Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Contemporary Fine Arts at 16TH LINE, Rostov on Don in Russia, March 1

New art venue in Rostov-on-Don (RU), opens on March 1, 2012.
First show featuring Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin with works by:
Marc Brandenburg
Michael Kunze
Sarah Lucas
Jonathan Meese
Tal R
Anselm Reyle
Gert & Uwe Tobias

March 1 to April 15, 2012
Rostov- on- Don 16th Line 7a
South Federal District
Russia 344019
Thursday, March 1:  Opening: 7 pm
After the opening of Perm Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008 and the young Art Biennale of Yekaterinburg in 2010, another new Russian art project is being established. Founded as a private initiative in 2009, 16th Line project in Rostov-on-Don, the largest city in the South Federal Region of Russia, is drawing international contemporary art lovers' attention. In cooperation with leading international galleries and under the direction of Tatyana Provorova, 16th Line aims at expanding the international art market in the South Federal Region of Russia.

The 16TH LINE centre for contemporary art was initiated by private collector Evgeny Samoylov. The new 4-story building - located on the name giving "Line 16" in the city's historic districts - offers more than 300sq space for public art exhibitions. Next to the gallery rooms, the 16TH LINE complex features a gourmet restaurant as well as an exclusive shop for art books and design objects. As part of each exhibition, 16TH LINE organizes a series of lectures and master classes created for the general public, moderated by top curators, artists and art professionals.

"16TH LINE is not only a new venue for art enthusiasts and collectors in the Rostov region", says project initiator and international spokeswoman Maria Sigutina: ‚"In Rostov-on-Don we have created an exciting new venue for presenting the latest positions of contemporary art. Here, we want to establish a solid basis for the international art market. Hand in hand with each of our highend exhibitions, we are offering a broad art educational programme to the public. With our team here and Berlin-based Russia expert Volker Diehl, who supervises the project, we see a unique opportunity to bring high-end art works to the region."

For the first exhibition, opening March 2012, 16TH LINE presents over twenty works put together by Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin representing some of their most significant artistic positions. As Mark Gisbourne, author and Berlin art expert puts it in the accompanying catalogue: "... the work expression is a clue in itself, since much of the work exhibited by CFA revolves around systems and theories of expression and creative performance. This is to say in general that it is less conceptually based and more perceptually grounded. It naturally follows that many of its artists are painters who extend the pictorial role of perception rather than that of immediate conceptual abstraction. The distinction is the desire to create an affect rather than just an intellectual effect."

With works by Marc Brandenburg, Michael Kunze, Sarah Lucas, Jonathan Meese, Tal R, Anselm Reyle and Gert & Uwe Tobias the opening show lays the foundation for the high quality and profiled choices of the 16th LINE art programme, presenting highly aesthetical yet intellectually challenging works. Spanning painting, mixed-media works, drawings, sculptures and photography, the show offers a broad yet focused view on some of the most interesting artists today.

Opening of 16TH LINE's next show: April 19, 2012

Galerie NEU presents:
Kai Althoff | Andreas Slominski | Birgit Megerle | Cosima von Bonin |
Claire Fontaine | Cerith Evens | Daniel Pflumm

Monday, 27 February 2012

Mussorgsky at Metropolitan Opera, NYC: Khovanshchina

Approximate running time 4 hrs. 10 min.
Mussorgsky's sweeping epic, set during the reign of Peter the Great, is back on the Met stage for the first time in more than a decade. Olga Borodina and Ildar Abdrazakov lead an all-star Russian cast, conducted by Kirill Petrenko.


Moscow, late 17th century. The death of the young Tsar Fyodor III. has left Russia with a crisis of succession. Supported by Prince Ivan Khovansky, commander of the streltsy guards, Fyodor’s sickly brother Ivan and his half-brother Peter (later the Great) have been installed as joint rulers, with their older sister Sophia acting as regent. Sophia has allied herself with Prince Vasily Golitsyn, a powerful courtier and liberal politician, who is also her lover

Production: August Everding
Set Designer: Ming Cho Lee
Costume Designer: John Conklin
Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler
Choreographer: Benjamin Millepied

Noon performances: at approx.
12:50 pm and 3 pm

7 pm performances: at approx.
7:50 pm and 10 pm

7:30 pm performances: at approx.
8:20 pm and 10:30 pm

Performance Dates/Tickets and Info

Courtauld Summer School: Russian Art 1863-1932 with Dr Natalia Murray

Summer School 2012
A variety of week-long intensive art history courses at one of the word’s leading Institutes for the study of art history and conservation. Open to everyone over the age of 18.

Course 9:Russian Art 1863-1932: Innovations, Influences and the Roots of Modernity
Dr Natalia Murray
9 - 13 July 2012 (£435)

Image: Léon Bakst, La Sultane Bleue. A costume sketch for the ballet Schéhérazade. 1910, watercolour on paper, collection of Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky.

This course will examine the history of Russian art in all its diversity from the first artists’ rebellion against St. Petersburg’s almighty Art Academy in 1863, the blossoming of arts in Russia’s Silver Age, and the upsurge of avant-garde art to its subsequent disappearance after 1932, when Socialist Realism became the only artistic style permitted in the Soviet Union. We will look at the cultural as well as geographical boundaries of Russian art, and its contact with developments in European art as well as the shifts of cultural context, which often occurred through emigration, cultural export, exhibitions, publications, and collaborations.  The complex nature of the Russian avant-garde, its origins and roots, will be examined throughout the course. We will also look at traditional Russian art and icons and their influence on the Russian avant-garde and will discuss the works of Repin, Serov, Benois, Bakst, Somov, Vrubel, Malevich, Tatlin, Kandinsky, Filonov, Rodchenko, Chagall, Popova, among others.  Lastly, we will examine the influence of political changes in Russia under Stalin on the fate of Russian art. Visits include the Victoria and Albert Museum (Ballets Russes drawings and stage designs); the Naum Gabo archive at Tate Britain; Tate Modern and The Courtauld Gallery.

Lecturer’s Biography
Dr Natalia Murray was born in St Petersburg, where she studied Art History for five years at the Academy of Arts.  In 1995 Natalia won a place at the State Hermitage Museum to study for her Doctorate, also in Art History.  From 1997 to 2006, she organized exhibitions of contemporary Russian art in London and has completed the first biography of one of the most influential Russian art critics, Nikolay Punin (due to be published in 2012).  In the last five years Natalia has been giving lectures on 20th- century Russian Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

For further details and to book, contact:
Short Courses, The Courtauld Institute of Art
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN
T: 020 7 848 2678; E: Short.courses@courtauld.ac.uk

CONF: Design without Frontiers: Interdisciplinarity & Collaboration in Soviet Art, Architecture & Design at Cambridge Uni, 20-21 Sept

Design without Frontiers: Interdisciplinarity and Collaboration in Soviet Art, Architecture and Design
Thursday, 20 September 2012 to Friday, 21 September 2012
Location: CRASSH and Cambridge University Library


Dr Rosalind P Blakesley (History of Art/Pembroke College)
Dr Emma Widdis (Slavonic Studies/Trinity College)
Mel Bach (Cambridge University Library)

Conference Summary

Creative practice in Soviet Russia was marked by unprecedented emphasis on collaborative endeavour, reaching across disciplinary boundaries. Architects, poets, painters and designers were united in formal and informal collaborative networks, leading to innovative design collectives, and to a unique erosion of any lasting divisions between architectural, graphic, textile, theatre, and urban design. This conference - a collaboration between Cambridge University Library and the departments of History of Art and Slavonic Studies - will investigate the roots and legacies of these collaborative networks in order to shed light on the circulations, interconnections, and dialogue between different designers and modes of design. This is a vital part of the history of the Soviet avant-garde, and of its legacy; it has the potential to offer new perspectives on the history of 20th-century design.

The conference complements a major exhibition at Cambridge University Library of items from the Catherine Cooke Collection, a world-class assemblage of books, periodicals, posters, plans, photographs, and ephemera relating to Russian and Soviet art, architecture, urban planning, and design. With presentations on individual items in the Cooke collection, as well as papers from an international and interdisciplinary line-up of speakers, it will explore the actual conditions that created and supported collaboration by looking back to the Silver Age and forward to the late Soviet and post-Soviet period, as well as re-examining the Soviet avant-garde. 
Please note:  Speakers for the conference will be invited, so there is no call for papers.


The conveners are grateful for the support of The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.

For further information please see:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

FREE CONF: Russia(n) in Global Context: Uni of Leeds, 9 March

Friday 9 March 2012 at the University of Leeds:
The University of Leeds presents a one-day workshop on the theme of
"Russia(n) in the Global Context". This event is intended to explore
approaches and methodologies for repositioning Russia and Russian Studies in
the age of globalisation. We are particularly interested in but not limited
to such questions as: To what extent is it appropriate to move beyond
hitherto existing paradigms of examining Russia such as Russia vs the West?
Is the concept of Russia in transition from the Communist era still
applicable? What new forms of research engagement can we utilise to study
Russia(n) in the global context? 

The workshop will comprise morning panels and an afternoon round table,
followed by the launch of the Leeds Russian Centre and a wine reception.
The morning panels will bring together experts in Russian Studies that will
debate the future of the field from the perspective of different academic disciplines. The afternoon round table will focus on the Russian presidential elections and offer reflections on the impact of the election on the global economy, politics, media and culture. 

Further information and programme will be posted on our website
www.leeds.ac.uk/russian by 15 February 2012.
Confirmed speakers include: Birgit Beumers (U Bristol), Stephen Coleman (U
Leeds), Nancy Condee (U Pittsburgh), Christopher Dent (U Leeds), Julian
Cooper (U Birmingham), Simon Dixon (UCL), Marina Frolova-Walker (U
Cambridge), Luke Harding (The Guardian), Stephen Hutchings (U Manchester),
Lara Ryazanova-Clark (U Edinburgh), Vera Tolz (U Manchester), Sarah Wilson
(Courtauld Institute).

The event is free to attend but places for the morning panels are limited
and strictly on a first-come first-served basis. Please notify us of your
intention to attend by Friday 17 February. 
Contact Sarah Hudspith s.f.hudspith@leeds.ac.uk 0113 3433290.
Dr Sarah Hudspith
Director of Russian
School of Modern Languages and Cultures
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
0113 3433290

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Internship in Moscow & tutors sought

Carfax Private Tutors 
http://www.carfax-tutors.com/ international educational consultancy company. Is looking for an intern for the Academic year Sep 2012 - June 2013. 
This internship can either be offered to year abroad students or as a graduate internship. The internships available for the coming academic year are for the offices in Moscow, St Petersburg and Monaco.
The intern will take on the role of Academic Administrator, a job which requires office skills, organisation and good knowledge of the working language. 
Carfax also has tutoring vacancies
Contact Kate Hope  

Russian Art Gallery Internship in London

Organization: Annely Juda Fine Art
Date Needed: 12/03/2012
City: London
Primary Category: Art/antiques/jewellery trade
Type of Position: Internship
Description & Details
Annely Juda Fine Art represents contemporary British, European and International artists. The gallery also exhibits masters of the 20th century avant-garde, specialising in Russian constructivism.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and efficient intern who wishes to gain valuable entry-level experience in a commercial gallery.

