June 15. Public talk. Denis Gorelov and Igor Gulin. How to watch Soviet films? Moderated by Konstantin Shavlovsky

June 16. Lecture by anthropologist Ilya Utekhin: Camera and enthographer's gaze

June 17. Lecture by folklore scholar Svetlana Adonieva: History without us

June 19. Lecture by philosopher Artemy Magun: The historical meaning of restructuring and transformation of the 1990s in the USSR and Russia. The main approaches and issues.

June 20. Lecture by poet Alexander Skidan: How to follow new/social poetry?
The Big Picture lectures program

We live in a world in which constant self-education is becoming a foundation essential for mutual understanding even within one culture. Attempts to chase the fleeting reality are likely futile, but it is possible to understand that changing is normal, and that a renewed knowledge of ourselves and the world is what makes us reel.

This year's lectures will see leading academics and cultural luminaries talk about current state of culture. Film critic Denis Gorelov and Kommersant-Weekend culture writer Igor Gulin will open the program with a public discussion on recent past: the Soviet cinema's influence on Soviet audiences. On the following day, anthropologist Ilya Utekhin will talk about ethnographer's work and describe what happens when we see the world through a camera lens. The third lecture will be given by folklore scholar Svetlana Adonieva who will discuss changes in society's attitude towards history as memory and ideology. Philosopher Artemy Magun will talk about the historical meaning of restructuring and transformation of the 1990s in the USSR and Russia. The series will be closed by poet and translator Alexander Skidan – he will define social poetry and tell how contemporary literature follows the Soviet underground tradition of the 1950-1980s.

The lectures are open for all guests and audiences with any background, and also assist the students of the festival's educational programs in understanding what we know about human and society today. Your admission to each lecture is intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn how are we changed by society, culture and technology that surround the modern human.

Schedule and descriprion

June 15. Public Talk. Denis Gorelov, Igor Gulin. How to watch Soviet films?

The series will be opened with a public talk between film critic Denis Gorelov and Igor Gulin, literature writer for Kommersant Weekend, about mutual influence of Soviet films and Soviet life and what makes late Soviet cinema interesting.

Igor Gulin thinks that "for an average viewer from intelligentsia late Soviet films are divided into three groups: art cinema masterpieces (Tarkovsky, German, Muratova)", popular hits (Gaiday, Ryazanov, Seventeen Moments of Spring) and everything else." According to the critic, this cinema may be "odd, annoying, but sometimes attractive and breaking our expectations somewhat. There isn't a fine line between the three groups but there is no doubt that the groups exist." Igor Gulin says: "It is this third group that interests me most: films of a different social and aesthetic order, which includes genres that are usually considered dutifully ideological – production drama, revolution period piece – genres, in which the question of the Soviet world's very existence is brought up. The state of late Soviet cinema is often described in terms of crisis: a crisis of language that stems from the crisis of politics and ethics. We don't have to challenge this diagnosis. We might try to change it from within: understand the crisis and instead of seeing it as degradation look at it as an acute state, in which a society's destiny is decided with an unseen exertion."

In Denis Gorelov's articles, books and public talks, he explores Soviet society through the history of Soviet film releases and analyzes films seen by tens of millions. "My topic is popular cinema as the nation's self-portrait, an accurate depiction of Russians' and former satellites' idea of themselves. National spirit, myths, phobias and prejudices, and genres in which Russians had no equal in the Soviet era: war movie, women's movie, school movie, village films, intelligence films. My mission is to challenge the made-up notion, created by the post-Soviet scholarship, that Russian cinema is limited to seven names of arthouse fame. What's more, watching an old picture requires substantial commentary on Soviet way of life at the time of release, genre choices and pop-cultural myth of the era's Russian world. Nabokov required the same of teaching Russian literature in foreign colleges; his method should be applied to Russian film as well (Ilyich's Gate being the most salient case). While most commentators are prejudiced and Moscow elites are ignorant about their own country, cartoonish genre of a funny story, a parable and an adage gets the best of the bargain, since precision in detail or extensive explanation are not required. Today's television production, following the mission of the "sometimely" Soviet film, is moving towards anecdote, as developed by White Sun of the Desert, The Elusive Avengers and How Czar Peter the Great Married Off His Moor."

Moderated by film critic Konstantin Shavlovsky
Film critic, born 1967 in Moscow. In 1989–2013 he worked as a film writer for Mokovsky Komsomolets, Segodnya, Russian Telegraph, Conservator, Izvestia, Russian Life. Gorelov worked as a co-writer on Namedni. Our Era television show (specializing in interior and foreign politics, film, accidents and jokes) and wrote the Russian Film Foundation's montage film The 1930s' Big Vacation. He has written for all film encyclopedias of modern Russia: Seance's seven-volume Contemporary History of Russan Cinema, Afisha's Guide into 500 Most Important Films in History of Mankind, Komsomolskaya Pravda's book series Great Soviet Films (one book for each film; series editor and auhor of 24 books). He is now a staff writer for Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Denis Gorelov
Film critic
Born in Moscow in 1985. Literary critic in Kommersant Weekend, co-founder and editor of Nosorog magazine, as well as a researcher of late Soviet culture.

