The Role of Culture in Politics

culture in politics

 

By John Harrison

Recognition of the role of culture in political thinking is nothing new. Thucydides in the 5th century, for example, discussed the effect of culture as ‘modes of life’ on the political thinking of leaders in the ancient states of Greece (1). Rushing forward to the 20th century, Mamdani linked the end of the Cold War and 9/11 to the rise of ‘Culture Talk,’ which ‘assumes that every culture has a tangible essence that defines it, and explains politics as a consequence of that essence (2). ’

Independent researchers have looked at the connection between individualism and democratisation, and suggested that countries where collectivism is more prevalent historically and culturally are less likely to adopt a western-style democratic system than those countries whose culture is more amenable to that. Hofsted suggests a correlation between individualism and the average polity index (a way of measuring a country’s position on a chart between ‘full democracy’ and an autocracy) (3).

Such discussions have not entered western mainstream political debates, and it is normal to judge other people, countries and cultures based on our own norms. For westerners who work abroad, for example in a country like Russia; what Thucydides, Mamdani and Hofsted wrote, becomes blindingly obvious. The same can be said about Russians living and working in the West, although their lives and experiences remain relatively undocumented. In Russia, derogatory terms such as ‘going native’ are used to describe people who have got to know Russian culture ‘too’ well. In any official role, understanding Russian culture on a deep level is not always encouraged, as it can lead to questioning of western cultural norms. Perhaps for this reason, diplomats are rotated regularly (everywhere, not just in Russia). Top level western journalists and academics are not permanently based here; their articles and reports would be difficult to relate to if they were not firmly anchored in western cultural and political roots.

Maintaining the cohesiveness of our cultural identities is, arguably, one of the many functions of the nation state. Nations; sovereign states have not been around for ever. With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the idea of the sovereign state was consolidated, and the need arose to justify the existence of state power. Quite often the state used ideology to unite people together around a national idea, which may or may not have been representative of the whole nation (very few nation states were in fact formed based on one nation one state). An example would be the formation of the République Française (First Republic), and the consequential use of revolutionary causes to unite a country which was made up of groups of people, not all of which even spoke French at the time (4).

Some countries have been more successful in uniting around a single, strong mono-cultural base than others. America, which is a multicultural country seems to have united around its own cultural invention: the idea of being an American, which appears to be, or at least appeared to be until quite recently, more important than race. Trump’s difficulties in implementing an ‘Immigrant Ban’ can be explained by a dichotomy between these different priorities, and this is all perhaps indicative of a kind of present day U.S. national identity crisis. Russia is also a multicultural society, only 41% of Russians are Orthodox Christians. At the present time, ethnic and religious conflicts are not visible. Some say that this is because ethnicity was fairly brutally iterated and neutralised over a long period of time during the Soviet Union. Others say, that this may be true, but perhaps it is also true that Russian present-day ethnicity policies are adequate. Whatever the reason is, the ‘Russian Idea’ is stronger than inherent ethnic and religious differences.

When commenting on the present situation, the researcher cannot help noticing some similarities between countries that officially criticise each other. Not only do America and Russia share many cultural common denominators but, as some culturologists have noticed, both countries’ peoples share fundamental personality traits: such ‘big country’ boldness, pride of their own countries, and arguably, conservatism.

Be this as it may, ‘othering’ of Russia seems to have begun well before the Soviet era. In 2000, writer and journalist Anatol Lievan proposed that ‘Russophobia,’ for example, grew out of British attitudes towards the expanding Russian empire in the 19th century (5). In 2010, James Brown from the University of Aberdeen claims that stereotypical views of Russia derive from Cold War period ‘Russian Studies’ which were ‘orientalist’ by nature (6). In 1918, Oswald Spengler suggested that the Soviet Union was a continuation of Tsarist imperialism (7). Godard and Gibbons explained the popularity of communism in Russia being due to ‘the primitive and non-European qualities of that country.’ Such arguments are still lingua franca in some of our best universities of the world, and are a comfortable basis for constructing Russia-bashing arguments.

After the Second World War, many western countries within the group of nations and alliances commonly known as ‘The West’ saw the limitations of ‘nation states’ and united together in causes that spread across borders and boundaries. The main tenants of ‘Human Security’ (not just state security) were incorporated into U.N. charters. ‘Freedom from Want’ and ‘Freedom from Fear’ were only two of the new principles on the new non-state-centric bandwagon. This was all good news for liberals like me, who saw the world at last coming right. By incorporating human rights into international politics, however, we created political space for the adoption of resolutions such as the ‘Right to Intervene’ when one country assumes the right to invade another, if that country was seen to be unable to provide the security of its own citizens. Our ‘othering’ now included the right to deny sovereignty, although that is not the way we see it.

We discovered that security threats are ‘speech acts,’ as was so clearly established by the late 20th century ‘securitisation theory.’ (8) Issues can be made into a threat, ‘securitised’ by a ‘securitising agent.’ Jargon aside, this means that politicians can convince populations that one issue or the other is a threat through rhetoric (yes, you have heard this before; remember Aristotle).

As theories go, this is a very good one, as it shows the power of politics and ideology. A very gifted orator could convince us that Shakespeare’s works are not that good after all, and that red is blue, but probably not for very long. The theory still needs to be updated because it does not take into account certain ‘felicity’ factors, such as culture, history and geography which we separate as separate academic disciplines.

Underlying culture is important; however it is all too easy to take the argument to the opposite extreme. We do not have to look very hard to find politicians, writers and academics who view foreign cultures as enemies. Samuel Huntingdon (1997) writes about future wars being fought between civilisations, (9) and many of us will go along with that. But we also tend to ignore the fact that in many countries, Muslims and Christians, for example, have lived peacefully together for hundreds of years. The necessity of clashes is debatable and may not be fundamentally necessary despite our efforts to convince ourselves that the opposite is true.

Perhaps the most important question is: Does politics inform culture or does culture inform politics? This is a different question to answer, as it depends on the culture, and the politics. In Russia’s case, her culture has two ways of looking at the world by default. One of them, looking towards Russian and Slavic cultural norms, the attitude of the ‘slavophiles’ and the other outward looking – the ‘westernisers.’

Anybody who lived through the 1990s in Russia, when ‘westernisers’ were in power, and our western democratic and commercial norms were adopted lock stock and barrel, does not need to be told that even the Russian ‘westernisers’ were a very long way culturally (and this was reflected in business practices) from ‘western’ westerners. Russian business practices are still a long way from what we consider normal; as a suicidal English man informed me in Chicago Prime late one Saturday night, as he depicted his problems in sacking Russians. Be that as it may, the differences between ‘our’ way of doing things and the ‘Russian’ way of doing things is not, arguably, as great as between ‘our’ ways and Chinese or Arabic ways of doing things. The problem is our binary thinking. For us, if the ‘other’ doesn’t do things exactly as we do, it is totally wrong. Confusing strength with intolerance, we have forgotten about flexibility, understanding and cooperation, not that these qualities ever predominated in foreign policies directed at countries outside of our own blocks of countries. We have to dominate, or nothing. Clearly, the same problems exist when analysing similar situations from the other side, however it is a matter of capability and degree. More research needs to be done.

Perhaps the beauty of today’s situation is that it may mean a re-examination of foreign policy. It is becoming harder to justify ourselves by criticising others, simply because it is difficult to cover up our own faults to the degree that we were able to earlier. If all else fails (and one could say that we are in such a position now; we are, and have been for some time on the bring of a new major international war), a start to rekindle common understanding between our countries can be made by encouraging more communication between cultural and scientific groups. We can see organisations like the British Council and ELE (www.elemoscow.net) in Russia doing this, however there is a feeling of too little and too late. In Russia, acceptance of the perspectives of long term expats in all the relevant institutions could also be useful. They directly challenge the need for ‘othering,’ and in general point out that civilisations do not need to clash. More about them will be mentioned in my next article.

We westerners must learn to take off the stereotyped, tunnel-vision-glasses, and this is difficult, and at times confronting. As we all hurtle full throttle backwards to realist international politics, which Russia never left, understanding ourselves more fully and thus understanding everybody else may be of great help.

1 Thucydides, Thucydides, and Bc, 1999: 2

2 Mamdani, M. (2005b) Good Muslim, bad Muslim: America, the cold war, and the roots of terror. New York: Three Leaves Press; Doubleday.

3 Hofsted quoted in Brewer and Venaik, 2011

4 https://sputniknews.com/radio_brave_new_world/201612021048105668-nation-states-countries/

5 Lieven, A. (2000) ‘Against Russophobia’, World Policy Journal, 17(4), pp. 25–32.

6 Brown, J.D.J. (2010) ‘A stereotype, wrapped in a Cliché, inside a caricature: Russian foreign policy and Orientalism’, Politics, 30(3), pp. 149–159.

7 Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918, 1922), translated as ‘The decline Of The West; Stritzel, H. (2007) ‘Towards a theory of securitization: Copenhagen and
beyond’, European Journal of International Relations, 13(3), pp. 357–383

8 Buzan, B., Waever, O., de Wilde, J. and Woever, O. (1997) Security: A new framework for analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

9 Huntington, S.P. (1997) The clash of civilizations: And the Remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

The Untapped Resource for the Moscow Expats: ZIL Cultural Centre and Creative Cluster

zil cultural center moscow

 

By Lyubov Zolotova

Do you wish to explore a new, cutting-edge arts space in Moscow? Head to Metro Avtozavodskaya and walk for about 10 minutes to the ZIL Culture Centre. The Centre stands out from the rest of the Moscow creative clusters.  Having emerged back in the early soviet times as a ‘Palace of Culture,’ today it presents a fascinating combination of old and new, public and private. It is a modern space of an impressive scale which today collaborates with an impressive number of local and international partners, offers residence to creative industries and pursues commercial arts projects, as well as provides public services.

The founding: history and soviet heritage

The space has a long history, its founding dating back to 1930s when it was set up as a ‘Palace of Culture’ of the ZIL automobile society (Завод имени А.И. Лихачова) on the grounds of the partly demolished Simonov Monastery. This was the time when networks of the so-called houses and palaces of culture were beginning to spread across the country, helping to shape the new ideals of well-rounded and culturally educated Soviet citizens, but also acting as an important propaganda tool. Some of the largest of these public arts and education facilities were set up as a part of the community infrastructure of large industrial centres and factories. ZIL is a perfect case in point.

The venue itself is a major landmark, a fine example of ‘Soviet constructivism’ designed by the Vesniny brothers, and is a heritage site. The project, completed in 1937, was of ambitious scale: spreading across a territory of 23,000 square meters, it housed several theatre halls, a lecture hall, a movie theatre, two libraries, a spacious pillar hall, numerous studio rooms, a winter garden and even a small observatory set up in a roof dome. For many decades, it served as a community arts and entertainment centre for generations of employees of the ZIL automobile factory and their families, as well as local residents of Avtosavodskaya district. However, it was not really present on the Moscow arts map and remained a fairly closed and low-impact establishment until fairly recently.

2012: redefining identity

Things really began to change when, in consistency with the Moscow Government’s new cultural policy, ZIL Cultural Centre became the city’s flagship project to modernize the off-market ‘houses of culture.’ The Centre changed ownership, now being under the economic jurisdiction of the Moscow City, received a lavish government grant for redevelopment purposes (around 170 million roubles, or $5 million) and a new forward-thinking management took over. The key rebranding goals included turning the space into an up-to-date urban arts centre, attracting a wider audience, and boosting public awareness1.  Some of the key target audience now included the new ‘culture vultures,’ Moscow’s solvent middle-class with sufficient cultural capital to enjoy.

The modern day: fusing the old and the new

ZIL Cultural Centre today presents a truly unique blend of different things. Whilst remaining a part of the large network of Moscow community arts centres co-funded by the government, it has been reinvented as a modern-day creative space, thus combining traditional  —  and still very popular —  activities of the ‘houses of culture’ (such as children’s arts studios,  young engineers and science clubs, and summer city camps) with new formats. It has also opened doors to creative industries, offering them residence and PR support and thus turned into one more creative cluster of Moscow.

Present-day identity and activities. Largely because of its direct association with the major automobile producer and its unique architectural heritage of Soviet constructivism, ZIL Cultural Centre positions itself primarily as a centre of modern urban and industrial culture. Its key activities are thus consistent with these priorities, and much emphasis is placed on promoting urban and industrial culture.

