Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy (Exhibition)

International Print Center New York presents
Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy
October 12–December 16, 2017
Reception: Thursday, October 12 at 6 PM. Press and Members’ Preview at 5 PM

klucisesperanto

Images: Left, Gustav Klucis, First of May: Day of the International Proletarian Solidarity, 1930. Lithograph, 41 1/4 x 29 ¼ in. The Museum of Modern Art, Purchase Fund Jan Tschichold Collection, 1937. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art, licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. Right, Anton Ginzburg. Esperanto​​​​​​​ poster from the Meta-Constructivism poster series, 2016. 36 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist. Image © 2017 Anton Ginzburg.

(New York, NY – September 25, 2017) International Print Center New York (IPCNY) is pleased to present Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy. Commemorating the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, this scholarly exhibition looks beyond the canon of the Russian avant-garde to focus on three avenues of individual freedoms sought by the fledgling socialist society: the equality and emancipation of women; internationalism, including racial equality and the rights of ethnic minorities in Russia, especially Jews; and sexual and gay liberation. By placing a selection of historical printed works by key Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920s and 1930s in dialogue with contemporary works by Russian-born, New York-based artists Yevgeniy Fiks and Anton Ginzburg, the exhibition evaluates these often-obscured goals of the Revolution and addresses their continued urgency today — in Russia, the United States, and elsewhere. The contemporary works on view prioritize the agency of Russian-born people to speak about Soviet history as personal history, and to address the Revolution’s legacy in all its complexity.

Read the full press release here.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive brochure designed by Anton Ginzburg and published by IPCNY, featuring an essay by curator Masha Chlenova, as well as an illustrated chronology by Chlenova and Yevgeniy Fiks and a bibliography providing further historical context for the material on view.

In-depth public programming will coincide with New York Print Week and continue throughout the fall season. These will include workshops and performances by Yevgeniy Fiks, and an academic conference bringing together scholars of Soviet modernism to discuss the three themes detailed above.

fikslissitsky

Images: Left, Yevgeniy Fiks, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, 2015. Screenprint, 33 x 39 in. Edition: 18. Published by Eminence Grise Editions/Michael Steinberg Fine Art. Collection of Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson. Image © 2017 Yevgeniy Fiks. Right: El Lissitzky, Chad Gadya, 1922. Letterpress, 8 1/4 x 10 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Jan Tschichold Collection, Gift of Philip Johnson, 1977. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art, licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

PUBLIC PROGRAMS

Friday, October 27, 2017 at 3:00pm at IFPDA Print Fair: Curator Masha Chlenova will give a lecture entitled “Embattled Images: Print Culture in the Russian Revolution,” followed by a Q&A session. Tickets at http://www.printfair.com/.

Saturday, October 28, 2017, 1:00–4:00pm at 524 West 26th Street, Ground Floor: Exhibiting artist Yevgeniy Fiks, working with Bushwick Print Lab, will lead “Obama, Trump, and the Russian Revolution,” a poster-making workshop exploring the use of re-purposed Russian Revolutionary imagery to satirize contemporary American politicians. Using a selection of thematic imagery, participants will let their political subconscious run loose to reveal what philosopher Boris Groys defined as “Russia as the West’s subconscious.” Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 6:45pm and 9pm at Anthology Film Archives: “Show & Tell: Anton Ginzburg.” Two screenings of exhibiting artist Anton Ginzburg’s short films, each followed by Q&A sessions. Tickets at http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/.

Thursday, November 30, 2017, 6:00–8:00pm at IPCNY: “Lily Golden, Harry Haywood, Langston Hughes, Yelena Khanga, Claude McKay, Paul Robeson, Robert Robinson on Soviet Jews” (2017). A performative reading organized by Yevgeniy Fiks which traces the history of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union between the 1920s and 1980s via memoirs of Soviet citizens of African American decent and African Americans who resided in or visited the USSR. Free and open to the public.

Friday, December 1, 2017, all day, at Columbia University: In collaboration with the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, curator Masha Chlenova and Harriman Postdoctoral Research Scholar Maria Ratanova have organized an academic conference where leading scholars of Soviet modernism will address key topics of the exhibition, while Chlenova, Fiks and Ginzburg will discuss responsibility towards Russian revolutionary history and its legacy in a round-table. Program to be announced by the Harriman Institute at http://www.harriman.columbia.edu.

For further information, please visit http://www.ipcny.org/russianrevolution.

