A guide to the New East


Perm orchestra to perform Mozart in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport

19 March 2014 · Moscow
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
Photograph: Anton Zavyjalov

Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport will be temporarily transformed into a concert hall this Saturday when an orchestra performs the overture to Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. The Perm Tchaikovsky Orchestra of Theatre, Opera and Ballet will play the famous piece at Sheremetyevo’s terminal D as part of culture festival The Golden Mask in the City, which is 20 years old this year.

Taking place in Moscow each spring, the festival, which is part of the Golden Mask awards, showcases the most interesting cultural events from the previous season across Russia. The Perm orchestra's version of Mozart’s celebrated opera was nominated for six Golden Mask awards, including best opera, best director and best male performance.

The Golden Mask in the City festival will also see central Moscow department store Tsvetnoy play host to an interactive installation on Friday, entitled Sentimental Code, based on a motif from the play Temporary Storage Square 48x9 (Kvadrat vremennogo khraneniya 48x9) from Kinetik, a Moscow contemporary dance theatre, also a nominee for a Golden Mask award. Sentimental Code can be seen from 21 to 25 March. 

Source: Colta

Russian cultural boycott grows as Ukraine crisis deepens

18 March 2014
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
Actors of the Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania performing Anna Yablonskaya’s play Pagans

A growing number of European artists are cancelling performances in Russia in response to the country’s aggression towards Ukraine, including its impending annexation of Crimea. Among those pulling out is the award-winning Polish playwright Krystian Lupa and Latvian actress Guna Zarina, who was due to star in a performance of Medea at Moscow’s Gogol Centre this month. In a statement on the Gogol Centre’s website, Zarina said: “I, Guna Zarina, protest against the entry of Russian troops in the territory of Ukraine and the interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country!”

The Czech film festival Flahertiana and Canada’s Cinematheque Ontario have also announced their decision to withdraw from Artdokfest, Russia’s documentary film festival, later this year. Likewise, the Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania has pulled out of the annual Meetings theatre festival in St Petersburg. The theatre company decided to boycott Meetings after the festival’s director, Sergei Shub, signed an open letter in support of the Russian government’s policy in Ukraine.

Show more

Moscow’s biggest gay club to close amid homophobic attacks

18 March 2014 · Moscow
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email

Moscow’s biggest gay club Central Station will be closing down following a series of violent attacks on the building and its patrons. In the past six months, Central Station has been the victim of arson attacks as well as an attempt by perpetrators to release a noxious gas into the club. On one occasion, a mob of around 100 men entered building, dismantled the ceiling and stole the club’s equipment. 

The decision comes just months after the club’s co-owner Andrei Lishchinsky stepped down from his position as chief executive. Lishchinsky has claimed that none of the 30 complaints lodged with the Moscow City Police have been investigated. In a letter to President Vladimir Putin, he wrote: “These actions were obviously motivated by hatred toward representatives of the LGBT community and had a clear extremist tone.”

Show more

Pro-Putin open letter includes gallerist without asking and artist without noticing he’s dead

17 March 2014
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
Aidan Salakhova

A prominent Russian artist and gallerist has publicly denied signing an open letter in support of President Vladimir Putin’s military position in Ukraine. Aidan Salakhova’s name was included along with other actors, filmmakers, artists and musicians who came out in defence of Putin last week. Among the signatories were film director Fedor Bondarchuk and conductor Valery Gergiev. 

Writing on Facebook, Salakhova said: “I did not sign the letter on the Ministry of Culture’s website in support of the president’s position in Ukraine and Crimea. Nobody even consulted me on this question!” She added: “On Monday I will find out how my signature came to be on this document. Everyone knows that I am always neutral when it comes to political games.”

The same list featured Russian painter Victor Tsigal, who died in 2005 at the age of 97. A Kremlin supporter, Tsigal was removed from the list three days after its publication on the ministry’s website. Russia’s military incursion in Crimea has divided Russia’s culture and art world with as many high-profile figures signing open letters in support of and against Putin's stance. 

Siberian cinemas face closure for screening Wolf of Wall Street

17 March 2014 · Novosibirsk
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email

Russia’s drug enforcement agency has ordered ten cinemas in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk to stop screening Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or risk closure or a fine of up to 1 million roubles (£16,000). The order sent by the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation on 12 March included testimonies from three major science and medical institutions in Russia attesting to the film’s promotion of drug use. 

According to the Institute of Physiology and Fundamental Medicine, the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Novosibirsk regional drug dependence clinic, the film is a “reflection of the subculture of addiction”. The case has now been transferred to the courts, with punishments ranging from fines between 800,000 to 1 million roubles or closure for 90 days. Under Russian law, advertising drug use is a criminal offence.

