Weekend In Moscow [unofficial art]

Skip Blumberg goes to the Soviet Union to investigate "unofficial artists" - those not sanctioned by the state.

00:11Copy video clip URL Tape begins with a sign with information written in Russian. Text superimposed reads, “As the Soviet Union crumbled, the unofficial artists examined the meaning and meaninglessness of everyday life with an intensity unmatched to the present day.”

00:18Copy video clip URL B-roll of a kid in a park, someone pumping up a car tire, people going about their business. Text on screen: “stay tuned for ‘Weekend in Moscow’ [unofficial art].”

00:40Copy video clip URL Countdown screen from 7. “Weekend in Moscow [unofficial art] -unofficial version- stereo 1990/2002 35:40”

00:45Copy video clip URL Closeup shot of a Russian TV test pattern. Leads into a black screen-text: “camcorder correspondent Skip Blumberg” and a timecode. “Record” blinks in the top left of the screen and a voice, presumably Blumberg’s, begins narrating.

01:00Copy video clip URL Blumberg’s narration has just begun, but the footage has switched to Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. He mentions that Perestroika was ten years ago. Soldiers march around the square perfectly in time.

01:18Copy video clip URL Blumberg films David Ross, the Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, standing in front of the cathedral. He introduces himself and explains why he has come to Moscow with Blumberg. Some clips from later in the documentary are interspersed. They have come to Moscow to visit/interview some of the artists featured in the Spring/Summer exhibitions. This trip took place in 1990.

02:52Copy video clip URL Pink title screen, “Weekend in Moscow [unofficial art].” Blumberg’s voice returns, explaining how they planned to stay in Moscow for a week, but a visa mix-up only gave them four days.

03:00Copy video clip URL Outside a plane on the tarmac. Blumberg’s voiceover continues, explaining the purpose of the trip, as he films everyone getting on the plane. The stewardess checking his border pass asks him not to “take photos” in Moscow because it’s not allowed. Blumberg is then given a customs declaration form, and shows his passport and visa to the camera.

03:50Copy video clip URL Blumberg films Rosemary Trockel & Curtis Anderson, both artists, sitting on the plane. They are part of the entourage, as are Donald & Mera Rubbell, NYC art collectors, and Branka Bogdanov, a former Yugoslavian TV producer, currently working at the Institute of Contemporary Art as well. She has been talking over the shots of the others, describing how much control the State has over the individual in Soviet countries.

04:31Copy video clip URL The plane lands. Blumberg’s voice returns: “It was the finale of the Communist Soviet Union, but it was still a totalitarian state.” The group goes through customs, gets into a van, and drives to their hotel. Blumberg narrates throughout. Travelers to the Soviet Union were assigned a hotel. Blumberg gives a tour of his hotel room.

07:44Copy video clip URL Text: “9 am Friday.” Blumberg meets Ross at breakfast. Ross shows a Russian newspaper in English, specifically the story, “You Can’t Take it With You: Customs says the state has a stake in artist’s works.” Ross talks further about this idea and its impact on cultural identity in a country that employs “official” artists.

08:55Copy video clip URL From a car, the Savoy Hotel is pointed out, but others in the car correct the speaker, saying it was instead the KGB building.

08:57Copy video clip URL Text: “Visit to a collective apartment.” Blumberg narrates as the entourage enters the apartment building.This building once housed many Soviet intellectuals and many of the artists have used this place in their work, and Ross wants to show aspects of  their daily life to the group. The group enters an apartment and meets the inhabitants, who share the flat with three other families. One woman in particular describes the details of her life; her TV gets 4 channels, “and sometimes one is a program.” Blumberg asks her if she has hope. She is not very optimistic for the country, but still has hope. She wants her own flat but cannot get one. The political changes do not seem to have impacted these people much, or not for the better.

11:48Copy video clip URL Lunch at the National Hotel. Discussion turns to apartment costs. Text: “monthly rent (collective apartment)=22 rubles ($4)” and “official artist’s salary (paid by the state)=250 rubles ($42).”

13:05Copy video clip URL The group goes shopping. Text: “G.V.M. Department Store, Moscow’s largest, long lines, not much to buy.” It resembles a train station. Blumberg films the crowd. He talks to a man about the black market. Text: “official rate” $1/6 rubles (17 cents), black market: $1/12 rubles (8 cents).” More crowd footage, then more text: “the longer lines are for a few scarce commodities…e.g. children’s books. The longest line is down the street at a new store…Estee Lauder.” Footage of the Lauder front window, which advertised perfume at 140.00 rubles.