Over the past few years, the Centre has virtually exploded with creative initiatives. By turning its face to the outside world it has managed to set up numerous partnerships, both local and international, and launch hundreds of new exciting projects. Some of the highlights include innovative art and design studios, a robotics technology lab, an automobile design studio, contemporary dance and music studio, art house cinema projects, lectures and workshops by leading field professionals, and visual art projects (including installations). Of particular interest is the annual arts contest, whereby the prize winners (typically, young promising visual and performing artists) receive a grant for executing their ideas and then exhibiting their work at ZIL for 4 months, as well as benefit from significant PR support offered by the Centre. Another fascinating initiative is the Fashion Factory ZIL; Moscow’s first fashion designers’ incubator and a communication platform for fashion-bloggers and designers. Overall, the Centre carries out over 2,000 projects annually.

The Centre has much benefited from offering permanent residence to creative industries and independent non-profit organisations. Some of these include:

• Ballet Moscow (Балет Москва), a well-established contemporary dance and ballet company featuring Russian and international choreograhers  www.baletmoskva.ru/en

• Polytech (Политехнический Музей), a leading science and technology museum in Russia www.polymus.ru/eng

• Smart Moscow (Умная Москва), a company which offers interactive science programs and workshop for children and adults  www.smartmsk.com

• Selivanov art and design studios (Мастерские художественного проектирования Селивановых) www.art-edu-studio.com

According to Ksenia Filimonova, Deputy Director of ZIL Cultural Centre, collaboration with such groups has had a powerful synergy effect on reaching a wider audience and enhancing the Centre’s image. The residents benefit from PR, administrative and infrastructure support as well as reasonable rent costs.

The Centre’s international partnerships are also impressive. It holds international film, art and theatre festivals, and the so-called ‘Culture Days’ of different countries and liaises with international partners as well as embassies and cultural centres in Moscow. ‘Culture Days’ generated particularly strong interest with Moscow audiences.

Economics

Roughly 60% of the Centre’s annual budget is government subsidy which covers all of the Centre’s free-of-charge activities, full time staff salaries and maintenance costs. The remaining 40% is generated through commercial activities. These include ticket sales, charged services, winter and summer children camps, film festival revenues etc. The Centre is very popular with film companies thanks to its atmospheric interiors (like Brezhnev-style offices), so that accounts for a good part of ZIL’s revenues. The Centre also has several sponsorship contracts. All in all, the Centre generates around 80 million roubles (around $1,300,000) of its own income.

Changing local landscape and community

Since its rebranding in 2008-2012, ZIL Cultural Centre has had a noticeable effect on the local district and its overall image in Moscow, says Ksenia Filimonova. The Avtosavodskaya district used to have a somewhat dubious image as a dodgy and marginalized industrial area of the city. Since ZIL arts space became much more visible on the Moscow arts map, generating up-to-date arts content, public attitude towards the area began to change as well. It now attracts visitors from around the city. It has become particularly popular with arts management students who come here to do various placements and internships and enjoy the free Wi-Fi area and a reasonably priced café.

The Centre has also been approached by local businesses, and several interesting partnerships have already taken place. Of particular interest was the PURE ART image project carried out in partnership with a local shopping mall. This was an environmental exhibition featuring professional art installations made from trash. The installations were exhibited at the Orange shopping mall and it received a fairly good media coverage.

What’s there for Moscow expats? 

ZIL Cultural Centre remains an under-explored space by us, and yet can offer a plethora of entertainment, educational and collaboration opportunities to the city’s expat community. Top-quality contemporary dance performances (staged by leading Russian and foreign choreographers),  an international film festival and art exhibitions, to name but a few activities, are held there regularly.  Though English language activities are limited, the centre holds regular talks and lecture series conducted by English speakers (e.g., Art Talks for Teens by a Latvian Ph.D.).  The Centre has recently launched an English language audio guide that takes you around the ZIL venues, available through  izi.travel (www.izi.travel/en/app). There are tons of activities for children, and if you don’t know how to keep your kids busy during the long summer months, consider the ZIL summer art camp where children can engage in theatre, film, media and animation workshops, not to mention receive 3 hefty meals a day!

The Centre has still a long way to go to reach out to the expat community in Moscow, starting with its website which for now is only available in Russian. Yet, this is a fascinating place to explore, with plenty of resources and opportunities to tap on.

To learn about the ZIL Arts Centre activities, check out its official website www.zilcc.ru  or follow on FB www.facebook.com/zilcczil

To discuss possible collaboration ideas, contact Ksenia Filimonova k.filimonova@zilcc.ru

The author kindly thanks Elena Melville, Director of ZIL Cultural Centre, and Ksenia Filimonova, Deputy Director of ZIL Cultural Centre for sharing valuable insights on various aspects of ZIL Cultural Centre life and activities.

The Arts as a Revolutionary Force in Russia, 1880-1916

arts revolutionary force russia

 

by Ross Hunter & Pu Wei-hsuan, Shirley, Graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and Art Historian.

A major exhibition of Russian revolutionary art is being held by The Royal Academy in London, from the 11th of February to the 17th of April. All lovers of Russian art, and anyone fascinated by that most incredible period in Russia’s history will want to see it: www.royalacademy.org.uk

The exhibition covers the amazing chaotic, creative, catalytic period between revolutionary 1917 and the Stalinist crackdown of the early 1930s. Many of the works on show will be familiar to habitués of the glorious Tretyakov galleries in Moscow, but their presentation and organisation follow a theme which is more novel. In summary, the RA are seeking to show the links between the political and cultural upheavals in society and the explosion in artistic creativity, across all the arts; from the abdication of the Romanovs until Stalin’s repression in the early 1930s. A full account of it will be in coming editions of Moscow expat Life.

The 1917 revolutions did not merely open up artistic freedom: the arts had played a major role in making them possible, a unique historical achievement. Without the sequence of art first questioning imperial destiny, then openly defying the state, there could not have been such a groundswell of support for the several disparate revolutionary parties. A synopsis of this idea is in MeL, Winter 2015, ‘The Russian Avant-Garde in Monaco.’

Philologically: Russian additions to world language from this time include ‘Avant Garde’ – experimental, innovative, radical and having a futuristic vision; ‘iconoclasm’ – knocking established symbols off their revered pedestals, and so showing the masses a glimpse of a very different future; ‘propaganda’ and ‘agit-prop’ – posters, art, stories created not for any intrinsic artistic value, but which focuses on their socialist ideological value and ‘educational’ potential.

