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Tag: Journey to Ogasawara

David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde – screening in Moscow

I forgot to give an update on the screening of 

David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde

 which took place on the 7th April 2018 at the Museum of Chuseyev in Moscow as part of the Sogetsu Ikebana exhibition marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the school by 

Sofu Teshigahara

. There was a mad scramble to get the translation and subtitles in Russian finished before the screening. The text is quite philosophical and technical in places so that held up the translation a bit.  Most of it I was able to complete myself up to a point but then it all had to be checked and corrected and then put up over the original film. We managed to get something pretty much decent ready in time with one or two problems here and there but no one seemed to notice. 

As always a screening is nerve wracking experience and this was no exception. Also it is the first time I have screened one of my films in Russian to  a Russian audience. 

David Burliuk

 is unique because not only is he the “Father” of Russian futurism but he left Russia and spent 2 years in Japan up until 1922 before finally emigrating to America where he lived for the rest of his life with his family.

At the end of the film there was a long question and answer session about the film and about our journey to the island of 


 also known as the Bonin Islands,where we filmed. Burliuk spent several months on the islands during his stay in Japan. There is a book I wrote about our visit and the islands themselves – Journey to Ogasawara.

The film was warmly received  and there was strong interest in the other films in the series about the Russian Avant-garde as well as requests for an updated Russian translation of the book 

Journey to Ogasawara.


I came to Moscow to live many years ago, more than 17. I had no firm idea about how long I would stay but after about nine months and some difficult times I had to make a decision to stay or to leave. It was a cold January and very few people would venture out into -20 unless they had to or unless they were like me – curious. The city felt still and quiet – the stillness enhanced by the deep snow which muffled the sounds of the city. At that time the city was less congested and crowded and so there were areas of calm which you could seek out to escape the noise and traffic. I remember walking around one such oasis of calm, Gorky Park by the Moskva River and stopping to watch a small boat chugging up river, breaking the ice. Long after the boat had disappeared a few miles up further on, small waves would gently snap open and dislocate the ice on the surface of the water with a distinctive rhythmic crack like glass being cut and broken into pieces.

A few days later I took the metro to a place called Kolomenskoe, an old monastery estate in grounds which stretch down to he river. The white towered Church of the Ascension of the Lord was constructed in 1529-1532 by order of Tsar Vasily III to commemorate the birth of his son and heir, Ivan the Terrible. It sits on the crest of the high river bank which sweeps down some thirty metres or so to the river. Paths criss cross and spiral down and around the extensive bank from where there is an open vista of the city over to the left looking across the river. Directly in front, on the far side of the river is a water works or sewage works which is surounded by what seemed like flat marsh lands. The young Peter the Great, who lived here for much of his adolecent life, would organise war games with his friends using fireworks and mock up weapons, practising tactics and battle plans which he would later use for real to develop and forge a new Russia.

I found a path which went along the top of the bank away from the main territory of the estate through a wooded area past some old abandoned houses and a school. At the far end of the path, maybe a kilomtere away, I could see that the path opened out onto a highway. Cars could be seen cutting across the opening in the tree lined path. I decided not to walk to the end but decided to return at another time to see where the path connected to. This air of mystery is part of Moscow’s allure, you never know what you will discover around the next corner. I turned back to the main part of the estate realising it was getting late.

The winter sun had tinted the snow the colour of a blood orange. The question going around my head was what to do: to stay in Russia or return home and if I did stay in Moscow what would I do here. In a flash as I gazed across the snow covered slopes now almost red in the late setting sun the answer was clear. I would stay and it didn’t matter what I would do here, that question would settle itself. It was a sudden feeling of relief, a culmination of weeks of indecision. Moscow stretched out before my eyes literally and metaphorically, this would be my home – a strange feeling and what was even more strange was that it felt quite natural – no doubts – as if I had made the decision a long time before which obviously I had.