I Am Not Leaving

I agree: this is the only possible position — to be on the side of humans.

Continent Kirill Serebrennikov

 

What can be done on the territory of art, what is art, does it have to carry some definitive cultural code or it is enough to just put a mirror front of the audience. The images of our contemporaries and information about those who live in Russia now and today to descendants — our columnist, Russian theatre and cinema director, artistic director of the Moscow theatre «Gogol-Centre», Kirill Serebrennikov.              

Any public performance can be met by disapproval. This must be seen as normal all the while society is not homogenous. I wouldn’t do what I do, or I’d do it somewhere else, if all of my work met opposition. Fortunately for me, there are many people who like, want and demand my work and this gives confidence to continue.

Theatre doesn’t show any images it just puts a mirror front of the audience and if the public doesn’t like it, then its fury is that of Shakespeare’s Tempest character, Caliban, seeing and hating his own reflection. This emotion has nothing to do with theatre, cinema or art in general. What we see in the mirror today is obvious. For example, just two years ago seventy-seven people died after drinking the hawthorn tincture designed for the bath and TV News still show us Stalinists whose mental stability must be questionable. They crawl through snow to put flowers on Stalin’s grave while other people protest Stalinization. The Minister of Culture opens a Stalin memorial, discredits the government and all the good things it did before Stalin gained absolute power because he is talking as if he were Stalin’s representative. The Minister said that Stalin was something good. At the same time there is a lot of good bright young people who are much into social media helping each other with crowdfunding. Society is extremely heterogeneous, there are aggressive minorities and passive majority. Everyone fights for this passive majority trying to pull it to their side to make it speak and join them so that they could monetize this transmission.

There’s no homogeneous society in Russia. People of Tomsk, Tobolsk and Irkutsk are one society, Vladivostok is different as are Rostov-na-Donu and Kaliningrad. Moscow and Petersburg are totally different. We are separated, we aren’t one. There are areas where people collect roots and berries and when their woods are cut for logging, they come out with clubs and guns and say that the woods are their breadwinner and it can’t be cut. There are places where people protest against building a factory producing condoms because the place’s name is Godfearing and there should be no condoms but just manna from heaven and joy of singing Hallelujah. These are protest of two totally different groups and they are about the freedom of one which ends where the freedom of another starts.

Just a few of us shout about the freedom of self-expression, the artists whose exhibitions were closed. People who are being censored directly or economically who were put to jail for reposts by an act of unfair punishment. There’s no such thing as ‘a thought crime’. There’s even nothing like freedom of self-expression, there’s just freedom and that’s all. Period. And art is taking place on the territory where everything is allowed. It’s not life it is another field. They can murder in this territory like Shakespeare does in his plays and no one takes his characters to court.

The main character of the play and movie «Student» kills. Created by a German dramatist Marius von Mayenburg the character immediately found an enormous quantity of prototypes on the territory of Russian reality, say, boys in single picket. Veniamin — with text from Bible adds into it the names of those who should be cut and beaten. In a stranger way the German playwright fantasy became absolutely real and started to live its own life in Russia. Veniamin is kind of a provocation for all other people in the movie. Their reaction is the main subject in it. Step by step appearing fear, chills paralyzing everything. And there’s just one single person who fights slowly falling down to the certain extremism, the second character.

Theatre and cinema like in all times reflect and spell the meanings that should be important for the people today. Art feels very acutely what’s going on with us today being either a reflection or like in my case, a motivation to think implicated to the audience, which is hard in our times.

The action takes place in the school for a reason — it is a crueler model of our society. It is at a loss because of the endless reforms and teacher are a priori conservative. They should give to children values accumulated during a long period of time and it can’t be changed, quickly making them lose their minds.      

Russian schools are traditionally female dominated. Women bring up men and that’s the fact changing our matrix — infantilization, depending on mother’s breast. I often go abroad and I see that it is totally different in the West. Men took the leading role in upbringing: they push prams in the street, they take little ones to gym with them, I see more men with children than women. Is it bad? At first, I thought it is being tuned to Russian waves like — where are the mothers and grandmothers, aunts and teachers? Then I overcame my inner protest and realized that this is true, men upbringing is another paradigm of qualities and tunes for a man. A son can see how real man behaves, daughter — a courageous dad.

Illustration
Alina Galaktionova

The government is trying to form through the school an instrument of affecting people’s brains, to induct its own priorities of development and national ideas. Sometimes it’s not so bad, sometimes absurd and wrong. I think the main national idea of today is to protect people. It is necessary to make every person in Russia live happily, safe and sound and never die unnecessarily through such things as drinking hawthorn tincture. Not an easy task but I think worth doing because with such a big territory and a static population number it could be lost in a short time. There will be no one left to guard the borders. People’s life level should be upgraded so that everyone would be healthy and rich. There are too many people shamefully poor for a country like Russia in our century.

There are values of the current moment but those of the long perspective exist as well. It is so hard and scary and torturing to live in today’s Russia. But this is a country where you never get bored of living and working in at the same time. I don’t know if people who are in jail now who then go out and move abroad to have some rest agree with me but people who direct theatres and art today are never bored, it’s overwhelming. Here we have a good audience, public we have topics to discuss, to disagree, to oppose to think of together. To resist entropy, destruction and hysterical broadcast by mass media trying to crack society into us and them by searching for enemies. The madness is sown into people’s heads. Even if it ends its consequences are unpredictable. Heiner Müller said: «I am with the guy in tank and with the one he is driving to». I agree: this is the only possible position — to be on the side of humans.