M'ARS Centre for Multimedia Arts in Abrau-Durso
This project of transforming part of a former sparkling wine factory into a multimedia art center was inspired by a genuine interest in the history of the building and executed through a series of light — both in terms of the artwork material and the manner — interventions into the space.
MARS, the first contemporary art gallery to be founded in post-Soviet Moscow, now functions as an innovative multimedia art institution. In May 2016, a new MARS center was opened amidst Abrau-Durso’s idyllic scenery — a picturesque locale in the South of Russia. The gallery spans the entire first floor of the stone-clad champagne factory.
The Nowadays team decided to keep the hallmarks of its industrial past — factory switches and breaker boxes — intact and execute all the interventions in a delicate and respectful way, preserving the historical layers. All the navigation elements designed by a Moscow based MANEGE development department are put together using materials “native” to contemporary multimedia art — differently sized LED-tubes and thin black metal sheets.
While the white box has long been established as a default setting for traditional forms of ‘low-tech’ art, high-tech multimedia art usually requires a black box to bring out all of its features. But the monotonous black space can bore, tire and disorient the visitor. The Nowadays office decided to execute the gallery project as a sequence of ‘black’ (dark) and ‘white’ (well-lit) spaces, where most of the artworks are stored inside the rooms (boxes, essentially) which are carefully installed within the existing interior. This approach also serves the goal of delicately incorporating the new into the old.
Some of the rooms functioning as artwork containers are boxed-off with chemically treated rainbow steel — a aid to emphasise both the industrial spirit of the space and the ephemerality of the light-based artwork.
The new concrete floor doesn’t touch the walls, but keeps it’s polite distance from the historical elements of the building. This gap that is filled with gravel-stones collected from the lakeshore is also creating nests for the soft LED-lighting.
The biggest intervention is in the corridor, where the registration desk and lockers are merged into one solid steel sculpture, providing an exciting preface to the exhibition.
On the opposite side — at the end of the exhibition — there is a secret room where, due to its geographic orientation, beautiful rays of light create a poetic atmosphere almost all-day-round. There is no artwork but visitors are encouraged to put on one of the VR-helmets that are offered and take a simulated tour of the Moscow MARS center. Not a teleportation hall, but close enough.