Research

Documents on the history of Soviet non-conformist art in the archive of The Research Centre for East European Studies
Personal archives of non-conformist artists that make up part of Samizdat Manuscripts and Papers Collection of The Research Centre for East European Studies reflect the heterogeneity of the underground art scene in the Soviet Union and reveal the connections and intersections that developed between art and literature under the regime of state censorship, which cannot be fully understood outside of the political context of the era. In the 1940s, poet Nikolay Glazkov produced a self-published collection of poems illustrated with drawings and collages and which, to imitate “real” books, had a colophon saying that it was released by “Samsebyaizdat” [“Myself by Myself Publishers”]. This is believed to have been the beginning of samizdat. Whether that was true or not, Glazkov’s publication marked the rise of the first generation of non-conformist poets who sought self-expression beyond the limitations set by the state. Nikolay Glazkov’s self-published book and similar works have been preserved in the archives of Albert Rusanov and Yury Abyzov. In the 1950s, samizdat became a default cultural and lifestyle choice for the poets and artists of Lianozovo Group, including Vsevolod Nekrasov, Genirkh Sapgir, and Igor Kholin. In their works and methods, it is easy to see similarities with the Western cultural scene—similarities that had seemed unthinkable in the first years after the Iron Curtain separated Soviet culture from the West. Early poetry collections, correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings of the time offer insight into the group’s cultural scene and the way their contemporaries received experimental poetry—blank verse, concrete poetry and even graphic art. The archive of artist Anatoly Brusilovsky containing his correspondence with artists, poets, and publishers, offers another opportunity to take a closer look at the Soviet non-conformist art of the 1950s to the 1970s. Sabine Hansgen’s archive is focused on the Moscow underground art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. Created in the early 1980s, the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI) offers access to works by some of the key artists of Moscow non-conformist art, and in particular Moscow conceptualism, including Ilya Kabakov, Nikita Alekseev, and Andrei Monastyrsky. The archive also features several photographic series documenting performances and happenings organized by the artists. The Research Centre’s collection also features samizdat publications produced outside of Moscow and Leningrad. Some of the most interesting items in the archive include thirty-six issues of Transponans, a literary journal with a circulation of five copies published in Yeysk by the Sea of Azov throughout the 1980s. The format of the periodical continuously evolved—often within one issue—but each copy, containing texts, original drawings, and photographs, is a work of art in its own right. The Transponans archive was donated to the Research Centre by its editors and publishers Ry Nikonova and Sergey Sigey. Another key archive in the Centre’s collection is Boris Birger’s personal archive that contains his early sketches, drawings, and paintings as well as manuscripts, notes, handmade masks and dolls, a great number of photographs, and correspondence dating back to the pre-war years. The Centre continues to study alternative art and cultural movements and contemporary practices similar to samizdat. [Sources include Gasan Gusejnov’s article: Unabhangige Kultur. //UdSSR/Russland. Das Archiv der Forschungsstelle Osteuropa. Bestande im Uberblick: UdSSR/Russland, Polen, Tschechoslowakei, Ungarn und DDR. Hg. Wolfgang Eichwede. Ibidem-Verlag. Stuttgart, 2009. P. 29.]