From about 1880, in just a couple of decades Russia leapt from being a follower of European artistic fashions to being a leader. This flowering of artistic creativity and innovation was matched by equally wrenching changes in society, agriculture and industry. This leads to the oft-asked but wholly unanswerable question of whether Russia without the revolutions would have grown faster than with them. If the February 1917 ‘liberal’ revolution had succeeded, an open and semi-democratic Russian republic might have been chasing Western Europe’s modernisation path. For another day.

For now, consider: ‘Art made the revolution possible’.  It might appear an improbable claim. Bear with me.

The 19th century had been good for Russia. Defeating Napoleon (1812), territorial expansion, a growing and prosperous upper-middle class, the arrival of the railway (1837), and a ‘Golden Age’ in literature and the arts all augured well. As late as 1913, the Romanov Tsars were confidently celebrating four centuries of rule, and looking forward to 400 more of glory, not the four of disaster that befell them. Church, state and Tsar were a trinity of absolute power, supported by the Okrana secret police and a harsh-sentencing judicial system. Many potential reformers were radicalised by time in Siberian exile. All this disguised the fundamental weaknesses of both Tsar and his un-modernised society.

In 1880, all seemed well. Russia was mostly looking westward, and importing cultural and industrial novelties from Europe. The Russian novel, poem, symphony and ballet were acclaimed. But this hubristic confidence hid the seeds of its own downfall: economic progress was not matched by political reform.

Ilya Repin, Russia’s most revered painter, is not thought of as a disruptive influence. Most of his paintings add to Russia’s glory. Protest had to be subtle, and concealed. Repin managed it, in beautiful paintings. Consider just two. In 1881, he painted the justly revered composer Mussorgsky.  Days before his death, 28 March, we see not the staged, hagiographic, sanitised regal portrait one would expect, but a stark picture of a sick alcoholic, in terminal decline. There is reverence and respect there, but no hiding of the terrible truth. All Mussorgsky’s genius does not save him from a painful end. If a national idol is mortal, how eternal might be the rulers?

Two years later, Repin’s brush gave birth to an even more troubling work: ‘Religious Procession in the Kursk Province’ (1883). The painting was instantly highly controversial. Some, including Tolstoy, no less, see in it all Russia’s classes walking in unity, and celebrating provincial life. But most see a darker, sacrilegious scene. Priests and golden riches are aloof from the populace; one of the juggernaut bearers is drunk; the landscape is anything but the promised land, and more. Most tellingly, there is an air of dazed purposelessness with no sense of direction or goal. Beggars and lame children are where Jesus would have focused his attention, but here they are being pushed back, beaten if needs be. Repin has sown the seeds of doubt in the beneficence and immutability of the established order. All this in the established artistic canons and styles of the age. Closet subversion: achieved without exile or the gulag fate suffered by other reformers, from the Decembrists to Lenin via Kropotkin and many more.

As the century wore on, more radical challenges to the status quo arrived from Europe and found fertile soil in Russia. For example, ballet was an elite entertainment associated with the imperial court imported from Paris, and theatres often invited French dancers and ballet masters. One of them, Marius Petipa, had staged all the best known ballet classics, like The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake in the 1890s. It was the peak for Russian ballet, and in the early 20th century, Sergei Diaghilev’s ‘Ballets Russes’ returned the favour in western Europe. He worked with leading Russian composers and artists, such as Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky and Vasily Kandinsky to produce music, ballet and sets inspired by Russian folklore. Ballet and orchestral composition evolved in tandem. Composers created radical and controversial new musical forms, intensifying the sense of change. Among many, if Pyotr Tchaikovsky was the most famous, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who wrote Scheherazade and The Flight of the Bumblebee, was one of the most original.

By 1898 even, Tolstoy himself, in ‘What is Art’ was advocating democratisation, and allowing everyone to participate in art, not just the elites. The implication of this, ‘power to the people’ is inimical to a rigid and unbending State. The turn of the century was a bubbling, fermenting period in all the arts. The explosion came in 1910.

An almost chance meeting of European and Russian artists produced a stellar if short lived revolutionary group, called ‘The Jack Of Diamonds’. An instant flowering of creative genius encompassed dozens of artists, notably Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova with Kazimir Malevich, Aristarkh Lentulov, Alexander Kuprin,  Ilya Mashkov and Pyotr Konchalovsky. No space here to show the dozens of deserving works – see them in the New Tretyakov.

Three works by Goncharova give a flavour: ‘Women with Rakes’ (1907), ‘The Peacock’ (1911) and ‘Cyclist’ (1913). To modern eyes, these are agreeable, if unremarkable. But we have seen a century of modern art. Then, it was truly fresh, or shocking, according to one’s viewpoint. The first is primitivist, deliberately naïf and with a poster-like simplicity in both shape and colour. Also celebrating peasants, not nobility, a decade before the revolution that would claim this as its own. A focus on ordinary people, the masses in their daily struggles and joys, is what unifies the group and period. Drunken sailors, stooping peasants, jaded concierges: not a mounted prince in sight. The peacock is a riot of colour and energy, with no care for background, perspective or balance – we are seeing life in motion. And the cyclist is both a one frame film, with a humorous empathy for bones and teeth juddering across the cobbles. Not revolutionary in a political sense, but startlingly fresh to the eye.

By contrast, Aristarkh Lentulov’s many works are evidently iconoclastic. My favourite – on my living room wall, a perfect copy, bought for kopeks on the Arbat – is ‘St Basil’s’ (1913).  Bouncy, colourful, prismatic, cubist, kaleidoscopic even… it is an entertaining model that one may link to the Picasso style. Again, to modern eyes, this is all normal. But in the very year of the Romanov’s celebration of their immortality as God-Kings, Moscow’s iconic cathedral is broken into coloured shards – not a trace of religiosity or reverence. The lack of fear of God or His divine mercy would be felt by Russian troops brutally in the coming catastrophic war.

The gradual replacement of picturesque but static reality by ever more abstract and confusing visual shocks would reach its apogee in the works of Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich. Both started with stylised, simplified representations of normal subjects, and both gradually replaced subject matter with ever more abstract colour concoctions.

Malevich got as far as the complete negation of art with ‘Black Supremacist Square’ (no need to copy it, you know what it looks like), although in later years he returned to a semi representational style. ‘Is this art?’, I hear you cry, and with reason – reason being the wrong tool! – or, ‘What’s the point?’ The nihilism is the point. By destroying logic, reason, and our command of reality, it becomes easier, necessary even, to smash the status quo and build something different from the wreckage. The art becomes the catalyst of the social change. This made 1917 possible. Writing in early 2017, and watching news/alternative news/fake news unfold, the parallels are uncomfortable, to say the least.

Russian art and artistic history, poetry, the novel, ballet and music, are gloriously rich and complex subjects. It is impossible to squeeze such variety into a single explanatory frame. Many beautiful creations do not fit any one line of thinking, being created for many reasons, with different goals. Only a minority were deliberately or subconsciously directed towards a social target. Enjoy the works of Levitan, Golovin, Serebriakova, Chagall and many more for themselves, as they are not central to this story.

By 1916, the subtleties were no longer needed. Overtly revolutionary work was possible. Russia almost invented the revolutionary poster, the propaganda cartoon and slogan and the ‘agit-prop’ call to action. Mayakovski’s poetry and cartoons brought the complexities of intellectual Marxism-Leninism to street level. The power of the commercial advertising slogan and logo were harnessed for the revolution. By the end of 1916, nothing was certain, except that the imperial government was incapable of continuing. The arts are by no means the sole cause of this – a disastrous military campaign, the havoc wrought by Rasputin, the red cells disrupting industry, increasing dissatisfaction to the autocratic rule of the court, and a viciously cold winter were the ultimate causes of the February revolt. But the arts were both catalyst and beneficiary of the mounting chaos, and played an ever increasing role from 1917 onwards, as will be shown at the RA and in the next article. It gets even more exciting from 1917.

Anatoly Zverev from A to Z

anatoly zverev

 

By Marie Giral

“You constitute your own happiness; all the rest are incidents that you may
like or not like. Amen.”  Anatoly Zverev.

The ‘AZ Museum,’ is the name of the museum dedicated to the Soviet artist Anatoly Zverev who was born, lived and died in Moscow (1931-1986). The address is 20/22, second Yamskaya Tverskaya Ulitsa. If you go there from Mayakovskaya Metro station, you will find, at number 20/22, a note on the door that says (in Russian): ‘Sorry, we moved to Ulitsa Arbat a few months ago.’ How long this note has been here for?, better not ask! You are about to turn away, thinking that you got a wrong address, but a second thought tells you to persevere. Remember, all these street numbers, probably dating back to those of long-gone properties, churches, mansions with gardens. Walk two doors further up the street and there is another entrance to the museum that is open.

The AZ (for Anatoly Zverev) museum, is set in a 3-floor modest ‘ocobniak,’ (mansion). During the warm season, the last floor transforms into a roof-top café. This is a private museum that came about thanks to the passion and personal collection of Natalya Opaleva, one of its two founders (the other founder is art curator Polina Lobachevskaya). In 2013, Aliki Costakis, daughter of the famous collector George Costakis, donated over 600 works by Zverev to the museum, along with archival materials from her father’s collection.

Today, the museum owns over 1,500 works by Anatoly Zverev and over 500 works by non-conformist artists of his circles. Indeed, Zverev, the grandson of an icon painter, never belonged to any one single trend or group, and remains difficult to classify in any painterly movement familiar to us. Nevertheless, George Costakis considered Zverev to be the first Russian Expressionist. Picasso himself said that Zverev was the “genius painter of the 20th century,” no less. Another Soviet artist of the first avant-garde, Robert Falk, said that: “Each stroke of his brush was a treasure. Artists of his stature come by just once a century.” However, Anatoly Zverev spent his life living a hand-to-mouth existence, never knowing where he would spend the next night and hiding from the authorities who could not stand his anarchic way of life and mind-set.

Not only did his ‘friend’ artists – Plavinsky, Nemukhin, Rabin, Krasnopevtsev and many others – not to mention, again, collector George Costakis protect him. They also organized in his lifetime exhibitions of his works in underground galleries, away from Soviet officials.

Before the opening of the museum in May 2015, the two founders organized two exhibits in the new Manezh, so as to remind Muscovites of this forgotten artist. Since its opening, the AZ Museum has been offering exhibitions devoted to one theme of Zverev’s œuvre. Each time, the whole building transforms into a space arranged accordingly, with taste, talent and knowledge of modern museum scenography.

The theme of the present exhibition is about how Anatoly Zverev illustrated four of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales: ‘The Nightingale’, ‘The Wild Swans’, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘The Little Mermaid.’

Zverev created this series of illustrations in 1961, at the request of one of his protectors, the choreographer and ballet-master Alexander Rumnev. For many years, these drawings have been kept in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. In 2012, the drawings were first presented and became an invaluable discovery for both specialists and the public. In 2013 AZ Museum published a book: ‘Zverev draws Andersen’s fairy tales.’

Andersen and Zverev have more in common than one might think. Both endured extreme poverty in their childhood. Andersen, like Zverev, had to support himself and he too started his vocation very early. Both were also very prolific. As famous as Andersen may be for his fairy tales (more than 200!), he also wrote a number of plays, travelogues, novels and poems. Zverev’s legacy includes more than 30,000 works, most of them stored in museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with some of his works exhibited in the Museum of modern art in New York.

As with previous exhibitions, the ‘Andersen’s Fairy Tales’ exhibition occupies three floors of the Museum. When you enter the museum, after leaving your coat at the garderobe, you immediately find yourself in the underwater world of the little Mermaid. The floor, chairs and walls are transparent, aquatic, fluttering in blue and white. Words of the fairy tales appear in portholes along with the artist’s drawings: a single stroke, characteristic of his intention to render direct sensations by working at great speed.

You walk up (or take the very adequately transparent lift) to the third floor and after experiencing the submarine world on the first floor, in case you had forgotten you were in Moscow, you now find yourself in an endless enfilade of red spaces reflected ad infinitum on the mirrors covering the walls. This is the Palace of the Chinese Emperor who loved listening to the nightingale’s chirping. You can see the cage of the mechanical one and hear the singing of the Nightingale. On one sidewall a short video clip presents a forest with the full Moon rising and fading.

Walking down to the second floor, you are with the Emperor’s New Clothes tale on one side, and the story of the Wild Swans on the other. Here also, short video clips and objects accompany the themes: spools of threads surround the shape of a naked shape while a mechanical mobile moves slowly, symbolizing the swans of the tale. Finally, you will dive again to the first floor in the little mermaid’s water world and sit for a quiet moment watching the short movie (in Russian) about the similarities in the life, and work too, of the two artists. The four scenography artists deserve a special mention in this exhibition.

Do not leave the museum without having a look at the tiny bookshop. The ‘AZ Museum’ publishes its own fine books, all about Zverev or the exhibitions. Some of them are in English, well worth having a look and buying. ‘A Hundred portraits of women’ is particularly beautiful. Presenting portraits along with pictures of the models, it shows how Zverev was able to capture the spirit of a person. In ‘Round & About,’ Zverev friends call to mind their memories and anecdotes about him. On the right page, they are also portrayed, with the same exceptional talent for projecting in a few strokes the essence of people.

For those with kids who learn Russian, special programmes are proposed for children with an enchanting guided tour and a small master class. The project also offers a cycle of lectures by leading experts on the works of Andersen and the history of book illustration.

Visiting the Andersen exhibition at the ‘AZ Museum,’ the Ambassador of Denmark in Russia found the drawings and installation ‘unique.’ After the show closes in Moscow at the end of April, it will travel to Denmark, where Andersen’s modern compatriots will see his tales anew.

Interview with Denis Novoseltsev

by Maria Ushakova

Denis Novoseltsev is a young producer, a successful entrepreneur and a charismatic actor. I call Denis the new Diaghilev. Firstly, because he looks like him, secondly, because I want to see someone finally promoting Russian art abroad, and thirdly because he is one of the most energetic and promising young theatrical figures in Russia. He has several very successful theatre projects.

For example, Denis surprised a lot of people when he managed to bring the musical ‘Dubrovsky’ to Moscow from Minsk, complete with a cast of 100 people, without state financing and without help from people who would take advantage of the play…

After graduating from the Shchukinskiy Institute, Denis entered the High School of Performing Arts, where he wrote a dissertation about a very interesting project, which is called ‘School Classic.’ (www.школьнаяклассика.рф). On the April 19th the project will be two years old. I met with him to talk about this successful project, and not only about that.

Denis, please tell us how was the idea of ‘School’s Classics’ was born and why did you choose this type of project?

My first degree was in acting, I graduated from the Theatrical Institute of Boris Shchukin. While I was studying, I watched a lot of performances in and observed the process of modernizing the classics. I came to the conclusion that school students need to watch original plays, rather than those modern ones, that are offered by so many theatres right now. This, and only this, will help children. The project is presented in this way: during the theatre season we watch plays in Moscow and other cities of Russia which are based on the school curriculum. After that, we put the best of them on in Moscow. So, in October for example, we put on ‘Woe from Wit’ by the Moscow Theatre at Pokrovka…

How many performances have been put on since 2014?

To date, over 100 plays, an average of two shows per week from October to April.

What age groups do the plays appeal to?

Prior to this season, we played shows in 12+ category, this year we have put a number of performances for elementary school children so the 6+ age group. So in this season, we have covered all age groups from first to 11th grade.

What schools do you work with? Only state schools, or private as well?

Both.

People say that you plan to have performances in foreign languages, and in Russian abroad?

The English language and English literature is in the first place of call for everybody who is interested in foreign cultures. I believe that it is necessary to learn the language as a child, when one has a fresh memory and a good imagination, and the language must be taught by native speakers.

We are now working on two performances and one is being planned, ‘The Catcher in the Rye, directed by the talented Daniel Romanov with a premiere at the end of January. We are also planning ‘Pygmalion’ directed by the founder of the Moscow English theatre Jonathan Salway. ‘Pygmalion’ will be premiered at the end of February. And, of course, “Chechov’s tales” in English.

Which of the classics do you like the most?

I think reading the classics such as Shakespeare, Byron, Wilde, Dickens, George Bernard Shaw and other great play writers at a young age in extremely important. I also think that people should become acquainted with the theatre when they are young, and it would be fantastic if plays could be part of the school curriculum. Even better, if children themselves perform in such shows under the direction of British actors and directors.

Back Stage Tour of the Bolshoi Theatre

By unashamedly in love with Moscow

The cost of this backstage tour is considerably less than the price of a ticket to one of the Bolshoi Ballet’s performances, which cost the same if not more than trip to Paris and back. Living in Moscow provides the opportunities to learn through touch, hearing and feeling, in comparison to just reading about these places. I learned, for example, that the massive restoration work that closed the Bolshoi from 2005 to 2011, was also an opportunity to expand the theatre underground, towards the fountain which stands proudly outside the front of the theatre. Underground, there is a new theatre hall, the Betkhovensky stage, which we visited. As soon as it opened, our helpful and knowledgeable guide Maria told us, it was closed because of the noise factor from the nearby underground station, and the whole underground complex was sound insulated.

History is imbued into the walls of this place. On looking at Nikolai II’s and Alexandra’s (his wife) initials made into a logo above the entrance to the Tzar’s Box, Maria told us, in brief, the history of the Bolshoi. A theatre was first built on this site in 1776. The location was chosen because of its close proximity to the Kremlin, and the cheap price of the land there because it was right next to the Niglinnaya river; the land was damp and used for rubbish dumps. The original Petrovsky Theatre was replaced by the Bolshoi Petrovsky Theatre. Both previous theatres burned down, and in 1856, the present theatre was built quickly, in 16 months, in the shape of an unidentified musical instrument, for the coronation of Emperor Alexander II. One of the rooms used to celebrate the coronation has the most amazing acoustics I have ever heard, it beats EMI, Apple’s studios any day. It is possible to hear somebody speaking quietly 10 meters away when there are 50 other people in the room.

One of the other unexpected surprises was a rehearsal stage, way up above the main theatre, on the 9th floor, complete with a stage that is as long and as wide as the main Bolshoi stage. The ceiling is far lower, and this stage is used for rehearsals as the main stage is almost always being used. A lone ballerina was rehearsing her steps for Don Quixote, completely engrossed in her painstaking work on points. Unable to understand all of what we had just witnessed, we visited the costume making studios, which are located in a room with windows looking out onto the roof where Apollo is drawn in a chariot by three horsemen. Here are the day time creators — the women who slave away at the costumes day after day.

We learned many fascinating details; for example, that during Stalin’s campaign against religion, the theatre adopted 35 church bells, from churches in Moscow that Stalin had demolished. The theatre itself was untouched because it was the only building big enough in Moscow then to house the Communist Party’s Congresses, and because Stalin liked to watch the occasional opera here from his own box that still exists today.

The Art Deco Museum Moscow

by Scott P. Cordrey

I had heard someone talking, on TV one evening, about the beauty of the Art Deco style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France and became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, influencing the design of buildings, furniture, jewellery and so much more. So I looked on the internet one Saturday morning, to see if there was an Art Deco exhibition anywhere in Moscow that weekend and, voilà, I discovered an Art Deco museum and decided to make a visit.

I took the metro to Vorobyovy Gory station, located on a bridge over the Moskva and then spent ten minutes walking along Luzhnetskaya Quay, next to the river, enjoying the late autumn colours of the trees until I reached the Museum, a little hidden from the main streets.

Entering, on a Saturday afternoon, felt a little odd as there was no-one waiting to greet visitors in the main reception. So I wandered through the outer doors, and eventually found myself entering a very large room full of paintings and some glass panels in the style of Alfons Mucha, the Czech Art Nouveau painter.

On the left I found the entrance to a similarly large room which houses a considerable collection of sculptures, furniture and decorative arts all in the Art Deco style. This is the Art Deco Museum, founded in 2014 by Mkrtich Okroyan, a businessman and Art Deco collector for more than 15 years.

Here I discovered a beautiful exhibition of bronze and ivory sculptures representing an extensive display of the work of Demetre Chiparus, but also including Ferdinand Preiss, Claire Colinet, Bruno Zach and many others. These beautiful objects are so delicate and tactile with wonderful attention to the details of that time. Each piece seemed to consume my complete attention for minutes at a time as I searched to understand the method, the magic and the rhythm of these creations.

I also enjoyed the decorative lacquered panels by Jean Dunand, who produced gilded lacquered wood panels for the legendary French ocean liner SS Normandie.

There is a collection of the most elegant furniture featuring works by Paul Follot (my own particular favourite), Jacques-Emile Ruhlman, Jules Leleu, and others.

The final items that caught my eye are some wonderful pieces of wrought iron works including floor and table lights by the famous French blacksmith Edgar Brandt. He produced the gates at the entrance to the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris from where Art Deco took its name.

After an emotionally fulfilling tour of the exhibition, there was a comfortable seating area with Art Deco books available to peruse, read and purchase before saying goodbye and heading home. I felt I had discovered yet another little pearl of delight in Moscow and if, like me, you are captivated by the Art Deco style then I can recommend a visit without hesitation.

Art Deco Museum

Luzhnetskaya quay 2/4,
building 4. MOSCOW

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

by D. West

What perspective does this little-known treaty cast on the current relationship between Russia and NATO?

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was the treaty that ended Russia’s participation in the First World War. It marked the success of Germany’s strategy of allowing Vladimir Lenin to return to Russia in a sealed railway car from his exile in Switzerland in April 1917, following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II after the February Revolution. The Provisional Government continued Russia’s participation in the war, with resultant large numbers of casualties and food shortages in the major cities. Lenin agitated for ‘peace, land and bread’ and, after the October Revolution that same year, became head of the new Soviet Russian government. The treaty was signed on 3 March 1918 between Russia and the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The British and French continued fighting on the Western Front with the participation of the United States, which entered the war on their side during 1917. In November 1918, an armistice was declared, Germany having been defeated militarily. This effectively terminated the treaty, fortunately for Russia. When Germans later complained about the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, the riposte was that it was more benign for them than Brest-Litovsk had been on Russia.

What did the treaty do?

Under the treaty, Russia gave up all claims to the territories of Finland, the Baltic States (which were largely ceded to Germany), Belarus and Ukraine (which by another treaty of the same name and date was established as an independent republic under German military protection) – all of which had been part of the Russian Empire at the start of the war. So too was Congress Poland, not mentioned in the treaty but in respect of which Russia in effect also gave up any claim. Russia also transferred Ardahan, Kars and Batumi in the South Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire. It is commonly estimated that Russia lost at least a quarter of its population, arable land and industry and most of its coal mines. The treaty returned Russia to the European boundaries it had before the start of the Great Northern War against Sweden in 1701 – apart from the area around St. Petersburg east of the Narva River which Russia, led by Peter the Great, took early in that war and retained ever afterwards.

Ironically from a contemporary perspective, no issue arose over Crimea, which remained part of Russia and was shown as such on the treaty map.

What were the German objectives?

These were not clear, and it seems there were two schools of thought. The German Foreign Ministry wanted to establish a series of buffer states that would isolate the Soviets from the heart of Europe. They envisaged that the new states would establish strong ethnic and national identities which would lead them to assert their independence of outside control. On the other hand, the German Army High Command, headed by Paul von Hindenburg and driven by his chief of staff Erich Ludendorff, wanted permanent mastery over the periphery of the Russian Empire, with puppet governments facilitating German strategic and economic exploitation of the region. When asked why the annexation of the Baltic States was necessary, von Hindenburg said: ‘to secure my left flank for when the next war happens.’

What happened afterwards?

The treaty worked out badly for the Germans. Although they moved large numbers of veteran troops to the Western Front for the Spring Offensive, they had to leave over a million soldiers behind to maintain their presence in the huge area they occupied from Poland eastwards.

In the wars and civil war that followed during the next three to four years, Ukraine was recovered by the Bolsheviks and became one of the republics of the Soviet Union, Poland and the Baltics emerged as independent countries. However, in consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic States and Poland was divided between it and Germany. At the end of World War II, Poland’s sovereignty was restored but with its north-south borders moved westwards on both sides of the country. The Baltics only became independent again during the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

What is the significance of this today?

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was formally nullified as between Germany and Russia by the Treaty of Rapallo of 1922. However, some treaties – even short-lived ones – have a way of asserting a ghost-like presence in international affairs long after they have become defunct as legal instruments.

To see this, let us first review the period from the end of WWII until the end of the Cold War based on traditional, non-ideological “realpolitik.” During this time, most of Europe was divided into two ‘blocs’ (only a few states being neutral). One, under US tutelage, consisted of the NATO alliance which included most of western Europe (but not Austria, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland and Yugloslavia) and Turkey. The other, driven by Russia, had two layers. The first was the Warsaw Pact, a central and eastern European alliance intended to counter NATO. The second was the Soviet Union itself, which consisted latterly of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics, the largest and most dominant being that of Russia.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 (25 years ago next month), Russia’s western boundaries have been the same as those following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In the Caucasus, they have been reduced by the independence of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

This may have seemed relatively inconsequential at first because there was no apparent reason for Russia to be concerned militarily about its western or southern frontiers. However, NATO expanded into much of central Europe – most significantly including Poland and the Baltics, both of which had been within the Russian Empire (although only in part for Poland) and subsequently either the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, for so long as neutrality was maintained by Ukraine, Belarus and Finland on Russia’s western flank and Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to the south, they effectively provided a buffer zone. Once discussions started about including Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, there was no longer any assurance to Russia that their neutrality would necessarily be continued.

It is in this context that the differences in German strategy relating to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty come back to life. The policy of establishing (or reviving, depending on one’s viewpoint) states with strong ethnic and national identities that would assert their independence has clearly been effective. However, extending NATO to Poland and the Baltics and holding public discussions about including Ukraine and Georgia inevitably revives (consciously or unconsciously) memories of the plans of the German General Staff in 1918.

It also inevitably raises again the question put to von Hindenburg – what do you need it for?

DC West
London
8 November, 2016

You Can’t Get There From Here (Short Story)

 

She watched as tiny figures drowned the bracken ocean’€™s rippling tide. They followed the trail which wound up the gorge, skirting the tumbled rockery she lay, her supine form, lost in shifting shadow. Cool wind spoke of celandine and crushed nettle stalk; the sticky tension of rain, maybe not to come till evening. Mingled in the mountain’€™s breath, something else, which despite instinct and everything her mother taught her, she could not place.

Nearer, the melted figures formed into distinguishable shapes. Both Twolegs. The smaller, a girl, billowing outline gossamer bright, in the springtime sun, no threat even this close. Behind, striding purposeful, darker, taller, older, perhaps wiser, though you could never tell with a Twolegs, a man. His crumpled features, an immobile mask, as he peered after her. Pausing, he scanned the path they just trod, then plunged the chest high fern, cutting the corner, lest she swirl from his view in her haste.

The path they followed led to the quarry. A few untidy slabs, shaded by a stand of twisted trees, visited by dog walkers and noisy cubs. These two, the first she’€™d seen, since the long nights of winter. She assumed, hikers, kids on bikes, this mismatched pair, hailed from the angular cloud makers, which crowded the boundaries of her domain.

On a clear day, in the long moments before the sky circle sank behind the edge, it was possible to pick out movement, among the sombre cubes. Each indistinct figure, haloed with a fiery mane.

Sometimes she wondered if she should walk between the uniform boulders which squatted in cramp-snake lines. Then she might understand why they blinked their yellowing eyes throughout the long dark.

Where the stream stepped sideways, the couple paused. She on tiptoes him stooping, noses almost touching. It seemed they might settle together to the long grass and soak up the sun.

Without warning the girl spun away. As she pivoted, he caught her hand. For a few moments they struggled before she pulled free, stumbling a few paces more. Turning to face him, she spoke. A single short shriek, before she moved to follow the stony path. Now the man cried, a baritone bray, baring his teeth to the youngster’s back, before starting quickly after her.

Soon they would pass the granite wall which served as the porch to her lair. Their voice murmur, drifting up with the breeze, which ruffled the fur of her silvery neck. His slow and measured, bees busy on summer heather, contrasting the chirping girl, morning blackbird to his croaking jay.

No longer able to see, she snoozed and lulled by early insects in the flowers above, slept.

Sometime later, the day all but passed, cool and lichen grey, she woke, ears pricked, listening hard. Moving stealthily to the edge, tested the gloom, with a practised eye. There, a withered form, the girl from the morning, shivering and pulling the now muddied covering, to her fragile frame. For long moments she watched, the gurgle-glop of the stream the only accompaniment. Rain began, a few light spots shaking the canopy, heralding the coming storm.

For her, wet weather was a good time to hunt. Prey scurrying from dry place to dry place, less wary. Any telltales, marking her progress through the forest, lost to the pattering cacophony.

She allowed her eyes to drift up past the prickly roof of her watchtower to the mounting banks of cloud. As the rain came in earnest she again looked down to the girl, who now stood, arms straight, fists balled, oval face turned towards the skies. For a second they each looked, each seeing the other, contact held deep, eye within eye.

As the first flash of lightning fractured the sky, the girl set off at a run, back to the world from which she’d come.

 

 If you would like your short story, to be considered for publication, please write to: editor@moscowexpatlife.ru

 

Ravshaniya

Nodira Sadikov

For the young and ambitious photographer named Ravshaniya, there are no ugly people. In every character she will find something unique. After completing a 5-year education at the Institute of Arts in the direction of the ‘Cinema, TV and Radio producing’ she has understood that photography is her pure mission and whole life.

She benefitted from a tremendous professional background in the city of love, in Paris, and fell in love with that amazing place forever. Such an opportunity gave her a pair of wings with a wide wing span which she uses to create photographs, trusting in her own perception and principles. At the present time, she is a self-employed and a most wanted top-notch photographer in Moscow. Ravshaniya never attends professional courses or training campaigns, where most other professionals fill their empty brain cells with theoretical and practical skills in photography. She widens her inner horizons of contemplation in her own way.

Ravshaniya is against stereotyped thinking and she always chooses complex ways to reach the highest proximity of professionalism. Basically, she works in the direction of ‘levitation’ and masterfully creates brilliant images. Levitation (from Latin Levitas’s ‘lightness’) is a mental or physical phenomenon in which a subject without visible support floats in space (i.e., levitates) without touching the surface of a solid or liquid. Such an application of this genre begun with Philippe Halsman with his Photo in 1984 called as ‘Dali Atomikus.’ With digital photography and Photoshop, the life of photographers has become much easier. However Ravshaniya creates pictures in the genre of levitation in a skillful manner, and one picture takes 6-7 hours per day and the processing takes 20-25 days. It is important to note that one of the essential tools in her case is a game with daylight. With the help of light, she can present a person from different angles, to emphasize important elements in an undistorted, natural and simple way. Ravshaniya prefers natural beauty, yet she also skillfully creates a masterpiece by applying bright makeup on a material. She creates pure art and transparent pieces, revealing the natural and unfounded elements of the human inherent in nature. One of the significant peculiarities of her work is creating a picture with an unfinished motive. She adds a variety of irreconcilable details, where the audience stops for a long pause by searching some logical ending of the shots. Each piece of a masterpiece has its own life and each time, the viewer receives new emotions and tensions.

All of her works can be found at her official website: http://www.ravshaniya.com and social Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/ravshaniya.