14:23Copy video clip URL The group goes to a supermarket. Text: “Shopping. Food Shopping with Mera.” They go to the meat counter, which is not a counter usually used, but it hosts a row of bins full of various meat cuts in plastic bags. Mera picks up a bag of “fresh vegetables” which have been cut up and placed in a bag, alone in their bin. B-roll of the supermarket shelves follows. The big draw at the market is sausages; everyone is buying them.

15:25Copy video clip URL “The next morning.” Zoom from Blumberg’s hotel window. Radio Moscow is playing, and continues while Blumberg moves from the hotel to a car.

16:11Copy video clip URL The group goes to visit the studio of Dmitri Prigov, an unofficial installation artist/poet. Some of Prigov’s art seems to be taking the “official art” and painting on it. He discusses various aspects of his art. He was put in a mental asylum for placing signs on trees about ecological problems. He performs “Shouting Cantata” which he also wrote. He sits in a chair covered in newspaper. He recites a poem is in Russian, about a hero’s battle with enemies of Soviet power. No translation is given, but the tone of Prigov’s voice and gestures add much. Rosemary Trockel asks him for some hair-she’s making brushes from artists’ hair-which he happily gives, snipping from his beard. Text: “Rosemary was also getting ready for a one-person show at David’s (Ross) museum.”

19:23Copy video clip URL Sunday morning. Blumberg and Ross talk.

19:38Copy video clip URL The group is walking down a snowy road, “50 miles from Moscow,” to participate in/with an “unofficial performance artists Collective Action.” The landscape is pretty white and desolate. Ross doesn’t seem to know exactly what this Collective Action entails. They seem to have been walking for awhile. As they pass through a small town, screen text: “we all walked for 2 hours.” Bllumberg films the houses, the landscape, and interviews Josef Bakshtein, unofficial art critic, who discusses the unofficial art movement’s independence. They stop in the woods to have a drink and begin the Action. The artists have a stack of “pictures from Northern Korean ideological comics” which they show one by one to a camera (not Blumberg’s, though we see some). A audio cassette is placed in a player and put into a backpack worn by one of the artists, describing the artists’ actions.

23:05Copy video clip URL The group moves to a cliff overlooking a river. Blumberg speaks to Andrei Monastyrsky, pioneer unofficial artist. He and another artist tie panels with the comics to a tree. The individual comics from earlier are stuck in the snow in rows, like dominoes. The panels are then cut through the middle, so two are now wrapped around the tree and cotton.  The comics in the snow are then picked up by everyone in the group and thrown into the river. Text: “Branka asks if she can keep a picture-the artists say throw it down.” It can’t be seen if any of them made it to the river. Branka still has two photos but the artists tell her to throw them.

25:40Copy video clip URL More studio visits, this time with Igor Makarevich and Elena Elagina. A studio, probably Ilya Kabakov’s, is hidden in the attic. Blumberg’s voiceover returns, discussing the obstacles unofficial artists have-low finances, isolation, KGB, incarceration, etc. Many of them went abroad.

28:42Copy video clip URL A studio visit to Sergei Anufriev, a Medical Hermaneutics agent but also an unofficial conceptual artist. He shows the group various prints, drawings, and illustrations. The Rubbells contemplate buying one of Anufriev’s three-dimensional pieces, but Ross informs them it will never get through customs.

31:18Copy video clip URL The group meets up for dinner. They sit at a large table with lots of food. Text: “Layla orders for all of us: vodka, wine, …and more Chicken Kiev.” Ross gives a toast; some of the artists have joined them. A violin player plays, which Blumberg keeps cutting to.

32:57Copy video clip URL The dinner and violin music continues, but Blumberg has added clips of the guard marching around Red Square and the changing of the guards at Lenin’s tomb. The violin player gives his bow to a woman and she holds it upright as he moves the violin across the bow expertly.

34:09Copy video clip URL The group is at the airport, ready to go home. Blumberg films all the way onto the plane, and when he gets off at JFK in NYC, until he is caught by an airport employee and has to turn it off.

34:51Copy video clip URL Credits. “producer/camcorder/editor/unofficial video artist Skip Blumberg.” The timecode is back.

35:44Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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