4 February 2019
Maria Klassen on her work at the archive of the Research Center for East European Studies, University of Bremen
My father was born in a German settlement in Ukraine. My mother was from Lviv. They met in Yakutia—both had been sent there as “enemies of the people.” After Stalin’s death my father found his mother through the Red Cross. She lived in Karaganda and that’s where he moved with my mother in 1954. I was born there. We had relatives in Germany and Canada, who had emigrated before the war. We could not keep in touch with them during the Stalinist repressions, but with the Khrushchev Thaw contact resumed. In 1956, my father first applied for permission to leave the country in order to rejoin the family in Germany. Of course, they did not let us go. During the two decades that followed, he kept trying to leave the Soviet Union. This came at a cost: he was threatened and humiliated at work and I was bullied as a student. I had a strange childhood. We lived in the middle of the Kazakh steppe and my mother would tell me about the beautiful European city of Lviv with chestnuts in bloom and baroque churches. Meanwhile, my father would recall his childhood in the German settlement, with its cultural traditions, a local choir and orchestra, and his family’s huge private library. But I lived in the Soviet present, and my schoolteacher—a militant Stalin supporter—would tell me that my parents’ generation were young communists that came to Kazakhstan to cultivate virgin soil or mine coal in Magnitogorsk. My father spent nights by the radio, listening to Deutsche Welle in his headphones. He was interested in the protection of human rights. My mother was a Catholic and she was interested in religious news, so she would listen to Radio Vatican. As I grew up, I started listening to the BBC, Radio Liberty, and Voice of America. I listened to jazz, rock-n-roll, and programs about contemporary painting, theater, and cinema. And so we passed on the headphones: father would listen to programs on politics, mom to religious news, and I listened to rock music. I also learned about the “Bulldozer Exhibition” from those “enemy voices,” as they called them. It was only in the mid-1970s, thanks to the so-called eastern treaties signed by Leonid Brezhnev and Willy Brandt, we were allowed to move to West Germany. For me, everything in the West was interesting. I guess it was due to those years in which there was no access to information. I was especially interested in the lives of Soviet nonconformist artists—I knew about them from the same “enemy voices.” Some of the artists were already living in the West. A number of European art historians and Slavic scholars brought their paintings to the West and organized exhibitions for them. With every visit to such exhibitions I discovered a few new names. I was lucky to meet many artists, writers, and theater people from the Russian diaspora over the years that followed. At university I had four semesters of art history, but I was studying documentary film. After graduating I worked as a freelance at West German television in Cologne, where I was an expert on Eastern Europe. I had heard about Lev Kopelev before we moved to Germany. In 1975, he published the book To Be Preserved Forever and excerpts were read on Radio Liberty. I became interested in this man and his life. Towards the end of the 1970s, Heinrich Boll often spoke in defense of Russian dissident writers and I distinctly remember him saying, “My friend Lev Kopelev is in danger. They broke windows in his apartment; his phone was tapped and is now completely off. I cannot get through to him!” In November 1980, Kopelev was allowed to leave the Soviet Union. He and his wife came to stay with Boll in Cologne. In January 1981 they lost their Soviet citizenship. As resident of Cologne, Kopelev gave regular readings at literary evenings and meetings with students that I attended. He started a research project on the history of Russia-Germany relations—mutual understanding, images of friends and enemies—that came to be known as the Wuppertal Project (at the University of Wuppertal). I could really relate to that: in Karaganda, I was a German and was sometimes even called a fascist, but when we moved to Germany, I realized people always saw me as a Russian. Just asin the Soviet Union we did not know who we were, where we came from, and why we ended up in Kazakhstan, in Germany we still did not know who we were and why we had come. And then I see Kopelev announcing this project and saying that we should not politicize the relationship between Russian and German cultures, but we need to understand how they developed throughout history to overcome the hostility between them. So I came up to him at one of those literary evenings and told him I was going to make my graduation film on that topic. That’s how we met. When he found out that I was working in television as a freelance, which meant no regular work, he asked me if I would like to become his personal archivist, and as he had agreed to bequeath his collection to the Research Center for East European Studies in Bremen. In 1989, the Center’s founder and director Wolfgang Eichwede offered me a contract, which was later renewed several times. Журнал «Транспонанс» Сергея Сигея и Ры Никоновой. Архив Сергея Сигея и Анны Таршис. Исследовательский центр Восточной Европы при