Of course I’m only kidding. Even in Russia VOGUE is still VOGUE, and not «ВОГ», though it would be awfully funny if that was the case. Once upon a time, in a far away past, when I lived in Omsk and used to buy last month’s old copy of this magazine «в подземном переходе» [in the underground passageway] for 35 rubles (those were indeed the days!), they printed a couple of pages with old pictures from the first (and we should also note – the last) photo session by Vogue in the Soviet Union. Back then, in 1982, they used «ВОГ» as the Russian translation of the magazine’s name. The photo session was, for various reasons, a highly «любопытный» [curious] thing – and it’s too bad that I didn’t save any of the pages that I tore out and taped up on the refrigerator in my Siberian dorm room – imagine the epitome of Western couture displayed in a landscape of communal and/or communstic farms, kitchens and factories. And then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Vogue managed to do in Moscow and Kiev, where they shoot the pictures some 26 years ago. Now a photo session with such clothes is no rare occasion in Russia, as this country has had its own Russian language edition of the fashion mag for 10 years. And for half of these years I’ve been buying copies of it, which is, yes, I admit, as a literary scholar, my biggest guilty pleasure. Many people, however, don’t really get Vogue. They often misunderstand Vogue. They think that it is what it is not. Many ask themselves (and sometimes me): “What’s the point of buying a magazine filled with shoes and clothes from stores that to you never will be anything but museums?” Or even worse: “Why buy a magazine all about luxury in a kiosk next to which a couple of «бабушки» are begging for a couple of rubles to buy bread, then go home and look at Наталья Водянова [Natalia Vodianova] wearing the latest Manolo Blahniks all the while you’re secretly in love with H&M’s shoe collection?” Reading Russian Vogue is, in my opinion, the essence of Russian life right now, at this moment in world history (being early 21st century), being as it solely deals with beautiful, expensive things. But it’s not just about «роскошь», actually it is more about «искусство». Some might think that this is just my defense speech, that looking at pumps is alright if they’re shot by a famous photographer, and maybe it is!
In the beginning after moving to Yekaterinburg, and away from old cheap old copies of magazines, I couldn’t afford to spend about 140 roubles on a «глянцевой журнал». But last Saturday, while at home sick with the flue, I decided to pamper myself. And it doesn’t really matter that it looks like this where I live – because dreams are only as sweet as long are they’re not even close to reality.
But now for something completely different – or not really – art. Russian art. The October edition has a rather captivating and thoughtful, if somewhat too short, article on provocative Russian art. It was written by the director Evgeny Mitta. He tries to find answers to questions often asked by the Russian public concerning modern art. I don’t know about you, but I personally love to be offended. I don’t know why. Especially I love being offended in museums and art galleries. I blame my old art teacher for this, because she taught us that the worse a painting makes you feel, the more of your unknown or unconscious feelings does it portray. If that’s true, then we should all seriously give the whole affair that aroused around the «целующиеся милиционеры» “kissing police men” of last year a second thought…
«Что оскорбительного в гомосексуальном порыве вдух милиционеров?» [What is offensive in the homosexual impulse (alt. burst of homosexual emotion) of two policemen?]
And I just love the painting on the picture above, for obvious reasons perhaps, but isn’t it just so charming? Naked Russian writers in a paradise-like landscape, could a girl ask for anything more? From the left: Достоевский, Толстой, Маяковский, Гоголь, Ахматова, Цветаева. It was made by the artistical duo Александр Виноградов & Владимир Дубосарский, who have been working together since 1995, and done quite an impressive number of provocative works.
And for some reason I also very much like the painting on the first page of the article – chasing after a watermelon outside a GUGAL camp…
Everybody has their own relationship to art, I suppose. I was lucky enough not to only have an art teacher who told me that taking offense to a work of art was actually a good thing, I was also blessed with a grandmother who brought me to the art museum in Gothenburg and patiently thaught me the great art of looking at paintings. In Russia – увы! – there’s a big problem, though; almost all the ‘good’ paintings are in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and out in the ‘province’ where I’m living we’re left with the – yes, that’s right – the left-overs. Or local painters. And that’s not too bad, actually. They’re masters waiting to be acclaimed. Or so I presume!