Vsevolod Tarasevich at the Multimedia Art Museum Moscow

Last night  went to the opening of the exhibition of Vsevolod Tarasevich   at the Photography Centre near Kropotkinskaya. I met a friend at the metro and we made our way through the uncleared snow covered streets to the centre. We got there at 5 PM and walked around the entire collection of photographs unhindered by any crowds except for a small group of students from Moscow State University.


Тhe new building is modeled vaguely on the Guggenheim in New York and to many purposes works quite well in this image.

Incredible photographs from the 60s 70s and 80s. Showed the time and its atmosphere  – a time when culture and science were at the forefront of Soviet life. In the photographs could be seen the whole feeling and energy of the e poch, the sense of discovery and progress and hope for the future.

The immensity of the projects ( they already had an operative particle collider) and the excitement that discoveries were being made which would last into the future are photographed as a document of an epoch. At the same time I was reminded of the Strugatsky’s books, especially Picnic by The Roadside (Stalker) and It is hard to be a God, which were critical of that epoch and highlighted some of the moral and ethical dilemmas of the time connected with science and progress.

There was also an exhibition of Boris Kustodiev’s photographs. As well as being a painter he took many photographs around the turn of the century of provincial life in Russia. Several of his paintings were exhibited as well which pertain to The Fairground Booth and which I hope to include as part of the project and which I outline in more detail here.

Posted in art, Boris Kustodiev, Journal/diary, Michael Craig, Moscow archives Blog/Dairy, Multimedia Art Museum Moscow, Photography, Russian art, Strugatsky Brothers, The Fairground Booth, Vsevolod Tarasevich | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Alexander Blok, Dostoevsky and Freedom in “The Fairground Booth”

At first glance there seems no literary connection between Alexander Blok and Dostoevsky and their literary styles – they are not doubles in this sense. However in many ways they are metaphysical doubles. Both are concerned with the double nature of consciousness, both contemplate the nature of authorship and its ambiguous role in literature, one could say its dual quality, whereby the author is present in the work like an unseen god, directing and determining the destinies of the characters. Such a direct relationship between author and character was unsatisfactory for both writers despite differences in their portrayal of such a relationship. In The Fairground Booth, Blok deliberately exposes the “author” who is not a hidden element in the work but is brought into the action openly as a fool whose work has been undermined and changed by the characters themselves as if they have unconditional freedom and are not bound by the “necessity” of God or of the author. They are not just the Commedia dell’arte puppets they seem to be. The characters Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbina traditionally and in The Fairground Booth (also known by the title “The Puppet show”) lend themselves to all kinds of improvisations and liberties.

It is this question, literary freedom and authorship which Blok questions openly and which presents the problem in the wider context of our own lives through the theatre, in the apparently flippant and lighthearted  “The Fairground Booth” and like Dostoevsky, only in a different way from him, explores the very concept of freedom itself. Such ideas and concepts exercised the ancient Greeks, by Plato and by his teacher Socrates as well as in theatre by Sophocles in “Oedipus Rex”. Oedipus exercises his freedom to avoid  the fate which the Delphic Oracle has predicted for him – that of marrying his Mother and murdering his Father and which  Tiresias   tries to explain to him but to no avail. Oedipus nonetheless fulfills this terrible prophecy by so using his freedom to avoid it.

The Greeks were gifted in being able to explore and delineate these metaphysical questions which go to the heart of our existence and our will, questions which Blok, who was both influenced by Neoplatonism and Dostoevsky, examines in The Fairground Booth. The concerns of both authors converge in their understanding of a new type of person which emerged at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

Blok turned to the tradition of the fairground with its timeless puppets and the Italian Commedia dell’arte with its eternal masks and together with Meyerhold forged the beginnings of a new type of theatre.

In his work  Blok aptly expressed the feeling that Dostoevsky portrayed in his work, especially in Crime and Punishment where a new kind of individual or human being emerged – a uniquely urban type from an urban industrial environment which we now recognise so clearly in our own contemporary world but which then was entirely new.

An individual disjointed from the environment and a fragmented consciousness seemingly estranged from the norms and conventions of the time but simultaneously completely recognizable as a common feature of city life – a distant, anonymous individual knowing but unknowable, present but in some sense a person hidden from view, enclosed in themselves where new and subversive thoughts simmer and multiply in strange and uneven forms.

Blok grew up in the shadow of this world and its macabre carnival like aura and bustle and in the shadow of Dostoevsky and all his work is suffused with this attitude and atmosphere which Dostoevsky presented in his novels.

The dreamy metaphysical flights of speculation in The Beautiful Lady of St Petersburg gave way to the urban revolutionary territory of St Petersburg and The Twelve during the years of the revolution.

