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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Vladimir Mishukov's Photos of Zviagnitsev's 'Elena' at the Moscow Photobiennale

     Having missed the photoexhibition at the Moscow Photo-biennale of the photographs of Sokurov's 'Russian Art', I made sure that the Mishukov exhibition on Zviagintsev's 'Elena' was something that wouldn't be missed. The Mishukov photos are something more than a mere record of the shooting of the film 'Elena' and have an artistic power to them in their own right. Mishukov managed to take his photographs at those moments of rest and preparation but some of the photographs of the leading characters capture some simply splendid moments and they give themselves to new readings that may or may not have been in the film. One of the really fascinating exhibitions of the Moscow Photobiennale.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Moscow Photobiennale 2012 - some highlights.

Harry Gruyaert Moscow 1989-2009.
William Klein New York 1955
Los Angeles Criminal Archive Photo
Sergey Shestakov: Journey into the Future :Stop #2 Gudym
Chris Marker's The Great Premakes film poster series.

This year's Photobiennale in Moscow has as one of its themes 'Film' and there have been some splendid exhibitions so far of photos from Sokurov's 'Russian Ark' as well as of Kozintsev's 'Hamlet' which I reported on earlier Another exhibit is Sarah Moon's haunting photo-animated film called 'Le chaperon noir'. Coming up are further exhibitions of Ingmar Bergman & Wim Wenders. Apart from this there have been some splendid exhibitions devoted outside of the film theme. For me the best two American exhibitions are those of selections from Los Angeles Criminal Archives - a real surrealist joy to see as well as some of William Klein's photos of New York in 1955. Jane Stravs 'American Express' was also of high quality. Martin Carr's photos of New Brighton in the UK chronicling the early years of Thatcherism through images of petty consumerist excess and litter were also well worth a viewing. Harry Gruyaert's photos of late perestroika Moscow and his later photographs chronicling Moscow's aggressive capitalism are a fascinating portrait of the transformations of a city after two decades. Finally, Sergey Shestakov's post-apocalyptic Journey into the Future#2 gives us another zone-like landscape after his first part chronicling Chernobyl. Here Shestakov gives us a portrait of an abandoned army town in Chukotka where in the Khrushchev period an underground base had been built. These landscapes have a Stalker-like feel to them. Returning to film the New Manezh Gallery has an exhibition devoted to the filming of Zvigintsev's 'Elena' and another real filmic treat is at the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art which is showing some of Chris Marker's photographs of North Korea as well as of his clandestine wrist-watch photos taken in the Paris metro along with some of his invented film posters imagining previous incarnations of films such as Hiroshima Mon Amour and Owl People etc.

Proun Gallery exhibits Soviet Avant-Garde Graphic Art and Photomontages by Rodchenko, El Lisitsky, Sen'kin and Klutsis.

   One of the most interesting exhibitions being held at the moment is the one devoted to the 75th anniversary of the 'museification' of Mayakovsky. Although not in the same premises for 75 years it was in that fatal year of 1937 that a Mayakovsky museum and library were to be opened. While the Mayakovsky Museum itself is not hosting any special exhibition, the Proun Gallery at the Vinzavod Complex (a Gallery noted for its attention to exhibiting the Soviet avant-garde) is showing the graphic art works held by the Mayakovsky Museum (but rarely publicly exhibited). The graphic works of El Lisitsky, Rodchenko, Sen'kin and Klutsis are being put on display here until the 8th May. Quite a treat for anyone interested in the photomontages of these great artists.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Alek Epstein on 'Voina' and Art Activism in the era of Tandemocracy.

Alek Epstein's book 'Total 'Voina'(War): Art Activism in the Era of Tandemocracy' gives one a particularly fresh insight into the movement which led up to the recent Pussy Riot scandal. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - one of the three alleged Pussy Riot members- played a significant part in the 'Voina' art group. Epstein- an Israeli journalist and scholar who has previously specialised in the Israel-Palestine question- has given an insiders account of this group and the development of its many actions. Perhaps most famous was the painting of the huge phallus outside the FSB headquarters in St Petersburg but there were many others which achieved greater or lesser public resonance. Epstein explains the development of the group, the schisms, the ideology and the origins in earlier art activist and artistic trends as well as the movement from art to political activism which has been especially true of the Moscow wing of the group in recent times. Epstein is well acquainted with the members of the 'Voina' group and herein lies his especial attention to the inner workings of the group. He also pays a lot of attention to the role of Aleksei Plutser Sarno who, in many ways, controlled the way that the group was received as well as, according to Epstein, influencing the process of exclusion of certain early members of the group. The book is, perhaps, the first full-scale attempt to describe this art activism in contemporary Russia and the group 'Voina' and it is to be hoped that a translation could be in the offing. While it doesn't give too much detail on the genesis and context of the group in terms of contemporary Russian art movements it does mention names like Alexander Brener, Monastirsky and others such as Edward Limonov who are in some way predecessors. The availability of material on the group in English is detailed in Plutser-Sarno's blog on Voina and while awaiting a more detailed, scholarly and dispassionate account of Voina, this book by Alek Epstein is a reasonable beginning filling in many details of the history of one of Russia's most radical art group.

The Tarkovsky exhibition at the Solyanka Gallery in Moscow

At the Solyanka Gallery in Moscow a Tarkovsky exhibition has just opened. Apart from showing almost fourty films about or by Tarkovsky and those most closely associated with him it also has a number of exhibits ranging from photographs, to sketches for films and storyboards as well as a selection of film posters, costumes from various films and juvenilia ranging from letters that Tarkovsky wrote as a child to his parents to some of his own early art works. It is in many ways a minor exhibition for those who don't have the time to sit in to watch the films but nonetheless the Solyanka is one of the few places in Moscow to mark the 80th anniversary of Tarkovsky's birth and they should be commended for this small but worthwhile exhibition.

The photos range from sketches for Andrey Rublev, Solaris, his VGIK film 'The Killers', a costume for Ivan's Childhood, posters for 'The Steamroller and the Violin' and 'Stalker' and an oil painting by Tarkovsky from 1956. 

An exhibition of stills from Kozintsev's Hamlet.

Last month at the Multi-media Museum in Moscow a small exhibition of stills from Kozintsev's 'Hamlet' took place. Here are some of the stills on display (apologies for the poor quality of the reproductions).