Igor Gulin
Literary critic
June 16. Lecture by anthropologist Ilya Utekhin: "Camera and ethnographer's gaze"

"The main method of fieldwork of a researcher studying other communities and societies, is so-called "participant observation": the researcher immerses him or herself in the everyday reality of the studied community in order to see the world with the eyes of its members. But what happens when this researcher has a camera? How does it change the work process and what makes the finished product interesting to the general public? What constitutes ethnographicity as related to film and which qualities of non-fiction cinema relate to it?" That, and more generally, the way the observer's gaze works, will be the subject of Ilya Utekhin's lecture. The presenter pleads the audience not to be taken by stereotypes: "Ethnographicity is not the same as showing strange rituals of exotic countries, it is not related to popular dance and other folklore."
Born in 1968 in Leningrad. Professor at the Department of Anthropology of the European University in Saint Petersburg, author of a research monograph on communal apartments (Studies in Communal Living, 2001), as well as the Virtual Museum of Soviet Daily Life (kommunalka.colgate.edu) and documentaries PUGOVKA (2009) and Volunteers (2019).

Ilya Utekhin
June 17. Lecture by folklorist Svetlana Adonieva: "History without us"

In Svetlana Adonieva's own words, "lived world is determined by continuity of transmitted collective experience, its devaluation tears the social fabric apart and gives the dominating discourse the right of ideological 'sewing.' Estrangement from collective experience that happened in the former Russian Empire after the 1917's revolution, cleared the space for 'monumental history' as history-knowledge (ideology) and opposed to history-memory. Imagine: one of the tsarinas from Golden, Silver or Copper Tsardom, hid her tsardom in an egg and brought it with her to the human world. Only she knew that this artifact used to be a tsardom. And when she was gone, the artifact was placed in a museum to keep academic speculations about the past going."
Folklorist, anthropologist, professor, director of the Propp Center, author of papers and monographs on folklore and contemporary mass culture. Her works include: Category of Absent Tense (2001), National Spirit and Other Spirits (2009), Symbolic Order (2011). Adonyeva has won awards from the American Folklore Society and Chicago University for best folklore book (Svetlana Adonyeva, Laura J. Olson, The Worlds of Russian Village Women Tradition, Transgression, Compromise, 2013). She is a lecturer at Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov's documentary film and theater workshop and research leader of the Primary Signs research project.

Svetlana Adonyeva
June 19. Lecture by philosopher Artemy Magun: The historical meaning of restructuring and transformation of the 1990s in the USSR and Russia. The main approaches and issues.

In the 1980–1990s, the Soviet Union unexpectedly for many experienced a revolutionary transformation. It was completely unclear to the participants what was happening: the renewal of the communist ideology, the cunning maneuver to deceive the West, the "transit" to democracy, the national revival of Russia, the death of the empire, the end of history or the democratic revolution? What were the driving forces of these events — the economic crisis, the humanistic potential of socialism, the conspiracy of US agents, or the nationalist logic of modern democracy? What did society experience in the 1980s – 1990s, and what is the reason for the curve of the trajectory of public opinion and the political course — from Leninist socialism to liberalism, from liberalism to fierce nihilism, and from fierce nihilism to ressentmental nationalism? What we have today in retrospect what happened? And what, on the contrary, leaves obvious? And how to evaluate the historical significance of these events for the future? Artemy Magun, a professor at the European University and political philosopher, will answer all these questions in his lecture.
Artemy Magun is a Russian philosopher, political theorist, professor at the European University at St. Petersburg, and a research advisor for the program "Social and Political Philosophy". The author of the books "Negative Revolution" (Russian, English, French), "Unity and Loneliness", "Democracy: A Demon and Hegemon" and dozens of articles on philosophy and political theory in leading international journals. Editor-in-chief of Stasis journal.

Artemy Magun
June 20. Lecture by Alexander Skidan: How to follow new/social poetry?

In his presentation, poet, editor and translator Alexander Skidan will talk about "New Poetry": a book series that he runs in New Literary Observer. "Social is not reducible to political, it's more general but also narrower in a certain sense. For instance, in issue 137 of New Literary Observer we published a collection of Petr Razumov's poems on 'desire of things', visiting fashion stores and clothing flea markets, on life as an endless fitting room, surrounded by Uzbek migrants; their experience in our country he also tries on. These are tender poems, in which fetishism intertwines with kind of a pauper chic and placelessness. There's no grandiloquence, no similarity to accusative civic poetry, which I wouldn't print anyway (perhaps only as deconstruction, as in Roman Osminkin)." The lecturer will discuss the mechanism of a poetic utterance today. To fully comprehend contemporary poetry it is essential to understand its provenance in the tradition of underground poetry in the 1950s-1980s' USSR. The lecture will address this new history of contemporary poetry, the question of which poetry may be considered social and how can poetry work with communal and private problems.
Born in Leningrad in 1965. Poet, critic, essayist, translator. Author of five books of poetry, several collections of essays, and the novel Guide into N. He has translated contemporary American poetry and prose, theoretical works by Paul de Man, George Hillis Miller, Jean-Luc Nancy, Paolo Virno, Gerald Raunig. Skidan has won a Turgenev Festival's award (1998), Bridge Award for best article on poetry (2006), and Andrey Bely Award (2006, for Red Shifting). Brodsky Foundation fellow (2018). His poetry has been translated into many languages and published in anthologies. Bilingual edition of Red Shifting was published in the USA in 2008. Member of Chto Delat art group, editor of the New Literary Observer since 2009. Skidan lives in Saint Petersburg.

Alexander Skidan
Curator Sergey Sdobnov was born in 1990 in Ivanovo. Literature critic, poet, curator of events program at Pioner film theater, coordinator of Oral History Foundation's editorial projects, writer on contemporary culture for various media; author of poetry book White Heart (Moscow, Argo-Risk, 2015).

Sergey Sdobnov
Curator of the Big Picture lectures program