Бременском университете, Германия The archive of Lev Kopelev and Raisa Orlova is extraordinarily rich. Orlova studied American culture and was part of the editorial team at the journal Inostrannaya literatura [Foreign Literature]. In the 1940s, she maintained a correspondence with Lillian Hellman, met her in Moscow, and translated her works. She had her own Anglo-American circle, and Kopelev had his German one. Their flat in Cologne—the rooms, the corridors, the kitchen—was crammed with bookshelves and files. Working with their archive, I discovered a whole new world. It was like a mosaic that connected lives and events, time and space, and completed my idea of the scene I was interested in. Kopelev’s school was the best gift I could have been given. It taught me that we don’t need to narrow ourselves down to the constraints of our profession, that knowledge has no boundaries. When Kopelev passed away, I was among the executors of his will and transferred his archive to the University of Bremen according to his wishes. Then it seemed that episode in my life was over. «Граждане!..» / «Обращения Дмитрия Александровича Пригова к народу». Из архива Бориса Гройса и Натальи Никитиной. Исследовательский центр Восточной Европы при Бременском университете, Германия Years later, a woman who worked at the Research Center for East European Studies approached me at a conference on Boll and Kopelev that I helped organize and suggested that I apply for the position of archivist, which was then open. I agreed, although I had no qualification to work in an archive and had some doubts. That said, the documents in the archive were the very matter I had studied with Kopelev and dealt with at the TV station. I knew many people whose collections were included in the archive and the opportunity to share my knowledge of the subject, to provide commentary and context for those documents, was too tempting to turn down. So, in 2012, I suddenly found myself heading the Russian section of the archive at the Research Center for East European Studies, which had previously been led by Gabriel Superfin and Galina Potapova. I cannot forget the huge responsibility that comes with this job. Since it was founded, the Center has accumulated a huge number of priceless archival materials. Today, our work is focused on classification and cataloguing of the archives and creating a clear and user-friendly structure. Materials relating to Soviet nonconformist art can be found in the archives of Sergei Sigov and Anna Tarshis, Boris Groys and Natalia Nikitin, Igor Golomshtok, Eduard Gorokhovsky, Henri Volokhonsky, Karl Eimermacher, and many other curators, poets, writers, and human rights activists. Materials from the Research Center for East European Studies archive collection are scheduled to become available online from 2019.
Klassen Maria | 24 January 2019
Alla Rosenfeld on the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection and the Zimmerli Art Museum
I developed an interest in art at an early age. I attended a specialist art high school and then moved on to the Serov Leningrad Art College (now St. Petersburg Art School) to study applied drawing. I worked as a graphic designer for a while. Later, I studied art history at Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and when I moved to the United States in 1987 I became a graduate student at The City University of New York. There I had a chance to learn from well-known teachers, including Robert Storr who was a curator at MoMA, and I wrote my thesis under Rose-Carol Washton Long, who had written a book on Kandinsky. My thesis was on children’s books illustrated by avant-garde artists in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1991, I was working at IBM Gallery of Science and Art and a colleague invited me to an exhibition of Russian art from Yury Ryabov’s collection at the Zimmerli Art Museum. I told her I’d go, although I actually thought it was a bit far to travel! I worked in Manhattan and the exhibition was in New Jersey—that’s an hour by train. So I felt like I was going to the middle of nowhere. What kind of museum would they have in a quiet place like that, anyway? But I went to the opening and I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibition and the museum’s collection. The Zimmerli Museum used to be famous for its collection of French drawing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For me, it was a curious, almost karmic connection: when I was writing my dissertation on French drawing in Leningrad, I visited the Hermitage library to read books written by the director of this museum! I met the museum’s director and curators. They had just received Yury Ryabov’s collection as a gift and told me they were looking for an expert to start working with it. I decided to give it a try, but I never thought I’d stay as long as I did: I was their curator of Russian Art for almost fifteen years, from 1992 to 2006. At first I was busy working on Ryabov’s collection, which had some wonderful examples of Russian set design from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Then, in 1992, we acquired Norton Dodge’s collection and the Zimmerli became the owner of the biggest collection of Russian art outside Russia. Dennis Cate realized there was no point in trying to compete with the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA—a museum needed to have something nobody else had. He saw that Dodge’s collection was truly unique and that people from other countries would come to work with it. Alla Rosenfeld In fact, Dodge transferred his collection to the Zimmerli thanks to Ryabov, who introduced him to the museum’s director, Phillip Dennis Cate. Dodge was already set on transferring his collection to a university-based museum. He knew it meant that the collection would be studied by researchers, and students would use it to write their dissertations and theses. As far as I know, Norton Dodge offered his collection to several institutions, but they were only interested in particular artists and works. Nobody wanted to accept the entire collection. Dennis Cate realized there was no point in trying to compete with the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA—a museum needed to have something nobody else had. He saw that Dodge’s collection was truly unique and that people from other countries would come to work with it. So they agreed and Norton transferred his collection to the museum. Later, Dodge and the Avenir Foundation financed the addition of a new wing to the museum’s building, so the collection got something like a separate home. Today, the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection is what the museum is famous for. Norton Dodge collected art until his the end of his life. He had no children, so the collection became his child. His choices were not limited to what he personally liked and his acquisitions were very diverse. The collection is sometimes criticized for this, but he managed to preserve so much of the unofficial culture of the postwar Soviet Union. I believe the collection’s diversity is actually an advantage: any historian studying Russian art of the second half of the twentieth century will find here something related to their research. If you are looking into conceptualism or Sots Art, the best works are in this collection, and if you are studying, say, hyperrealism, you might also discover something important. There is also a wide geographical spread. So you will not only find art from Moscow and Leningrad, but also from the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia. As for Zimmerli’s archive, I was involved in its creation. I started discussing this with Dodge very early on, as soon as we began cataloguing the collection in the mid-1990s. I convinced him to try to add documents to his collection of art. He supported the idea and the first person I met about that was Igor Shelkovsky, the editor of A-Ya, which was a journal devoted to Soviet nonconformist art. I believed it was very important to get his archive, as Igor made sure the journal wrote about some of the key artists of the time. And Norton bought the archive. Then we got a collection of documents from St. Petersburg. I was in touch with Sergei Kovalsky, one of the founders of the art center Pushkinskaya 10, and we discussed the transfer of the archive of the Association for Experimental Fine Arts. It’s a vast collection with many interesting items. Later Dodge bought more archives using his connections in the art world. He acquired the archive of Lev Katsenelson, a big collector from Leningrad, and then a complete archive of the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI). I always wanted the Zimmerli to collect as much research material as possible—that was my main priority. At the moment access to those materials is limited. It would be great if they became accessible to the public. Dr. Alla Rosenfeld is an art historian, curator and teacher. She received her degree in the theory and history of art at the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Leningrad, Russia, in 1987, and her Ph.D. in modern and contemporary European and American art at the City University of New York, in 2003. She was Senior Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University from 1992 to 2006, and also served as Director of the Zimmerli’s Russian Art Department. From 2006 to 2009, she worked as Vice President and Senior Specialist in the Russian Paintings Department at Sotheby’s in New York. In May 2017 she was appointed Curator of Russian and European Art at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. Her independent curatorial projects include Leningrad Nonconformist Art (Meyerhoff Gallery, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, 2003); World of Stage: Russian Costume and Stage Design (Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, Fairfield University, Connecticut, 2004) and Soviet Dis-Union: Socialist Realist and Nonconformist Art (co-curator; The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis, 2006). From 1996 to 2017, Dr. Rosenfeld taught various courses on Russian art and culture at Rutgers University. She has published many articles and several books on Russian art, including From Gulag to Glasnost: Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union (1995), Moscow Conceptualism in Context (2011) and Twentieth Century Artists from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union Working in France, A Biographical Dictionary. Volume I (2017). Dr. Rosenfeld has been a member of the International Jury for the Kandinsky Prize in Moscow since 2009. Materials from the Zimmerli Art Museum archive collection are expected to be made available online from late 2018.