How to Apply / Contact
Gallery Internship
Part time position, 3 months commencing in mid-March

Contact: ajfa@annelyjudafineart.co.uk

To apply please email your CV and a covering letter describing why you would be suitable and why you would like to fulfil this internship position.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Online Petition: Cultural Heritage Research in EU Framework Programme HORIZON 2020

In the proposal of the European Commission for the 8th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, HORIZON 2020, cultural heritage has been omitted completely, thus taking away all the funds previously available for research in this field. This decision has serious consequences, since the whole basis for the conservation of cultural heritage in Europe will be eliminated, probably for many years to come.

Against this background, members of the Focus Areas Cultural Heritage (FACH) of the European Construction Technology Platform (ECTP) have taken action for an online petition to be addressed to the European Parliament and the European Council in order to plead strongly for the inclusion of cultural heritage research in HORIZON 2020.

In signing this letter, the European cultural heritage research community request the EU to acknowledge fully its responsibilities, now and in the future, to put cultural heritage research back high on its agenda and to address the topic appropriately in the next Framework Programme.

Please support this petition with your vote to ensure further promotion of cultural heritage research:

Monday, 20 February 2012

Mayakovsky & Kundera: Socially Engaged Writing by Hind Essoussi

On the temptation of preaching: Socially engaged writing in the work of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Milan Kundera

The genre of “socially engaged writing” is one whose boundaries are not easily demarcated. Some writers, like Vladimir Mayakovsky, have overtly embraced the role of the artist-in-society and proudly donned the cape of “the agitator, the rabble-rouser”(1). Others, like Milan Kundera, refuse to be formulated by single definitions, instead striving to retain “moral ambiguity”(2) and “the essence of the novel as an art”(3).

The concept of “art for art’s sake” is beautiful, but undeniably fragile. The purely aesthetic essence of a piece can rarely be extracted from its wider context, without losing meaning. Whether or not Kundera chooses to be labelled as “socially engaged”, his philosophy cannot be isolated from Prague, Bohemia and his changing world. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting illustrates the subconscious submersion of the artist in the social and political reality surrounding him. Placed alongside Mayakovsky’s poems Back Home and At the Top of my Voice, it also illustrates the difference in the philosophies of two great writers of different generations, within the socialist system. In effect, the difference is between two kinds of realism – “socialist” and “magical”.

Socialist realism was art with an agenda. Conceived under Stalin, it made use of mass media to “educate” the public about the merits of communism – a kind of institutionalised preaching. As part of Rosta, Mayakovsky schooled himself in making verse accessible to “the planet’s proletarian”(4). Accordingly, he adopted the coarse, simple language of the streets. The stream of topical verse that ensued flowed onto agitational posters that covered the streets of Moscow.

Magical realism is harder to define. Perhaps it is best described as a portrayal of realistic events, infused with a dream-like quality. When the lines of reality and fantasy are thus blurred, the author’s own opinion is obscured. While true of most of his works, the time-frame and setting of events in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is such that Kundera’s view of the yoke of communism inevitably seeps into the text.
Mayakovsky grew up while the communist vision still held the promise of utopia. He joined Lenin’s Social-Democratic Party at age fifteen, and after being imprisoned for his revolutionary activities, emerged with a desire to “create socialist art”(5). The concept of art as an instrument of change first manifested itself in the movement of Russian Futurism. Along with Burliuk, Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh - members of Hylaea - Mayakovsky launched A Slap in the Face of Public Taste. The following is an extract from their 1913 manifesto:
“We order that the poets’ rights be revered: 
· To enlarge the scope of the poet’s vocabulary with arbitrary and derivative words (Word-novelty). 
· To feel an insurmountable hatred for the language existing before their time”(6).

This strongly worded piece serves as a precursor for the ones that followed when it comes to style; ideology and its imposition; and – as the emphatic italics suggest - the absolute conviction that the authors are justified. 

Although futuristic concerns did not dominate his work, the glory of mechanization was an important theme in soviet life and hence in Mayakovsky’s poetry. Back Home describes how the artist takes pride in his “machine parts”, in being a 
manufacturing happiness.”
Written in 1925 after a trip to America, the land that the USSR looked upon as both rival and model, his yearning for his homeland is evident.  It is not without a dramatic sense of martyrdom that he “plunge(s) into communism”, but his exhilaration is palpable. This stems from his passion for socialism and the desire to share it, by employing various artistic techniques. The powerful rhythm and uneven staircase structure, for instance, became a trademark symbol capturing a raw energy. While it gives the verse a fragmented effect, the jagged edges of the fragments create a sharp visual effect.

