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HSE Art and Design School End-of-Year Exhibition Opens at MMOMA

At the end of each academic year, students of the HSE Art and Design School present an exhibition of their works. On June 30, the opening ceremony of this year’s exhibition, titled ‘Telling Stories. Big Data’, took place at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA). The exhibition unites students, graduates, and teachers of the HSE University Art and Design School and the Faculty of Creative Industries.

‘Telling Stories. Big Data’ encourages visitors to reflect on the fast pace of development of the computer environment and how it can influence people’s everyday lives. In the works displayed, the creators examine modern ways of using, processing, and visually representing information flows in the world.

Alexandra Kuznetsova
© HSE University

Alexandra Kuznetsova, curator of the project and Head of Contemporary Art at the HSE Art and Design School, shared why the topic of big data interested and appealed to the creators. ‘This exhibition features the participation not only of artists, but also designers from a very wide range of fields,’ she explains. ‘The topic needed to be sufficiently broad, but still interesting for people from various fields to develop.’

According to Alexandra Kuznetsova, people now actively interact with artificial intelligence and are constantly using computers and gadgets. ‘Often, people do not realise that when they do this, they are either providing their data to someone else or are seeing the results of already-processed data. That is why we wanted the participants of the project to look at how big data affects our lives from various perspectives,’ she says.

This is the HSE Art and Design School’s fourth end-of-year exhibition. ‘We announced an open call,’ explains the curator. ‘Anyone who wanted to could submit an application. We ended up with a lot of them, so we decided to hold the exhibition in two spaces: at MMOMA and at our HSE Art Gallery.’

The first part of the project, at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (25 Petrovka), opened on June 30. The second part, which is hosted by the HSE Art Gallery, opened on July 7. Both parts of the exhibition will remain open until August 13, 2023.

How can people process a constant flow of information? What kind of tools do we need in order to protect ourselves and avoid unwanted attention? Polina Shtanko, first-year student of the Master’s in Contemporary Art Practices, presented her work ‘Total Documentation’, which demonstrates how CCTV cameras in cities work.

Polina Shtanko
© HSE University

‘Every step we take is recorded, and this data is used as the basis for programs. It leads to total surveillance and causes discomfort,’ Polina explains. ‘The camera footage I used is open-source material. People do not know or understand that they are being tracked. What is more, this video is accessible to anyone who wants to track someone. In my work, I collected footage taken in totally different places: from abandoned areas to bustling courtyards.’ She printed the footage on ceramic tiles to represent fragility.

Sonya Alexeeva (right)
© HSE University

Sonya Alexeeva, third-year student of the Bachelor’s in Contemporary Art, presented a series of small cardboard buildings at the exhibition. The idea originated in Sonya’s childhood. ‘I often visited my grandma in her village, and on the way to her home was a place where people built sheds and chicken coops,’ she explains. ‘I really liked the path through these buildings; it was like a fairytale to me. Then the buildings were demolished and this area became part of Moscow. There’s a public square there now.’

The buildings were recreated based on Sonya’s recollections. Beside each of them is a small hammer, offering visitors a choice between destroying the buildings or preserving them. ‘I feel sorry for them. I spent a long time making them—between six hours and three days for a single building. But it is interesting to see people’s reasoning for why they want to destroy one building or another,’ she adds.

Elena Balakireva
© HSE University

Elena Balakireva, graduate of the Master’s in Contemporary Art Practices, presented a 3D installation titled ‘I Thought It Would Be Different.’ ‘I prepared the project while studying on the programme,’ she explains. ‘It takes the form of a series of objects and 3D videos demonstrating how our space can be distorted. We take a lot of photos every day and upload them online. Specialists who work with big data can use these photos to recreate the space around you.’ Elena believes that this space changes over time. ‘That is how it ended up being distorted to me,’ she says. ‘This is the gap between how the world really looks and how we perceive it.’

Alexandra Pavlovskaya
© HSE University

Alexandra Pavlovskaya, first-year student of the Master’s in Contemporary Art Practices, presented a large project comprising an installation and a series of watercolours. It examines how people who have access to big data start to place a lot of faith in it. ‘My work features an assembled image generated by a neural network based on the prompt “what does a typical childhood look like,”’ explains Alexandra. ‘Here I am reflecting on the topic of childhood, trust, and the fact that it is worth questioning everything and not taking any kind of information too seriously.’

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