Rosenfeld Alla | 26 February 2018
Andrey Monastyrsky on the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI)
In late 1975 or early 1976, the three of us Nikita Alexeev, Lev Rubinstein, and me were at Irina Nakhova apartment on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street in Moscow, sitting and talking about how good it would be to create a magazine on unofficial art. It was during this conversation that the name for such a magazine was first mentioned. I don't remember who, but one of us said the word archive of new art. I think it was Rubinstein, as at the time he was involved with some sort of archive. On that day we didnt take it anyway further, other than coming up with that name: the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI). Лев Рубинштейн, Ирина Нахова, Андрей Монастырский, Никита Алексеев. Фотография Георгия Кизевальтера. Collective Actions first started its activity in March 1976. By the end of 1980, I completed the first volume of Trips Out of Town, which comprised documentation of the group's actions. I collected materials and developed a structure that included extensive descriptions and firsthand accounts of those who were involved, made a list of artists, wrote a foreword, etc. I was a kind of accountant, as I wasn't just an editor, but a publisher and printer as well. I printed the texts for all four volumes, Nikolai Panitkov bound the four books that were produced, and I glued the photographs into them. Акция группы «Коллективные действия» «Шар». Фотография Георгия Кизевальтера. After the first volume of Trips I still felt an itch. It was an interesting experience, and I remembered MANI, the Moscow Archive of New Art. I started discussing a possible form for the publication with Ilya Kabakov and Nikita Alexeev. Andrei Monastyrsky After the first volume of Trips I still felt an itch. It was an interesting experience, and I remembered MANI, the Moscow Archive of New Art. I started discussing a possible form for the publication with Ilya Kabakov and Nikita Alexeev. As the name contained the word archive we were open to doing something other than an ordinary magazine. Then it became clear that MANI should also comrpise four volumes, like Trips Out of Town. Finally, we decided that MANI should be a folder. Maybe Panitkov suggested it, or maybe me, or Kabakov or Nikita. I don't remember now. Anyway, MANI had a format and this format was a folder. I began putting together a list of those, who would go into the folder. I did this on my own just because I liked this work and no one else wanted to do it: everyone was busy with their own things. I was very strict in my choice of participants. I only picked those I liked, and that is why there are very few artists in the first MANI folder. I chose a theme that interested me: those artists who worked mostly with text (although there were also some photographs). I agreed with the artistsóIlya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, Oleg Vassiliev, and Ivan Chuikovóthat they would select works for the volume and asked them to let me have a small amount of money for photography. George Kiesewalter played an important technical role: photographing, developing, and printing. After I had everything ready, Panitkov made a beautiful case in which I placed all of the envelopes containing texts and photographs. I was criticized for my discriminating approach and voluntarism, for excluding too many artists. The next folder, which was made by Vadim Zakharov and Viktor Skersis, included over forty people. Skersis and Zakharov didnít only expand the list, but selected an easier format: the case was replaced by a regular cardboard folder. Our circle already existed: the archive wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been a circle. It formed around Collective Actions and the discussions we had about the actions. This is obvious if we look at photographs from the time. All the people who defined our circle appear in the documentation for the first volume of Trips Out of Town. There were also one-off events where everyone gathered: one-day shows at Kuznetsky Most exhibition hall or at the City Committee of Graphic Artists on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street. But there wasnít a single cluster of texts. First the Trips, then the first MANI volume became the key publications that defined the circle, representing the time and recording the discourse. That turned out to be of importance to everyone and so we continued to work on compiling MANI folders. Each folder was made in an edition of four. Ilya Kabakov and I had the right to retain a copy: that is why we had the complete series. I believe Anatoly Zhigalov and Natalia Abalakova also had the full set. One copy of each edition was always changing hands. The only folder I didnít have was the last, fifth folder, which Toadstool group and Kiesewalter started working on together. The Toadstools eventually gave up, but George finished it. My copy is in the Zimmerli Art Museum collection. A-Ya magazine, which included articles on Soviet unofficial art, was first published in Paris in 1979. The first MANI folder was completed in February 1981. If we compare the two, there are, of course, differences. The folder format is reminiscent of the portfolio of manuscripts