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.

 

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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

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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

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Michael Craig – books

Journey to Ogasawara

In September 2005 we traveled from Moscow to Japan to make a film about the Russian futurist, poet and artist, David Burliuk, also known as the Father of Russian Futurism. The film was one of a six part series about the Russian Avant-garde. The visit involved a journey to Ogasawara for several days. This book is an account of our voyage to this island in the Pacific Ocean.



Purchase on Amazon


Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde


Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde complements the series of six films made by Michael Craig and Copernicus Films about the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. Fully illustrated including stills from most of the films, it is not only an account or explanation but also an introduction or to be more specific an “encounter” with this exciting phenomenon. The title reflects an active relationship: firstly through the experience of living in Moscow for many years, plus a direct encounter with the buildings, the architecture and the very territory in which much of the avant-garde arose and to some extent still exists.

Purchase on Amazon


The Russian Theatre Film Series

The Russian Theatre Film Series is an account of this 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. It is also a commentary on what it means to make an independent arts documentary film series in a foreign country namely Russia.

Purchase on Amazon
Posted in Books, Copernicus Films, Filming in Russia, Meyerhold, Russia, Russian art, Russian Theatre, Theatre | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Drafts

 

fairground Booth

The first draft of two books now complete (more or less). Time for rewrites and editing. Both books about the Russian theatre. The 1st about the film series +Russian Theatre Documentary Series which includes 3 films so far completed Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde, Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre, Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre.

The second book is about Blok and Meyerhold’s production of The Fairground Booth in 1906. These books will form part of the film series and give rise to other films as well.

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“The Fairground Booth” and “Petrushka”

the-kiss-1916(1)This post is a fragment from a chapter of the book which will be published some time next year. The context is a comparison between the ballet “Petrushka” and “The Fairground Booth”. Both share roots in the Russian fairground and the figures of the commedia dell’arte. To understand a play like The Fairground Booth which has no plot, no characters, no real sense of forward movement or natural time and broke from the traditions of realism and naturalism, requires an approach to Russian culture which moves beyond its surface reflections. When, as Bakhtin states, Dostoevsky’s work embodies elements of carnival, (something which is not immediately associated with Dostoevsky), then it becomes clear why it is possible to find clues to the meaning of “The Fairground Booth” in works of literature as various as “The Brothers Karamazov” and The ballet “Petrushka” and vise a versa. Continue reading

Posted in Alexander Blok, art, Meyerhold, Russia, Russian art, Russian Theatre, Russian Theatre film series, The Fairground Booth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment