There is a painting, "The Artist and His Mother," by an American artist of
Armenian descent.1 I wish
it would be possible to spread this painting all over the
territory of Armenia. Everywhere. In airports, department stores,
restaurants, garrisons, orphanages, casinos, Parliament, and in newspapers
and textbooks. I would have tossed out reproductions of the picture from a
helicopter. I am sad that there are no works of the Great Vostanik in
Armenia, that Armenians do not read his letters in the original (they read
a reverse translation from English), that one of the tragic
figures of our age has become rather a faraway exotic than a real person.
my first "text work" in 1964. For this, I used the pages from the book of
the Western Armenian poet Siamanto. The spectators could not only view but
also read the picture. This event happened in Russia, in my second year of
service in the Soviet Army. A photograph of this work must be in the
archive of the poet Razmik Davoyan.
struck when I first saw Khebnikov's manuscripts, Beuys's drawings,
Malevich's "Square," and Arshile Gorky's photograph.
visited foreign countries, the Bolshoi Theater or Lenin's
When I made up my non-drawn pictures, I couldn't imagine that one day such
works would be called either Soc Art or Conceptualism or both together.
For many years the Communists,
or more exactly
their Central Committee, fed me and my family. The major Soviet
magazines were published under the aegis of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It was in these very
that I illustrated the works of our multicultural literature. During
twenty years of membership in the "USSR Artists' Union" I didn't sell a
single picture, didn't get a single commission, although I meticulously
paid my membership fees.
I really haven't felt the
change of times. As under the old regime, I continue to illustrate
historical and detective books, short stories of dubious quality, and
folklore of the multicultural South of Russia. I am happy that now, as
before, my art is art for art's sake and in no way do I yearn impatiently
for "long-awaited meetings with an audience." And I'm not sorry that less
work is getting done. What difference how many stacks of newspapers sit in
the corner of the room or hang on the walls. It's not a matter of
quantity. The idea is what counts.
"We are parting for good, my friend, that's that.
Draw an empty circle on your yellow pad.
This will be me: no insides in thrall.
Stare at it a while, then erase the scrawl."
This is Brodsky.
this is [Alexei] Kruchenykh:
"... What is the supreme joy? This is when in the cold of night you walk and look for a place to sleep. You see a light, you knock long at the door, but they don't open for you and drive you away."
Previously the editors gave me "Caucasian" tales to illustrate. Later
they began telephoning me with questions about what the clothing or the homes of the
mountain people are like, what they have to eat. Now they don't ask
anything, they draw themselves the way they want.
– 2042 – TO THE END OF THE LINE"2
Armenia the works of an Armenian artist living in Egypt were very popular.3 His
pictures were somehow colorless gray, almost monochrome. The Soviet
critics explained that the Armenian artist could not see things otherwise in
the foreign land: without the Motherland there is no color nor joy.
After some time, this artist moved to his historic motherland, socialist Armenia. After he received a house and studio, the artist continued to paint as he painted in faraway Egypt. The art experts explained that the author was very authentic in his works, since in Armenia there are often cloudy days.
articles by our critics remind me of translated works, where unknown words
are left in the language of the original. In medicine Latin terms are used
so as, perhaps, not to frighten the patient. But the art critics do that
possibly to seem more weighty.
consider my own works in prose immeasurably more important for the country
than all the poems and novels of Solzhenitsyn." - Varlam Shalamov
appears that Shalamov a number of times called Solzhenitsyn "a
appears that Tatlin was in love with Nadezhda Mandelstam.
labor camp prose, Shalamov is first, I am second, and Solzhenitsyn is
third." - Yuri Dombrovsky
literary merits of a book, so appreciated at one time (I used to pay
attention to them first of all), now are of no importance to me." -
certain Mr. Krupin appeared at Moscow TV complaining that "these
non-Russians" were monopolizing television, radio, and
newspapers. That they were insolently teaching Russians how to live. He
said that it was time to definitely stop this. The next morning I got a
call from the "Rural Life" magazine. They asked me to do an illustration.
I got the envelope with manuscript at their office, went home, and took
out the manuscript. It was a story by this very Krupin.
a need to speak about [Alexander] Sokurov.4 First I have to make many apologies, I must
understand the rules of our film propagandist porridge. How one of
persecuted filmmakers in a short time could be turned into one of the leading
figures of Soviet cinematography? I am impressed by his ability to make movies
without interruption. Probably he is the only film director in the former
USSR who has shot so many films, all the time complaining on the
helplessness of the distribution circuit, of the lack of money, of the
indifference of State film institutions.
Alexander Hertzen5 in every letter
from London never tires of speaking about London
fogs. One letter, another letter, fogs are everywhere. A researcher on Hertzen's biography, an Englishman, decided to check the atmospheric
conditions in those years. He looked through the newspapers of Hertzen's
days. Amazingly there were no fogs; to spite Hertzen in London there
were only sunny days then.
there are many anniversary writings on [Sergey]
Gerasimov:6 he would have been 90 years old. His former students and his
widow Tamara Makarova recall him. They say he was a man of encyclopedic
knowledge, that his films are of inimitable esthetics, in a word, that he
was a great man.
Here is what I remember about him. It was Lenin days. Possibly the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birth. We were all herded into the auditorium. Classes, of course, were canceled. On the stage was a huge portrait of Lenin, in the presidium sat, as it was called, the elite of Soviet film production. Gerasimov himself was at the lectern, and below in front of the stage there was a table with two ladies that took down non-stop stenographic notes of every word spoken by Sergey Gerasimov.
He was talking about something, talking and talking more, but suddenly his voice and intonation changed and he asked the audience: "Have you been to Lenin's office in the Kremlin?" I don't know what he expected from the audience, but the most complete silence was the only answer to him. Then, turning to the stenographers, he threateningly said: "Underline this twice. Every student of our Institute imperatively must visit Lenin's office!" Yes, I haven't forgotten his words: "underline it twice." He thought that he would be cited forever. However, the Institute was named after him, although many do not even know who Gerasimov was and what sort of films he made. He succeeded in hitching onto a departing train. A typical representative of the Soviet era, who didn't leave any trace in art, though he was a professor, had a doctorate, was a People's Artist and a Hero of Socialist Labor.
the late [actor] Kaidanovsky told a story on
Paradzhanov traveled to Paris with a Soviet film delegation. Of course there were various meetings and exchanges of small souvenirs. So, our prominent filmmaker went to a local flea market and bought some sort of trinket. In the evening, during a meeting on French television, in front of an audience of a few million people, he gave this little thing to a famous movie actress. She, of course, was embarrassed, truly touched. Sergey Iossifovich said something senseless, affirming cynically that "this relic" was left to him by his beloved mother. The Frenchwoman was deeply impressed: the great filmdirector, the prisoner of conscience, the successor to centuries-old Caucasian traditions...
I was sitting in front of the TV, as if spat upon. How can this be? What a boorish attitude?
It is said that everything that passes through Paradzhanov's hands becomes invaluable.
They, this elite of the nation, love practical jokes. They cannot go a day without a practical joke. You're welcome! But why do this on a sincere, unsuspecting actress which doesn't know about our customs? You want a joke? Fool a Young Communist League leader, the director of the Armenian Film Studio, the warden of a prison, the president of the USSR State Film Committee, the head of the passport desk and the housing service committee, but our jokers are scared to do it with bosses.
There was an artist named Zverev. His friends, knowing the hopelessness of exhibiting his works in the USSR, sought various ways to send his works abroad. French conductor Igor Markevich came to Moscow. Our "miserables" threw themselves at his feet, saying, genius is perishing here in obscurity and poverty, help! The poor Frenchman agrees to take out pictures so as to organize an exhibition in France. After a few days, at the end of his tour, Markevich has to leave Russia. Zverev starts to work intensively, and at the same time asks his wife to also color canvases and cardboards. And the family, poor but proud of its convictions, loads down the famous conductor with priceless artistic baggage.
After some time, Zverev receives an envelope with photographs from the Paris exhibition of the Russian painter Zverev unrecognized in his motherland. Among the works exhibited he also sees pictures made by the hands and fingers of his wife-assistant. Celebrating with a few drinks with colleagues, Zverev says, "What idiots these Frenchmen are! They understand nothing of art! They hung the worthless painting by my wife in the very center."
A practical joke is justified only in a certain place, in a certain milieu, when the joker and his "victim" have even possibilities, could change places. Then it has its own game rules and no protestations, but these jokes played in another, innocent milieu are just plain boorish.
I catch myself on the thought that I simply don't like both of them. One, beside the ordinarily painted landscapes has innumerable little, disgustingly-colored women's mouths and rubber-stamped eyes. And the other in his films assembled really great scenes together with a lot of clearly helpless, inept ones.