Yet, there is an extravagance and superfluity to this energy. The use of hyperbole in this concise form is designed to catch attention – like a caricature. Moreover, there is a note of superiority not quite in keeping with the spirit of communism. Mayakovsky cannot help but take pride in his talent and his place in “poetry’s skies”. Condescension aside, Back Home illustrates Mayakovsky’s view of the writer’s role. He feels as much a part of the soviet state apparatus as the proletarian and wishes to set goals parallel to the Five-Year-Plans.

Ideological writing is exactly the sort from which Kundera sought to detach himself. Although initially a Marxist, Kundera never entirely conformed to the tenets of socialist realism. Drawing inspiration from Freud, Mahler, Beethoven, Kafka, the young Kundera evolved his own philosophy about how Marxism could be presented to the world. He was interested in the experience of the individual and believed that it was through this medium that “the communist dogma (could be made) more palatable”(7).

However, all kinds of dogma soon became unpalatable to him. He could not endure a Manichean view of the world, believing that no absolute statements could hold forever. “When you believe in something literally”, he wrote, “You will turn it into absurdity through your faith”(8).

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting refers to the wave of optimism that lifted those with faith in communism, and his disassociation from them. While he watches them “dancing in a ring” with the distance of objectivity, he does not pronounce judgement. He understands the joy of being part of the ring and the headiness of passion, if not its blindness. “They had wings” and, by virtue of his nuanced vision, “(he) would never have any”(9).

Kundera did not want to be labelled as a political writer because he primarily considered himself an artist and story-teller. He found the dissemination of messages through art particularly distasteful. However, his own experience of the political events in Czechoslovakia could not be removed from his consciousness; it often formed a backdrop for his novels. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting refers to a time when “intellectual” became an expletive, and people “revolted against their own youth”(10). It draws upon the cyclical nature of history; revolutions are conducted and ideologies are created with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the way the vision is lost. Those who sense the distortion of the vision then try to retrace their steps in a process Kundera calls “Stalking a Lost Deed”(11). The Prague Spring of 1967, whereby Dubcek introduced liberal reforms, may have been one manifestation of the “stalking” process. Traditionally, however, it doesn’t work. The dogmatists intervene or, in the case of Czechoslovakia, the Russians invade.

Kundera sought to establish that even the reign of the dogmatists cannot last. The world is in a constant state of flux. To believe in something literally is to ascribe permanence to it, which is ultimately a delusion. The lasting reality is that of personal experiences and human relationships. Mirek, Tamina, the student, Kundera – each one is “as much a rewriter of history as the Communist Party, all political parties, all nations, all men”(12).
The novel’s protagonists all have independent lives that do not intersect, but each one has a presence and a role in the universe like each “note in a magnificent Bach fugue” (13). By drifting in and out of their lives, Kundera replicates the variations of a musical masterpiece in his literature. This creates the surreal quality that characterises magical realism. He does not attempt to explain the supernatural elements in their experiences and, through his authorial reticence, lets metaphor and reality overlap. The open-endedness of the stories, reminiscent of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, allows Kundera to introduce ideas while escaping allegations of preaching.

This is not to say that he does not make any strong statements. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel “about forgetting and Prague, about Prague and the angels”(14). Through the beauty of the language, the reader feels pathos for a nation forgetting its culture and identity under repressive communism. There is obvious resentment in the reference to communist leader Gottwald, and overwhelming irony when he mentions his treading of the same balcony as Kafka. Indeed, irony that forms the cornerstone of Kundera’s literary philosophy. It provides perspective, so that the self-importance of all leaders, writers, and adherents of dogma is eclipsed by the cruel comedy of Fate.

Irony helps us understand the references to laughter and “angels”(15). According to Kundera, there are two kinds of laughter: of demonic or angelic origin. The former acknowledges the futility of existence, while the latter is simply an imitation by those who do not fully understand the Divine Joke. Irony also governs the misunderstandings between people who view the same situation differently and will never have access to each other’s minds. Mirek and his girlfriend, for instance, will never know the other’s personal, apolitical reasons for fidelity or infidelity to the communist cause - nor will the rest of the world.

Finally, the clarity of vision that comes from understanding life’s irony removes the need for kitsch. For Kundera, of all “aesthetic evil(s)”, kitsch, “the beautifying lie”,(16) is among the most serious. Beauty lies in originality, and in the struggle to lay bare the world in all its ugliness. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting does not attempt to cloak the grittiness of existence. The stripping of privacy in communal life is represented by brutal, graphic imagery on a metaphorical island. Tamina lives like a somnambulist, forgetting the love she held dear and learning to submit silently to abuse. In the end, death is the only escape from the “children’s” totalitarian state.

“Kitsch” is one of the many points of conflict between the artistic philosophies of Kundera and Mayakovsky. As the “irrepressible bard of the Russian Revolution”, the glossing over of reality was one of Mayakovsky’s main strategies while constructing agitprop. He was widely considered to have potential that could have extended far beyond “communist kitsch”. The constant extolling of the socialist system also helped him create a certain level of self-delusion. Among the last pieces written before his suicide, At the Top of my Voice reflects the internal conflict of a painfully idealistic man. 

