“He wrote me: one day I’ll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they’ll see the black.”
— Chris Marker, Sans Soleil
2019 marks 40 years since Andrei Tarkovsky's classic sci-fi drama ‘Stalker’ was made, and also 40 years since artist Margarita Gluzberg left Russia as a young girl.
‘Stalker’ remains a radically current film touching on major cultural and existential themes such as environmental politics and spiritual crisis. This dystopian travelogue about a journey of three men (the eponymous Stalker, the Writer, and the Professor) through the restricted Zone to the infamous Room that can grant any wish, strangely and metaphorically resonates with the artist’s personal experience.
When Gluzberg left Moscow in 1979 to move to England, the ‘West’ itself represented a forbidden zone that held infinite promise. Margarita Gluzberg’s work often explores the tensions and reciprocal interplay between the past and the present, memory recall and recurring fiction, and the politics of desire. She is fascinated with surface reality and material manifestations of consumer culture, and has a multi-faceted approach to image-making and production of meaning. Her practice, ranging from drawing, photography and performance to sound and film installation, draws upon historical events, semi-biographical stories, and eclectic cultural references to create visually charged environments that summon memories of the past and negotiate aspects of contemporary existence.
In Paradise features a new series of large-scale drawings, occupying the central space of Pushkin House, which the artist calls ‘cinema experiments’. Made during the night, these are constructed by projecting ‘Stalker’ directly onto sheets of paper and ‘recording’ the moving image in real time as pencil marks. Different parts of the film are focused on, and what emerges are complex abstract works that meditate on the film’s structure and become visual testimony to the artist’s own emotional/inner landscapes in the action of making.
Gluzberg used hand-made metal bars to hang the drawings so they form a unique mise-en-scene – a set of concepts for visitors-actors to engage with. Through their physical substance and intensity of gesture, the pieces create a spatial disorientation, and point to the possibilities of drawing as a sculptural act. These huge ‘silver screens’ are the record of philosophical and personal ruminations between the main characters in ‘Stalker’.
Although each drawing has its own agency and can structure our actions or influence thought processes, they all carry suggestions of purpose and intention. They become containers for our own thinking and dreaming.
Despite their hyper-trance and fragmentary nature, the works correspond with Tarkovsky’s philosophical odyssey in its focus towards the Aristotelian dramatic unities of time, space, and action. Gluzberg’s drawings are the result of nocturnal activity in her studio – an act of documentation rather than creativity or imagination. They relate to the famous colour sequence of the film – the fantastical Zone and the characters traversing its abandoned post industrial wilderness. By layering lines of graphite to record the peripheries around human presence on the screen – the forest, the water, the sky – Gluzberg’s monochromatic works turn into eerie ‘landscape paintings’ that demand human company.
These new works are accompanied by recent drawings across the various spaces of Pushkin House that reconfigure trajectories of ‘Stalker’ through biographical subjects of migration, childhood, cultural memory and aspiration. Here, the artist recruits a diverse cast of characters from Soviet cartoons and her own life to become ‘guides’ (stalkers) for the visitors on their journey to and through the ‘Zone’. The enormous drawing of the iconic Cheburashka – a furry mascot friend with large ears as big as its head – greets visitors upon entering the House. Cheburashka here is a precursory champion to the luxury goods West that Gluzberg once desired. This and other drawings of children, animals and fictional creatures from animated TV series index completely different formal language that evokes the iconography of the late 70s Russian culture, now reachable through the technologically aided memory – the Internet, films, and photographs.
These characters all attempt at communication, though they also hint at the highly reconstructive, frivolous and ambiguous nature of human recollection. They facilitate the artist’s own endeavour to access the past, her personal quest for reunion, but also a closure. Excerpted arbitrarily from the vast visual repertoire of Gluzberg’s life, they are all protagonists that ‘re-populate’ the Zone, a multi-dimensional territory that has the potential to be anything we want - and in this case, the framework for making art. In any case, just like in the movies, the most important part comes from the experience that the characters, and the audience, go through together.
2019 May My Voice Now / Mother Tongue
2018 Anglo-Russian Dictionary / The Master, Margarita and the Artist / Amateur Bird Watching at Passport Control / On the Eve / Off Location: Drawings of the US Embassy Moscow
2017 Margaret Watkins: Leningrad and Moscow 1933 / 101st km: Further Everywhere / Metageography: Space.Image.Action. / Geometry of Nonsense / Sovremennik / Alcohol: Soviet Anti-Alcohol Posters / Red is Not a Colour - The Heavens
2016 From Points of Level Zero: Rediscovering the Russian Avant-Garde / The Runaway Fingers / Drawing. No Limits. / On Holiday
2015 Fishes Are Dumb - We Are No Slaves / Fragments of Moscow / Russian Types and Scenes / Russian Veterans / Akhmatova. Anrep. Berlin.
2014 Our Friend Larionov / Building Drawings - Drawing Buildings: Lazar Khidekel, Suprematism and the Russian Avant-Garde / Walls
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