International Festival of Russian Art and Culture
Festival of Russian Art and Culture is now history. It is time to
take stock, give thanks, and look into the future.
took place in Las Vegas on November 19-21, 2000. Three years of
preparations paid off handsomely when some 50 poets, musicians,
visual artists, art critics, and literary scholars came together
to celebrate the passing of the Cold War and to reflect on the place
of art in society. The featured events included discussion panels,
poetry readings, music performances, a film screening, and a day
trip to the Grand Canyon. Judged from the published reviews, radio
programs, interviews, and numerous letters from the participants,
the Las Vegas festivities proved to be an experience the likes of
which this city has never seen.
We had our
share of adversities that threatened the project early on. The visual
art show in particular seemed in danger. Thanks to the curator's
ingenuity, the artists' generosity, and the art director's dedication,
however, the festival has exceeded expectations. Our exhibition
"America and Russian Nonconformist Art" turned out to
be a hit – it made the top ten list of the best art shows
gracing Las Vegas in the year 2000. The show received high marks
from the curators attending the festival and local art critics.
The exhibition will remain on display at the UNLV Barrick Museum
through March 16, 2000.
will find several reviews that appeared in the Las Vegas press during
the last few weeks. You may question certain judgments expressed
in these reviews; there are a couple of obvious misstatments and
misquotations, but the tone is respectful and the overall treatment
is very sympathetic. I also send you a few notes concerning the
festival that came my away, an interview with a festival participant
published on the Internet, and an example of personal statement
on American experience that we plan to publish later on. More reviews
and reminiscences will be coming out later, but every indication
we have so far suggests that this was a rare event. Konstantin Kustanovich
has captured the festival spirit this way: AIt was really an extraordinary
event. To see this dialogue between art and scholarship, to observe
people who have already become a part of Russian cultural mythology
was a rare aesthetic and intellectual treat. The proceedings of
a scholarly conference can easily be published, but this performance
was unique and it can survive only in the memory of those present.
those who took part in the live events could do full justice to
the festival spirit, I want to preserve some of it for posterity.
To that effect, I have been assembling the audio-visual archives.
I hope one day to bring out an art catalogue with the art samples,
festival photos, excerpts from the panel discussions, and personal
statements from the participants. There is no money for that at
the moment, some engenuous fundraising efforts would be needed to
pull this project through. Clearly, this is a long-term proposition.
is the prospect for creating a master tape with the festival video
footage, the video tour of the exhibition, and Oksana Bulgakova's
movie that we screened in Las Vegas. Two Southern Nevada TV stations
are committed to showing the film, and I am making inquiries about
the possibility of broadcasting it nationally. The UNLV film lab
has agreed to rent us its facilities to produce such a tape. Oksana
Bulgakova and Dietmar Hochmuth may come to Vegas as early as mid-February
to help produce the master tape and finish work on the movie "America
Made in Russia: Images of America in Russian Cinema." If you
wish to have your video or photo materials included in the master
tape, please send them to me as soon as possible.
art festival has also generated a plethora of audio materials. To
my regret, I did not make arrangements for a professional quality
recording of the artistic performances. The tape recorder used was
meant to capture the panel discussions rather than live music events
and poetry recitals. Once I have heard the tapes, however, I realized
that they have considerable value, both as historical documents
and artistic statements.
will find the first in a series of CDs honoring artists who dazzled
us at the Russian art festival. This is the live concert that Yuri
Shevchuk gave on November 19, 2000. The recording is far from perfect;
there are occasional glitches; the track #18, you will discover,
has gotten hopelessly entangled with another track. And yet, this
is one of the most powerful performances I have heard this artist
give. Unfiltered, unaided by technology, Yuri's voice cuts to the
emotional bone the way only a real time event can do. The recording
also contains a unique narrative, the story of the Russian rock
music, that many will find enlightening. I hope you enjoy this CD
and its attractive cover designed by Vladimir Paperny.
Next on my
agenda is a CD featuring the concert by Vladimir Tarasov and Dmitri
Prigov, followed by another CD, or a CD set, with poetry recitals
by Kushner, Rubinstein, Kibirov, and Prigov. I do not know when
all these projects will bear fruit. The festival funds have been
exhausted a while ago, and the future progress depends on extra
fundraising efforts. If you wish to help us pay for additional CDs,
the video master tape and art catalogue, you can make a small donation
to the festival fund by writing a check to AUNLV Board of Regents,
marking it down "Russian art festival," and mailing it
to Department of Sociology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV
89154-5033, attention Veona Hunsinger.
art festival may well be one of a kind event that abides no sequel.
The logistics of putting it together have been formidable, the circumstances
that made it possible unique, the wealth of experience it has generated
should last a lifetime. And yet, one can readily envision a series
of art related events under the now familiar Cold War/Hot Culture
heading that will bring together Russian artists working in different
media, let them reflect on the bygone era and the present art scene,
display their virtuosity and record their artistic ware. Las Vegas
may be a surprisingly fitting venue for such exercises: the hotel
rates are relatively low, food is cheap, the recording studio time
is a fraction of what it costs elsewhere, and the sheer splendor
of LV gaudy palaces is an attraction in and of itself. Why else
would the Guggenheim Museum and St. Petersburg Hermitage build a
permanent gallery here in collaboration with the Venetian Resort
and Casino? I do not know if I can rise up to the occasion if another
opportunity to stage a Russian festival comes along, but this is
food for thought.
I wish to thank the festival sponsors who made this event possible
– the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Nevada Humanities Committee,
Nevada Arts Council, UNLV College of Liberal Arts, and Marjorie
Barrick Museum. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Vladimir Paperny,
the festival art director; Katya Dyogot, the exhibition curator;
and Fred Starr, chair of the Advisory Board. Their hard work and
enthusiasm were invaluable in carrying this monster project to term.
I am grateful to all the artists, art critics, and scholars who
joined forces with us in this undertaking. Thanks are also due to
those of you who used personal resources to come to Las Vegas and
show support for Russian art. I hope to see all of you again some