When Gondola Engines Were Taken to Bits – A Carnival in Four Acts

4 Dec 2021–27 Feb 2022

An art project dedicated to the transformative and liberating power of the carnival.

Artists, choreographers, playwrights, musicians, composers and comedians join together to re-invent the carnival to understand what it can be today and how it can be used as a theme and artistic method. They look at Russian traditions, trying to discover the practices rooted in folk culture that became relevant again during the wave of transformations in the 1990s and later. The name of the project, When Gondola Engines Were Taken to Bits – A Carnival in Four Acts, is taken from the song Carnival.no by the group Mumiy Troll that was released on the very cusp of the new millennium — December 31, 1999. The four parts of the name refer to elements of the project: live performances, street dance processions, a stand-up programme and a night rave.

The exhibition’s architecture harkens back to a festive city square. The KOSMOS architects designed tents and open spaces between them that seem to be meant for outdoor parties. The works in the exhibition touch upon various aspects of carnival culture: crossdressing and self-expression through costumes, trying on new identities and creating imaginary realities, subverting received hierarchies, reversing “high” and “low” culture, and doing bodywork in public spaces.

The historical part of the exhibition includes artworks from the 1990s and 2000s in which costumes were a part of playful transformation and a form of self-expression. At the same time, they reflected the spirit of those years, such as the mood swings that characterized the early post-Soviet period. The artists who created new works specially for GES-2 look at carnival culture from today's vantage point to investigate its current relevance.

The two-hour dance procession It Seemed That You Imagined It by choreographer Tatyana Chizhikova and artist Polina Bakhtina invites participants to take the path from imaginary carnival festivity to the experience of ecstasy and inner liberation.

The programme of stand-up performances called New Jokes About the Main Thing highlights laughter and humour as integral parts of carnival and folk culture. The programme will be held over six evenings on a stage in the centre of the exhibition space. Along with stand-up talks about the nature of comedy and Soviet humour by popular comedians, the programme will be a showcase for the Moscow associations Femstandup, Alternative Comedy and Improv.

The rave event at GES-2 will gather a group of diverse musicians in a very collective event. The prequel to The Third Part of the Night will be a performance by the artist Alexei Taruts about the heightened emotional state induced by mass musical events.

Ulyana Podkorytova, Moskvichka, 2021
Photo by Lena Tsibizova