Thursday, March 18, 2010

John E. Bowlt

From Jessa Crispin's Bookslut interview with John E. Bowlt, author of Moscow & St. Petersburg 1900 to 1920: Art, Life and Culture in Russia's Silver Age:

What was it about this period in time in Moscow and St. Petersburg that allowed for such a creative output?

Several reasons, I think. The first reason I think is that many poets and painters and philosophers at the end of the 19th century in Russia realized that Russia was about to enter a new era. And that feeling was generated by the fact that many of these people associated the year 1900, like many in the West, with the end of the world, that there would be the apocalypse or some calamity or disaster. This would be a cleansing force and after that purification, Russia like a Phoenix would rise. This generated an energy, and a drive and a force that I think infected a lot of Russian society. A desperate wish, not only to reject the past but welcome this new Renaissance, this rebirth. The signs are on the one hand a rotting society and on the other, a new structure, morally speaking, philosophically speaking, artistically speaking, but also socially, economically speaking. These signs can be seen in so much poetry and art and music of the time. There's this sense of moving forward in spite of this imminent catastrophe. This created a certain pregnancy, an anticipation, a certain energy in the art and literature of that time.

Secondly, I think Russians around 1900 were realizing the world is becoming smaller, something we keep saying today. They didn't use the term "global village," but I think there was a sense that because of communications, railroads, telegraph, phonograph, telephone, that sort of thing, the world was becoming smaller and Russia was an increasingly organic part of a civilized community. Many Russians felt that the West, that meant of course Paris, England, to some extent Italy, Germany, and America, should find out about the values of Russian culture. That led to people like Diaghilev, for example, to think about exporting Russian art and Russian music, opera, and ballet, to the West, which of course he did with his ballet company (Ballet Russes) from 1909 to 1929. There's a certain internationalism going on in Russia around 1900.

The third thing, I suppose, which is actually quite manifest, was an appeal to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue