The Arrival of a Train
March 23 - May 20, 2018
Organizer: The National Centre for Contemporary Arts Comprised of the ROSIZO State Museum and Exhibition Centre
Partner: The Ekaterina Cultural Foundation
Project Sponsor: Stroyteks
Curators: Vitaly Patsyukov, Ekaterina Drakunova, Anastasia Kozachenko, Svetlana Makeeva
Architect: Konstantin Larin
The large-scale exhibition project "The Arrival of a Train" features more than 100 works by Russian and foreign artists and is hosted by the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation. The show deals with the train as a phenomenon of the global culture: its dynamics, the way it storms into the scene, its arrival transforming the reality, all of which has long become a classical metaphor of changes and the inexorable march of history.
It was the image of the train, and all the contexts and connotations that go with it, that have enriched contemporary art and opened up a special space of artistic communications. The technological and industrial world, which came into existence during the rise of the machines, only became fully fledged and gained its unique character following the advent of the railroads, which enabled our civilization to travel to anywhere in the world by moving over landmasses, through tunnels and across bridges.
The train is the central image of the new show, a fact that is also manifested in the exhibition design as the visitors are literally invited to step into a railway carriage, take a walk through the train and, accompained by a group of eminent contemporary artists, embark on a fascinating journey through time that began 120 years ago.
Vitaly Patsyukov, curator:
"Our train is moving through notional spots of culture and social reality, traversing entire eras and vast territories. We see its image in various forms, genres and techniques - documentary films, the first century of silent films, experimental avant-garde films, video art, paintings, music and literature.
We travel on, crossing the art territory of Europe, Russia and the USA, amalgamating nations, as well as their culture and history, into a single whole. We come across all sorts of trains on the way, from the funeral train carrying Vladimir Lenin's dead body and the Victory Day train to the carriage transporting the deceased Anton Checkov from Germany, in a refrigerator compartment normally used to keep oyesters fresh, and the industrial trains of the Trans-Siberian Railway destined for the future.
Having entered the new information age, the train takes on yet another role, that of a new data medium, a new symbol of communication, the image of progress, permeating the history of our civilization. We display the train in a clear-cut and visually compelling, spectacular and nostalgic manner. The visitors do not only watch the show but also virtually travel in this train as they become part of this space and influence it."
The exhibition opens with the "Historical Train". The imagery of the railways was immediately adopted by the early cinema, which is why the first things the visitors see at the exhibition are the silent-era films, such as "The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station" by the Lumière brothers, which had its initial public screenings more than a century ago, and "The Impossible Voyage" by Georges Méliès, as well as Thomas Edison's "Trains" and Man Ray's films inspried by the eraly jazz rhythms. The central theme of this section is the Trans-Siberian Railway, which captured the imagination of many European Avant-Garde figures.
Here, the railway communications serve as a link between Russian culture and world history. Vladimir Smolyar's video work "The Trans-Siberian Suite" visualizes the metaphor of a train moving through the artistic space of the continent of Eurasia. The train moves on an on as its wheels pound out a rhythm to the Symphony No. 8 by Dmitri Shostakovich, with the key paintings of the 20th century whizzing by, such as Mikhail Larionov's "Soldiers", Kazimir Malevich's "Peasants", Marc Chagall's "Flying Lovers" and Orphic Cubism images by Sonia and Robert Delaunay. This section closes with the music video for Boris Grebenshchikov's famous song "This Train is On Fire".
The second section of the exhibition, titled "The Peacebuilding Depot", showcases the highlights of the 1930s Soviet film industry, as exemplified by Dziga Vetrov's "The Donbass Symphony", Mikhail Tsekhanovsky's "Pacific 231" and Aleksandr Medvedkin's "Film Train". We are then carried over to America, where the train was prominently featured in numerous westerns and musicals, such as "The Great Train Robbery" and "Sun Valley Serenade".
The train enters the territory of contemporary culture, represented by Vladimir Yankilevsky's triptych "Take a Train" and Marina Fomenko's and Aleksandra Mitlyanskaya's video art; travels across Europe in the work by the Netherlands-based Russian artist Marina Chernikova and, the next moment, takes us to the Moscow region commuter train by Olga Chernysheva. Time and space follow a non-linear pattern here as, in the two-channel video installation by Natalia and Valery Cherkashin, we board a Subway train at Times Square and arrive at Moscow's Red Square.
The Depot section also features original photomontage works by Soviet artists and original Constructivist posters celebrating the industrial might of trains. Also here, the visitors will be treated to Alla Urban's metallized installation and a project bringing together the visual conext of Marcel Duchamp's "The Large Glass" and John Cage's acoustics.
The final section of the exhibition "The Train is the Scene of the Event" enriches the semantic field of the project with references to the image of the train in literary fiction, theatre and paintings by the greats of the Second Wave of Russian Avant-Garde.
The section opens with Konstantin Batynkov's recent work "Compositions with the Image of the Train", harmonizing nicely with photo installations by Lev Melikhov and Vladislav Efimov and the archive footage of the iconic Victory Day train arriving in Moscow on May 10, 1945. This hall features brand new painterly systems in the form of Ilya Kabakov's and Erik Bulatov's compostions, and works by Semen Faibisovich, Pavel Otdelnov and Igor Shirshkov, addressing the links between tradition and the potentials of the new visual optics. One of the central paintings of the section is Kuzma Nikolayev's Socialist Realism work "The Builders of the Railway Line in Magnitogorsk" from the ROSIZO collection.
References to train-related literature and theatre pieces are on show in the so called Anna Karenina hall, which is marked by an epigraph of sorts in the form of Sergey Katran's object, loosely based on Vladimir Nabokov's lectures, and Natalia Danberg's binary installation, reinterpreting the dramatic narrative of Leo Tolstoy's famous novel, with a child's creative game saving the heroine from the tragic ending. Anna Efremova's fast-moving train further develops this leitmotif as it travels in the reverse perspective Pavel Florensky wrote about connecting the past and the future of our history and inviting us to enter Leonid Tishkov's enchanted "station for two". The bright light from the train lamp rushes at us to open Aleksandr Brodsky's nostalgic total installation - a couchette railway carriage rocking lightly from side to side to the rhythm of the railway track, with its flickering windows overlooking the cultural memory of our childhood. Occupying a special place in this philosophical art territory is the "study" of Vadim Abdrashitov, a Soviet-Russian film director who originated a brand new cinematographic language where the image of the train is used to augment the radical, social and cultural, dramatic narrative.
This brings us to the closing objects of the exhibition as Sergey Filatov's integral acoustic project, an infinitely extended noise of a locomotive, transmits its singal into the space of Sergey Golovach's two-channel installation "The Next Station is Chinatown" (Russia - China).
The arrow of the Trans-Siberian Railway is pointing eastward and it is in the Far East that the visitors arrive at the end of their journey through the exhibition as they experience the phenomenon of the train within the cultural context of the previous one hundred years and discover, inside their minds, new ways of living in our technological reality.
The organizers and curators of the exhibition express their gratitude to the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation and its co-founders Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin for contributing works from their collection as well as for helping organize and stage the project.