ABOUT IPCNY

International Print Center New York (IPCNY) is New York’s flagship non-profit arts institution dedicated to the innovative presentation of prints by emerging, established, national, and international artists. Founded in 2000, the print center is a vibrant hub and exhibition space located in New York’s Chelsea gallery district. IPCNY’s artist-centered approach engages the medium in all its varied potential, and includes guest-curated exhibitions that present dynamic, new scholarship as well as biannual New Prints open-call exhibitions for work created in the last twelve months. A lively array of public programs engages audiences more deeply with the works on display. A 501(c)(3) institution, IPCNY depends on foundation, government, and individual support, as well as members’ contributions to fund its program s.

CREDITS

Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy is supported, in part, by The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation and by Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson. Special thanks to the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

Support for all programs and exhibitions at IPCNY is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; by Foundations including Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Jockey Hollow Foundation, The Thompson Family Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Milton & Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc., and the Sweatt Foundation along with major individual support. The PECO Foundation supports IPCNY’s exhibitions this season. The New Prints Program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and, in part, by the Areté Foundation.

Thanks to Zhenya Fiks for the heads-up

Eighteen Years Down the Drain

putin elections
“RT in Russian @RT_russian. Central Elections Commmission: Election of Putin will take place in March 2018, ru.rt.com/7a7j.”

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
September 13, 2017

They say that today the time the leader has spent in office has drawn even with Brezhnev’s eighteen years in power. Eighteen years. Of course, it’s a relative figure, since Putin spent six months in the role of prime minister under Yeltstin and another four years as prime minister under Medvedev. But we realize that these premierships can actually be included in the overall Putinist period in Russian history.

Many people remember the Brezhnev period with nostalgia, arguing it was the Soviet golden age, when the country’s standard of living and power undoubtedly grew. Many people think something similar about Putin’s time in office, and not without grounds, of course, if we look at GDP figures, numbers of privately owned cars, and numbers of rockets launched in Syria.

But the Putin and Brezhnev periods have been similar in another respect. Beyond the superficial prosperity, these eighteen-year periods were and have been times of political and moral degradation at home. They were decades the country lost as stepping stones into the future, in terms of establishing a (post)modern society capable of changing and progressing painlessly. The Brezhnevian stagnation inevitably led to a colossal crisis and, ultimately, collapse. I don’t know what the outcome of the Putinist stagnation will be, but we can say for sure there are new troubles ahead for the country, troubles whose growing signs we observe daily.

Sergey Abashin is British Petroleum Professor of Migration Studies at the European University in St. Petersburg. His most recent book is Sovetskii kishlak: Mezhdu kolonializmom i modernizatsiei [The Soviet Central Asian village: between colonialism and modernization], Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015. Thanks to Mark Teeter for the spotting the “blooper” on RT in Russian’s Twitter feed. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Best Russia Experts Don’t Live in Russia, or, Crypto-Putinism

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“There’s a more likely possibility, and it doesn’t hinge on accumulated historical trauma or some irrational longing to go back to the Soviet system. With the USSR’s fall came the loss of many other things Russians valued: their country’s stature in the world, decent living standards, the welfare state, education, even a sense of community and collective identity. Putin’s apparent promise to restore some of these things is a far better explanation for his widespread popularity at home than the theory that most citizens have been too brainwashed or traumatized to think for themselves.”

But he’s been eighteen years “in office” and he hasn’t restored any of these things really, and he never really promised to restore most of them, not that you would notice if you hadn’t lived here during those eighteen years, as the author of the book review, quoted above, has signally not lived here.

Nor, as far as I know, did the author ever live in the Soviet Union he misses so much, but which lots of former Soviet citizens I know don’t miss at all.

Go figure why the western left misses a country most of its current supporters never lived in or visited for a millisecond, but which millions of its actual former inhabitants don’t miss for a second. It says something slightly disturbing about the intellectual integrity of the western left, doesn’t it?

As for brainwashing, I can’t say anything about Russians, but I know a lot of foreign so-called Russian experts and reporters covering the Russian beat who have been brainwashed by the triumvirate of dishonest Russian pollsters known as FOM, VTsIOM, and Levada Center into believing that Putin enjoys “widespread popularity at home.”

In fact, this popularity is a lot less apparent when you’re actually on the ground day after day for years on end, conversing and dealing with lots of different people who say lots of different things but somehow usually fail to express their ardent love of Putin. Here, in the actual Russia, not the imaginary Russia inhabited by the Russia experts, his “popularity” looks more like a dictatorship for life, reinforced by brute police force, flagrant corruption, major TV channels that have been nazified to the point that almost no one I know has watched them for years, and selective but regular show trials in case anyone has forgotten where they really live.

