Memories that Resurrect the History of Modern Russia
An Arts Memoria
When Archival arrived in Pistoia, Italy, Grisha Bruskin’s buried civilization had been resting there for about three years. The Soviet people “had all looked at what was forbidden” and “like the wife of Lot” in the Book of Genesis, “became sculptures,” Bruskin describes. He produced 33 life-size bronze sculptures that represented the Soviet civilization. These forms consisted of both human forms and symbols from the Soviet empire. All of these were buried in Italy in the style of a mass grave to undergo a natural processes of decomposition. Once they achieved a desired degree of corrosion, Bruskin prepared for Archival to film the excavation for The Frozen Theater. The site transformed from a hidden burial marked only by very slight rusted metal rods protruding up from the ground to an archeological excavation and a place of resurrection, justice, and awe.
Yet, the resurrected society emerged from the ground with a powerful new speech acquired from the ancient Romans, the practice of memoria. It is the discipline of recalling information used in formal oral discussion, debate, and address. Over time, these memory systems evolved to include technology, but the sculpted forms in Archeologist’s Colletion became for Bruskin, an arts memoria. As the many faces of the fallen society rose, Doctor, Bride, General with Missile, and others, the ancient roman concept of memoria permeated the atmosphere. To walk among the ruins was to walk among the reanimated memories and arguments of the soviet people. As Bruskin’s Archeologist’s Collection became an arts memoria, the sacrifices of the age like Prisoner could be reexamined to reconcile the Soviet ideology with the reality of the past situation. The collection was shipped to Moscow for a show at the Udarnik.
The Udarnik is a symbolic site. It was commissioned by Stalin, and designed by Boris Iofan as the House on the Embankment. Elite Soviet officials resided there conveniently across from Red Square. However, during the purges of the late 1930s, many residing in the Udarnik were killed. Later, the building became a cinema, and then was abandoned to ruin. In recent years, it was purchased by Shalva Breus to become a contemporary art museum. Bruskin’s Archeologist’s Collection was installed there for the museum’s first show with great amounts of earth which was brought into the exhibition space to reflect the excavation site in Italy. Archival created a video installation of the excavation for this exhibition on three screens with surplus footage from The Frozen Theater. As contemporary Moscow society walked through its own symbolic ancestral ruins, Bruskin’s arts memoria filled a tender vacuum in the memory of the local community.