Friday, 16 December 2011
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Watched this woman park her pram in the middle of our courtyard and then pace around for about 20 minutes, until she got too cold to stay. I know it used to be considered very healthy in England to put even tiny babies out in the fresh air when they were sleeping. So, does it happen here too? Or is this woman crazy?
Saturday, 10 December 2011
Feel guilty about this, the clash that is, between the urgency of doing Christmas shopping before I go back to London next week, and the desire to show solidarity with the protests here. So I went shopping, but via Revolution Square (not Bolotnaya Square where the mass of people were) to see what was going on and to momentarily join the small crowd there listening to speeches, despite a legal ban on using that particular space. The atmosphere was calm, almost jolly, very like many similar public demonstrations I have been part of in London.
So - what an amazing sign of something happening here, of a proper large-scale peaceful public response to 'the party of crooks and thieves' almost for the first time. But, then the pessimism sets in. The government's response shows that they have quickly learnt lessons from western governments. Just let it all happen. Police it firmly but non-provocatively. That way public anger can be defused and then (probably) safely ignored, in all its importance and futility.
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
It is taken for granted here that Russians are used to elections with little or no meaning, and that people have developed other creative strategies for everyday enjoyment and survival (mainly, it feels to me, by focussing inwards on the personal, immediate freedoms of one's own mental and family life). This is despite, or perhaps because of, a simultaneously stagnating and chaotic political system. As V puts it - the problem with this country is that it manages to be completely static and immoveable, and yet leaves you always uncertain as to just what might happen next.
So those initial pre-election rumblings (well, booings) and now the street demonstrations alleging fraud over the elections, which are continuing despite a massive police presence, the deliberate mobilisation of the pro-United Russia Nashi (Ours) youth movement and many, many arrests, seem suggestive of something very important. Online there has been plenty of lively oppositional stuff for a while (such as the video evidence on YouTube of ballot stuffing/ballot falsification/invisible ink pens given to voters) but now finally - aka Arab Spring/Occupy etc., etc., it seems to be hitting the streets.
So, whilst United Russia still run the Duma, the smooth control that Putin has exuded (and assumed) seems shaken. As Brian Whitmore puts it in his blog The Power Vertical, what we have is yet another version of that static/chaotic thing - " nothing has changed and everything has changed."
The photograph shows a disputed - that is, probably illegal - United Russia election poster, which copied exactly the public information poster designed to get more people to vote.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Finally got to the State Tretyakov Gallery - again courtesy of V - and can't believe it's taken so long to get around to it. Unlike its partner building on Krymsky Val, which involves transversing acres of the smiling peasants and heroic workers of socialist realist painting, the other older Tretyakov is a perfect size. There is a small collection of gorgeously and unexpectedly realistic icons, but the central interest of Pavel Tretyakov (as a collector around the 1850s) was Russian realism: the catalogue quotes him as writing "... just give me a murky puddle, but let there be truth in it, and poetry."
And there are plenty of poetic 'murky puddles' here including portraits of suffering serfs and their everyday lives amid the glories and difficulties of the russian landscape. There are also artistic journeys both in unison with the rest of Europe (18th century portraiture and some late 19th century impressionism) and away from it (a 19th century politically critical realism which has some very theatrical moments, and a version of Art Nouveau which is completely absorbed by the dramas of fairytale). A great afternoon out on yet another wet and sleety day.
The painting shown is called Silence, by Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov (1903), which I photographed mainly because it eeriely reminded me of Peter Doig.
Er - that means taking up the whole pavement. And an added interest (could easily be another mini-series) is the non-art of taking disability seriously; here an example of the ribbed, yellow-painted paving slabs which are placed here and there to indicate something or nothing to blind and partially sighted people.