Dr Margarita Kuleva and Pushkin House invite you to The Ball, an immersive party inspired by Plato’s Feast and aristocratic balls, Russian literature’s recurring mise-en-scène.

The ball will include a canapé buffet provided by Alissa Timoshkina, acclaimed author of Salt and Time, as well as a performance, and will focus on the interaction between The Guest (Margarita Kuleva) and The Host (Pohititel Aromatov, a queer UK-based artist and popular Russian video blogger).

Among other invited panellists are artists and academics who explore Russian art or boundaries as social phenomena.

The Ball centres on Russian culture as a translocal phenomenon and its potential forms. Pushkin House will be populated by researchers and cultural practitioners who can speak for themselves or who represent haunted voices of Russian culture, starting with Alexander Pushkin, who never had an opportunity to visit his house in London.

The Ball is the last in a series of three performative lectures collectively presented as Arrival, with two others taking place mainly online. The Arrival is a series of three performative lectures by Dr Margarita Kuleva exploring changing relations between space, body, and culture in the context of new travel. The project is structured around auto-ethnographic experiences and a historical investigation of 19th-20th century Russian culture in motion.

As a result of COVID (and partly Brexit), new travel not only causes anxiety and identity crises but also opens up a broader debate on how body and culture are connected at the liminal non-sites of borders. Moreover, the discussion of the dissemination of culture and the physical ability to travel is deeply rooted in the social history of Russian literature and art. The archetypal example is Alexander Pushkin: the poet who continues to embody Russian literature globally, and who never travelled abroad. How do borders transform cultural identities? What is the connection between the arrival of culture and physical arrival? Is it even possible to arrive in the context of new travel?

Each of the three public lectures is an interdisciplinary travel through time and space, and a mix of anthropological research, cultural history, and performance art. The content and choice of location for every lecture are fundamentally interconnected. All three will be performed by Margarita Kuleva (and invited speakers at the final performance at Pushkin House), aiming however at giving a voice to the many who arrived, as well as to those who couldn’t travel.

Dr Margarita Kuleva is a sociologist of culture, interested in exploring social inequalities in the art world and creative industries mainly in Russia and the UK in order to develop fairer working conditions in the sector. Primarily, she works as an ethnographer to discover the ‘behind the scenes’ of cultural institutions to give greater visibility for the invisible workers of culture. She is currently based at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg, where she is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, holding the position of chair of the Department of Design and Contemporary Art.

The supporting team: Robin Mitchell, Alexander Uttu, and Nikita Yurov.