Source: www.profcinema.ru

Pussy Riot launches prisoners’ rights NGO

14 March 2014
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
Nadia Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina holding a sign with the phone number of Zona Prava’s office

Pussy Riot members Nadia Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina have launched Zona Prava (Law Zone), a non-governmental organisation which seeks to protect prisoners’ rights in Russia. The women, who spent nearly two years in prison following their anti-Putin performance in Christ the Saviour cathedral in Moscow in February 2012, revealed details of their proposed advocacy work for prisoners at a press conference yesterday.

During the conference held in Mordovia, a region 500km southeast of Moscow where Tolokonnikova was imprisoned, the women announced a hotline set up for anyone seeking legal advice. Headed by Vladimir Rubashy, a former prison psychologist, the aim of Zona Prava, according to their website, is “to help those who are deprived of freedom in a camp or in prison, but more than anything not to be prepared to lose human dignity”.

Show more

Moscow street art exhibition explores changing urban landscape

14 March 2014 · Moscow
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
Five by Alexey Luka, one of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibition

A new street art exhibition exploring the changing urban environment has opened in Moscow featuring the work of 27 well-known Russian street artists. Format One: Changes includes especially commissioned artwork from the likes of Ilya Slack, Mesr, Grisha Shto and Roman Litvinov, an electronic musician who also goes by his stage name Mujuice. 

Housed in a former pressure-gauge factory in east Moscow, the exhibition is one of the first in the capital to take street-style aesthetics to a contemporary art space. Each of the artworks, painted on a canvas and framed, reflects the artist’s personal view on Russia's changing urban landscape. 

Commenting on the exhibition, veteran street artist Tvesor, whose signature style is based on defunct letters from the pre-revolutionary Russian alphabet, said that he saw “change as the absence of stability”, an indirect reference to President Vladimir Putin, who is often seen as a force for stability by his supporters.

Banksy video screens at Moscow’s Tretyakov gallery for #WithSyria campagin

14 March 2014
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
A still from Banksy’s video for the #WithSyria campagin

An animated version of Banksy’s famous Girl with the Red Balloon was projected yesterday onto the wall of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery in solidarity with the #WithSyria campaign. The elusive UK-based artist, known for his satirical and political images, created the 15-metre projection in support of the campaign, which has launched in 25 countries across the world to mark the third anniversary of the civil war in Syria.  

For the video, Banksy reworked his famous stencil by replacing the young girl releasing a red heart-shaped balloon, with a figure of a young Syrian refugee. In the video, which features a voiceover by British actor Idris Elba and music by rock band Elbow, the Syrian girl floats away from the carnage of war below. Over the next two days, similar screenings will be held in cities around the world, from a makeshift cinemas in a refugee camps in Jordan to a screen in New York’s Times Square.

Source: Moskovsky Komsomolets

Russian government blocks opposition websites

14 March 2014
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email

The Russian government has blocked access to a handful of websites critical of President Vladimir Putin as well as a blog written by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The websites include a blog by former world chess champion-turned-activist Garry Kasparov, and political news forums Grani and Daily Journal. 

The general prosecutor’s office gave orders to block Navalny’s blog on social media network LiveJournal and independent radio station Ekho Moskvy’s website, where it is republished. The prosecutor’s office gave Ekho Moskvy 24 hours to block access to Navalny’s blog or risk having their own website shut down. In a statement on the the station’s website, Chief Editor Alexei Venediktov said that Navalny’s blog was blocked because of its connection “with identified signs of extremist activism”.

Show more

Moscow’s iconic Shukhov tower to be dismantled

13 March 2014 · Moscow
Share on LinkedIn Share via Email
The Shukhov Tower. Photograph: Maxim Fedorov under a CC licence

Shukhov radio tower, a masterpiece of avant-garde architecture in Moscow, is likely to be dismantled, renovated and re-erected in another part of the city, Russia's Ministry of Communication has said. The decision regarding the 92-year-old steel structure has been met with outrage by several architects, many of who consider the tower a symbol of the Soviet architectural vision of the time.

Talk of the tower’s deconstruction has been rife for many years, and support for its preservation has been voiced by architects across the world, including Lord Norman Foster and art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Exposing potential disagreements within the government, even the Ministry of Culture is said to oppose the plans, which will cost an estimated 119 million roubles (£2m), according to a document obtained by Izvestia newspaper. Despite the initial go-ahead from the Ministry of Communication, attempts are still underway to save the structure with a petition on Change.org reaching over 2,300 signatures to date.

Show more