Posted in Alexander Blok, Copernicus Films, Dostoevsky, Filming in Russia, Russian art, Russian Theatre, Russian Theatre film series, Symbolism, The Fairground Booth, The silver age, Theatre | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Fairground Booth “In Production”

Working almost everyday on The Fairground Booth mostly with After Effects programme. Have completed several “fragments” of “animation” which seem to be working OK as well as writing more parts of the book and script almost simultaneously.
As background, reading The Nutcracker by Hoffman which reveals more and more some of the underlying sources for The Fairground Booth but moreover Petrushka. Either way it reveals the common cultural understandings and ideas which informed the silver age, symbolism and Russian culture at that time and gradually found their way into theatrical productions like The Fairground Booth and Petrushka. Ideas are coming all the time, images working their way through and appearing before my eyes as I look at material, photographs, paintings from the period. Refining and extending my knowledge of After effects which will stand me in good stead for further work on this film.
The Apocalypse part of the film is taking shape well with certain brush strokes I will add a little later. At the moment rendering and re rendering the harlequin sequence from Benois painting of Harlequin on stage. Beautifully painted and within the painting itself beautifully lit so that I don’t need to add anything.

Piper, John; Portland Foreshore; Southampton City Art Gallery;

Just saw an article by Jonathan Jones in the guardian about the artist John Piper. A British artist who according to Jones struggled in the 30s to make much sense of abstract art and modernism but later found his way during the second world war. From my point of view some of his paintings are good examples of what I have been trying to achieve in animating some of the drawings from that period (20s and 30s) especially his attempts at a type of collage which is not bad technically at any rate. Some of the brush strokes are like transparent washes broad and speckled as if  painted with water on a wax surface with different planes and surfaces superimposed over each other. For this reason he is an interesting British painter. It is understandable why British critics are wary  or not enamored of his work because they are I think generally not enamored of abstract art unless it is Picasso or Mondrian who have a powerful and succinct vision.

Posted in Alexander Blok, art, Filming in Russia, John Piper, Mir Iskustva, Russian Theatre, Russian Theatre film series, The Fairground Booth, Theatre | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dobuzhinsky – Man in Spectacles


Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky, August 14, 1875, Novgorod – November 20, 1957, New York City) was a Russian-Lithuanian artist.

The painting shows a man in glasses with a window to the back of him with a cityscape of the early twentieth century in Russia, either St Petersburg or Moscow – to my mind Moscow although many of Dobuzhinsky’s paintings predominately featured St Petersburg. Dobuzhinsky was a sharp minded artist who had a deep understanding of social issues and problems of psychological distress and was able to express and reveal in his paintings the existentialist concerns of his time.

The portrait shows the image of a typical member of the Russian intelligentsia, traditionally the most enlightened section of Russian society, fabled as the moral conscience of Russia, the bearers of culture and progressive ideas, forging the spiritual and metaphysical direction of the country. The bodily posture is anxious, his face featureless, the eyes are hidden behind misted spectacles, a mouth whose voice is muted and covered entirely by a thickening beard. The man in the portrait is almost a carbon copy of the photographs and images of Anton Chekhov, a typical representative of what we view as the Russian intelligentsia but decayed and alone.

Here we see a frozen emptied husk – barren and anonymous with his back turned against the world behind him, facing into a dim unknown and unseen interior of the room. The bleak almost sterile background, cold and and muted, stark and without warmth also gives off a barren energy. The urban city is featureless and faceless like the portrait and the figure seems to blend into the background – opaque and ill defined.

Portrait of Chekhov – Osip Braz

The books on the windowsill are echoed in the inanimate objects in the yard below. The market gardens in the middle ground are waiting to be swallowed up by the encroaching urban environment just as the intelligentsia were facing a crises waiting to be engulfed by forces and a destiny which they could no longer control and barely influence.

It has an echo of Munch’s The Scream but subdued unable to even raise the necessary fear and horror to respond emotionally – a defeated, fading lonely figure and in distinct contrast to the refined and concentrated realistic portrait of Chekhov by Osip Braz – clear sighted, despite any doubts, in the straight on gaze.

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The Monks who Place the Stones

On Tuesday there was a lecture in Moscow by Shiro Nakane about Japanese landscape design. He is perhaps the foremost practitioner of Japanese landscape design and his father before him, designing gardens on a scale of many acres. He talked about some of the gardens in Japan which his father restored for instance, Saiho ji and which I talk about in the film Japan – Philosophical Landscapes which is part of a broader project about the role of landscape in Japanese culture and art. Shiro Nakane is following in a tradition which has lasted for centuries down to the middle ages and before. The techniques have changed – concrete is used for the foundations of the giant ponds on which huge rocks must rest. In fact in one instance he used large metal plates which shipbuilders were called in to lay and weld together as foundations. However the philosophy remains the same even if some of  the  materials used have been adapted to  modern technology. Shiro Nakane explained that part of his role is to listen to the landscape and listen to nature to see how the design of the garden should be determined. What does it mean to “listen” to nature” Below is an excerpt from the text of the film Japan – Philosophical Landscapes which illustrates this in more detail.

