From 12 April 2018 until 30 January 2019 the former workshop of the sculptor Anna Golubkina will host the multimedia installation Atlas VMayakovsky, which also includes the screening of the film VMayakovsky by Alexandr Shein. It is a joint project of the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Museum of V.V. Mayakovsky and the film company 2Plan2.

The installation emerges from the Atlas VMayakovsky project which was launched ten years ago by Shein and is being realised in cooperation with contemporary artists and theoreticians, including Vitaly Komar, Joseph Kosuth, Leonid Sokov, Boris Groys and many others. Shein dedicates the project to the literary figures Alexander Pushkin (1799 – 1837) and Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) as well as to artist Timur Novikov (1958-2002). The project aims to create an archive of material to engage with and explore the three artists’ lives and personalities. It also intends to initiate reflexions on personal and social issues, whereby Mayakovsky, Pushkin and Novikov serve as role models. (1)

The current installation is dedicated to the greatest writer of the revolutionary period Vladimir Mayakovsky whose verses are inextricable from the political upheavals of the early 20th century. The poet is also known for his collaborations with avant-garde artists, such as Alexander Rodchenko, with whom he created several advertising posters. He drew his greatest inspiration from his relationship with Lilya Brik, to whom he dedicated several poems. In his private life he also followed the avant-garde ideals of the time: the complex relationship among Mayakovsky, Brick and her husband Osip Brik challenged the traditional norms and conventions. However, the series of professional and private failures plunged Mayakovsky into deep despair: leading literary figures and statesmen avoided an exhibition organised to mark the 20-year anniversary of his creative work, and several romantic relationships failed. Mayakovsky chose to take his own life by shooting himself in the heart.

Photo credit: Anastasiya Zamyatina / Tretyakov Gallery

Atlas VMayakovsky gives insight into the life of the poet. It brings together printed materials, items of furniture, music pieces and images of his time to create a chaotic living space. A grand piano with stacks of newspapers stands in the middle of the room; a made bed is located in one corner; a television screen flickers in another. Walls with peeling-off wallpaper are decorated with various pictures including Lenin portrait. There is a sofa by the window which visitors can sit on and browse through magazines such as Iskusstvo Kino and Aperto, while an old record player is playing Viktor Tsoi, a famous underground rock singer of the 1980s.

Photo credit: Evgeny Alekseev / Tretyakov Gallery

One of the rooms stands out: the blacked out space is taken by the installation on Mayakovsky’s life and death. The display consists of various items which constituted the poet’s daily life: volumes of his poetry, such as an orange booklet with his first poem Cloud in pants [Oblako v shtanakh]; busts of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy; a large delicately painted vase; some mugs; a yellow Matryoshka and a lot more. All of them, however, are connected by the colourful threads to the display on the ceiling, which projects the writer’s last letter.  “…Do not blame anyone for my death…”You are faced with many different facets of Mayakovsky’s life, but simultaneously reminded of their inextricable links with his tragic end.

A. Shein. Vmayakovsky

The film VMayakovsky marks the end of the visit (2). It consists of rehearsals and preparatory work as well as finalised scenes. You see the actors passionately discussing the production, filmmakers’ visit to South Korea, in an attempt to study totalitarian society, or staged re-enactments of scenes from Mayakovsky’s life, such as his cohabitation with the Briks. One of the most intense moments is the depiction of a four-minute washing of the hands, which illustrates Mayakovsky’s lifelong phobia of viruses and the associated obsessive-compulsiveness. The result is a surrealistic film that introduces a viewer to the complex life and inner world of the poet. It connects his life with the socio-political upheavals, both in the early 20the century and in contemporary world. By blurring the boundaries between the preparation process and the final product, between inside and outside, between then and now, it creates a collage of impressions making every viewer to construct her own image of Mayakovsky.

Atlas VMayakovsky multimedia installation invites the visitor into the life and mind of one of the greatest literary figures of Russia. Like many others, his persona was instrumentalized and distorted by the soviet propaganda, which portrayed him as an opportunist of the Revolution. Today, nearly thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Atlas VMayakovskytakes a critical look on that period, moves past it and provides a new and possibly more realistic view on great poet showing him as a fragile, gifted and fascinating human being that we can relate to.

Notes:

(1) The project has already resulted in the exhibition 37+1. Pank-divinaciya (2014, CSI Zarya, Vladivostok), the installation Peredayom signaly tochnogo vremeni (2017, CSI Winzavod, Moscow), the newspaper Aperto (from 2016 in Russian and English), and the films Timur Novikov. Nol Obyekt (2014) and Lokonichno (2016). Atlas VMayakovsky installationand the film VMayakovsky are the newest creations of the project.

(2) It premiered in 2017 during the International Festival of school of Contemporary Art ‘Territoriya’ and is mainly screened as part of the Atlas VMayakovsky installation.