Lidya Blinova: The Learned Pussycat

LIDYA BLINOVA (1948–1996)
The Learned Pussycat

Prologue
The wind whipped the atmosphere.
Clouds coursed without fear.
The moon in its seething frills
Ascended over the hills.
The earth poured towards it:
Villages, fields, and hamlets.
A dark forest nodded from vast plains
To heaven’s chatelaine.
And everything sublunar under the moon
Rose higher and aloft:
The waves and the land,
A cat on a roof and its thoughts,
And, deep below the waves, the sand.

After buzzing out the day like combs,
The ancient city slumbered: the moon’s
Mead trickled towards the mountain’s foot.
Parades, promenades, and fêtes
Raged here a century ago,
But now the ruins slept in rows.

The overgrown gardens were bothered
Only by the water’s patter.
The stream’s angelic tone
Resounded where the water’s flow
Was dammed by fallen leaves.
What emptiness and peace!

But what did we see?
In a window a candle was burning,
And the candle revealed
A pussycat purring.

A tizzy swept over the old garden.
Doors were slammed, footsteps cascaded.
And, quite as black as a roach,
Into the light’s triangle crept a coach.

1.
The learned pussycat, dismayed and aggrieved,
Leapt into the carriage, shouting “To the sea!”
A dog dolefully howled in the park.
A sinister coachman emerged from the dark,
An amulet glinting and melting under his cape.
The moon went pale, giving chase.
Raving, the steeds thundered, frothing at the mouth.
The uneven pursuit made the moon catch its breath.
Over rooftops, twixt chimneys, through poplar fleece,
It rushed to the place beyond the fields
Where the sea stood like a living wall.

And the pussycat in the coach?
She was crazed, she was ill.
What thought could she give to the coachman?
What matter to her was the moon’s will?

For every piece of iron in the womblike contraption
The patter of hooves smashed into fractions.
The pussycat imagined that, through flint and dirt,
Alongside her, Achilles roared, and the turtle crept.

Oh, the running in place, the maundering
Of things moving motionlessly toward their mark!

2.
Oh, the trellised mirrors of old aporias!
And the sea came ever closer, the cherished sea!
Every jolt and pothole on the highway
Sent the pussycat higher into the sky,
As if yeast were stirred into things at creation
By someone quite batty about expansion.

3.
Madness’s abyss beckoned to the pussycat.
Panting, the moon whispered, “Drat!
All we needed was for the pussycat to flip!”
It was so angry it slipped,
And, suddenly, it dropped into the coach
Out of the empyrean like ice hurtling off a roof.

The straps and traces were lost in a blink,
The horses speeding off down the stony brink.
The driver melted into thin air,
And his passengers missed dying by a hair,
As his chariot fell to pieces.
The pussycat and the moon sat on the beach.

4.
It is a pity their important chat
Has come down to us in bits and scraps.
“There is a gazillion . . .
Issues of logic.”
“But there is a gamut.”
“Then what is it?
Philosophizing like Hamlet?
No, Buridan . . .”
“I’ve been harping on that for ages.
We’re again walking on bodies . . .”
“The unthinkable . . .” “ . . . cat sausage
turned into the coveted puss in booties.”
“Uniqueness seduces you.”
“And what is your métier?”
“Everyone needs a milieu:
Water is my cup of tea.”

5.
Then the breeze blew in our direction,
Making audible their conversation.

“Listen, I’ve seen your face before.
I remember: it was on the roof next door.
You often peered through the dusty lunette
Into chambers I no longer rent.

“With a gaze now joyful, now sad, you kept watch
Over all the ups and downs in the masterwork
That consumed me then from paws to ears.
But it seems as if years,
No, as if centuries have passed since that time,
And suddenly I peer so closely into your eyes.
Oh, what happened? Where we were rushing?
We are mixed up in a terrible muddle!”

“Take courage, take courage, you have friends,
And I dare to rank myself among them.
Let it be known that for a long time
A gilded palace to you has been assigned.
The best pencils have been carefully whetted,
Shelves stacked with books, and lantern lighted.
And out the window what expanses you shall see.”

The pussycat cried, “Where is it? Who did this for me?”

Then the moon, which burned like copper,
Ebbed and faded with a mutter.
It waned so fast, in a thrice,
Its shape resembled a melon slice.
Masts and rigging went up in a jig.
What was left of the thing—
A barely visible ashy oblong—
Burrowed into storm clouds and was gone.
Everyone was forced to feign
It was the face of the moon.

6.
The moon summoned a wave to its side.
The wave lifted the moon up high.
And so between heaven and earth
The little ship hung in mid-air,
As on a tinted postal card.
Grabbing her things from the strand,
The pussycat boarded the bark,
Whispering “Adieu” to the sixth part.