I know the stories about many artists, who, to put it mildly, fiddled with the dates on their pictures and boasted of fictitious friendship with great artists, but the incidents with these two French persons, our contemporaries, are absolutely unacceptable for me.
summer of 1967 Arthur Peleshian produced his documentary film "The
Beginning." Sometime after the success of the film, he says, "I want to do
a sequel to "The Beginning." One of us quipped, "A black screen, music
screen, music. Continuing for ten minutes. And then a title appears: 'The
Many years later I heard that he had made a film, where he used "The End" as an idea or as a title.
a common practice in the [Cinematography]
Institute to get together in the evening, to chat, to gossip, to talk
about plans. Peleshian says: "I don't like the title "Sun"; my backup
title is "Knot." I don't remember who said what, but I suggested
"We." This was the title of an Armenian poem, I saw it somewhere in Dziga
A long time ago, when I used to be asked if the film "We" was good, I honestly answered: "The film is rather ordinary, but the title is good."
Institute each of us awaited the return of anyone from Yerevan. We all
hoped that something could be begged from our relatives. And once our
student met in Yerevan a well-known actor Mkrtchian Senior. The student
said, so and so, tomorrow I'm leaving for Moscow, should I give something
to your brother?
Mkrtchian replied "Give him my best regards!"
time I looked long for the animated feature "The Yellow
Submarine." Finally I found a pirated videotape of it. It's
too bad that in Russia only specialists know about this picture. The years
pass by, a million films were shown, but not a word of "The Yellow
Submarine" as if this film did never exist.
"I can't think of anything. A feeling of total breakdown. My body is
flabby, my belly sticks out, my stomach is upset, my voice is hoarse. A
frightening depression and neurasthenia. Nothing interests me... I need to
work, but I do nothing, absolutely nothing. And I can't do anything."
newspaper "Kultura" [Culture], 1996, No. 29, had an article about Armenian
film. There the film "Mkhitar sparapet" was called "Mkhitar from the
parapet." In fact Mkhitar is a name and "sparapet" is a rank or
title. Like Prince Igor.
[In Armenian "sparapet" means "general of the armies." In Russian "s parapeta" means "from the parapet."]
said about the Greeks: "a nasty people, consisting of bandits and
famine years [poet Valeriy] Briusov, who was
in charge of the academic food rations, refused a ration to
Mandelstam: "a minor poet."
[Jacob] Druskin had not come in the winter of
1942 to the Kharms's empty room and hadn't taken from it the small
suitcase with the manuscripts?
Anarchist Kropotkin believed that wars would stop if large cities, the
nest of the world's vices, were erased from the face of the earth.
Leone in reply to a question from a Times correspondent, "Why are you so
relentless?" answered, "And you, it seems, don't read your own paper?"
appears that Brodsky also shook his cigarette ashes over his shoulder and
almost never used an ashtray.
Mandelstam smoked exactly the same way.
the most expensive paintings by Aivazovsky [painter
of seascapes of Armenian descent] is "View of Constantinople with
the Nasreti Mosque." More than 520,000 bucks at Sotheby's, it seems. I was
amazed by "view of Constantinople." Not "view of Ararat," but "view of
Constantinople with the mosque"...
appears that during the war [World War II], at Petr
Miturich's home there was a list of things to be saved in case of bombardment. The first were [Velimir] Khebnikov's
manuscripts, then Vera Khebnikov's paintings, and in the last place
Miturich's own works.
In his time the Foreign Minister Shevardnadze reported at the press
conference that "a certain Orlov" was being released. He was
talking about Yury Orlov the physicist.9
summer of 1969, awaiting the arrival of a steamboat, we loitered around
the city of Yenisseisk. I didn't know then that the exiled
[Nikolai] Erdman was living there.
[Marina] Tsvetaeva couldn't ride on the
subway, in a taxi, on a bus, or on a trolley-bus. Only on a streetcar.
Voznesensky has memoirs entitled "O." Warhol has a novel, "A," Ivanov has
"U," and Olga Mukhina has a play, "Y."
seems that Paradzhanov's son never visited his father in the camp where he
think about the phenomenon of beggars. Not about the fact that among them
are many rascals and wheeler-dealers, that for many it is in fact a job. I
think that many want to be poor or, more accurately, do not want not to be
poor. I'm not talking about those that live badly, but about those that
ask for money. Need is not a justification. There are
more needy people than there are beggars. For normal people there are
forbidden zones. One of them is to ask for alms. A person who has crossed
this border can no longer be the subject (?) of pity. These poor want to
live better than other needy persons. I don't want to count their money,
but after an hour or two the money they have collected is enough to buy
not just a loaf of bread, saving themselves from indignity.
There are people who are predisposed to become supplicants. There are people who easily become accustomed to prison conditions. They land there for the fourth or fifth time. Each time they find or provoke a reason to go back to captivity.
There are people who try to find every possible way to go to war (to kill).
To sum up, human depravity has many forms, but poverty is considered "honest"; it evokes sympathy and support. Those who give money and those who take it - they deserve each other.
was the early 1990s. I received a call from "Literaturnaya Gazeta."
[Literary Gazette] They said that for their
column called "Seen by an Artist" or "Artist's Impression" they needed an
illustration for [Erofeev's] "Moscow to the
End of the Line."10 They probably knew about me after my illustrations for "Ogonyok." They
hardly seen other works of mine.
It was Friday. The work had to be done on Monday. Immediately a dozen possibilities came to mind. Some were suitable for a rush order, others for acceptability, still others for literary esthetes, some with anti-Soviet charm, others with a playful stuffing, etc.
I knew that ordinary illustrations would not do for Erofeev. But also it should be done in such a way that there, in the editorial office, they couldn't say, "Oh, your picture is not the way we imagine that." I had no idea what they wanted. Nor why they gave me the order. They could have delegated this work to their own staff illustrator.
From these dozen possibilities there was one, that would make it possible to deliver the work on time. Once there was an incident involving a three-day search for an unusual wristwatch. The story mentioned that the hero wore a watch with a metal mesh screen attached over the face for protection from rocks and shards. I very much wanted to depict this very watch. I searched among the specialized editions I had at home, but didn't find anything. I thought about the Moscow Polytechnic Museum, there is a whole watch department. I went there. I saw a lot of watches, even the latest electronic ones, but those that I wanted weren't there. I phoned some artist friends and asked what such watches looked like. No one had seen one with a metal screen. Actually, one of them said that he knew how to draw a special watchstrap on which one could mount pocket watches and wear them as wristwatches.
Of course I had to depict another episode from the story and of course, no one blamed me for the absence of this particular watch.
Back to Erofeev, in these few days I had to find a subject for my illustration that would cost "little blood." I recalled a painting with Lenin in the railroad car with the Red Army soldiers. All other subjects immediately fell away. The railroad, Lenin, and the Red Army soldiers. Abstruse conversations: one speaks intelligent words, the others listen. Everything was ready, a final chord was needed (what a pity that I can't write like a writer, otherwise a director baton would appear, brass instruments, and then the kettledrums and finally bells!). This finishing touch suggested itself. Bottles. Bottles tossed everywhere around the car.
There are writers, and then movie directors have appeared whose art is based entirely on citations. I don't think this way, but I sometimes want to play with "ready fragments," referring to the "ready-mades."
Everything fitted. The railroad car – the country, Lenin – Them, the Red Army soldiers – us, but at the last minute I decided to remove Lenin. For many years within me there was a neutrally sounding internal censor or, more simply – FEAR. Without fear I did what I knew in advance that nobody would see. For many years I didn't sign works, thinking that if something happened I could simply deny them.
And I decided to do without Lenin. I am convinced even until day that with the Leader of the World Proletariat and the bottles tossed about everywhere, this picture would hardly have been printed. Of course it would have been possible simply to depict a drinking group in a suburban train. But this wouldn't have been Erofeev. This would be ordinary caricature. Even in oil paints, even on canvas, it still would have been caricature.
Not long ago I watched how we were celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of Erofeev's birth. It was a grandiose drinking party. But what's the connection with Erofeev? We drank even without a special cause. A lot of banality, a lot of impostors (why an interview with Spider the musician? What was his value for this anniversary?) Everyone saying "Venechka, Venechka." It was a strange day. It was unclear who was drunk and who was just tipsy. In the paper there was a huge article by a woman, who wrote about the last days of the writer. The TV anchorwoman said that unfortunately the last love of Venedikt Erofeev could not come to the interview. On that day they also spoke about his wife Galya who threw herself out a window. They said that the late wife and the live mistress had become close friends.
They even showed the mother of Erofeev's son. She was sitting at a falling-down house, like a homeless person, with no teeth. She said that a German TV reporter for a long time could not believe that this was how the family of the great writer lived. In tears, she openly drove away the young correspondent, this time from our TV. They also showed the son in the shed, where he rears the pigs.
Then [Vassily] Aksenov spoke from far-away America, saying that we'd found a ridiculous person's anniversary to celebrate. And Voinovich, who lives in Germany, said that Vassily Pavlovich [Aksenov] was wrong. Then Liubimov, who lives in Hungary expressed his opinion about this matter.
Wife and mistress, America and Petushki, horse races and TV marathons, rockers, and DJ's, greetings of state functionaries and a police wind orchestra... There was no difference with the hurry-scurry of a suburban train.
