Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AES+F Interview out in Today's Post

Earlier this year, the Richmond Art Gallery held the Canadian premiere of Last Riot by Russian art collective AES+F. A hit of the 2007 Venice Biennale, the piece has been shown widely but not, until now, in Canada. A couple of AES+F members were nice enough to chat with me on the phone during a BC visit for the Vancouver Biennale earlier this month about the next film they are making, and other things. The resulting condensed Q&A is out in today's Post. An excerpt:

Q It's important not to be able to tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys" in Last Riot. Why?

A Because we are not making this a Hollywood production. For us, it is very important to destroy this cliché of "good guys" and "bad guys," which we see in media. Also, growing up in the Soviet Union, it was a very clear situation: you could tell who is the good guy, the bad guy, the repressor, the victim. I think what we describe is some kind of new situation in which all this is absolutely unclear. It's a problem of liberal global capitalism, and we try to describe it.

Q A recent [November] Artforum article said the Moscow art scene has been lethargic since all the oil money arrived, and that it was livelier when people were poor. What's your view?

A I cannot agree with this position. Art, in a way, needs money like a body needs blood, because to produce something you have to spend money, and to install something you have to invest money. I think that Moscow needs much more presentation of international art of good quality, which also takes money. And not enough investment goes into execution: in Moscow, there's no system of grants for artists.

Q One of Last Riot's scenes reminds me of something that happened after you made the piece -the Icelandic volcano eruption that grounded airplanes last year. Why do viewers experience so much déjà vu with your work?

A It's difficult to say. Maybe that was our original idea -to make some kind of déjà vu for ourselves. Because the feeling was that we live now not only in the real but also in the virtual universe, which leads to a permanent feeling of déjà vu -we have all this visual information stored in our minds from films, from TV, from youth. So maybe this is the right term for our art: déjà vu style.

Read on for the rest of their answers at the National Post. And you can see the show until April 3 at the Richmond Art Gallery.

An interesting thing that I cut from the Q&A along the way: AES+F does not storyboard or write scripts for their films, which are multi-screen and quite complex. They begin with an idea and improvise with actors during shooting. The actual sequences and whatever narrative emerges is decided upon only in post-production, in the editing suite. For an example of the visual complexity in their films (and how hard they would be to storyboard), you can check out a clip of their 2009 film "Feast of Trimalchio," which the group considers second in a trilogy with Last Riot being the first (they're now working on the third):

(Still from Last Riot from

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