10 days in here in St. Petersburg, and I sit and write this on a beautiful sunny day here. It’s probably been sunny for 6 hours so far (it’s 10 am). So many things to write about, and so many blog posts I should have written. I’ll let Nate tell you more about our project and I’ll talk more about embedding here in the city. First, we have been busy. Very busy. The project we came to work on has expanded four fold, and we are taking an unexpected trip to Moscow today for 5 days to make more work. The extra daylight gives you an energy that you have to turn off. Around what would be dusk at home, I force myself to shut the curtains so I can tell my body that I should go to sleep in a few hours. Time runs so differently when there is no true night.
Follow me on Instagram (@mmarnimcfly) for travel pictures of the wonders I have been finding and eating: the earth berries (aka tiny wild strawberries I buy in a cup from a woman at the market), the wonders of our door locks, the beautiful light in my room, mini boat tours of St. Petersburg, and the things I find daily here, all with a touch of humor.
Pictures though cannot describe some of the friends we’ve made here. Liza (CEC), recently graduated from Bard’s St. Petersburg curatorial program, and her friends and contacts have been wonderful. Her colleague Iaroslov has become a close friend. He has been translating tweets for us, not an easy task, and this work has changed the project in the most wonderful way. His translators notes have become integral to the project, and we have learned so much about everyday life and the culture of modern Russia through his translations.
For my first few days, Martina Stefanova, from DOMA arts was here, and she gave a talk on the emerging contemporary arts scene in Bulgaria. It was a perfect lens for me to see the history of the contemporary Russian art scene here, as Bulgaria seems to be about 10 years different. She spoke of the first installation art show ever in Bulgaria in 1998. 1998 was the first time Bulgarians had been introduced to contemporary art in this fashion. Wrap your head around that. You can really see the first, and second and waves of contemporary art move through the country. And you sense the real importance of the artist as a political force. I just saw the Isaac Mizrahi show at the Jewish Museum before coming here, and then showed the documentary UnZipped to the group of 15 college students I had with me. They were most amazed that all these (now) famous people were friends and young together and in one film. It reminds me very much of the 50s and 60s in the US when artists and dancers and fashion were all living together in NYC in cheap housing, and working for a common political good together. I tried to explain to my students that community is a huge force and that these people became famous together, in collaboration, helping each other, pushing each other to force the medium into new ways. And that their community is who will help them achieve such things. I saw this in action with Martina’s talk, and how close knit the artists and curators here in St. Petersburg are. I have a new appreciation for the role of the artist in political change. There is much work we can do together.