Friday night was the all-night museum opening. That was great. The students from the Institution of Talented Children of the North had a small (but outrageously popular – I saw just about every young person in town there!) demonstration of their latest project, body art. That was neat – they painted either replicas or imitated the style of famous works of Russian avant-garde artists on the most Russian of all canvases – Russians themselves! That was a delight, mainly because I love that style – the nonsensical, arbitrary images, the enthusiastically bright colors and elementary shapes, the zeal and conviction with which the artists painted and lived… all of that lives on in the stained bodies of young, brazen exhibitionists (double meaning! Did you catch it!? Exhibitionists – because they were an exhibition, and because they were all naked!) and their spectators (i.e. every person in town).
Upstairs was a display of technological projects that the engineering students came up with – everything from a space-age remake of the shacks that вахтовики (shift workers that work for 30 days on, 30 days off on the oil rigs) live in, to an UFO-like revamping of the blimp, to technologically decked-out baby strollers and motor-powered roller skates. The basement was full of ceramic works and paintings, more traditional art, that were nice but didn’t command my attention as the other exhibits did.
The rest of the evening, until 3am, took place in the music hall, where I indulged in some long-awaited live music. I had forgotten how amazing it is to just listen to something live, and I was wiggling goofily in my seat. We stayed for 4 groups – the first, a local jazz-type group, playing really lively, dancey, optimistic stuff: obligatory saxophonist and singer in black minidress and red-and-leopard print stilettos included. They were called “Sunny Side.”
Then two wildly nontraditional (for Russia especially) lassies that echoed the voice and style of Kate Bush bravely got on stage and belted bizarre yodels and piercingly high chords and glorious, uninhibited, ladies-being-weird noises. A lot of people walked out, which was rude and nasty, but they were unperturbed. Great, just great.
Finally, a band came on that made me think immediately of Burlington hipsters!!! 1. 2 out of 4 members in sunglasses, 2. drummer chick with cool hat, 3. cool dude missing a shoe and wearing a traditional sweater and a hat and long hair, and 4. a guy playing toy instruments (recorder, play piano, mini maracas) on the side. Their music was really popular with the cool art kids, who, I assume, all study together at the Institute of Cool Art Kids of the North. It was good and I enjoyed it and it reminded me of beloved Burlington. They were called “Два часа” (Two Hours). They sounded a lot like the popular Ukrainian band 5’nizza. When they were done, the one-shoed hand-drummer, face obscured by long hair, glasses, hat, and Coolness, sat and strummed the guitar and sang. I liked it, but I wasn’t able to catch very many lyrics. (I left my word net at home). Anyway, I liked it because it was Russian and real. Finally, no pop nonsense desperately trying to be American. His music just fit.
Finished up the evening with some гулятing (wandering around) and it was all around just right. Oh, it’s worth mentioning that I was once again interviewed for a subject that I really have no authority to talk about, which routinely makes me very nervous and uncomfortable. I am not an art critique; why is my opinion necessary? Either way, though, it is dazzlingly fun to be stopped every where I go to be begged for my views on something. For this interview, I said the exhibition was шикарно (something like dazzling/awesome) and that the future of the world lies in the hands of artists… and I feel comfortable in their grasp. (Not bad, eh?) I was asked if we “have anything like this where I live.” I’ve gotten used to recognizing these tricky questions, which are designed to make my city look pale compared to Khanty-Mansiysk (but if my answer comes out the reverse, making my town look cooler than KhM, I get evil glares for eternity and instantly lose all my accumulated Russian Soul Points). I straddled this issue like a well-trained gymnast. Yes, we have modern, exciting, creative art exhibitions as well, but it’s special that this special exhibition is open at night, until 3am. Ding! Right answer.