The contemporary art scene in Russia is as diverse and varied as ever this year, presenting different perspectives on the political and social issues faced by Russians today. The topic that has ruffled the most feathers in recent years and has caused a serious shift in perceptions and presentations of art is inclusivity. Museums and other cultural hubs in Russia are hurdled by the lack of attention to people with special needs. According to research conducted by the British Council Russia in 2017, very few museums are properly equipped for people with disabilities, making art inaccessible for those who require special assistance.
This exact problem has been put under the spotlight in the Inclusive ‘Touch’ Exhibition Project, a collaboration housed in St. Petersburg’s Manege Central Exhibition Hall. All of the art pieces of the exhibition are available to touch and the Manege space provides access equipment for people with different forms of disabilities, thus becoming a platform for experiences shared by all people – unhindered by the physical world.
As the curators of the exhibition put it themselves, disability is not synonymous to deficiency anymore, on the contrary, the problems of social and material barriers are highlighted by people with special needs, which is so important in contemporary Russian society, where certain categories of people often feel like outsiders not deserving of attention.
The works of Vadim Sidur, a Soviet artist, sculptor, and World War II veteran with disabilities, are the centrepiece of the exhibition. Sidur was among the first people in the country to address the problem of disability in post-war art as a response to the tragedy of the war. Through the art of sculpture, he managed to transform physical and psychological trauma into images of exclusion, inability and ostracism. Within the exhibition, Vadim Sidur’s work begins a dialogue with sculptures by artists from Leningrad and St Petersburg, including pieces by Irina Yaroshevich, Lev Smorgon, Robert Lotosh, Alexander Pozin, Marina Spivak, and others. The artists firmly believe that a comprehensive, full-rounded understanding of art requires tactile contact, apart from just a visual one.
‘Touch’ will be held at the Manege Central Exhibition Hall from 23 March to 4 April. The Exhibition opened with a film screening of Anton Tut Ryadom (Anton is here), a documentary about a boy with autism, while on March 24 a workshop was scheduled for children with heavy disabilities, involving art therapy. A special treat is also in store for guests who come to Manege on 3 April – the Tavrichesky orchestra will perform a concert for people with different forms of disabilities, with listeners seated right in the middle of the orchestra.
Another highlight of the exhibition will be the Inclusivity in Culture roundtable on 26 March, where representatives of Russian museums, theatres, media and social organisations will meet to discuss communication and cooperation with people with disabilities. Additionally, Pavel Ignatiev, a St Petersburg sculptor participating in the exhibition, will organise a guided tour around Manege on 27 March, challenging the spectators’ perception of sculpture as an art object and its meaning in today’s world.
The exhibition is open for visitors everyday from 11am to 8pm.
Event: Inclusive Exhibition Project Touch
When: 23 March – 4 April
Where: Manege Central Exhibition Hall
Price: 0- 200 roubles, additional programme is free upon registration
Language: Russian and English