7.
Wisps of phosphoric foam sputtered.
Selene’s new horns glittered,
And with his burning saucers Argus scowled
At the enraptured striped pussycat’s tail.
The first opera’s chimera was born in the pussycat.
There was applause in the stalls, noises in the pit.
The storm clouds rose, opening an entrance
In which the sea sighed like an audience.
Her body filled with an invisible force,
The universe subsided, and the pussycat held forth.
Song’s primordial magical vigor
Reawakened in the fish their ardor.
The starry sky got goosebumps,
And the bowels of the earth rumbled.
…………………………………………..…………………..
…………………………………………..…………………..

8.
By morning, the sea tour was over.
The elements were entrusted with new roles.
The one who came for the cat in the darkness
Had to go looking for the overheated horses.

9.
The tide rolled out, and towards the sea
The grass bent sadly in the estuary.
In the fog, the sandbanks and islands
Altered their outlines.

And then a prickly eyelid opened a bit
Over a gloomy ridge of distant foothills.
Here man and stone conspired ever harder,
Establishing their power over the water.
Battlements and bends were sharper than the shore,
And the sand gave way to the granite.
Farther down, the fog hardened into boulders.
Like crystals, the light they beamed cut.

The golden bark hastened to take
Сover in a tangle of dark channels.
And the passenger? She dreamt of taking
A bath and setting foot on dry land.

10.
……………………………………………………………..
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……………………………………………………………..
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…………………………………….………………….. But

The incident was settled with sanity
By the guard, who saluted the cat,
And the porter, who grabbed her tote,
sac de voyage, and the case with her vanity.

The heavy door cut off, like a tail,
The mutters and shouts of the crowd,
The stone bridge, ready to fail,
And the sinister hugger-mugger of the town.

She climbed a steep cascade,
Then walked down the hall to her rooms.
If you such a voyage had made
You’d be glad of an old cozy home.

The End

Courtesy of the estate of Lidya Blinova and Focus Kazakhstan, National Museum of Kazakhstan. Translated by the Russian Reader

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“The Learned Pussycat” and other works by Lidya Blinova will be featured in Focus Kazakhstan: Bread and Roses, an exhibition of four generations of Kazakh women artists organized by MOMENTUM in partnership with the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan that will run from September 25 to October 20, 2018, at Studio 1 in the Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin.

The show comprises work in a wide-range of media by twenty artists created from 1945 to the present. Emerging Kazakh women artists are prefaced in the show by a group of eminent forerunners who have remained more or less invisible within the history of Soviet, Kazakh, and world art. Against the tumult of Stalinist repression and its aftermath, the work of these women has forged a bridge between traditional Kazakh arts, crafts and ways of living, the Soviet avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s, socialist realism, and a completely new approach to art making that emerged in the early the 1980s. The works that these great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of contemporary Kazakh art have produced reflect the melting pot of ideas and influences between east and west arising from Kazakhstan’s history of tumultuous political and social change. Bread and Rosestakes place in parallel with the Focus Kazakhstan Artist Residency Exhibition at the MOMENTUM Gallery, also in the Kunstquartier Bethanien.

Poster_Version 3_web

Lidya Blinova’s parents both worked as architects, her grandfather was a priest and mystic. She graduated from the Architecture and Construction Institute in Alma-Ata, and her subsequent work encompassed architecture, art, poetry, sculpture, jewelry, book design, acting, and cinema. By inclination she was a radical. She jointly developed ideas with her husband, Rustam Khalfin, who described her as his “alter ego,” and whom she first met in 1962, at the age of fourteen, in the graphic art studio at Alma-Ata’s Palace of Pioneers. Khalfin’s idea of the pulota, a keyhole into a fragmented world of space, time, and image, originated with Blinova. Formed by the simple gesture of folding a fist and looking through the hole in its middle, it created what she described as the “ultimate plastic object,” replete, at the same time, with fullness and emptiness.

Blinova first began to make wooden sculpture in the studio of Isaak Itkind, a primitivist and friend of Marc Chagall who had been imprisoned in Kazakhstan. and also worked for film director Sergei Bodrov on The Stunned Apostle, for which Pavel Zaltsman, a close associate of Pavel Filonov who had also been interned in Kazakhstan, was production designer. For Bodrov’s second film The Unprofessionals (1985), Blinova worked as costume designer. A polymath, she also made puppet shows for children and experimented on small sculptural forms for jewelry.

