Uri Katzenstein «ANNA’S ASSIGNMENT»
In 1911, more than 100 years ago, the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani opened a «portrait gallery» of Anna Akhmatova by creating a series of 16 drawings when they met in Paris. Yet even now, after so many years gone by, her image gets multiplied in many invisible mirrors, as if it could not stop attracting artists, readers and admirers, researchers and refuters of myths and demanded an extratemporal presence right now.
What is the place of Anna Akhmatova's work in European and world culture? What do her name and her poetry mean for readers of other languages than Russian? How well can the tragical circumstances of Akhmatova's life be understood by people with a different cultural and historical background?
These are the questions the artist Uri Katzenstein asks himself and the visitors in the experimental exhibition project «Anna’ Assignment». Uri Katzenstein speaks to his audience in the languages of avant-garde music and experimental sound, abstract and figurative sculpture, video art and performance verging on shocking provocation. As a starting point of his dialogue with the poet Anna Akhmatova Uri Katzenstein has selected her 1915 poem Lullaby. Although the artist can access Akhmatova's poetical text only in an English translation, however professionally made, he has sensed the existential anxiety pervading the poem. The form of Akhmatova's Lullaby seems to derive from Russian and European folklore (Tom Thumb story), yet already in the second quatrain the lady narrator abandons her imaginary story and speaks about her own worries and anxieties. The source of them is the world war and the fate of one of its participants, Nikolay Gumilyov (although not named explicitly, he can be easily identified). Towards the end the poem becomes a fusion of prophecy and prayer, imploring salvation and revealing the abysses of human misery.
Uri has transformed the poem into a new video art object: he translated it into a cryptographic language of his own invention, combined it with a rhythmic theme and made a bluesman from Jamaica perform it. The background to that is formed by a series of images representing architectural and sculptural monuments falling to pieces due to time and neglect; they serve as a metaphor of totalitarian mentality which infects human society with a threatening periodicity. Akhmatova's poem loses its basic characteristics of belonging to a particular author, language and time, and becomes a symbol and a metaphor of global humanitarian disasters recurring periodically.
Another important centerpiece of the artist's vision is a photograph taken by Leonid Gorodetsky at Tsarskoye Selo in 1915. It shows Anna Akhmatova, Nikolay Gumilyov and Lev Gumilyov, the latter at the age of two and a half. Not only the year in which the photograph was taken coincides with that in which Lullaby was written, the characters are also the same, including a non-personal character, the world war (Nikolay Gumilyov in the photographs wears the uniform of an under-officer of Russian army with the Saint George cross on it). Uri Katzenstein transforms the photograph into a video in which the persons change places, disappear and reappear again, thus repeating, as it were, their journey, made up of disappearance and coming back, through the sphere of memory and culture.
Uri Katzenstein is an Israel based artist, sculptor, musician, inventor of musical instruments and sound machines. Born in Tel Aviv in 1951, he studied art at an art school, at the Milano Academy of Sculpture, at the San Fransisco art institute. Drafted in 1969 into the Israel Defense Forces, he participated in the Yom Kippur War (1973). Starting in 1970 and up into the 80's he performed in various avant-garde and experimental ensembles.
Participant of the Venice biennale 2001 and of the Buenos Aires biennale 2003. Exhibitions in museums and galleries in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Israel, Europe, the USA and South America. Uri Katzenstein has been awarded several prestigious art prizes and awards.
Opening 13 july 5 p.m.
Entrance: Liteyniy av., 53. St. Petersburg, Russia
Open: 10.30 a.m. to 6.30. p.m. Wednesdays: 12.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. T
icket office is closed an hour earlier. Closed Mondays. Tel.: +78122725895, +78122722211