Oh yes, there was also Osetinsky who was arguing in "Literaturnaya gazeta" that he was smarter than the Englishmen.
To sum up, the celebrating people not only got drunk but also clarified their relations.
I was sorry for the wife who was raising the son for many long years. The mayor of Petushki, the town at the end of the line, should have given his speech in the Erofeev's barnyard, and instead of plaster monuments, they should have repaired the Erofeev's' house.
I could keep on talking about these "celebrations" (I recorded all the ceremonies and bought a few newspapers), but I want to continue the history of the drawing.
On Monday I took the work to the editor's office and on Wednesday, I saw it in the newspaper, though a second color had been added. In some newspapers they used a second color, but they warn the artist in advance. I have made many illustrations for Moscow newspapers and journals, and it very rarely happens when one want to illustrate a particular author and receives a call with a proposal for work just on that author. Rare, but it happens.
In fact, it is impossible to illustrate "Moscow to the End of the Line" by ordinary means. It is absolutely necessary to find an original approach, method, or even a game. Today, looking at my computer display, I have the feeling that I am looking at the book that I did long ago, my version of "Moscow...": there were the same small text characters (as the author's text on the book pages), running captions below, frames with images appearing in the various places of the window. These windows may be static, like a video fragment frozen on the "Pause" button. Now I no longer remember if then, in 1992, I had seen a "genuine" computer. Perhaps I saw it, but sure that I had no clear idea of its functions.
I wanted to make neither a book nor a picture. On each page, our life had to be present. Simply and clearly. Like a TV reporting with an off-screen voice. This became my invention, my found approach. Titles, a kind of running text captions on each pair of pages embodied that very off-screen voice. TV reporting plus an anchor's voice behind the picture. I also found another approach and was delighted: somewhere in the middle of the book the pages must be mixed up and the pictures attached carelessly, because it is clear that make such a work and not to have a few drinks would be a sin.
Further I found the text for these "subtitles." Every day I was enjoying the book that I even had not begun. But gathering materials was a great pleasure, though sometimes problematic. I recalled many stories, incidents, and adventures connected with artists. How they looked for models in a crowd, how they then persuaded them, how they found an appropriate landscape, how there were not paints and they used old house paints. There was no stretcher frame: they used the four legs of an overturned table. There was no canvas: they used a sheet. Every artist had encountered his own problems. So had I.
Soviet posters were on sale everywhere, there were particularly many of them in the "Military Book" store. Posters with images of military equipment, gas masks, grenades, Dzerzhinsky's biography, Lenin's childhood, boy-scout heroes, etc. I walked among store shelves, as if I was walking on a palette among colors squeezed out of tubes in search of the right color. The most suitable for me was a poster with instructions (or, more exactly, with slogans) for citizens on how to protect themselves from the mass extermination weapons, in common terms - from an atom bomb. I bought a set – I no longer remember how many sheets there were. The saleswoman asked: "Do you need a receipt for your bookkeeping department?" It would be strange if she hadn't asked that. Probably I was the only buyer ever who took this sort of material for himself and not for an organization.
Cutting off these slogans from the posters, I started pasting them on the broadsides of Erofeev's "poem in prose". After a while I understood that the red strips of slogans would not be enough to get to the end of the book. I started to economize. Instead of two or three words in a page I pasted one word at a time. I counted the remaining words and then the pages – there still would not be enough. Then I met another unexpected problem: the combination of the words from the slogans and the pictures that were on the page resulted in such a terrifying content that I had to somehow soften what I had done. There was no system involved. On the left side I put an image, on the right side I pasted the book pages from "Moscow..." Across the broadside, at page bottom, these slogans went from one page to the other, like TV running text. I began to worry that all this would interfere with Erofeev's text. That was not what I wanted.
"IT IS IMPERATIVE TO STRICTLY OBSERVE ALL RULES OF CONDUCT IN CASE OF DANGER AND DURING THE USE BY THE ENEMY OF BACTERIOLOGICAL (BIOLOGICAL) WEAPONRY."
Here everything would be funny: a label from canned pork, a photo of Che Guevara as a child or the "Joseph Stalin" train.
At the end of the book:
"Interbook Publishers regrets to report that the prominent Russian writer VENEDIKT VASSILIEVICH EROFEEV died on May 11 after a long and serious illness.
...The funeral will be at Vagankov Cemetery at 1 p.m."
Now, every time when I walk past the Donskoy Monastery Church, I remember that rainy day. By mistake I wandered into the Donskoy Monastery and wondered for a long time why nobody or almost nobody was there. In the far corner of the territory there was a little church. I noticed that a few visitors were going in to it and coming out and walking away quickly. Approaching the church I understood that I was not the only one to have made a mistake about the place of the funeral. It was already 11 a.m. There was a drizzly rain. There was construction going on and there were trenches dug up everywhere. Jumping and avoiding the construction trash, we hurried to the Donskoy church where the late writer was resting. The only person I know and whom I greeted was the future deputy minister of culture, the art critic Bazhanov. I acknowledged [poetess] Akhmadulina. Taganka [theater] figures Liubimov and Smekhov came with a huge bouquet. There was people drinking wine outside. Then we heard the announcement that the funeral at Vagankov Cemetery11 was not authorized. They provided buses, and I could ride with everyone to the cemetery, but I decided to return home.
Masha's help I found an Internet version of the Armenian newspaper "Aravot."
I was deeply impressed that the fresh morning news were already available
in the evening. It means that there's nothing wrong if today people are
less writing or calling one another. There are other means of
communication. It's great!
Sokurov's film "The Knot."12 In Soviet time, there was a documentary genre
called "pop science." This film is of the same sort but worse: stupid
questions, stupid answers. All this seemed so absurd.
HE [Solzhenitsyn] forbade Russian television to show another film, by another director. The director, she said that in her film it was not Solzhenitsyn, but she who recalled Elizaveta Voronianskaya, the typist who hanged herself. (I should not to cut in, but many years ago, in my series of "adventurous" portraits, I did a sheet with the name of Voronianskaya under a portrait of Rosa Luxemburg.) By the way she told about how Solzhenitsyn himself wrote letters praising himself and sent them to various publishers. Perhaps this is why Solzhenitsyn doesn't want to remember her name. Well, it's just an hypothetic thought. But it is a low act to prevent the broadcast of a film today. And HE still talks about repentance. He says he sinned because of youth or naiveté, and ratted a bit on his fellow labor camp inmates. Not bad as repentance when people already know that there is a DOCUMENT!
I'm probably sitting for twenty minutes and can't continue. What, Sokurov didn't know about Solzhenitsyn's slashing article about "Rublev"?13 What, he didn't know about Tarkovsky's disgust with this article, which he considered stupid? He knew, he surely knew, nevertheless he decided to make a film about HIM. Tarkovsky can be forgotten. Values change.
Today one person in his old age forbids another, and a younger one calmly oversteps the bounds of morality and respect. And these very people most of all talk about the fate of Russia. It sounds stale, but that is how I'll end these notes.
the Dashnak [member of the Armenian Nationalist
Federation Party] Vermishev said, "Russian imperialism in the
Caucasus has established law and order, which didn't exist there before."
meeting at the studio [SOYUZMULTFILM],
director Ivanov-Vano said, "It's so sad that so-and-so has departed." From
the auditorium were heard cries: "Goodness, Ivan Petrovich, he's alive!"
Ivan Petrovich was embarrassed, but quickly found an answer: "I mean that
he has departed from the studio."
Mkrtchian, the actor, lived in the Mosfilm Studio Hotel. Usually actors
and directors arriving from the Soviet republics stayed there. The hotel
administrator came into his room and said: "Mr. Mkrtchian, please leave
your room tomorrow. People's Artist Igor Vladimirov is coming tomorrow,
and he usually stays in this room."
Mkrtchian, smiling said: "And why do you think that he's more talented than I?"
on me please the way my mom and dad do, the pupil tried to insist, so that
the class director wouldn't mangle his name.
"We don't have such a name, 'Dato' [Georgian first name]," insisted the teacher, "There are Dimitris and Denises. Who are we children? Answer all together, loudly."
"Russians!", they answered.
"What country do we live in?"
This was in the national newspaper "Izvestia" on October 30, 1999
the first time in my life I regret that I don't know how to ride a
bicycle. I'd like to appear on stage on a bicycle, get off, perform, again
get on, and ride way: curtain. Now I have to get somebody who can ride on
the stage while I perform."
From the correspondence between Tzara and Picabia, March 1919
had a call from the publishing house, they asked to illustrate Suteev,
but it had to be like his own pictures. We met. A lady was sitting there,
something like the art director or the chief editor. She speaks a lot
about the pictures of the late Suteev, what pleasant and remarkable little
animals. Yes, of course, beautiful, remarkable, I agreed. But I had never
seen Suteev's pictures. I knew that there was such an artist who wrote
tales for little children or, on the contrary, a writer who drew, also for
children. I remember animated films based on his scenarios, quite ordinary
She speaks, I agree, - think, draw like the children's artist. But I didn't have any idea at all about how he drew. I took the manuscript, promising that on Monday I would bring a sample picture. After approval I would continue the work.
