• Photos: Emil Lindstedt & Lukas Lunde

    Photos: Emil Lindstedt & Lukas Lunde

Conference reports Breakin’ Revolution

We believed that a conference on arts and aesthetics is hardly imaginable without a cultural program and therefore included one, comprising a dance performance, Breakin’ Revolution, on the opening night at Färgfabriken on October 19, and a public screening of the art film To The New Horizons at the closing session at Moderna Museet on October 21, conceptually marking the beginning and the end of the Russian Revolution.

Published on balticworlds.com on december 18, 2017

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We believed that a conference on arts and aesthetics is hardly imaginable without a cultural program and therefore included one, comprising a dance performance, Breakin’ Revolution, on the opening night at Färgfabriken on October 19, and a public screening of the art film To The New Horizons at the closing session at Moderna Museet on October 21, conceptually marking the beginning and the end of the Russian Revolution.

Breakin’ Revolution, a thirty-minute dance show commemorating the centenary of the series of events that led to the formation of a new country on the world map, featured five break dancers from different breaking crews, – Funk Fanatix, Flowjob, Nordside, and United Zoo original, – all coming from St. Petersburg, the hometown of the Revolution. As the dancers stated prior to the show, “the idea behind the performance and the main challenge for us as dancers and choreographers was to tell the history of the revolution through the means of break dance, which originally emerged in the ghettoes of large cities and was a form of self-expression and a protest against elitist culture and dominant political and commercial structures”. Lev Shishov a.k.a. Bobisch believed that due to the origin of breakdance and its focus on battles and confrontation, breaking could be one of the most dramatic artistic forms to represent the Russian Revolution.

Despite being born on the streets rather than on a theatre stage, breaking in combination with montaged archival videos, black and white film clips, did indeed prove to be an impressive tool for representing different sides of Russian society in the early twentieth century. The aesthetic arsenal of meticulously choreographed power moves, head spins, flayers, elements of footwork, toprock, Russian steps and solos improvised on the spot presented everything from the peasants harvesting in the fields prior to the revolutionary events, to the drama of the war, industrialization that turned human beings into machines and mass protests on the streets of Petrograd in 1917.

The narration of the events, however, was not the only focus of this multimedia dance performance. Two other parts of the show addressed the artistic ideas and forms developed during the first quarter of the twentieth century and a poetic reflection on the causes and consequences of the revolutionary movement. Who would have thought that one could break to Alexander Mayakovsky’s poem My Soviet Passport (1929) or to the music of George Gurdjieff and Thomas De Hartmann, following the principles of synesthesia. Yet the break-dancers proved that it is possible, by illustrating how break dance elements could synthesize with the high pitch and low pitch sounds as well as colors (blue and yellow) representing them, according to the theory of Vassily Kandinsky.

During the show Sergey Ivanov, executive director of NGO DA EXIT in Moscow, musician and poet, pointed the direction where revolutions should take us:

There is no patience, just rough and tough

To this turf, we’re stopping the bluff

To the conclusion, to the peace, love and laugh.

 

The film To The New Horizons (Anna Ådahl, 2013, 9 mins) screened at Moderna Museet, is an artist’s film assembled from several archival footages: a General Motors promotional film made to be presented at the World Fair in New York in 1939-40; the film Kara Bugaz (Aleksandr Razumnyj, 1935), K.Sh.E. (Komsomol: Patron of Electrification or Chief of electrification, Esfir Shub, 1932); Komsomol Refers to Youth (Joris Ivens, 1933); The Circus (Grigorii Aleksandrov, 1936),  and Dames (Busby Berkeley, 1933).

To the New Horizons took the audience back to the 1930s, when American engineers were invited to design and implement Stalin’s first Five-Year plan for the industrialization and electrification of the USSR. The exchanges between the two countries hardly stopped there, and Anna Ådahl, by using montage of the cinematic material, revealed the co-dependency between the United States of America and the Soviet Union in the pre-war period. The artist said herself that her aim with this film was “to create an ambivalence concerning what is American and what is Russian, and to point out that we have learnt many of our ideas about these matters through the mechanisms of propaganda and public relations”. Being the final note of the conference, the film elegantly underscored a crucial point: that ideas spread epidemically despite borders and political regimes and flourish if they fall onto fruitful ground.

 

  • by Ekaterina Kalinina

    Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Art and Cultural Studies at Copenhagen University, Denmark, and project manager at the Swedish organization Nordkonst.

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