submitted to a magazine, a material resource for a forthcoming publication prepared for future analysis. The other difference is that, unlike an archive, which contained objects, a magazine has neither original photographs nor physical objects. All of this was included in MANI. For example, my object Spool (1982) was specially made in an edition of four to go inside each folder. Gennady Donskoi made a secret object that was presented inside a sealed envelope. Nikita Alexeev included his absurdist advertisements on thick paper with his telephone number on them. The significant features found in MANI are its materiality, objecthood, and texture. The most precious things in any archive are contained in objects: the color and scent of paper from, say, 1976 or the particular aesthetics of a typescript. In this sense, any archival document is priceless. All these handwritten notes, stains, and creases represent a time. An archive delivers us the plastic nature and the reality of time, its materiality. Andrei Monastyrsky (b. 1949, Petsamo, Russia) lives and works in Moscow. He is the leader of the Moscow Conceptual School. In 1980, he graduated in philology from Moscow State University. One of the founders of the group Collective Actions (1976), he became its chief ideologist and the author of most of its actions. Together with Vadim Zakharov and Yuri Leiderman, he participated in the groups Kapiton (2008-2010) and Corbusier (2009-2010). Solo exhibitions include: Empty Zones: Andrei Monastyrsky and Collective Actions, Russian Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice (2011); Out of Town: Andrei Monastyrsky & Collective Actions, e-flux, New York (2011); Andrei Monastyrsky, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow (2010); and Earthworks, Stella Art Gallery, Moscow (2005). Group exhibitions include: Russian Performance: A Cartography of Its History, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2014); 52nd Venice Biennale, Venice (2007); Documenta 12, Kassel (2007); and 50th Venice Biennale, Venice (2003). He has been awarded the Andrei Bely Prize (Russia, 2003) and the Innovation Prize (Russia, 2009).
Monastyrsky Andrei | 26 February 2018
Norton and Nancy Dodge Archival Holdings of Nonconformist Art
MANI Archive The archive MANI: Moscow Archive of New Art consists of materials put together by individual artists, poets, and theorists in Moscow to represent their activities between 1980 and 1982. These materials include programmatic theoretical texts, documentary photographs, original artworks, and materials from exhibitions. Editors of the four volumes included Andrei Monastyrsky, Vadim Zakharov, Viktor Skersis, Elena Elagina, Igor Makarevich, Anatoly Zhigalov, and Natalia Abalakova, who, like many of the contributors, make up the circle of Moscow Conceptualists. Nadezhda Stolpovskaya retrieving a large ball of paper from a folder. In the center, it contains a typewritten text on paper featuring a poem written by Boris Pasternak, 1978–1979. MANI Archive at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Photo: Peter Jacobs A-Ya Journal Archive The journal A-Ya: Unofficial Russian Art Revue, published by Igor Shelkovsky in Paris from 1979 through 1986, helped familiarize Western audiences with unofficial Russian art. The archive contains original manuscripts, correspondence, original artwork, visual material, and ephemera related to nearly every well-known unofficial artist and many poets working in Moscow during this period. It is an invaluable resource of firsthand information about artistic activity in Moscow in the late 1970s and 1980s, as well as a window into the relationships between Moscow artists and their colleagues who had immigrated to Paris and New York. An untitled work by Dmitri Prigov. A-Ya Archive at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Photo: Peter Jacobs Collective Actions Group Archive This archive documents the activities of the seminal unofficial Soviet/Russian performance art group Collective Actions (Andrei Monastyrsky, Nikita Alexeev, George Kiesewalter, Nikolai Panitkov, Elena Elagina, Igor Makarevich, Sergei Romashko, Sabine Haensgen) from 1976 to 2003. Many of these materials were originally included in the group’s samizdat publication, Trips out of Town (later edited and published by Ad Marginem in 1998; and German Titov in 2009). The archive includes many annotated drafts of texts and diagrams for the production of Trips out of Town, as well as unpublished documentary photographs and some correspondence. The VHS tapes and CD ROMs contain documentary videos of selected performances. Although materials documenting the group’s performances are available from a number of other sources, the value of this archive consists of the additional photographic and video materials, as well as the sense it gives of the group’s working process in producing, documenting, and theorizing their actions. TEII Archive The TEII archive is related to the Fellowship of Experimental Fine Arts, an umbrella organization of unofficial artistic activities in Leningrad from 1981 through 1991, when it became the art center “Pushkinskaya, 10.” The archive includes selected materials from 1980 to 1988, and a guestbook from the TEII exhibition at the Kirov Palace of Culture in 1984.
26 February 2018