On the way home, I went into several bookstores, asked for Suteev's book "The Enchanted Shop." I didn't find it. At home I read the story. It was entirely not Suteev. In the first place it was a story for older school students, in the second place, instead of animals, the heroes were "pioneers." I decided that I would look for the book tomorrow. Any book, so as to see how he draws children. Nowhere did I find the story I wanted, and everywhere the salesclerks told me that I had gotten the wrong name of the author, that Suteev wrote only for the very smallest children. Finally I bought a collection of Suteev's stories with pictures by the author. And I understood that I had gone beyond my capabilities in promising to draw like this artist.
When you draw like another artist, this is either envy or worship before the talent of this artist. Here I didn't see anything except a medium-grade talent, slovenliness in execution, carelessness of line, and miserable color solutions. A case when, drawing like the author, you wouldn't enjoy what you had done and every second would be thinking about how to correct the original.
And the main thing was that I didn't find any "human" personas. I didn't see anything that he had drawn other than animals. I was not interested in the mechanism of the popularity of these miserable works. I was worried about how to draw children, which the author had not drawn, and that they would be like Suteev's drawings. I made one sample drawing, but clearly it was not like Suteev's animals. Of course it was too bad: I wait each time for a work and what a pity to get this kind of situation.
In fact my artistic work is unique to the point of being laughable. Each time when people offered work, each thought that I was a specialist in this very area. And the things I did were always in parallel to each other. In parallel with my work on cartoons I did realistic pictures for "Pioneer" magazine. In parallel with children's illustrations in "Misha" magazine I did serious illustrations for serious authors in "Ogonyok" review. I should not think of artistic fine points, now I had to meet in good faith the stupid wishes of those who give me a job. Well, no such luck. I was helpless in front of the stranglehold of Suteev's style. I don't care for them, but when suddenly a work appear and getting it depends upon the quality of editor's taste or the size of the market, then whether you wanted to or not you had to think about your own capacity to get involved in the money process. I am already thankful that I still have calls for work, and my problem to accept the rules of this business is only mine.
No luck. They said that the kids were not drawn like Suteev's. I said, "But he has never drawn little boys, it seems that he even did not write the story!" "No," they say, "We need 'Suteev'".
And they rejected me.
I honestly "studied" the drawings of this author, the miserable illustrations, the sloppy drawing, the primitive composition. Suteev, the best artist in today's book business! I don't care about this phenomenon, which is normal for our country. I couldn't draw calmly, this work was degrading for me. Why Suteev, if there are graphic artists where imitating their drawings would be only a pleasure! Well, whoever offers the job makes the rules.
The same story with the "Prostokvashino" calendar. At first, I understood nothing. The editor who had known me for a long time, would not accept my drawings with the personas of my own cartoon! He said, "the cat is wrong, so is the dog." I said, "This is what the cat was like in the film." He again returned to his phrase, "not that cat," and from a pile of papers that were on his desk he pulled out coloring book where on the cover was some sort of dark blue cat and some sort of red dog with a baseball cap on its head. I complained that they were not from the cartoon. The editor said: "They were printed long ago and the public only understands the cat and the dog this way." Of course he politely added that he liked what I had done. Then another editor comes up and at once says, "Oh, of course, they are not like the heroes." And for further confirmation he adds: "And I myself used to draw, I know better," and started to think aloud, trying to help me: "Once their were some movie books with pictures from cartoons..."
To sum up, after making a couple of sketches and a pair of original drawings I turned down this venture. And nobody tried to persuade me - why be surprised when an artist turns down work. They always can order these pictures from the artist by whose models I had been supposed to work. And you can't do anything: first it's impossible to prove anything, and second it's important to do not spoil the contact and to get other work there.
I'm ending on a sad note, but in fact this discussion about "Prostokvashino" was very amusing. Once I heard (a true story?) about Charlie Chaplin, who participated in a competition of his doubles and took only third prize. From my personal experience I can conclude that the decisive factor is not so much the contestants as the judges.
Yampolsky has a book, "Unconsciousness as a Source" about Kharms.14 The
author is a philosopher, an expert on culture, to sum up, a well-known
person. And his book is about the mystique of Kharms's work. Many
chapters. One of them is called "Window." The author gives many examples
of a window - "a window" in Kharms's letter to Poliakovskaya, in
Andrey Bely's works. Then
the author relies on his "colleagues and friends": Louis Marin, Swift, Philip
Sydney, Giordano Bruno, Edmund Spencer, Nicolaus Cusanus, Pavel Florensky,
Gershom Sholem, Hubert Skinner, Plato, Socrates, Ann Carson, Friedrich
Kittler, Paul de Mann, John Donn, Baudelaire, Goethe, abbot Suger, Paul
Ricoeur, Lewis Carroll, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Valeriy Podoroga, Emile Benveniste,
Derrida, Krzhizhanovsky, Ephraim Urbach, and Khlebnikov. Perhaps I've left someone
out. Nothing to worry about, that's already enough people. And this
was all about Kharms's "window." Moving around the letters and verses on
the meaning of "window," the author goes further. He considers Kharms's
drawing, "Self-Portrait at a Window."
In fact there are many drawing people, especially among writers. Almost any poet or prose writer has a piece of paper where something is sketched (or, we can say, drawn). Yampolsky analyzes Kharms's drawing. I do not know if the author saw the original or didn't care, but in the book there is a reproduction of a COPY of the drawing. The author-philosopher doesn't warn that it is not THE DRAWING itself. I.e., he builds his conclusions on an initially distorted image. Further it should be noticed that this drawing is from a notebook, and "scribbles" in notebooks have a different purpose, different goals, and different reasons for appearing than "normal" drawings.
Let's read Mikhail Yampolsky:
"Among a whole series of self-portraits of Kharms that have come down to us, there is one at a window. This self-portrait is enigmatic. The heavy, broad frame of the window cuts the person through it in two at the waist. It means that the person at the window is inside the house and is seen from outside. But behind his back extends not a room, but a schematically depicted landscape. In other words the outer and inner space are mutually reflected, penetrating one another. But the most curious is that the depicted person (Kharms itself) has no face. Instead of face there is a black spot. The face is blotted out, disfigured by both a 'figure' of the window and the mirrored, paradoxical reversal of spaces."
"Heavy, broad frame." Heavy frame or the wall around the window? The window itself is very thin, in some places even fine. "It means that the person at the window is inside the house and is seen from outside." Is it worth writing about this? That's so obvious! Of course, the person behind the window is also in a room. "Behind his back extends not a room, but a ... landscape." A landscape? Yampolsky is like those art lovers who search and find in abstract pictures a cloud or fantastic figures or various items, and are happy that they have found them. Yampolsky, having the picture in front of himself and knowing the poet Kharms, does not imagine that Kharms cannot "make pictures" as "competently" as he makes verses. The upper part of the window (where the "landscape" is) is simply cross-hatched, and below, or rather in the middle of the picture (of the window) one can guess there is a table in perspective and two backs of chairs. Kharms emphasizes in the window the broad frame of the small hinged ventilation pane. A very realistic approach. He draws what he can draw, and for the rest, cross-hatching. Of course, imitating Yampolsky, one could say, (though it would sound comic) that the landscape would have been more interesting if Kharms in the sky (?) had drawn birds in the form of PPP marks, this is easy to depict. In a deeply realistic picture there is no point in trying to find the inexplicable. This is not that sort of picture. The main things for Kharms in "Self-Portrait at a Window" were much probably the "window" and the "self-portrait."
"...But the most curious...," writes Yampolsky. Why "the most curious"? There simply is no face. This is so natural. If there is the light in the room and it is dark outside, then the face will not be visible. There is no philosophy at all. I don't think that Kharms set himself the aim in his notebook of solving very difficult artist’s tasks, such as a portrait in contrejour. Moreover, to show a distorted face behind the glass! Anyway, light patches on the glass distort the face. It's my "by the way" for curious people.
I smiled at the impression I had that Yampolsky had preset theses about a "window" and he managed to combine a huge data baggage with Kharms's "window."