Why do so-called Russian experts, like the author of the review, quoted above, believe every poll about Russia those shysters and shills publish, including the pap about Putin’s rampant popularitry?

I’ll tell you why.

Because the world’s greatest Russia experts do not live in Russia, nor do they want to live here (they’re not stupid!), but endlessly citing so-called Russian public opinion polls as if they are the gospel truth gives their specious, highly partisan arguments an air of scholarly or empirical knowledge, of “knowing what Russians really think.”

The subject of today’s Russia and what Russians really think is way more complicated (and, sometimes, way more simple) than the certified Russia experts suspect or want to admit, however. TRR

Photo by the Russian Reader

He Had a Way with Words

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Leader of World Proletariat with Female Gate Attendant Reflected in Security Mirror, SUV, and New Year’s Tree, December 18, 2016. 11 Lomanaya Street, Petersburg

Politics begins where there are millions, not where there are thousands; not where there are thousands, but only where there are millions does serious politics begin.
—Vladimir Lenin, “Speech at Russian Communist Party Congress,” March 7, 1918

We can identify something similar in rhetorical repetitions. They can act to unfold the “plot,” move the presentation along, develop and refine the arguments. In a word, they can serve the progressive or narrative movement of oratorical discourse. They also generate a kind of “dam” by provoking and intensifying expectation, since the “denouement,” explanation or conclusion at which the speaker drives, and with it the fulcrum bearing the main weight of the speech, is propelled forward. Building a phrase or passage can also be achieved by different means, with the same goal of transferring the main weight to the end. These progressive repetitions can be distinguished from others, which, on the contrary, suspend movement, not by building up its pressure, but by turning it inside itself, as it were, forming a kind of motionless whirlpool, whose funnel, figuratively speaking, swallows and absorbs all our attention. Obscuring the horizon, they cut off our sight lines, thus cancelling the aspect of motion. Precisely this type of repetition prevails in Lenin’s discourse and is characteristic of it, as we have seen in the examples cited. As I indicated in my analysis of these examples, Lenin’s preference for this kind of repetition has to do with the very essence of his discourse. He appeals neither to feelings nor imagination, but to will and determination. His discourse does not deploy a panorama for passive contemplation. It does not serve as a guide, leading the indifferent tourist along. It fights the listener, forcing him to make an active decision, and, to this end, it pins him against the wall. “Don’t move! Hands up! Surrender!” That is the nature of Lenin’s discourse. It does not allow for a choice. I would argue this is the specific essence of oratorical discourse, in particular, of the political speech.
—Boris Kazansky, “Lenin’s Discourse: An Attempt at Rhetorical Analysis,” LEF 1 (5), 1924: 124

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Tapestry Rug Portrait of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, April 27, 2017. Kuznechnyi Market, Petersburg. The rug was probably woven in Central Asia in the 1920s or 1930s.

 

Photos and translations by the Russian Reader. Texts excerpted from a special 1924 issue of LEF entitled “Lenin’s Language,” featuring essays by Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eichenbaum, Lev Yakubinsky, Yuri Tynyanov, Boris Kazansky, and Boris Tomashevsky, and edited by Vladimir Mayakovsky. The English translations of the essays and Mayakovsky’s introduction, “Don’t Merchandise Lenin,” which was excised by censors from the original magazine, will be published in a special edition of a print journal later this summer. Watch this space for more details as they become available.

We’re Celebrating the 1917 Revolution by Staging a Counterrevolution

Overview of the Moscow renovation program’s showroom, opened yesterday, July 6, 2017, by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Photo courtesy of Sergei Vedyashkin/Moskva News Agency & Meduza

Authorities Plan to Divide Moscow into Private and Public Areas
Anna Trunina
RBC
June 26, 2017

Moscow’s renovation program provides for the complete redevelopment of residential building courtyards. The mayor’s office argues that these spaces should not be passages, so for the first they will delineated into private [privatnye] and public spaces.

By autumn, the Moscow authorities expect to adopt new regional urban planning norms that will divide residential districts into private and public areas for the first time. The mayor’s office has proposed rejecting the idea of communicating courtywards, Marat Khusnullin, Moscow’s deputy mayor for urban policy and construction, said in an “interview” published on the mayor’s official website.

According to Khusnullin, the renovation program not only consists in updating the city’s housing stock but also in creating a “full-fledged integrated urban environment,” in redeveloping and landscape the courtyards.