Addressed to posterity, the poem attempts to validate and “expound those times and (the poet)”. Never does he overtly express doubt; what filters through is a sense of frustration at suppressed creativity. Mayakovsky is not unaware of the irony of life; there is a subtle wryness underlying
                     in my teeth too.”
There is a yearning too for immortality, which he sacrifices at the altar of his cause. As in Back Home, he decides that his verses will be weighed for their utility on the scales of time. This is diametrically opposed to what Kundera, the disciple of the Aesthetic, hoped to achieve. Mayakovsky confers the status of weapons on words, wanting them to be seen as part of the process that eliminated hunger, “prostitution”, “tuberculosis”. Clasping the utopic vision of the “far communist future”, Mayakovsky wants the “pointed lances of (his) rhymes” to contribute towards a tangible difference. To this notion of holding the reins of life, Kundera may have responded with a sardonic grin; he left Mayakovsky’s circle of angels to join the “falling” existentialists(17). 

Kundera’s anti-deterministic attitude is why his work lacks the urgency of Mayakovsky’s explosive verse. They simply have different views of the transformative power of literature. While Mayakovsky rejects the “theory of distance” and the concept of waiting for “conditions to ripen” (18) before writing, Kundera embraces it in his measured, retrospective writing. While Mayakovsky strives to transplant esoteric poetry in plebeian soil, Kundera frowns at the oversimplification of art when used as a means to an end. Perhaps Mayakovsky’s tone is self-righteous and his presentation of the system inexcusably one-dimensional. However, the poet found it difficult to come to terms with Stalin’s bloody purges and enforcement of collectivisation. Despite his personal misgivings, Mayakovsky remained committed to the ideals of Marxism in spirit. After all, message-oriented literature leaves little room for a balanced handling of the other side. 
It is interesting to see how far the two accounts of socialism and views of art overlap with each other.  Mayakovsky’s contempt for the Professor’s “erudition overwhelming” accords with Kundera’s version of events. It also hints at how people and concepts were dismissively “airbrushed…out of history” by the tools of propaganda (19). The glorification of 
                   in battle”
is in keeping with the violent enforcement of game rules when it came to the children of the island.
This is not to belittle Mayakovsky’s stature as an artist. His work represents an epoch of radical change in Russian history as well as literature. Despite his muted disillusionment, At the Top of my Voice encapsulates the dynamism of revolution and the reinvention of poetry to reach the masses. This is illustrated by the short, effective phrases; the colloquial language; the onomatopoeic
 “Tara-tina, tara-tine,
Although Kundera and Orwell may not have appreciated discarding classical language in favour of Newspeak, Mayakovsky elevated word-novelty to an art form (20). In The Art of the Novel, Kundera defined beauty as being “the suddenly kindled light of the never-before-said”. Through originality, Mayakovsky brings beauty to the most unglamorous concepts.  Their motivations may have differed, but Mayakovsky and Kundera similarly attached importance to everyday life. For Mayakovsky, being a “champion of boiled water” is a necessary part of the many factors determining the course of history (21). For Kundera, the random patterns of the universe are illustrated through ordinary individual experiences. “Tanks are mortal, pears eternal”(22).

The written word is the by-product of the presumption that someone is going to be interested in what is being communicated; thus, all writers are inherently self-important. Evidently, volatility in society inevitably breeds a reaction from artists of the time, and hence social engagement. However, while all writers have opinions, it is not necessary that they attempt to impose them through overt preaching. Mayakovsky adopted a hectoring tone out of perceived necessity, in order to communicate the message of Marxism. Kundera has a definite stance on the “desert of organised forgetting” (23), but at the same time understands that communism’s children are “not all that bad” (24). The former added a new dimension to literature through his bold, purpose-driven and deliberately simple style; the latter did so by being ambiguous and deliberately complex. Ironically, in their individual ways, the ultimate ambition of both artists seems to be to “bring together the extreme gravity of the question and extreme lightness of the form”.(25) Perhaps the distinction in their creative philosophies is just a question of different kinds of laughter.

Hind Essoussi is currently reading History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her interdisciplinary research interest explores the ways in which art has historically been used for political purposes in an international relations context. This paper is an abridged version of her dissertation at the London School of Economics in 2009.

 (1) Vladimir Mayakovsky, At the top of my voice (1930)
 (2) Milan Kundera and Linda Asher, The Art of the Novel (2003), pg 139
 (3) Kundera, The Art of the Novel, pg 139
 (4) Mayakovsky, At the top of my voice
 (5) Mayakovsky, Autobiography (1923)
 (6) Vladimir Mayakovsky, David Burliuk, Alexei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1913)
 (7) Jan Culik, Milan Kundera 
 (8) Kundera, Laughable Loves (1999)
 (9) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1999), pg 68
 (10) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg 13
 (11) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 9
 (12) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 22
 (13) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 8
 (14) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 165
 (15) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 61
 (16) Kundera, The Art of the Novel, pg. 135
 (17) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 68
 (18) http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv9n2/mayakovsky.htm
 (19) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 3
 (20) Orwell, 1984 (1949)
 (21) Mayakovsky, At the Top of my Voice
 (22) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 29
 (23) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 159
 (24) Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, pg. 185
 (25) Nora Griffin,  Life is short, reading is long (2007)

Friday, 17 February 2012

Russian folk festival at Trafalgar Square, 26th Feb

Everyone’s invited to Trafalgar Square on Sunday 26 February to celebrate the Russian folk festival of Maslenitsa.
Marking the end of winter, Maslenitsa combines a Russian Orthodox religious celebration with an older pagan festival welcoming the arrival of spring.
This family event features a marquee for children, dance, theatre, and music performances from across Russia. There will also be bustling bazaar selling Russian handicrafts and souvenirs, and stalls where you can sample authentic Russian dishes, such as blini (pancakes).
Maslenitsa is organised by Ensemble Productions with support from the Mayor of London.
This is just one of the many free and exciting events the Mayor is presenting in the run up to a summer like no other and beyond. From Big Dance to St Patrick's Day, SURPRISES, a series of one-off events and SHOWTIME, bringing entertainment to every corner of London town, there really will be something for everyone.
Be the first to find out what's happening. Sign up for updates at: www.molpresents.com.