"Starting from a wrong position, working by a formalist method, Melnikov15
will not become a leading Soviet architect. Our task is to help him
to recognize his mistakes." -
Architect Karo Alabian
that after have seen the Tarkovsky's film "Mirror," Ermash
[Head of the USSR State Committee of Cinematography]
"Of course we have artistic freedom, but not to that
remember if I told how I did over a picture for "Ogonyok" magazine. I
had to illustrate
a story by Zoschenko, where the principal character was a house manager. In a magazine from
the 1930s, I saw a photo of [the proletarian poet]
Demian Bedny, in a cloth-cap and a raincoat. He looked like a typical boss
of local scale. Well, I made a picture using the image of the proletarian
poet and brought it to the art editor. There there were two elderly
editors, who sat in one room, and alongside, in another room, sat two
others, younger editors. I brought my drawing to one of the old men. Usually they
didn't say anything. Either they took it at once or went to the person
responsible for the issue and, returning, said that everything was OK. And
now this older editors said, "What have you brought?" I mumbled something,
not knowing what I should reply. He continued "This is Kirov!"16
For a moment I was really frightened, maybe he had suddenly recognized Bedny. But as always, I overestimated the level of their knowledge. And I bravely said, "How could this be Kirov?!" Then the poor old man lost his self-control, started shout, wave his hands, with his fingers he made something like prison bars. "You are young; you haven't done time; this is an anti-Soviet picture!" and I don't remember what else. I tried for help from the other elderly editor. He calmly confirmed that in fact there was a similarity. O.K., I said, I'll take it home and do it over, what else could I do? I went past the open door of the next room and the younger editors immediately asked, "Hey, what's going on there?" I said, "Well, they think that the guy on my picture looks like Kirov. What Kirov? Such an idea would never come into my head. What are they dreaming up?" The young editors looked and imperturbably said: "Hey, bro, sure he looks like Thälmann."16
Of course I handed the picture over (added eyeglasses); nothing essential changed. But my attempt to show Bedny, although nobody would have guessed but me, didn't work that time. This was my minor, so to say, artistic disorderly conduct.
"Business is the best art" - Andy Warhol17
Network showed how in Armenia people have drawn a swastika and then poured
paint on a monument to Shaumian, one of the Twenty-six Baku Commissars. I
every time thought that they would take away this monument after they took
away the monument to his comrade-in-arms, Azerbaijani Meshadi Azizbekov.
Leaving Shaumian, it appeared that we divide Communists according to
ethnic criteria, by nationality (good Communist is Armenian; bad Communist
The Azerbaijanis are like us. At the monument to the Twenty-six Commissars, in Baku, they destroyed only Shaumian (there in the bunch were Shaumian, Azizbekov, Fioletov, Dzhaparidze, etc.).
celebrated the centenary of "Ogonyok" magazine. It was like a provincial
jubilee. In the first row - "leaders of the party and government" (Putin
and Yeltsin), as always - Gusman, as everywhere - Voznesensky. It was
something, the balloons at the end! The whole audience, the whole
intelligentsia audience spent a long time poking these balloons. If not a
hundred years ago, then ten years ago that is how all celebrations were
done. Of course I had many pleasant memories of my work with that
magazine, but there also are the unpleasant.
At the end of each year they give awards to prose writers, publicists, and artists. I never got any prizes from them. There were three or four of us, artists, doing illustrations for magazine writings. Except for me, all of them in various years received prizes for the best work. Except for me. No one remembers those prizes or the winners. In my career, such things never played any role. I am simply interested in why they didn't give one to me. I was with them over six years in the period of the most freedom of the press. If they ordered work to me for that long it means that I was worthy of their attention. Otherwise they could have simply turned me down. I don't even insist on the artistic aspect of work I did for them. But how is it possible that only four or three and a half artists were working for them and only one of them is unrecognized? Perhaps I was wrong thinking that the magazine had broken with the "accursed past," and had destroyed the Soviet tradition of "reward of talent." I didn't understand how one could propagandize justice and democracy and in the same time reward personal sympathy, daily goings to the editors and other stupidities. It is a matter of the past and, of course, my dissatisfaction takes on a different shade. If there were no celebrations there would be nothing to remember about prizes.
The prize givers, did they not recall the case when it was necessary to illustrate an article on Solzhenitsyn? They gave me the article and a pair of books by the author of the article.
"You understand the deadline, we needed this yesterday."
"Why this rush?"
"Look we gave the job to one illustrator; a day later he brought back the article. We gave it to another - the same story. They say that they don't know how to illustrate.
I did some drawings from photographs of Solzhenitsyn and they appeared in two issues of "Ogonyok." This story is not to recall all the details of this work. I'm simply curious if it wasn't those prizewinners who refused this work...
fact that among KGB staff there are many book lovers, antiquarian book
collectors, connoisseurs of good poetry, is a frightening and unmistakable
sign of the fact that art does not ennoble." - Varlam Shalamov
first year at the Institute [of Cinematography]
I had an examination on the history of the USSR. I more or less knew the
history. I passed the exam without big problems.
In my second year there was the course on political philosophy. I knew a little about this from my pre-student years, at home I had a large, four-volume encyclopedia of philosophy, and thus I knew the names of the philosophers and their theories, but to retell all this in Russian was beyond my abilities. The lecturer saved me. She said in advance that nobody would get a failing grade.
In the third year, political economy. For this I was sure that I wouldn't pass the examination either in Russian or in Armenian. The lecturer said that a student who would recite at every class would be freed from exams. I was, most likely, the only student, not only in our institute, but in Moscow, who in the course of two semesters recited at all the political economy classes.
In the fourth year we studied scientific communism. The lecturer (also a woman) talked more to us about her aches and pains than about the glorious communist future. "Tell us," we asked, "Will we live under communism?" And opposite us, across the street, was the huge gray building of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. She looked toward the gray building and said: "You won't. But they will."
the poem “On the Death of Kazimir Malevich” is a date, May 5, 1935. By
How so? Malevich died on May 15, 1935 at 2:30 p.m. I.e., the poem was written ten days before his death. In fact, the title of the poem was “To Nikolai.” The young poet for some reason was too lazy to write new verses, and instead handed over old ones, which were written on May 5, 1935 and were addressed to Nikolai Oleinikov. Was it worth it for the deceased to be happy that at the beginning of the funeral service, when the musicians were late, Kharms read his verses “On the Death of Malevich.”
V.N. Sazhin writes: “It is usually supposed that originally the text was addressed to Oleinikov, but there is not incontrovertible evidence for this.” Well, so much for him, for Oleinikov, but where does poor Malevich come in? He, Malevich, deserved at least a pair of new lines of the poem, after Kharms knew the tragic news.
several weeks people have been speaking about the "New Chronology."18
There was a presentation on Russian TV. I
don't know much in world history, but the presenter clearly knew nothing about the
history of Hagia Sofia in Constantinople. He didn't know that the minarets
were added later and not simultaneously as it said in the TV program.
The rude and semi-literate TV presenter cynically and tactless attacked the historian Afanasiev, the representative of traditional school. This one hadn’t expected this. Actually, how could he conduct himself under such pressure from the part of the presenter while on the air?
Why do I need all these passions? Because of [Garry] Kasparov, the chess grandmaster. They invited him; I was delighted. A smart person, who had traveled a lot, had often changed political parties, and knew English well. But it appeared that it was he who wrote the preface to Fomenko's book. So all of them are one team. Why then was Afanasiev invited if there was a wall made of the representatives of Fomenko? It reminded me a story about how the sculptor Kerbel was asked if was it worth removing the monument to Lenin from October Square, and the author of this very monument was greatly astonished, he said, how could this be possible, it is a work of art!
Kasparov said a lot of things but I thought his observations on the Greeks were stupid, about how they fought for six hundred years and couldn’t think up new equipment, clothing, swords, etc. What was there to be surprised at if the Greeks were winning that way! They had no reason to invent new devices. Why even now in Africa or South America some tribes go around naked and shoot with bows and arrows. This is enough for them to live.
We are always amazed - “why didn’t they do this?” Of course much is inexplicable, but it's not worth pushing a whole theory under this. I am among those who didn’t read Fomenko but who “make a judgment.” My impression was formed only from TV programs. As the saying goes, “in order to know that a piece of meat is rotten, you don’t need to eat the whole piece.”
More on inexplicability. After some 400 years how can it be explained that Lysenko19 was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR? But he was. That Tupolev and Korolev made their masterworks within prison walls, and that 30 million Russian Christians voted for a Communist. But that happened at the last presidential elections. There are many such cases but they have for origin the depravity of human nature or the stupidity of man, but in no way falsifications. Our aberration is sincere, and we don’t care what our descendants will say about us.
doesn't [Otar] Ioseliani have an "Oscar"?
also the late Krzysztof Kieslowski didn't get an "Oscar."
showed Yeltsin's arrival in Tashkent a number of times. There was this
kind of episode: the head of State almost fell over. Every time showing
this fragment, the commentators considered that Yeltsin had problems with
I think that this was not so. And here is why.
Yeltsin thought that the performance of the national anthem had ended, bowed his head (as a sign of thanks or greeting to the anthem or flag, I don't know) and started to step back, but then the next anthem started to play and he succeeded in "putting on the brakes." The thought about stopping and the thought about moving coincided and his huge figure couldn't manage it.
An incident with an anthem happened during an Armenia-Russia soccer match. The Russian national anthem played. There is a moment with a pause, when the melody is suspended. The Armenian soccer players thought that the anthem was over and ran over toward the Russian players to shake hands. But the melody continued. And the Armenians had to run around the firmly standing players and return to their places.