During the 1970s, she both organized and was a participant in the private apartment art exhibitions in Alma-Ata that showed autonomous works by pupils of Vladimir Sterligov. Almost the whole group, including Khalfin, had been previously educated as architects. In 1995, she designed a series of catalogues on contemporary Kazakh artists for the Soros Foundation in Almaty and presented her installation Poem for a Cat at the Kokserek Gallery, which also published the eponymous book. In 2011, her work was posthumously represented in the exhibition Between the Past and the Future: Minus 20. The Archeology of Relevance, at the Kasteyev Art Museum in Almaty.

Source: MOMENTUM

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Samara Culling Cats and Dogs in Run-Up to 2018 World Cup

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According to “‘Putin Loves Only His Own Dogs’: Animals Are Being Killed For the World Cup’s Sake,” an article by Dmitry Volchek, published yesterday, February 17, 2018, on the Radio Svoboda website, authorities in Samara, one of the host cities of the 2018 World Cup, have been paying to have homeless cats and dogs hunted down and killed in the city and the surrounding area.

Here is an excerpt from the article.

“As I understand it, there is fascism in Russia,” says Irina Yevdokimova. “Fascists run the country. It’s unequivocal to me. Problems are solved only by murder. We do not ask for much. We ask only that things be done as they are done abroad, so there is not this bloody mess.”

Samara will host World Cup matches in late June, and the municipal services have been tasked with exterminating homeless animals so that, god forbid, no fan is bitten by a dog. Cats do not attack football players and their fans, but money has been allocated from the budget to kill cats as well. Samara has decided to spend ₽9 million [approx. €128,600] solving the problem, while Togliatti will spend ₽2 million [approx. €28,000].

“A cull is taking place here in Samara Region and Togliatti,” says Yevdokimova. “The cheapest way is to up and shoot the animals, but often as not family pets are killed because they have adapted to interacting with people. There is Sergei Madyankin’s firm, which has been doing the cull. The authorities find it quite advantageous to collaborate with them. They charge ₽500 [approx. €7] for a dead animal. They shoot it, retrieve it, and drive away: quick and cheap.”

You can read the entire article (in Russian) on the Radio Svoboda website. I simply don’t have the heart or stomach to translate the rest of it. TRR

Photo courtesy of Newsweek

China Friendly

2014_10_14_04_44_2014_10_08_01_04_1832_07_Students

Hotels in Petersburg Say “Ni Hao!”
September 30, 2014
Fontanka.ru

Petersburg hoteliers have begun negotiations on joining the China Today program, which helps participants gain greater visibility among tour agents and tourists in China. They are doing this because they need to replace the falling number of tourists from Europe and the US. Fontanka found out what tourists from China want to see in cafes and restaurants.

In the light of this past summer’s political events, Russia’s economy has turned towards the countries of the East. The tourist business, which organizes leisure in Russia for foreigners, has not been fighting the general trend. After the imposition of sanctions, the flow of tourists from Europe has declined, as has been visible on the streets of Petersburg even taking the season into account. As Fontanka learned, several major Petersburg hotels have begun negotiations with the association World without Borders, which unites inbound tourism tour operators, about participating in the China Friendly program.

Participation in the program helps hotels obtain certification for compliance with the requirements of Chinese tourists, who are supposed to replace European guests in the new political and economic reality. Vetted hotels are eligible to use the China Friendly status in their ad campaigns. It helps them to attract the attention of both Chinese tour operators choosing Russian hotels to accommodate their own customers or a Russian operator for collaboration, and Chinese tourists who prefer to travel on their own. Mikhail Vislin, the association’s executive director, refused to name the Petersburg hoteliers ready to open their doors wide to the Chinese. (At present, no Petersburg hotels have this status, which is attractive to visitors from the Middle Kingdom.)

“Unlike tourists from Europe and America, tourists from China have significant cultural peculiarities. They have a quite particular mindset. Moreover, the language barrier is a much more acute problem for them. Despite the fact that the Russian tourist industry is gradually becoming more oriented towards the Chinese, to date only a few sites are comfortable for them to visit,” says the program’s official web site.

China Friendly’s compliance requirements for hotels are posted on the program’s information portal. Most of them concern duplication of information in Chinese. To obtain certification, a hotel must develop a Chinese-language version of its site, put location information in Chinese in its rooms, and hire employees who know Chinese. Rooms must also always have green tea with a tea set and electrical sockets with the standard plug used in the PRC. Guests’ breakfasts must be adapted to Chinese tradition.

“The buffet at the hotel restaurant must include some elements of Chinese cuisine. It should include boiled eggs, steamed vegetables cut into small pieces easy to grab with chopsticks, chicken, and baozi—small dumplings with different fillings. Chinese porridge, a watery, salty rice porridge similar in structure [sic] to broth, must also be cooked,” explained China Today project director Anna Sibirkina.

