Olga Vad
Olga Vad - curator, co-founder of the Agency for NADO Curatorial Agency.
Engaged in cultural management and curation for more than ten years. Specialization - educational, exhibition and festival projects at the intersection of art, science and new technologies.
You specialize in exhibition and festival projects at the intersection of art, science and new technologies, what led you to this format?
For 5 years I have been working in the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. I joined the team in 2014, when it just went for reconstruction and was thriving with energy because of the big changes, very alike a newborn startup. I joined its special projects curatorial team to be involved in its festivals as an expert with related background in festival programming and management: for a few years I have already been working in Mikhail Prokhorov Fund on its international festival projects, and exchange program with the Brooklyn Academy of Music was one of them. I would say working in the science museum led my general interest to transdisciplinary formats into more concrete form. Direct access to scientists, understanding their approach and way of thinking, opportunity to collaborate with prominent artists all shaped my methodology.

But it is not only exhibitions and festivals, I am also developing educational formats – both for the common audience, to get them inspired with transdisciplinary knowledge and unconventional approaches, but also for the community. One of the formats, that I am very rooting for in the field of art&science, is a format of a laboratory, where different expertises of many participants meet and they develop projects together. When I was still working in the Polytechnic Museum, I was developing the strategy on how to work with art in the context of a science museum – and that format was at its core. And when developing such labs, it is very important to remember that putting artists and scientists in one room usually never enough to get to the next steps. You need methodology, you need facilitation, in many cases you need a science communicator.

In 2020 - Established NADO Curatorial Agency together with Yulia Loginova
In 2019 - head of art&science direction at the Polytechnic Museum
In 2018 - program director of the Festival of Science, Art and technologies "Polytech"
2014–2018 — curator of special projects at the Polytechnic Museum, including the festival "Polytech" and the film festival about science and technology "360" (educational program)
In 2016, she worked in the curatorial team at the Ars Electronica technological art festival (Linz)
2010–2014 — specialist of the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation, project manager "TransCultural Express", cultural exchange programs with Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York)
How to inspire society and see culture in a new way in modern realities?
Our current realities are very painful for so many people. Right now, we are inside the situation, inside the war conflict, and it is very hard to think straight, to reflect properly and to build any objective visions towards this new reality. The moment is not about objectivity, objective analysis is not heard, unlike the radicalization of the opinions and direct actions.

Working in the transdisciplinary field taught me to sit relatively comfortably in a room where people could have different vision on the situation, and to be ready to communicate and search for the common ground. For me, it is always important to try to develop a meta position of sorts, not to be involved emotionally, which is now difficult of course, to build it on the grounds of critical thinking, historical knowledge, and productivity. Creative effort in this way of thinking is very important and I try to use it as a point of inspiration.
How do you select artists for your projects?
It very differs depending on the context. Some projects are led by the idea to represent current trends in art practices and to put them under some umbrella concept. Others are led by the main narrative that requires projects with a certain approach or certain visual representation. When working on a festival, some technical requirements usually influence the choice as well, so in different situation I pay attention to different things. But it is always amazing to collaborate with artists who not only work with technologies and scientific content, but think technologically, rather from a humanities perspective.

When developing an exhibition, for me it is also important to consider visitors experience as well, to balance between orchestrating their thoughts, emotions and physical sensations and giving them space for self-exploration, to think about the exhibition scenography developing in the given space and time. Exhibition is a very complicated medium if you want to deliver a message: it is always an overload of visual stimuli and unconventional ideas. So, to develop this intellectual and emotional experience in a way that visitors in the end of the exhibition will remember what the main idea was and won't be exhausted physically, you have to choose projects accordingly, not only rely on the exhibition design.
Combining art, science, technology and ecology, are you afraid of the emotional overload of the audience? Is it easy to understand such projects?
The reason why we chose for HYDRA exhibition art&science approach is very simple. If you want to talk about ecology, you cannot stay in the field of artistic explorations and philosophy, you need to work with data, you need to know what experts say about the topic. Projects at the intersection of art, science and technology is one of the most adequate ways to talk about today and tomorrow. We live in a symbiotic environment, where natural and digital aspects are immersed, where new technologies and scientific discoveries put us in front of new ethical problems, where creativity is a universal tool for posing questions and finding answers. I don't know how so called traditional contemporary art could successfully work in such context.

One of the goals of HYDRA exhibition was to re-build the empathy between the audience and eco-agenda. Here, we got used to doom scrolling, to an endless flow of sad news about the state of the planet, and at some point, became apathetic to the topic, or on the other hand, overloaded with guilt. We wanted to return the emotional charge by including multisensory spaces with light, sound, interactive components, even smells. So new media art was kind of essential here. Some of the artists at the exhibition worked directly with the environmental topic, and some works began to light up the topic by being included in the general narrative.
What was your most striking art shock?
I cannot say that I get shocked so easily, especially in a positive way. But if we are talking about some latest positive experiences, I was very excited to see the pavilion of South Korea at Venice Biennale: this short exhibition was much more amazing than I expected. They represented 5 works by artist Yunchul Kim, with whose work Chroma I was familiar before. The combination of conceptual, technological and visual excellency was almost overwhelming. The central installation Argos – The Swollen Suns was a muon particle detector consisting of more than two hundreds of Geiger-Muller tubes. Muons are cosmic particles that are created when colliding with the Earth's atmosphere. The installation not only makes this phenomenon visible, but also sends signals to other kinetic installations in the exhibition and triggers their movement.
Working with such progressive areas, you need to study constantly, what do you learn and in what format do you manage to do it?
I think the same as everybody, as life-learning at some point became an essential part of almost every career path: from reading, attending seminars and lectures, networking. I was very lucky to be a part of UK Leadership Academy in December 2021 – January 2022. For me, as an aspiring entrepreneur, discussing issues of leading a company through a period of change and building its vision and mission was very important and new formulation of the question. I am giving lectures myself on art management and curation in art&science, so some time ago I also took a couple of courses on public speaking. But really, a lot of new knowledge comes from communication with my colleagues, artists, scientists and other curators.
What was the most non-standard solution in your work?
Probably opening NADO Curatorial Agency together with my colleague Yulia Loginova in the end of 2019. The idea to run our own institution of sorts was surprising even for myself, as I was seeing myself as a museum curator in the future. Plus, the format of curatorial agency, especially focusing on the projects at the intersection of art, science and technology, is not typical for Russian context at all.

How do you see the future of art?
It is difficult to make forecasts in a situation when the planning horizon narrows up to a couple of days. But I am sure that art will change I think it is obvious, that this new wave of digitalization that started with Metaverse and NFT will probably stay with us for long and we will see more and more art on different digital platforms. Physical exhibition spaces may become a luxury available for a few, while the democratization of the access to art will be developing in virtual spaces. It is already difficult to travel – because of the pandemics, conflicts, falling economies worldwide. One of the factors that influenced the development of art at the end of the last century, specifically the demand on big exhibitions and museums, was affordable tourism. The reverse trend will certainly have corresponding consequences.
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