On television it is always possible to select episodes to discredit whomsoever you want.
human rights activists today are like former movie stars who are not
longer starring in movies. They seek a reason to meet with the press, an
interview, if they get a chance - to appear on the TV screen. I don’t want
to think about those “privileges,” which accompanied them in Soviet times.
This I suppose was their comrades-in-arms and foreign journalists that
they knew, some financial funds, levers of influence on public opinion and
an undoubted leaning toward adventurism. They did not simply sit in jail -
they wrote books and not only wrote them but could get these manuscripts
printed. Some improved their social position; some sent family members
abroad for medical treatment. The country was stupid; the governors were
stupid. Despite all this, one can always recall those who went against
Soviet authority through hunger strikes, labor camps, and psychiatric
The war in Chechnya gives them the possibility of again writing some sort of "manifesto." They again are discontent. Discontent with the war. They say that the peaceful population is suffering. But they address themselves not to the armed Chechens (peacetime!) but to the generals. They never called upon the local authorities in Chechnya with a demand that they observes citizens' rights. They never could understand that it is bad when there is a war going on, that there other "rights" are in effect that those in peacetime. Warring parties never fight according to rules in a civilized manner. Could today's human rights activists fail to know what was done during the wars of the Georgians with the Abkhazians, the French with the Arabs, the English with the Indians, the Americans with the "redskins" and the Vietnamese. And all these people revere the Bible and declare their respect of the laws.
And all the time the Chechens complain: they say peaceful inhabitants and children are suffering, the identification document procedures are unbearable, etc. But independence doesn't fall from heaven. There are abnormal situations; with the fall of the USSR independence came to many without civilian causalities, without destroyed cities, without ruined nature. My remark will be out of place, but Armenia could not make normal use of its historic gift and brought upon itself the problem of Karabakh. It also happens thus.
More on independence. Some want to obtain independence; others do not give them this very independence. With Russian help, Karabakh, Abkhazia, and Transnistria got a veneer of independence, but Chechnya came late. After 1996 either Russia had taken a lot upon itself or understood that it was time to stop to squander territories. I did not understand the psychology of these freedom-loving commanders, who know that for one shot from the window a whole building will be destroyed, that for several militants whole blocks will be bombed out, and they nevertheless continue this madness. Of course it was possible in former times with a gun in one’s hands or a knife in one’s belt to run into the hills in search of independence. But for incomprehensible, illusory independence to destroy a country, banish co-citizens from their own country, forcing them to suffer, - such things today are unexplainable.
I always remember Dubček, that great Czech. When our tanks went into Prague, merely a word from Dubček would be enough to excite the rebellion, after all the Czechs also had tanks and mortars. But Dubček knew that then nothing would be left of Prague. Of course years later it would have been possible to write in schoolbooks about the violent resistance, about the heroic deeds of the city’s inhabitants in the ruins of the city.
Some years have gone by. Where are these tanks?
have not done badly in Tatarstan. Perhaps that is not real independence,
but the Tatars study, have their own radio, television, and newspapers. Of
course I am not saying that Estonia should return to Russia, but every
leader should think about his people. I am not even speaking here about
the victims among the peaceful population, they could perish, heaven
forbid, in peacetime from an earthquake. But it is really terrible what is
being done with nature. Those tanks with their tracks that pitilessly plow
through the soil, the forests and hills after air raids, the rivers
spoiled with oil. Cities can be restored, but what about nature?
And again about Armenia. How many trees they cut down, how they lowered the water level of Lake Sevan because of energy problems. And even so it was impossible to solve the problems with light and heat. The nuclear power plant will have to be closed in a couple of years. International organizations demand this. Are all these troubles justified by “independent” Karabakh?
Marina Malich, wife of Daniel Kharms tells it, he, for a long time, as they
say now, had an intimate relationship with Marina’s sister. In a word he
sinned. He sinned by Christian standards, by Catholic standards, by all
moral canons. Speaking crudely, he did not live right. After this he can
complain about some KGB lieutenant who “incorrectly” addressed him in a
prison cell. In distinction from the writer, who probably knew that proper
people do not act that way, the servant of the authorities knew well that
one should act exactly that way with “enemies of the people.” He on his
part was doing his duty. Of course the lieutenant didn’t care about humane
relations with prisoners, but Kharms, Kharms! How could he have
pretensions to the “incorrect” conduct of the jailer?
The only justification - that the great have their own rules of daily life. Then a bunch of questions arise. Does sinfulness have its own master? Should it be a great person or just an ordinary one? Does sinfulness have its own weight? A small sin or a large one? Should a sin be justified? Everyone sins for his specific purposes. Why is one who ratted on a neighbor better (in the sense should he be forgiven or justified) then one who ratted on his neighbor and also on his fellow-worker?
I am afraid that the concept of "sin" is much larger than my humble capacities to understand it. Kharms's conduct has perplexed me. Could he actually have complained that some damned editor was not paying him and that he was starving (and he wrote that the publisher wasn't paying him and he was starving).
It would be better not to know about the personal life of these great persons. But my interest is still there.
How could one forget? Shalamov wrote to his doctor friend asking him to send from the province a certificate that he, Shalamov, suffered from the vestibular disease (something like vertigo). And he in fact suffered from this and often he was stopped by the police in Moscow who suspected that he was drunk.
Mea culpa. I started with Marina Durnovo (maiden name - Malich), and got to identification document checks on the streets of Moscow.
desire to write. I have to illustrate six books by Uspensky.20 All that I
didn't like in cartoons, when the same screen characters were floating for
a long time before my eyes, is now something that I have to draw withal. So now I am busy with these books. I am like Russia, which fills
its treasury with money from high-priced oil. Of course that is good, but
there is a permanent danger that world prices will fall and it is
necessary to be ready for that. It's good when there are books to
illustrate, but these
days they don't come regularly. Eventually I have to live on "magazine"
money. In a month, for a book, I could receive as much money as in a year
for magazine illustrations. On magazine money I can only eat, but with
book money I can even buy something.
few are interested in art in general or in caricature in particular. "The
train has left the station." We can't go back to the times of the
"Literary Gazette" and [Vagrich] Bakhchanian,
to the excitement over participation in international festivals. How happy
I was over the prize awarded for my caricature in Italy (city of Marostica).
How complex it was then to send caricatures abroad. They told about a case
when they exhibited not the caricature but its reverse side, with stamps
of various organizations and agencies were added for the export (or
shipping) of this drawn-upon scrap of paper.
was studying in Moscow I brought some works here. There were my
photographs, letters, and my father's posters. A lot of my paintings
remained in Yerevan. Not landscape exercises, portraits, or still lives,
but actual paintings. From, so to say, expressionist realism to abstract
pictures. Unfortunately in Moscow there was nowhere to put these quite
large canvases on stretcher frames. I even don't speak of various
"objects" that remained in the cellar of my home in Yerevan. I would be
delighted to hang one of these works now in my apartment. On a 50 x 60 cm
board I attached a real string shopping bag (these same shopping bags
would long be present in my further work). In this bag I placed some
packages and an real glass empty kefir bottle covered above with foil. And
I colored all this: there were spray-can paints with a ball inside. Enamel
paint covered the surface like a turtle shell. Impossible to tear the
items off from the board without breaking them. The result was a
monochrome (monotone) bas-relief. Not exactly a picture, not exactly a
sculpture, or both a picture and a sculpture. At that time I had no doubts
about this approach. Such things must be accepted or not.
After many years, at the start of the 1990s, I did "Moscow to the End of the Line" – and I fell into a trap. I wanted, as usual, to make a picture, but there was a huge desire to make a book, a book in one manuscript copy, that rather than hanging on the wall like a picture would have to lie like a book, whose pages could be turned and read. If that old work could be considered both a sculpture and a book, then the work on Erofeev turned out as not quite a book, not quite a picture. Nothing wrong that this work stands apart from a conceived triptych. The other two parts were traditional "hanging" paintings. The larger, if I'm not mistaken was 2 meters x 3 meters of Platonov and 12 or 13 pages measuring 50 x 50 cm of Shalamov.
Another pair of lines so as not to forget. Once the newspaper "Moscow Artist" printed a note on an exhibit of the work of Paradzhanov. The author of the note signed it "O.T." Alongside was printed a portrait of Paradzhanov himself. I did this portrait for the cover of the Armenian Russian-language magazine "PRO ARMENIA," at the start of the 1990s. Probably the author of the note had at hand this little-known Moscow magazine. I would not have remembered this note, except for this picture title: "S. Shablavin. Butterfly." Of course the newspaper people had mixed up the captions. A little further on, on the same page is a note on an exhibit of Shablavin with his work "Butterfly." It was not a matter of the presence or absence of my name. What interested me is why they so rarely write about me (I deem it fair) but when they do they so often make mistakes.
a hard day.21
I am so sorry for submariners. Russia is still Russia. Those in charge aren't going to be court-martialed or repressed, but they all fear the "simple" life. If they wouldn't review parades nor confer in the Kremlin - is their current life worth saying such stupidities?
What can I say, I can hardly find the right words.
