Tomorrow’s world will always remain partially unthinkable and partially unimaginable
Bruce Sterling, futurologist and science fiction writer

In its past versions the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art focused on the transition of industrial society into the informational society, rewriting the idea of "industry" after the change of the biennial's scale and themes. Starting with equating the concepts of "industrial" and "factory", the biennial has expanded the range of meanings of "industrial" through studying the concept of labor (2010), the figure of the artist as the subject of production (2012), as well as through active exploration of labor mobilization practices (2015). The previous biennials reworked the past physically and conceptually — revitalized physical spaces, added new meanings to the industrial era concepts such as "publicity", "mobilization" and "shock labor workers". The fourth biennial moves away from dated terms and meanings. New biennial's understanding of "industrial" is highly practical and pragmatic. It is no longer a mere object of research but the core quality of the biennial as an institute, practices of which are ready to be replicated.

The fourth biennial is called New Literacy and is dedicated to work and recreation in the near future. It anticipates the coming social, economic and cultural changes.

It is time to free the human attention. The minor part of humanity creates a new technological reality: they design its software and hardware, they maintain its servers. The majority of people live in the resultant physical reality, governed by an implicit, calculated design. Everyone exists inside the system, whose structure is indubitable and whose rules are intuitively clear. Life planning, technological infrastructure, and work ethos — all these things are being changed by sharp personification. Separation and categorization (of leisure activities, personal development, careers and even the personal choices) in the ever-changing, post-Fordian reality are daunting and possibly even pointless tasks.

By 2030, global communities will face radical changes: there will be new communication channels, the vertical structures of the labor market will be replaced by the network structure, social interactions will happen via new interfaces, borders and contours of "national" will blur and then reappear again, as will the difference in the registers of work time and leisure time.

Even today modern culture fuses different forms of expression and forces its agents to pretend to be what they are not: museums position themselves as community centers and drivers of urban economy, exhibitions turn into parties, presentations of new tech products are transformed into motivational workshops. Sequential cultural development is replaced by simultaneous presence in the past, present and future; the value of "high culture" is capitalized by brands in a homogeneous, nobrow environment.

The New Literacy anticipates the grand forthcoming changes and helps to understand how the present becomes the future. The concept of "new literacy" appeared and actualized in the humanities at the end of 2000s, which means it is not yet a strictly defined term. This lack of definiteness allows for a wide variety of interpretations and applications.


The New Literacy can be:

  • a tool to analyze and conceptualize processes that make up scientific and technological revolutions — all former ones and the coming fourth.
  • a tool to eliminate illiteracy, whether it is the actual verbal illiteracy or ignorance in any professional sphere (for example, the sphere of contemporary art or industrial production).
  • a guide to survival in a world of unlimited pastime opportunities; a dictionary of mass culture that explains how to exist in it.
  • a rulebook explaining the principles of production, sorting, interpretation and alienation of big data, which "blackmails" the physical reality.
  • a manual on using the latest cultural artifacts; it will explain how technological innovations such as VR interfaces, microchips, encryption algorithms, drones and others transform the daily life, settle in the natural language and enrich our day-to-day experience.
  • a research project, which observes the ways of production and consumption of culture, as well as existence of contemporary art in the technological environment.