“The concrete jungles, as Moscow’s bedroom communities were rightly dubbed, were erected over decades. Now they must become a thing of the past,” Khusnullin argues.

According to preliminary calculations by the authorities, says Khusnullin, after neighborhoods are replanned and space is freed up by the demolition of five-story houses in Moscow, the number of parking spots will double. The project for public spaces will not be uniform, but will be unique in each of Moscow’s districts. The standards of comfort and improvement will be identical, however.

The space in the renovated neighborhoods, Khusnullin notes, will be divided into residential and public areas.

“For example, when they go into their courtywards, residents will enter a zone of a peace and comfort where there will be minimum of strangers and cars. Naturally, the entrances to the shops on the first floors will be located on the streetside. There will be no walk-through yards [prokhodnye dvory]. We will provide convenient pedestrian walkways from residential buildings to subway stations and bus stops, so that residents won’t have to blaze their own trails through lawns,” claims Khusnullin.

“Five-Storey Russia: An RBC Major Investigation of Renovation,” Published June 22, 2017 on RBC’s YouTube Channel

Khusnullin says that development and construction in Moscow during the Soviet era was “very uneven and disorganized.” It was this that caused the emergence of “strange, unused spaces” within neighborhoods.

City authorities also plan to increase the number of green spaces in the districts.

“Our proposal is to construct gardens, lay down paths, and set up benches on the same sites. But this in no way means all the old trees will be cut down. There will be more greenery. Planners have been tasked with taking care of the existing green areas while finding places for the additional planting of trees and shrubbery,” says Khusnullin.

Currently, the law bill on renovation has passed its third and final reading in the State Duma. Subsequently, the Moscow mayor’s office summed up the votes of Muscovites, which showed that 90% of the buildings initially slated for the program would be demolished and rebuilt.

Translated by the Russian Reader. See Leonid Bershidsky, “Why Putin Is Tearing Down My Childhood Home,” Bloomberg, May 4, 2017, for an excellent, brief explanation of the whys and wherefores of Moscow’s urban planning counter-revolution.

Granddad’s Hut

Granddad’s Hut
Alexei Yerofeyev
June 9, 2017
Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti

Дедова будка | Внучка Игнатия Малаховича Ерофеева Вера Дмитриевна возле дедовой будки. Фото 2016 г. ФОТО из семейного архива
Ignaty Yerofeyev’s granddaughter, Vera, next to her grandfather’s hut in central Petersburg, 2016. Photo courtesy of Yerofeyev family archive/Sankt-Petersburgskie Vedomosti 

Our city contains many details, sometimes curious trifles that impart a homeyness and simplicity to its “austere, comely look,” to a city that is sometimes uptight and business-like. Among them was the tiny wooden house that stood for over sixty year at Lomonosov Street, 9, behind the fence next to the old entrance to the Refrigeration Industry Institute.

This unpretentious hut, which resembled the huts you see nowadays on garden plots in the countryside outside the city, was partly a matter of pride to me, since it was a rare specimen of wooden construction in the heart of the city, and its designer was my granddad Ignaty Malakhovich Yerofeyev. Neither an architect nor even a carpenter, Ignaty was an ordinary caretaker.

Ignaty and his family arrived in Leningrad in 1929 from the village of Gogolevka, Smolensk Region, having left behind the house he had built there. Physically strong, thrifty, and intelligent, he had got his family away from the collectivization campaign. In Leningrad, he took a job as a caretaker. At first, the family had to live in a basement.

The family survived the Siege of Leningrad. Granddad remained at his job, while my father, who was fourteen years old in 1941, worked in a factory. Their peasant skills came in handy in the spring of 1942, when all the land in the institute’s yard was repurposed into vegetable gardens.

Only after the war did the family get permission to move into an apartment on Lomonosov Street, 9, to which its former occupants had not returned. This house was my home, just like the yard, in which there were three whole gardens. The poplars growing in them were also planted by my granddad and his friend Grandpa Kostya, who had also arrived from Gogolevka during the year of the so-called Great Break (velikii perelom).

Built by Ignaty Malakhovich in the early post-war years, the little house by the gate was the caretaker’s hut, which housed his scant collection of equipment. When I was born, Granddad was already retired, but he still really enjoyed relaxing on the bench he had placed next to the hut.

In 1968, the institute’s residential building was resettled and enlarged, and the little garden were practically destroyed. The hut, which was all we ever called it, was vacant for several years. Later, it was turned into a gatehouse, before becoming a security checkpoint in the 1990s. It was slightly rebuilt. The porch was removed, and it was repainted from green to brown.