It was in the Kamakura period “The monks who place the stones , – Ishiateso  – were given the task of designing the temple gardens using large rocks as their main mode of expression. The influence of Chinese landscape paintings which came from the mainland during the sung dynasty found an echo in the garden designs of the Zen monks who used the themes of ethereal mountains and rivers to build microcosmic gardens. They sought to build a world within worlds, as their gardens became miniaturised versions of the cosmic order and the rocks seemed like mountains rising out of an ocean. In keeping with the idea of wabi sabi, they left the door open to the imagination of the viewer,   inviting them to forget themselves“.

The garden designer and architects “followed” features of the landscape already existing, “listening” to these objects and building the garden around these preexisting features.They used the asymmetry of nature  set against the symmetry of man-made artifacts.

Below is an clip from the film which can be downloaded here:

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Biomechanics – film release – Download

The film Biomechanics is the latest in the series The Russian Theatre Film series. This film is a slight deviation from the documentary style films of Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde, Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre and Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. It is a film without text, consisting only of the movements of the material which was shot for Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde.

Here  it has been extended and reworked to make a full 30 minute sequence of most of the experiments we worked on in a studio in Moscow with William Pease and Oksana Petrova performing the movements. The film itself is something of an experiment as were the performances  whereby we tried to find the essence of Meyerhold’s experiments in particular their graphic content.

As I have stated before this is not an instructional video about how to do biomechanics, it is not a reconstruction of Meyerhold’s acting techniques and a means for actors training. The film is more of an exploration to see what we could make of Biomechanics using the knowledge we had and improvising on some of the themes which Meyerhold’s experiments provided. It is in this spirit that the film is presented.

The whole film can be downloaded here.


Posted in Biomechanics, Filming in Russia, Meyerhold, Michael Craig, Russian Avant-garde, Russian Theatre, Russian Theatre film series, Theatre | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Biomechanics – Editing of new film

Working on and editing new film about “biomechanics” the acting techniques by Meyerhold. Just a small preview. This is an extended version (around 30 minutes) of the footage shot for the film Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde which I am editing into a film.

There will be no text, just a soundtrack of which a taste can be heard on this video. I debated about whether to add text and some explanation but reached the conclusion that this film is better as a performance video. I will maybe add some written explanation once the video has been released.

This footage was shot in Moscow in a studio a few years ago and I have always wanted to release a longer version of it and was encouraged by many to make a film using this material. I have composed a complete soundtrack which I think is right for the atmosphere of the film. I have written a more detailed account of how we filmed these sequences for the film Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian avant-garde  and is included in the book The Russian Theatre Film Series 

#biomechanics #russianavantgarde#michaelcraigcopernicusfilms

Posted in Biomechanics, Filming in Russia, Michael Craig, Moscow, Russian Avant-garde, Russian Theatre, Russian Theatre film series | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Film – Japan Philosophical Landscapes

Have been working constantly on the old film Japan Philosophical Landscapes film. Have made a new version in a different format and finally I managed to get an edited version which works. Certainly it is good enough to put up on Amazon Video Direct which I think is the perfect platform for this film. I never thought it would work on DVD. However I have since revised that opinion and I might release a DVD version as well. The Amazon video direct spot is perfect as it can be viewed as part of the Amazon Prime service which doesn’t entail buying the film although the film earns money for the amount of hours it is viewed.  I have completed the closed captions. In many ways I have changed my attitude towards the film. I took it much too seriously and therefore feared criticism. Now I have an easier relationship to it and do not think of it as a real heavy laden piece of work but something much of an experiment – looser and adapted for the internet, concentrating more on the story rather  than the preciseness of the images. Some things have worked well, better than I expected. The film fits within the overall project Japan Philosophical landscapes which includes the film Tokyo Journey and David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde as well as the book Journey to Ogasawara. The film can be downloaded here: Japan Philosophical Landscapes

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New writing

working 2Normally I write my one work for my own projects but lately I have been collaborating with somebody else on  book they are writing about Sumerian culture. I am writing a whole extended chapter for T and it is coming along. Took me a long time to get started as I wanted to get more familiar with the material. Fortunately it is a subject in which I have studied and have a considerable background – Ancient British History. The main question was finding the right rhythm and pitch so that it fits with the rest of the book. I’ve never had to do this so it is quite a new experience. Seems to be working OK. Continue reading

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The Russian Theatre Film Series – Book Publication

This post first appeared on my blog but it is worth repeating to reach a different audience here. This book is the third by Michael Craig. The first being Journey to Ogasawara which was an account of the making of the film David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde and Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde. It’s difficult to find an appropriate description of the book The Russian Theatre Film Series. Essentially it is an account of an arts documentary series with all its pitfalls, successes, limitations and achievements. The three films which have so far been completed are Meyerhold, Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde“, “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre” and “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. This book is part of the overall project – The Russian Theatre Film Series and is a milestone and a marker in this developing project.

Continue reading

Posted in Books, Filming in Russia, Independent Film, Michael Craig, Moscow, Russian art, Russian literature, Russian Theatre, Russian Theatre film series, Theatre | Tagged , , | Leave a comment