To mark the centenary of the Russian revolution, Pushkin House presents an artistic installation about Russian poetry in exile. The pavilion celebrates the power of the word and the individual voice.
The 101st km, a concept well known in Russia, refers to the distance that poets and others were forced to maintain from major cities, often after returning from the labour camps – a kind of internal exile and attempt by the authorities to suppress them.
The pavilion, conceived by Russian artist and architect Alexander Brodsky creates a refuge for these voices, which passers-by are invited to enter and experience.
The second part of the title ‘further and everywhere’ refers to the poetic and mysterious announcement heard on local trains leaving from Moscow, a general denominator for calling points after the centre of the city, that conjures up the vast expanses of Russia, and the rest of the world beyond its borders – wherever the exiled is forced to go.
The interior of the pavilion will be hung with poems written in exile or addressing the condition. Video and audio installations evoke associations with a train carriage with an unknown destination.
The poets include Marina Tsvetaeva and Vladislav Khodasevich, who emigrated in the early 1920s when the working conditions for free artistic practice became restricted, as well as poets who suffered under Stalin’s oppression and purges, such as Osip Mandelshtam and Daniil Kharms. Other poets lived through the purges and stood against the system, only to be quietened down and demeaned by it, such as Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova. Included are also later generations of poets such as Joseph Brodsky and Natalya Gorbanevskaya who had their voices silenced by the regime and were forced to emigrate in the 1970s.
A display inside Pushkin House will continue the theme and tell stories of repressed literature in Soviet times. A rich programme of events will explore the theme in more depth through lectures, poetry readings, photographs, film screenings and concerts.
Also in the house is a small exhibition of photographs of Russian artists living in emigration today, by Vadim Levin.
Curator of the Pavilion Markus Lähteenmäki writes:
“The 101st km is a metaphor for all the involuntary farewells, punishment and displacement, exile and refuge that took place in the turmoil following the revolution and under the subsequent regimes. For poets, refuge was often found in language – emigre poets continued to write and publish in Russian and the ones living in internal exile continued to write in secret. Poetry was circulated as self-copied ‘samizdat’ editions or ‘tamizdat‘ editions printed abroad and smuggled in. Brodsky’s pavilion acts as a metaphysical setting for intimate encounters with poetry. As with much of Brodsky’s work the subtle architecture of the pavilion stems from the simple and mysterious possibilities of architecture as a form of art. The question of exile is a ubiquitous motif in the history of literature, and particularly so in Russia.”
Pushkin House Director Clementine Cecil writes:
“This October is the centenary of the Russian revolution, that led to the creation of Pushkin House as a place of refuge for Russians living in Britain who wished to maintain a connection to their culture. This pavilion is a celebration of the individual voice against all odds and it is a great honour to be working with Alexander Brodsky, one of the most important artists and architects in Russia today. With this pavilion, Pushkin House is coming out on to the street and engaging with a wider public. We believe that culture is the most profound and direct way for different nations to engage with each other and foster mutual understanding.”
Alexander Brodsky is one of the most celebrated architects and artists working in Russia today. His works are kept in major collections and museums, including: Museum of Modern Art, New York, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Deutches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Tate Modern, London, where his etchings were on permanent display in their own room 2015–2016. In 2010 the artist was awarded the Kandinsky Prize – Russia’s leading art prize. Brodsky has built pavilions in many major European cities including Paris and Venice. This is his first pavilion in London, and is the first architect-built pavilion on Bloomsbury Square.
Markus Lähteenmäki is a fellow of the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at ETH Zurich, where he pursues a PhD related to Russian avant-garde poetry and architecture. He received an MA from London’s Courtauld Institute in 2013 after first studying at the universities of Helsinki and Moscow. He worked as a curator for Drawing Matter Trust in the UK for two years in which role he co-curated critically acclaimed exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth Somerset and the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel. He has taught history at the Cass, London Metropolitan University, Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins in London and continues to work as a co-organiser of public and educational programmes at the New Academy in Helsinki, is an editor-at-large for the Helsinki based publisher Garret Books and an independent curator.
101km – Further and Everywhere opens on 18 October at 6.30 pm as part of Bloomsbury Festival which runs 18-22 October.