The newspapers are also good. They write what they want. And they all write as "versions" so that later there will be no libel claims. It is impossible for every newspaper to have specialists in sport, in ballet, in film, and in naval science, for this very case. In politics – yes. It is easy to write even for a non-specialist. The reader doesn't distinguish a good review from a bad one. So, everyone is writing.
For many newspapers these days are simply bliss. One can attack the big bosses, one can fantasize about the underwater world.
In the subway I saw a big crowd of people. They were all writing something on bunches of paper and almost all were rustling rubles in their hands. I had a guess that this was a new type of lottery or betting. This was at one of Moscow central subway stations.
It is also hard to speak about the explosion at "Pushkinskaya."22
I recalled the "Zatikian Case," explosions in the subway. Sakharov thought this was a provocation by the KGB, that the "Zatikian Case" was purely political. Simply nobody could imagine that some Armenian was able of this. For some reason for years the KGB didn't show the shootings from the trial. The fragment where the accused Zatikian harps in Armenian "revenge, revenge, revenge." For the annexation of the Armenian lands. Just what the Chechens are saying today.
Today in Armenia the heroes are those who fought in Karabakh. Those became heroes who shot more than the others, who threw bombs more often, who planted mines more astutely. The paradox is that Russia not long ago was helping in such activity. Who is this Smirnov [President of the self-proclaimed Republic of Transnistria], while there is a live President of Moldova, and they even receive Smirnov in the Kremlin. Could Ardzinba [President of the pro-Russian Republic of Abkhazia in Georgia] stay in power without Russian help? Russia cannot understand that these "small" peoples will be the first to spit upon Russia. And without any thankfulness. They consider that they are worthy of freedom, that they had an alphabet when the Russians were swinging from trees, that Russia lives at the expense of their grapes, molybdenum, or oranges.
In distinction from these guys, the Chechens get their own arms in exchange of oil or ransoms for kidnapped people. Moreover the Chechens have a solid background of struggle against their northern neighbor.
I am not in a mood to continue, but I need to conclude.
Those are mistaken who think that peace in Chechnya will come after negotiations. The Chechens will begin with the requirement that Russia must pay them billions of dollars. And in parallel there will again be explosions, at this time for air raids from 4 or 5 years ago. Bombs, mines, and machine guns have to be destroyed. Let them try to attack peaceful citizens with daggers. Probably in Russia there are regions where there are also those who love to have feuds, but they lack these means. It is necessary to take away weaponry by any possible means.
Let's suppose that Russia is Chechnya and Chechnya is Russia and several thousand Russians in peace time in the south of Chechnya start a separatist or liberation movement, becoming armed and spreading Christianity. The Russians make many mistakes, but it seems to me that they would not take a maternity hospital hostage for sake of their Motherland's freedom.
to do. I am not disposed to reasoning. There is a real ruckus going on in
the country. A lot of money was gathered and distributed for the relatives
of the victims. In logic the relatives of those who perished earlier
should also demand money. They also died in the service of their country.
Or dying in a tank is less heroic than dying in a submarine?
Everyone remembers Chernobyl, but hardly anyone remembers when a whole train burned up. It was under Gorbachev. Russia will never had good luck. The country is too big. Its own unhappiness also depends on that. Russia is limited to the territories neighboring Moscow region. Of course airplanes also crash beyond the Urals, but that is already like another country. In Russia one can find many regions where for years there were not only no disasters, but not even tiny little events. A huge country. It needs 100 to 150 submarines. A smaller country could get by with five or six or without them altogether.
But nothing to do. We lived with catastrophes before and we will keep on living with them. This is like a phenomenon of nature. Peoples who live by an ocean each year accept the blows of hurricanes and tsunamis. And it changes nothing. No one tries to give up their birthplaces. They fix the roof and live until the next arrival of some "Nora."
There are people who for six or seven months live in darkness; others live in sands. All have gotten used to it. So to speak the way of life, so to speak the mentality. In one word - fate. And no upheavals are needed. I have the impression that if until now nothing has changed in the behavior of a nation, then there is no reason to expect anything good. This is how it is with many peoples and their liberation movements. "The train has left the station."
1998 [year of the Russia economic crash and
devaluation of the ruble] my payment
per page has stayed the same. One manager said to me that all the heads of
publishing houses had agreed among themselves to pay illustrators the
same. There is no matter of artistic value of my pictures, but much has
changed in these two years, some money was partly compensated to
government employees and pensioners, however money for illustrators has
stained at the level of 1998. This is just my apropos. Thank God that I
still have work.
my nephew, sold our old apartment in Yerevan.
In the cellar there was quite a few of my works. Of course everything was thrown away. After the army, before the Institute [of Cinematography], I did a lot of stuff. Once, having seen these works, my friend Igitian said that he didn't like such works because abstractionism had not yet exhausted itself.
No, I'm not sorry about the apartment. No memories. The new generation must live differently. And thank God!
This is the kind of conversation today. He bought a three-room apartment. Not in the city center, of course. That's all.
didn't think that I would suffer so much because of the new-old national anthem.23 I
shouldn't, I had nowhere to stand for the anthem. But for me it was as if the
end of the 1980s had happened. Everyone curses the communists, prints
secret archives, tells anecdotes about Lenin on TV, but at the same time
power is in the hands of the Communists and the KGB. If there hadn't been
the GKChP,24 it is
unclear where the country would have gone (this sounds awful, but I can't
find other terms). And now what's the situation. For the first time,
perhaps, in the last eight or ten years, I again begin to be scared about
my works. I'm not talking about the former "deep underground," but there
are some works that I still can hardly show in public. The others with
such works could act like the tanks, creating the name or doing the career
for themselves, but I fear. What were the actions of the young
Solzhenitsyn (he then was younger than I), when at the first alarm he ran
to the nearest pay phone. Foreign news services were ready at call, like
those earth tracking stations that every day await signals from
space. Of course I could find a more neutral example, but yesterday on the
Internet I read Solzhenitsyn's recollections about Shalamov. This is a
live example of how one can make a name for himself.
"The artistic values of Shalamov's novels did not satisfy me."
Solzhenitsyn blames the Shalamov's words that "the problematics described in 'Kolyma Tales' have become outworn."  Would Solzhenitsyn have made such a heroic statement if he didn't have behind him that huge force, from foreign politicians to our People's Artists and Academicians. It is still unclear under what pressure Shalamov signed this letter [to the "Literary Gazette"], and Shalamov's words by no means signified the beginning of the publishing of his works. Perhaps, the only thing he wanted was to be left in peace. Simply left in peace. Not be thrown out of his communal apartment. Today's defenders of Putin and the anthem have everything and they are not threatened by anything terrible, but they want more.
Of course as a citizen I have nothing to fear, but once these works of Soviet times appear, then a faceless and innocuous citizen is turned into an spiteful anti-Soviet person and an evil-thinker.
Of course I am thinking all this up. I am not needed by anyone and don't present any danger, but I can't do anything about this fear. In these last two or three days, three or five percent of fear have come over me.
Why I remembered Solzhenitsyn's phone calls... "The Phone Caller" was also the organizer of the "Bulldozer"25 and other art exhibitions, terrorizing all these majors and colonels, saying we are about to phone such and such newspaper. I think that if had been I, personally I would have phoned THERE, these people would have told the KGB agents where the call came from. I.e., each has his previously defined ability and some use it at full scale. What was - was. The years have gone by. The books of both Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov have been published. But how different are the renown and notoriety of these two contemporaries! Remember Sokurov, who quickly rushed to shoot an anniversary film [ref. 12] It's also the ability to organize everything around. A totally stupid and unknown film. Some years have gone by and I remember some scenes. A scene where on the whole screen there is the mouth of a writer, all in a hairy beard, or on the whole screen a hairy mouth, or on the whole screen the hairy beard where there is the mouth of the Nobel laureate. Probably the filmmaker wanted to show so dramatically, in relief, the mouth that prophesized "how to reconstruct Russia."
Well, one anthem and another anthem, there was no reason to make up all sorts of murder mysteries. But I am unable to do not make them up. Independently of reason. I would not be afraid if I heard these patriots on the radio or read there statements in the newspapers. But on TV screen it becomes too visible: these ones will surely devour.
still present. I am quite sure that after the reversion to the old anthem
it will be more difficult to speak about the vices of Soviet past. The
anthem brought another wind, another atmosphere. Many who promised not to
stand during the anthem or simply to ignore it, I think, actually will
stand up. Some will think that it is not worth to search problems on their
head, other will simply be afraid. There are always the sacred reasons:
the family, the future of children.
For the N-th time I saw "Apollo-13." It is about how the Moon flight misfired. I mean how the Americans cancelled the landing on the Moon, trying just to return to Earth. Ours would have landed, surely. The cosmonauts themselves would have asked to land. This initiative would have been supported not only by the members of the Politburo, but also by the members of the cosmonauts' families. Think, it was just a few officers...