26 FEBRUARY 2012 13:00
Location: Trafalgar Square


Thursday, 16 February 2012


Say goodbye to winter with Vodka and pancakes, music and song at the London Maslenitsa Festival a traditional Russian festival to welcome the spring that takes place across London from 19 – 26 February 2012. The London Maslenitsa Festival is the largest celebration of Russian culture, art, music and food anywhere outside Russia. 

The Maslenitsa celebration is a centuries old Russian tradition that bids farewell to the bitter winter months and welcomes the beginning of the spring. It also marks the last feast before Lent in the Russian Orthodox calendar, when rich foodstuffs must be used up before the Lenten fast; just like Shrove Tuesday in the UK, the traditional Maslenitsa meal is a Pancake but served with a Russian twist: instead of the usual lemon and sugar, Malenitsa pancakes, or Blinis are served with Caviar and Vodka.

The London Maslenitsa Festival will bring venues across the city to life with a week of performances, food, exhibitions and events that will transport this important celebration of Russian culture to the heart of London. Highlights include a fashion show from leading and up-and-coming Russian designers at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a children’s production performed by the renowned Moscow State Gogol Theatre at Shaftesbury Theatre, and master-classes with celebrity Russian Chefs exploring authentic Russian cuisine, including the quintessential Maslenitsa delicacy: the Blini.

The events build to the climax of the Festival, 26 February - the day of Maslenitsa itself - when Trafalgar Square will be transformed into a bustling bazaar offering traditional Russian foods, handicrafts and souvenirs and original art from contemporary Russian artists. At the same time performances from some of Russia’s most acclaimed dance, theatre, folk, pop and jazz artists will entertain the audience from the Festival’s main stage. Entrance is FREE. 

London’s Maslenitsa Festival takes place at the same time as Maslenitsa festivals across Russia including Moscow’s Red Square. Londoners will able to exchange traditional Russian Maslenitsa greetings with Muscovites via giant video screens that will connect both Festivals taking place a thousand miles apart. 

London’s Maslenitsa Festival has been created in cooperation with the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority and The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and is supported by Moscow City Government.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

For sale: Russian Revolutionary Journals 1912-1923

A set of 5 Journals written in scripted German in Russia during the Revolution period 1912-23 is available for purchase. 

Set includes original supporting materials photos, documents etc.& translated 400 pages of the 1500 also included. 

Any interest in dealing this material is welcomed. 

Call ARTHUR PAVLATOS  at 717-293-8141 or email  RARTHUR978@AOL.COM   

CONF: SOAS Eurasia Research Programme on 18 Feb in London announced

Second Annual Interdisciplinary
Eurasia Research Conference
School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS
Russell Square, London
Jointly organized by The Eurasian Studies Society (TESS) and New Research on Central Asia and Caucasus (NRCAC)
Conference Chairs: Sevket Akyildiz (SOAS) & Gaigysyz Jorayev (UCL)
Contact e-mail: eurasiasocietyuk@gmail.com 
Venue: Room G2, SOAS, Russell Square, London
Saturday 18 February 2012, (Starts at 9.00- ends at 17.00pm)
*         *        * 
 Welcome (Dr. Sevket Akyildiz, SOAS)
Panel 1- [9.05- 10.50]  
- Identity, Culture and Anthropology
Chair: Dr. Otambek Mastibekov, Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, London
  • Diana Ibanez  (PhD Candidate, SOAS, London)
Taloq or ‘Fast Track Divorce’: Subjectivity, Personhood, and Mexican Soap Operas in Kulob, Southern Tajikistan
  •  Bolant Yeskarauly (PhD Candidate, Leicester University)
Kazakhness and Kazakhstanshipness in the 21st Century
  • Rebecca Beardmore (PhD Candidate, UCL)
The Past is Another Country: Reflections on Conducting Archaeology in the Post-Soviet, Multinational, Nation-state of Kazakhstan
  • Diana Kudaibergenova (PhD Cambridge University)
National Identity in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Soviet Legacy and Primordialism Post-1991
Coffee Break [10.50-11.10]
Panel 2 – History [11.10-12.50]
Chair: Katherine Hughes, PhD Candidate, SOAS
  • Dr. Elena Paskaleva (Leiden University, Holland)
The Bibi Khanum Kosh in Samarqand: Its Mongol and Timurid Architecture
  • Stefan Peychev (PhD Candidate, University of Illinois).
Capital Cities and Imperial Ideology in Eurasia, 1200-1500
  • Nourmamadcho Nourmamadchoev (PhD Student, SOAS, London)
Soviet and Post-Soviet Sources on Mughal – Tajik Historiography
  • Barakatullo Ashurov (PhD Student, SOAS, London)
Sogdian Texts from Sogdiana: Eighty Years Ago and Now
Lunch Break [12.50-13.30]
Panel 3 –  [13.30- 14.50] Migration & Social Development
Chair: Sultonbek Aksakolov, PhD Candidate, SOAS
  • Bogumil Terminski (PhD Candidate, University of Warsaw/Geneva)
Environmentally Induced Migrations: Theoretical Frameworks and Current Challenges
  • Gulzat Botoeva (PhD Candidate, Essex University)
Social and Economic Conditions of Drug Production in Kyrgyzstan
  • Zamira Dildorbekova (Exeter University, UK)
The Dynamics of Islam and Modernity in Tajikistan
Coffee Break [14.50-15.10]
Panel 4 – [15.15-16.50] International Relations & Politics
Chair: Zayra M Badillo Castro, PhD Candidate, SOAS
  • Cyrus Ki Yip Yee (PhD Candidate, SOAS)
China’s New Administration in the Inner Asian Frontiers in the Late Qing Period 1901-11
  • Timothy Alexander Nunan (PhD Candidate, Oxford University)
Soviet Development Thought, the ‘Central Asian Consensus’, and Soviet Afganovedeniie. c. 1953-1991
  • Dr. Filiz Katman (Istanbul Aydın University)
New Great Game, South Caucasus and NATO
  • Aijan Sharshenova (PhD Candidate, Leeds University)
Democracy Promotion in Central Asia: the European Union’s Strategy Towards Kyrgyzstan
Closing Remarks: Dr. Gül Berna Özcan, Royal Holloway, University of London


Conference Sponsors -
Arcadia University,
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,
Royal Holloway, University of London.
Post event dinner at 19:00 PM Sofra Restaurant, Covent Garden, London.
http://www.sofra.co.uk/sofra_coventgarden.htm £17.00 per person (payable on the night).

Monday, 13 February 2012

Nukus & Savitsky: The Desert of Forbidden Art by Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen

The Savitsky collection at the Nukus Museum has been steadily gaining attention in the Western world over the last couple of years. It is said to be one of the most significant collections of Russian avant-garde art outside of Russia and is ‘second only to that at the Russian Museum’. Situated in Karakalpakstan – part of Uzbekistan, a Central Asian republic of the former Soviet Union – it attracts visitors from all over the world. However, various issues have divided opinion as to the future of the museum, including the quantity and quality of the works, their origins, the remoteness of the location, and the present state of the collection.
Igor Vitalievich Savitsky


Karakalpak Museum of Arts, Nukus
Selected and introduced to the museum by Igor Savitsky between the late 1950s and his death in 1984, the collection consists of 90,000 items and includes paintings, works on paper and sculptures, as well as examples of the applied arts and antiquities. While the applied arts section represents Karakalpak history, the fine arts section is mostly Russian. However, there is also a large number of works created by Uzbek artists who received training from Russian artists living in Central Asia during the early twentieth century.
The museum presents a very unusual slice of the cross-cultural history of the former Soviet Union; from its inception, through the years of the toughest repressions, and its later thaw and stagnation, culminating in perestroika. It shows not only the artistic history of one place, but a cultural exchange between Russia and Central Asia which was only possible within the political structure of the Soviet Union. Here Moscow stood at the centre, Uzbekistan at the periphery, and Nukus in so remote a position that even the steely grip of the central powers could not reach it with its full strength.

Resting between the forbidden and the official, Nukus managed to satisfy both those in power and those against it for decades. The key reason for this success was the personal nature of the relationships that Savitsky developed with the artists and the authorities. The current keeper of the collection and director of the Museum since Savitsky’s death, Marinika Babanazarova, is following in his footsteps with her diplomacy and her dedication.

In 2011 London was the location for two events associated with the Nukus Museum. One was the UK premier of a documentary film and the other a book launch. The film shown on the 27th of May was The Desert of Forbidden Art by Tchavdor Georgiev and Amanda Pope. Organised by Samuel D. Omans, the screening was followed by a panel discussion between Dr. Alisher Ilkamov (The Open Society Foundation/SOAS), Professor Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld Institute of Art), and myself. Both admirers of the museum and those who were encountering this gem for the first time watched the film, filling the room to capacity. The film tells the story of Savitsky’s collection through interviews conducted with descendants of the artists, the staff of the museum and former party officials.

The Desert of Forbidden Art centers on the collection of the Russian and Uzbek avant-garde. Romantically dramatised, the story of Satvitsky and current state of the museum are interlinked and questions of maintenance and safeguarding are raised. According to the film the current Uzbek government offers only reluctant support to this museum because although the museum attracts international attention it does not constitute a collection of Uzbek art. The museum and its treasures are shown to be in an alarming condition with the only hope for their future preservation being the dedication of the museum director and staff.

The director was the central focus of the second event relating to the museum that took place in London. On the 9th of November Pushkin House organised a book launch of Marinika Babanazarova’s publication Igor Savitsky: Artist, Collector, Museum Founder (Silk Road Publishing House, 2011), which is available in both Russian and English. Exploring the life of this extraordinary man, the 72-page-book also includes a list of all the artists, both Russian and Uzbek, represented in the collection, as well as listing a number of works held for each and fourteen colour illustrations.

It is widely agreed that the Nukus Museum possesses a significant art collection, yet only a few publications exist in relation to it. The two most notable catalogues were both published outside of Uzbekistan. The first is Les Survivants des Sables Rouges: Art russe du Musée de Noukous, Ouzbekistan, 1920-1940 (les editions L’Inventaire/Conseil Regional Basse-Normandie, 1998). The second one is Ildar Galeev, ed., Венок Савицкому. Живопись, рисунок, фотографии, документы (Галеев Галлерея, Клуб Коллекционеров Москвы, 2011), which was published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Galeev Gallery in Moscow.

These publications are graced with detailed texts devoted to exploring Savitsky as a collector and artists as the creators of the early twentieth-century avant-garde. Both are lavishly illustrated, the former with photographs of works from the Nukus Museum and the latter with examples of other works created by the same artists.

The works that comprise the collection were saved from potential loss or destruction. This has put the artists represented in a rather unusual position; on the one hand their art is known and admired, yet on the other they have not gained the same fame and recognition as some of their contemporaries whose works were either stored in museums in the Russian centre, such as museums in Moscow and St Petersburg, or taken abroad. Without a broad exposure culturally, dedicated exhibitions and publications some of the names of the artists represented in the collection are known by only a few experts on Russian and Central Asian art.

The collection includes works by over one hundred artists, including Pavel Benkov, Nadezhda Borovaia, Robert Falk, Nadezhda Kashina, Nikolai Karakhan, Elena Korovai, Mikahil Kurzin, Ruvim Mazel, Alexander Nikolaev (Usto-Mumin), Lubov Popova, Alexander Shevchenko, Ural Tansykbaev, Viktor Ufimcev and Alexander Volkov. Two paintings by Alexander Volkov were successfully sold during the Russian art week in London, one at Christie’s and another at MacDougall’s; the extent of international recognition for Volkov’s works is just now starting to become apparent.
Another form of international recognition, support and dedication comes from the Friends of the Nukus Museum, a group of individuals interested in keeping the collection alive. Having existed informally since the 1990s and formally since 2001, it is the main source of outside backing for the museum. Another support group is set up on facebook under the name ‘The Savitsky collection (Nukus, Uzbekistan)’.

Nukus is located close to the Aral Sea, the rapid shrinking of which has become a natural disaster of global import. In order to avert an artistic disaster and the loss of a truly significant cultural monument, the Nukus collection also needs to survive and evolve.  

Further information:                                                                        

Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen is an art historian specializing in twentieth-century and contemporary Central Asian art. In 2010 she completed her doctoral dissertation ‘Socialist Realist Orientalism? Depictions of Soviet Central Asia, 1930s-1950s’ at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Panel discussion on Russian art at Pushkin House: The Wanderers" to "The War" Group

Thu 23 February 2012 – 7.30pm
Discussion at Pushkin House, London
The Art Community as Territory of Freedom in Russia: Evolution from "The Wanderers" to "The War" Group 
Language: In English
Repin 'Barge Haulers on the Volga' (1872)
Panel Discussion
David Jackson. Professor of Russian and Scandinavian Art Histories, University of Leeds
Elena Zaitseva, independent curator and an art critic
Andrey Shabanov, researcher at the Courtauld Institute
Chaired by Sarah Wilson, Professor, The Courtauld Institute

Since the emergence of the Realists in the 1860’s, avant-garde artists in Russia have been seeking independence as well as mechanisms for operating in society that were more up-to-date then those provided by existing art institutions. One of the most radical examples was ‘Artel’ that was formed in 1860’s in order to organize the economics of an art group according to the ideas of socialism, in a complete contradiction to the political and economical system in Russia at the time. The conflict between avant-garde art communities and art institutions in Russia has always been strong and has often served as a base for aesthetic programmes, as it was in the case of Moscow Conceptual School in 1970’s – 1980’s as well as the ‘Voina’ group today. Discussion explores different ways of self-organization of artists, the artistic output of those and their perception in the society.

Со времени появления первых реалистов 1860-х в России художники стремились, с одной стороны, к независимости, а с другой – искали способы взаимодействия с обществом, более современные, чем те, что предлагались существующими институтами.Так, Артель Ивана Крамского была исключительной попыткой организации работы по социалистическим принципам в условиях капиталистического системы. Конфликт авангардных художественных группировок с арт-институтами в русском искусстве всегда оставался особенно острым и часто служил основой для эстетической программы. Примером этому может служить московская школа концептуализма, а также современная группа молодых художников “Война”, которая неустанно провозглашает, что создает не-искусство. Дискуссия исследует различные способы самоорганизации художников в России, их связь с художественным результатом и ответ на них со стороны общества.

Tickets: £7, conc. £5 (Friends of Pushkin House, students and OAPs)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Call for book proposals: Nationalisms Across the Globe series

Peter Lang would like to invite book proposals for the series
Nationalisms Across the Globe
Series Editors:
Dr Tomasz Kamusella
Dr Krzysztof Jaskulowski

Although in the 1980s the widely shared belief was that nationalism had become a spent force, the fragmentation of the studiously non-national Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the 1990s into a multitude of successor nation-states reaffirmed its continuing significance. Today all extant polities (with the exception of the Vatican) are construed as nation-states, and hence nationalism is the sole universally accepted criterion of statehood legitimization. Similarly, human groups wishing to be recognized as fully fledged participants in international relations must define themselves as nations. This concept of world politics underscores the need for open-ended, broad-ranging, novel and interdisciplinary research into nationalism and ethnicity. It promotes better understanding of the phenomena relating to social, political and economic life, both past and present.

This peer-reviewed series publishes monographs, conference proceedings and collections of articles which open new approaches to nationalism and ethnicity or focus on interesting case studies. For more information, please contact Christabel Scaife, Commissioning Editor, Peter Lang Ltd,