“Tough Art” for Society’s Collective Memory

“Old News” (“Starie Novosti”) is a collateral event of the 2011 Venice Biennale, the International Exposition of Art, created and installed by artist Anastasia Khoroshilova, sponsored by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, exhibited from June through November, 2011.

The installation was placed in the Bibiloteca (Library) Zenobiana del Temenza in Dorsodura, between Corte Zappa and the great garden of the phenomenal Palazzo Zenobia, all part of the Center for the Study and Documentation of the Armenian Culture.

“Old News” significantly occupied a spare, undecorated shoebox of a room.  It consisted of nine large black hinged boxes that each contained a pair of backlight life-sized photographs of nine separate women.  One photograph of each was taken in September 2004 and the other in 2010.  Small television monitors discretely surrounded the array of boxes, showing live news coverage from September 2004 that few except those women and their compatriots seem to remember.

“Old News…” 

On September 1, 2004, the first day of school that fall at Breslan School No. 1 in the Northern Ossetia city of Breslan, they, their children and over 1000 other parents, children and teachers were taken hostage for three days by radical extremists, and held in the school gymnasium.  On September 3, the terrorists murdered over 300 of the hostages in cold blood, including one or more children of each of these nine mothers.

Today, few people anywhere remember that horror, which “radically transformed and lastingly affected the lives of every resident” of that place.

Khoroshilova’s project is a “critical examination of the transience, pliability and frailty of a society’s collective memory”.


As I have quoted from Venetian architect Aldo Rossi before, “Where memory ends, history begins”, and few study the history to learn how to avoid repeating its tragic events.

One great purpose of art in all of its forms is to tell the stories that people do not want to remember, but are best advised to remember.  Tough Art, like Tough Love to engender memory and resolve – in and through us all.

Old News (Starie Novosti) - Poster - Biennale 2011

Old News (Starie Novosti) - Poster - Biennale 2011

These mothers cannot forget.  Look at her.  Do not delude yourself with a “It can’t happen here” attitude, or pretend that ignoring such things means they did, they do not, they cannot exist.

It is indelibly written on their faces, the window into their souls. 

It is shared through art so that none would forget.


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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3 Responses to “Tough Art” for Society’s Collective Memory

  1. Michelle says:

    Grazie, Randy.
    I, for one, do remember when this happened. I’m glad the artist has taken it upon herself to make sure these women and what happened to them and their families are not forgotten.
    And thank you for bringing it to the attention of some who might not have been aware of it. And, yes, it can happen here…or anywhere.

  2. ytaba36 says:

    Oh, we do forget so easily.

  3. Katina Janakis says:

    Grazie Randy,
    A shocking, sad time, I do remember it, and a pain suffered that unimaginable.
    But sadly, we do forget. Thank you for sharing this. That image is so powerful.

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