[…]

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Russia and China Boost Student Exchange Programs
Anna Dolgov
The St. Petersburg Times
October 8, 2014

Russia and China plan to increase the number of students studying under mutual exchange programs to 100,000 in five years, Russian media has reported, shortly after Russia canceled a popular exchange program with the U.S.

The announcement came ahead of a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Moscow on Monday, when several dozen cooperation agreements on trade, investment, energy and cultural affairs were expected to be signed.

Currently, about 25,000 Chinese students are attending Russian colleges and universities, while 15,000 Russian students are studying in China. Moscow and Beijing plan to raise the total number to 100,000 by 2020, Interfax reported Monday, citing an unidentified source from the Russian Cabinet.

As part of the 2014-15 Russia-China Youth Friendly Exchange program — a bilateral year set up to strengthen cultural ties — more than 300 events in both countries were scheduled throughout the year, with more than 7,000 students having taken part so far, according to the spokesperson.

The spokesperson also announced that China had taken first place in the number of visits to Russia this year, with more than 500,000 Chinese citizens coming to Russia in the first six months of this year alone.

“Last year, China came in second by the number of tourists visiting Russia [with 370,000 visits]. But in the first six months of 2014 alone, China has already taken the leading position — more than 500,000 Chinese citizens have visited Russia so far, and 135,000 of them were on tourist trips,” the source was cited as saying by the TASS news agency.

The apparent surge in Russia’s popularity comes as the country pivots toward China amid deteriorating relations with the West.

[…]

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Locals: Chinese Are Massively Eating Domestic Cats in the Leningrad Region 
Rosbalt.ru

SAINT PETERSBURG, October 12. Cats have been disappearing without a trace in the village of Divinsky, in Leningrad Region’s Gatchina District. Locals have conducted their own investigation and concluded that Chinese are destroying the animals. And that they are not just killing them, but using them for food.

As local resident Roza Vasilieva told Rosbalt, she has recently lost three healthy cats. The woman had a total of five four-pawed favorites, but two of them are quite old and stay at home. She has lost forever the other cats, which she let out to walk. Her neighbors have faced similar problems. Residents have tried to find the animals and posted notices, but all to no avail.

“You might think the foxes were to blame. But the foxes have long lived in the woods and don’t touch the cats,” says Roza Vasilieva.

“Yesterday, my husband went looking for the cats. He walked through all the fields, but didn’t find a single cat. But he did discover bait set out by the Chinese. They lured the cats with a wrapper soaked in some kind of narcotic. We let our cat sniff it: she just went crazy. Apparently, they drive around in a car throwing the bait, and then collect the cats. At first, we couldn’t believe that it was the Chinese, but then we concluded it was them. We are sure that they are eating the cats,” says Roza Vasilieva.

Residents were alarmed, went to the village council, and began telling other people about the problem. (“Conducting propaganda,” Vasilieva calls it.) What they fear most of all is an invasion of rats. Life in the village would be impossible without any four-pawed hunters.

“The Chinese have two bases here—in the Luga District—the village of Krasny Mayak [Red Lighthouse] and near the village of Kuznetsovo. They have about a hundred greenhouses there. Around three hundred people live there. It’s not enough that they are poisoning our water and land with their fertilizers, but now they’re also catching our cats,” the woman complains.

However, she admits that residents have not found the remains of the animals.

“They hide it all, of course,” says Roza Vasilieva.

Nevertheless, she has no doubt about what has happened to the animals.

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The Chinese Revolution in Migration
Gorod (812)
October 13, 2014

[…]

According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, a researcher at the Institute for National Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Central Asian labor supply will run out in fifteen years or so. Instead, Chinese will work in Russia. They have now already densely “occupied” the Russian Far East and Siberia.

“Life without the Chinese is no longer conceivable in these regions. A survey was conducted in which one of the questions was, What is more important to you, relations with Moscow or relations with China? China took first place,” says Zayonchkovskaya.

The Chinese are actively cultivating the Moscow market. They have not made it to Petersburg yet. According to Zayonchkovskaya, the Chinese are good workers. They are quite adaptable, not prone to conflict, and know at least a minimum amount of Russian. In some sense, our country’s future belongs to them.

In Petersburg, the authorities have been making attempts to replace foreign guest workers with internal migrants from the provinces. According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, this is a futile undertaking. The population of all the surrounding small towns has already been “licked clean,” and there is just no extra manpower in Russia.

[…]

This article was published only in the print edition of Gorod (812), on page 11. Photo, above, courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times.