I remember the ending of one of our films. I don't remember either the director or the title of the film. There was a plant that was to be put into operation. Welding work was necessary. Unfortunately, the place where the welder had to weld was very narrow and he could not use a protective mask. And the ordinary worker starts to weld this important place with open eyes. And this scene was written, produced, played, and accepted for distribution by people who thought of themselves as intelligentsia. Perhaps the authors were forced to add this scene, perhaps they sincerely did this in order to obtain a first category rating for the film.
afraid to read from the beginning what I've wrote. For a long time I was
dictating various things onto cassettes, and when I began to listen (there
were 26 cassettes – almost 50 hours), I had the feeling that I had
recorded a long letter to the United Nations or to the Sports Lottery. I
read quite calmly such things wrote by others. My own writings seemed to
me irrelevant and useless. Later I recorded classical music on these
At the time I wrote letters very often to my friend in Alma-Ata. I wrote, sent them, and received a reply. Once I tried to reread a letter from the beginning, so as to correct mistakes. And I was horrified. Of course when one writes a letter it is not to simply answer, but because one want to say something. In my case it was outrageous. I had the impression of reading some strange letter from another person. I never would have said such things aloud. Such conversations are usually had at a drunken party, but I wrote the letter sober.
During many years I wrote several hundred letters and never reread them. There also were "normal" letters. About exhibitions, about films, and my works. What emotions could be in these. Well, what was, was. I will read these notes later. After 200 (?) pages.
computer is like the Mir space station that crashed in the ocean. This
week something in it will have to be changed, since everything that I did
until now, except these pages, will have to be destroyed. There are my
first attempts of work with layers and effects in Photoshop. With the help
of a scanner, 30 years later I saw the student days in negatives. At the
hills of Kandalaksha, at the boat on the way to Solovki. Who then could
think that Zhaken and Serega would live abroad, Vitya and Yulya would get
married, Natasha would be awarded the State Prize, Lena would become a
grandmother so early.
All that has to be destroyed. But there is a printer, let's preserve history.
I'm running for various certificates. It's time for my pension. It is a long time since I've been so eager. To receive free money from the State! Of course not much, but I no longer will so fiercely await phone calls from various publishing houses. I always lived badly. Kept a little money for a raining day. I always was afraid that if WE needed money, then it would be no one to ask but me. And finally these days came away. The well-being of the family does not depend on me anymore.
The past year was a good one. I never made so many works. But it seems that it is not my element. Of course I will not return to my former activity (what was done, was done), but I am so tired of all those "dogs" and "cats."
In student years I was terrified by exams. Everyone in their own way are scared of exams, but for me this fear was simply panic. On the fly, for example, I had to learn not only the course of "scientific communism," but also the Russian language. So always during exams I added in my mind one more day to the exam's day and thought not about the day of the exam but about the day after it. In May the fate of my pension will be decided. So I am most worried about June and July when I will ride free on public transport and will have reduced rent.
This is an entirely new life. Perhaps there was such happiness when I got my studio.
So, it's JULY!
|1) Arshile Gorky (real name - Vostanik, or Vosdanik, Adoian), 1904-1948. In his adolescence he was deeply shaken by his mother's death. Being refugees from Western Armenia, occupied by Turks, Gorky's family subsisted on charity. His mother died of starvation in March 1919 at the age of thirty-nine, trying to save her children's life by giving them all the food. In his lifetime Arshile Gorky never forgot this sacrifice and did many paintings dedicated to his mother's memory. é|
|2) "Moscow-2042" is a satiric novel by Vladimir Voinovich. "Moscow to the End of the Line" is a tragicomic masterpiece of Venedikt Erofeev. é|
|3) Akop Akopian, Armenian artist lived in Egypt. é|
|4) Alexander Sokurov (1951- ), Russian filmmaker. Almost every year he presents his films at Cannes (France) and other International Film Festivals. é|
|5) Alexander Hertzen (1812-1870), Russian author. In 1847, after inheriting his father's large estate, he left Russia, never to return. He settled in London for some years. Hertzen gained the vast reputation as a political writer, his political influence on Russia from abroad prepared the ground for further revolution in Russia. é|
|6) Sergey Gerasimov (1906 - 1985), Soviet film director, actor, screenplay writer. He was the Director of the USSR State Institute of Cinematography, when Levon Khatchatrian studied there in 1967-1973.é|
|7) Sergey Iossifovich Paradzhanov (1924-1990), talented Soviet filmmaker of Armenian descent. His career was curtailed by official harassment and censorship. Three times he was arrested on trumped-up charges. In his lifetime he made only seven films, which became known and appreciated worldwide. é|
|8) Dziga Vertov, one of the most famous Soviet documentary filmmakers. é|
|9) Yuri Orlov (1924- ), Doctor of Physics, founder and leader of Moscow Helsinki Human Rights Watch group. In 1978 he was condemned to 7 years in labor camps and subsequent 5-year exile. In 1986, on the eve of Reagan-Gorbachev summit, he was released and deported to the USA in exchange for a Soviet spy arrested in the USA. é|
|10) Venedikt Erofeev (1938-1990) is one of the best Russian writers of the twentieth century. In 1970 Erofeev wrote his best known work "Moskva - Petushki" - translated in English as "Moscow to the End of the Line", which is generally considered his masterpiece. é|
|11) The Vagankov (Vagankovskoye) Cemetery is one of the most prestigious cemeteries in the Moscow center. Famous Russian poets Serguey Yesenin and Vladimir Vyssotsky are buried there. é|
|12) The Knot (1998), written and directed by Alexander Sokurov, is a two-part interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn aired on national television in time for the writer's eightieth birthday. The film focuses on his views of present life in Russia. Sokurov asked the questions such as, "In your view, what is older? The body or the soul?" é|
|13) "Andrei Rublev" (1966) is Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece about the great 15th century Russian icon painter. This film was suppressed in the Soviet Union and unseen until 1971. é|
|14) Daniil Kharms (1905-1942), the great Russian absurdist poet and writer. Born Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev, he invented the name "Kharms" (also "Charms") in high school. He participated in the Leningrad avant garde literary group the Oberiu, which collaborated with Malevich and the Russian Futurists in the 1920s. His writings, which include children's stories, are characterized by coincidences and acausal occurrences, sudden disjunctions often of a violent nature, non sequitur endings, and stripped-down narrative that prefigured minimalism. é|
|15) Konstantin Melnikov (1890-1974), one of the most prominent architects of the Soviet avant-garde (constructivism). His growing intolerance of Soviet bureaucracy led to his expulsion from architecture in 1937. Although he was partially reinstated into the profession, he essentially lived in isolation until his death in Moscow in 1974. é|
Sergei Kirov (1886-1934), one
of the leading figures in the Soviet Communist Party. Kirov loyally supported
Joseph Stalin and in 1926 he was rewarded by being appointed head of the
Leningrad party organization. Kirov was assassinated in 1934. This
was used as the reason for the arrest and execution of more than fourteen party members
who had been critical of Stalin.
Ernst Thälmann (1886-1944), leader of the Communist Party of Germany during much of the Weimar Republic. é
|17) Warhol's quote in full: "Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art." é|
|18) "The New Chronology" is a theory developed by Russian mathematicians Anatoly Fomenko and Gleb Nosovsky. The inconsistencies in the astronomical records have convinced the mathematicians that world history is much shorter than hitherto believed. Also, they maintain a complete revision of historical events, for example, "Jesus did exist but was also the Prophet Elijah and Pope Gregory VII rolled into one and lived in the 11th century in what is now Istanbul." é|
19) Trofim Lysenko (1898-1976), Soviet
biologist. His name became a symbol of ignorance in science. Being
supported by Stalin, he denounced the science of genetics as reactionary,
bourgeois, idealist and formalist. His anti-scientific activities retarded
for many years the development of genetic science in Russia.
Andrei Tupolev (1888-1972), famous Russian aircraft engineer and designer.
Sergey Korolev (1907-1966), great Russian rocket engineer and designer. é
|20) Eduard Uspensky, Russian children's book author. The best known of Levon Khatchatrian's cartoons were based on the Uspensky's series of books about a boy called Uncle Fedya and his friends, a cat named Mr. Matroskin and a dog named Sharik. é|
|21) In August 2000 the Russian submarine "Kursk" with 118 submariners on board sank without survivors in the Barents Sea. é|
|22) A few days before "Kursk" submarine disaster there was an explosion in Moscow, at "Pushkinskaya" subway underpass. There were 8 dead and 53 injured. é|
|23) After the fall of Communism, in 1993 Russia adopted as anthem the "Patriotic Song" melody from Mikhail Glinka's opera. In 2000 Russia reverted to the old Soviet anthem with new words by the original author. é|
|24) GKChP, the State Committee for the State of Emergency - the name used by those who engineered the August 1991 putsch against Gorbachev. é|
|25) An open air exhibition organized by Soviet "unofficial" painters in Moscow in September 1974 and dispersed by bulldozers. It became known as "Bulldozer exhibition." The immediate reaction of the international press created great consternation abroad and forced the Soviet authorities to allow certain concessions to the painters involved. é|