This May, Artistic Alliance at the Museum of Mikhail Bulgakov was devoted to building on the close relationship between ideas of poet and playwright William Shakespeare, artist and philosopher Kazimir Malevich, and thinker and set designer Danylo Lider.
Once upon the time, four Kyiv artists (Tiberii Silvashi, Badri Gubianuri, Kostiantyn Rudeshko, and Serhii Momot) decided to pretend they were seeking the philosopher’s stone and, having invited like-minded people to the Bulgakov Museum, held the new project’s first event in the fall of 2012. Believing in magic numbers, they made its name more precise, relabeling their project as “Artistic Alliance 22,” and ever since, the museum has hosted one exhibition at a time presenting a work by a contemporary artist working in the genre of monochrome or non-figurative painting, geometric or optical abstractions, and one performance (in a duet with the artist) of a contemporary composer, musician, poet or philosopher.
Over 18 months, 16 conceptual meetings saw artists Serhii Momot, Ihor Yanovych, Badri Gubianuri, Serhii Popov, Kostiantyn Rudeshko, Mykola Kryvenko, Tiberii Silvashi, Ivan Nebesnyk, Ken Greenleaf, Ronald Davis, theorist Yana Volkova, composers and musicians Viktoria Poliova, Alla Zahaikevych, Yurii Yaremchuk, and Yevhen Vashchenko. The museum meanwhile has held it important to find out how modern life correlates with history of the Bulgakov-Turbin House, when new unconventional art works are exhibited in the space of a traditional museum exhibition on the first floor.
Why is the 16th Alliance dealing with Shakespeare, Malevich, and Lider? Works by Lider (1917-2002), who was a master of Ukrainian and world scenography, including model, concept, and sketch for King Lear play, are located in the hall so that they form an equilateral triangle of names and ages. The theater world that fits in the model box echoes the black box of the concept, which unfolds into a whole galaxy of white squares standing for worlds. The sketch depicts King Lear as a thinker and book-lover. There are three works on display there, serving as three steps to understanding that Lider changed many persons’ vision of art to an incredible extent.
Within the walls of the Bulgakov House, one felt a distinctly theatrical atmosphere, inspiring Silvashi, a meter of non-figurative painting and Lider’s friend, to present his monolog that began with thesis “The time is out of joint.”
Silvashi rejoined it again by outlining a vector path from the age of Shakespeare to Black Square, which unfolded in time to become Lider’s cube: “Lider has a person holding a small cube which unfolds and reshapes to become an infinite sphere, thus going back to Shakespeare’s magical space. This is the knot that Lider has tied in his work, as in all his projects, he always kept a dialog with the past and at the same time with his contemporaries. We often talked with Lider about Black Square. He believed that this work opened up a whole new era in the art, and I denied it, stating that it was the closure of the entire era which began in the days of the Renaissance. After Lider died, I came up with a metaphor of ‘the principle of doors,’ which both open and close the space. We were going to write the history of Black Square, but had not the time. What we are doing now is our common dialog with Lider and with all of you about Black Square.”
The conversation was held at a museum exhibit, an old desk installation, the surface of which is formed by spines of books tightly attached to the desktop. When Silvashi took out one of the books, Lider’s Theater for Myself, and began to read aloud fragments of his thoughts, prose text of the artist-thinker sounded like music: “Everything I do in the work and in life always begins with nothingness. Environment in which I laid my thoughts is a black box or a black square. Those mirages that begin with the very, very childhood... Every beginning of work or thinking about the transformation of a play into a performance is linked to the black square in my mind... It is the beginning of the excitement I feel when sitting in front of the empty stage’s black square. Box, small-size cube, on which he (Lear) sat when still a king, against the backdrop of the grand structure of his world kingdom. This kingdom shape is walls, broken into sections, with diverging space, rhythm, and cascading infinity, all folding into the smallest part, into nothingness... And he took this world with him as a reminder of the great lost world. It is important to find this tune in himself, and then everything becomes meaningless and impaired – wealth, gloss and comforts, palaces and abundance of articles of overconsumption, bringing misfortune to nature. The latter is being exhausted from overconsumption, from our inability to use the planet’s resources well. Violation of this life is always a scary thing. Return to yourself, when you understand your place in this world, when attached to the process of objective necessity. Then you accurately choose your movements which go along a route completely unknown to man. It is very interesting and valuable, though.”
A co-initiator of the project, Rudeshko, commented on the event as follows:
“When we have artist and composer, musician or poet coming to our Alliance events, we aim to reveal invisible at first glance, the connection between their works, allowing the picture, sound, music or text to resonate on the same level, using a single frequency. And every time you reach the state of resonance, or rather the balance, it is exploding with new meaning: the viewer saw the picture from a different angle and discovered something that was not known before. If we fail, we try again: it looks like a laboratory work, which aims to get the philosopher’s stone. Non-figurative and minimalist paintings are not represented at all in Ukraine. Our job is not as noticeable to the city, because to do what we do is not in the tradition of contemporary artistic Kyiv. But here, in the museum of Bulgakov (who was, incidentally, a mystic by vocation) we attract new people to the ideas of the Alliance 22, and thus the revival of the non-figurative art in Kyiv.”
New people as well as the permanent members of the Alliance were guests of the evening, joined, of course, by friends of the museum and Lider’s students: film director Serhii Masloboishchykov; artists Ihor Nesmiianov, Andrii Oleksandrovych-Dochevsky, Natalia Rudiuk, Andrii Romanchenko, Olha Novikova, and Anna Dukhovychna. Conversations and recollections of Lider went on at the Bulgakov Terrace, and people did not want to leave the good company, and it seemed that the teacher was nearby. He taught both art and life. Kira Pytoieva-Lider, leading research fellow of the Bulgakov Museum put it this way: “Lider perceived Malevich’s Black Square as an icon of the 20th century. Having an idea, the light in the soul, will-power and infinite love of the profession, he was able to make his squares and cubes white, bringing light out of the black square.”