscow Ziennale of Contemporary Art is a mockumentary project by Ukrainian photographer Valentine Bo, showcasing contemporary Russia. The series exposes the web of lies through which Russian propaganda distorts and falsifies reality. The real Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art last year was canceled just three days before its opening.
Bo worked on his previous major project, ‘Your Next Step Would Be To Do The Transmission,’ about a cult awaiting aliens, for two and a half years. This series allowed him to participate in the educational program at Foam and win several international photography contests, including the Bird in Flight Prize.
This time, Bo used AI to immerse viewers in a world where it is difficult to distinguish truth from fiction. The work is based on the appropriation of names of globally renowned artists. Such audacity emphasizes Russia’s historical inclination towards cultural theft and manipulation. This is what the author reveals about his project.
Photographer, winner of the Bird in Flight Prize '18, jury member of the Bird in Flight Prize '21. Born in Lutsk. Shot for Vice and Vogue. Exhibited in Europe. An image from the series "Your Next Step Would Be To Do The Transmission" was acquired by the Amsterdam Museum of Photography.
— Russia has always engaged in the erasure of the cultural heritage of other nations. It is a country that is constantly at war. Its essence is the destruction of the best, genocide, looting, deportation, concentration camps, torture, lies, and appropriation of cultural treasures. Now the whole planet is witnessing a civilizational catastrophe.
My audience worldwide consists of people somehow connected to art. So, I wanted to convey the essence of Russia through art. Since mockumentary is already a familiar genre to me, I chose it. Ideas for the project are generated daily by Russian megalomania, I don’t even need to come up with anything.
Considering Russia’s plundering nature, it’s not surprising that the American artist Jeff Koons becomes the Russian Jefim Koost, the British Damien Hirst becomes Daniil Hrest, and the American photographer Alec Soth becomes Alex Sotov. And the imaginary artist Dmitry Vedmedev glorifies marauders. By the way, the actual work “99 cent” by Andreas Gursky (parodied by Andrey Gurtskoy at the Ziennale) was exhibited at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation as part of the Moscow Photobiennale in 2008.
The entire visual part of the project, except for the logo, was generated using AI with minor manipulations in a photo editor. The voice of the host, who announces the Ziennale in Russian and English, is trained on the voice of a well-known propagandist. The press release of the event consists of edited fragments from publications about the real Moscow Biennale. I have also created a website that will be supplemented with works by “participants” of the Ziennale.
The visual part of the project, except for the logo, was generated using AI with minor manipulations in a photo editor.
As an author, I am not featured on the Zієnaле page, but I don’t hide the fact that this is my new project. It is still in its early stages, but I have already announced some participating artists. Their list will be further expanded. In the near future, the project will be tokenized, and each artwork will be offered for sale as an NFT. A portion of the proceeds will go to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
I hope that viewers will not discover anything unexpected about Russia anymore: it is evident that we are dealing with an aggressive and deceitful sadist in Orthodox robes.
Viewers will not discover anything unexpected about Russia anymore: it is evident that we are dealing with an aggressive and deceitful sadist in Orthodox robes.