Walking down Lomonosov Street, I always enjoyed looked at our family relic. The last time I passed through this familiar place, in April of this year, I was disappointed to see the old gatehouse was gone, replaced by a cheap-looking construction trailer.

I entered my old yard. A security guard immediately emerged from the depths of the yard and demanded I leave the premises. When I asked him where the hut had gone, he replied, “It was taken away for restoration.” I didn’t believe it. Soon I repeated the same route and stopped by the yard again. The run-in with the guard was repeated, although another man was on duty. Surprisingly, he also said the hut had been taken away for restoration.

“Can’t you see this is a temporary shed?” the security guard exclaimed angrily.

His angry question was music to my ears. Oh, how wonderful it would be if Granddad’s hut were returned to its place.

Alexei Yerofeyev is a board member of the Petersburg Union of Amateur Local Historians. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up

Maria Eismont: The Dmitriev Case Is the Most Important Thing Happening in Russia Right Now

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Yuri Dmitriev. Photo courtesy of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

The Yuri Dmitriev Case
The Accused Should Be Nominated for a State Prize
Maria Eismont
Vedomosti
June 8, 2017

“A person cannot disappear without a trace. People differ from butterflies in the sense that people have memory,” the man with long grey hair and long grey beard said onscreen.

The presentation of books of remembrance for those shot during the Great Terror in Karelia packed the screening room at the Gulag History Museum in Moscow: people even sat on the stairways. The editor of the books, Karelian historian and search specialist Yuri Dmitriev, from Memorial, was the man talking onscreen. He has spent the last six months in a pretrial detention center, absurdly charged with the crime of producing pornography.

Dmitriev sent his greetings and gratitude from prison, not so much for the kind words said about him, as for acknowledgement of his life’s work. Memorial’s historians all concur it is unique. No other region in Russia has such a complete compendium of the names of those who were shot as Karelia does. As his colleagues argue, Dmitriev succeeded in turning the figures of those who perished during the Great Terror into memorial lists complete with names, biographies, and burial sites.

The speakers occasionally slipped into the past tense, but immediately corrected themselves. Dmitriev is still alive, and we must believe he will soon be released, find the execution site of the other two Solovki “quotas” [political prisoners at the Solovki concentration camp who were transported to three different sites outside the camp in 1937–1938 to be shot and buried in secret—TRR], and present the next book of remembrance. This powerlessness, these slips of the tongue, and the trembling voices fully convey the horror of a time when the days when people were shot are long past but people still fall victim to political repression.

The Yuri Dmitriev case is, perhaps, the most important thing happening in Russia right now, first of all, because a patriot who for decades had, bit by bit, resurrected thousands of names of this country’s citizens from official oblivion, citizens murdered cruelly and senselessly in the state’s name, has himself been subjected to persecution. “The introduction to the list of terror victims will be brief: may they live in our memories forever,” writes Dmitriev in the foreword to one of his compendiums, The Motherland Remembers Them, a book in which the names are listed not in alphabetical order, but under the names of the villages where the victims lived before their arrests. “The moral of the story is also brief: remember! As is my advice: take care of each other.” Now there is a Russian national idea for you. The author of these books of remembrance should be nominated for a state prize and a government grant to keep on with his work.

There is another important thing about the Dmitriev case: the charge his persecutors chose for him. He was not charged with “extremism” or “separatism,” which have been commonplace in politically motivated cases, but with child pornography and depraved actions towards a minor. The charges not only guarantee a long sentence and promise the accused problems in prison but also challenge the public to support him. “What if something really did happen?” Dmitriev’s friends and relatives acknowledge that while those who doubt Dmitriev or are willing to countenance the charges are an overwhelming minority, such people do exist, and some of them are “decent” people.

The number of “pedophilia” cases, based on controversial, contradictory, clearly flimsy evidence and flagrantly unprofessional forensic examinations, has been growing for several years. Recently, I attended a similar event in Naro-Fominsk, seventy kilometers southwest of Moscow. It was also a memorial evening for a living person who had been incarcerated on charges of depravity against a child, actions the man could not have committed, according to witnesses who were nearby when the crime was alleged to have occurred. Dozens of people had come to remember what a good male nurse Zhenya had been. Then they corrected themselves: not had been, but is and will continue to be. Then they cried.

“Pedophilia” cases have long been custom-ordered to rid oneself of rivals and used to pad police conviction statistics, but now they have been put to use in political cases.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up