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The St. Petersburg Cultural Forum: the art of Malevich, Tsvetayeva’s drafts and “clown-therapy”


St. Petersburg’s 2nd Cultural Forum has gathered more than 2 thousand guests. Ten different sections – including movie and theatre, loud premieres. It is already been equated to the economic forum for its scale. But if figures are used to impress in the world of finance, its far more complicated in the daedal world of art. Mariya Marchenko reports.


There are around a hundred paintings by Kazimir Malevich in these halls of the Benoit Museum, but all of them had been created before and after the one and only, the most mysterious and – at the same time – the simplest one: “The black square”. A century since its creation, it still causing debates and sparks questions. Despite it had a concrete meaning in the futuristic opera “Victory over the Sun”, where it was seen for the 1st time – the victory of active human art over passive form of nature. 

Evgeniya Petrova, deputy scientific director of the Russkiy museum: “That opera is built on antilogism. Antilogism in music, art – painting that is – and text. This was an attempt to depart from banality, which – as it was considered then – had been filling everything”. 

Artists of the Shtiglitz Academy recreated costumes and decorations of the famous opera. The Stas Namin center reconstructed the play. The video is shown at an exhibition within the Cultural Forum. Organizers claim that the public will see such Malevich for the first time.  

This red sheet book – the one used by scholars – is one of the last unprinted collections of draft works by Marina Tsvetayeva. Today it has finally found its home- 80 years since it was written. Swiss slavicist Georges Nivat presented the Institute of the Russian Literature with this priceless book. It contains draft works of poems, essays and letters to unknown recipients.

Georges Nivat, historian, Slavicist, member of Europen Academy (London): “This is a unique chance to look inside the intimate part of Tsvetayeva’s works, into her literary forgery”. 

The manuscript was lucky to out-live its owner. Tsvetayeva wrote it in 1931-33 while in Paris. Before returning to the USSR in 1939, she gave it to her friend – poet Maximillian Voloshin. He then gave the book to writer Mark Slonim, later it found its way to Georges Nivat.  

Mariya Marchenko, correspondent: “This facsimile copy of the famous “Red Book” by Tsvetayeva. The original is forbidden from handling – its pages are too fragile. Judging by this text, its easy to see how the poetess worked. Its hard to make out words. Handwriting is small, many phrases abbreviated into several letters. Now wonder it took researches 6 months to understand the text”. 

Facsimile copies will be available in stores, the original book will be displayed at the Pushkinsky museum. Ways to make a museum modern were discussed today at the Hermitage theatre. The main conclusion – financing culture according to the leftover principle is unacceptable. The state must be a sponsor, instead of a patron. Peculiar suggestions – based on foreign experience – were voiced as well. 

Alexander Rubinshtein, first deputy director of RAS Institute of Economy: “Some bureaucrats from the government must pass a culture test. That’s why we have these suggestions. First off, people supervising culture – at all levels of power – must also have a second position at executive branch of power. Secondly, to be eligible for this job – they have to pass this exam”.

Even usually carefree clowns were serious today. Leaving their false noses, make-up and costumes aside, they deliberated on how to modernize the circus. Vyacheslav Polunin suggested to the foreign colleagues to create several associations, which would unite followers of street theatres and those who are into the so-called “clown-therapy”. That is when actors cure sick children with laughter. Polunin has made sure on many occasions that this method often works better than pills.  

Vyacheslav Polunin, director of St. Petersburg’s theatre at the Fontanka: “I had funny stories when I was young. A director of a maternity ward, when he had too many future mothers in admittance, who were reluctant to give birth – he called me. Well, Slava, its your show. I came there, made them laugh and they went to do the most important thing straight away”. 

Dancing today was also only theoretical. The ballet segment was opened recently by the newly-appointed artistic director of the Vaganova Academy Nikolay Tsiskharidze and Boris Eyfman. He admitted that there is a shortage of staff in today’s ballet – there’s a shortage of creative leaders and choreographers. No wonder Tsiskharidze today offered a teacher’s job at the Vaganova Academy to his renowned colleague. 

Boris Eyfman, renowned artist: “We will talk about what unites us, what new things we want to learn. Because, you know, the Russian ballet schools is an integration of different schools – French, Italian, Danis. And today, to my mind, we have this need to look around us” 

More than 2000 guests and 10 sections, including movies and theatre – its been second year in a row that St. Petersburg hosts such a large-scale debate on culture. The forum is already compared to the economic one. Apart from conferences, the city will host premiere plays and concerts – including Vyacheslav Polunin’s new play “Chu”, Boris Eyfman’s ballet “Roden” and Sergey Stadler’s concert program “120 years without Tchaikovsky”.