GO EAST blog

this blog follows the road movie research of estonian performance artist katrin essenson and swiss performance artist matthias ruettimann across the former states of the sovjet union. mai - july 2016   


Shelter and hiding places

Don't be afraid to travel in Russia. In St.Petersburg travelers find shelter and hiding places every 20 to 50 meters in each road. Just duck and cover if there is a danger.

how to spend a day in "Peter"

Katrin blind in front of st.petersburg mosque

"Peter" is the nickname for St.Petersburg and here follows a manual how to spend a day in this city. Let's take yesterday, Monday 23 of May. 

Start your morning by running through the wide chaussee's, take up the rhythm of stop and go on the crossings guided by the red and green traffic lights. Collect any words you may catch as f.ex. "Y Adam" or "smatritsch". You don't have to know the meaning, or do you? 

Choose any spot as f.ex. the Tauric park not far from embellied Smolny Cathedral, and practice some meditation until your worried and busy mind calms down.

After breakfast go to the streets and follow without thinking your impulses. Get lost in the yards , passages, alleyways and backyards. Don't care about where to go, there is no better place as where you are.

Meet your partner at 2 pm and start practising. 15 minutes slow motion in the summer park. Another 15 minutes speak out everything that comes to your awareness. 

Close your eyes and let you guide 30 minutes throughout "Peter". Touch the monuments, here the girl speaking on her phone, feel the fresh air coming from the Baltic Sea, get worried about people observing you, merge your hand into the cold soft water of the fountain who sounds as a light summer rain, feel the changing of light and shadow on your retina, feel the threat of the roaring traffic, climb up stairs and enter the abrupt silence of a cool entrance hall. Then after 30 minutes change roles and become the guide. Discover what it means guiding a blind person through the adventurous landscape of the city. 

Change again roles and now try out more hazardous places as the fast going swinging gates of the metro, the 100 meter long escalators bringing you to the guts of the "factory" as you imagine listening to the quickly running and hammering trains in the tubes, jump still blind into the wagons when you hear the sizzle of the doors that hopefully opens, get smashed to your neighbor when the train accelerates unpredictable and after a long ride gain the surface again where your guide leads you over a busy square to a house that receives you with the smell of smoking sticks that reminds you of old somber churches, then be aware of this very special moment after 30 minutes blindness when you open the eyes. Don't turn around to see where you are just look at that what is in front of you, the bricked glass of the open window, the small green plant in its pot on the windowsill, the bushy garden in front of the house, the huge neoclassical entrance to a metro station, decipher the name of the station saying it out loud: Dostojevskaya.

Have a rest and a chat with your partner. 

Meet a local at 7 pm in Mokhovaya ulitsa, see a students performance in the national school for actors.

And second day in "Peter" is done.


inside labyrinth

Courtyard between Liteyny prospekt & Mokhovaya ul.

St.Petersburg has a warm welcome to strangers. The old capital and favorite of the tsars lays peaceful on a early sundaymorning in the mild lazy sun. You are running between shepherds of tourists who hop out of buses and glide through channels on flat glassboats and stay in long lines in front of the famous ermitage and you know you have to become one of them if you want to see Ilia Efimovich Repins painting "What a Freedom" from 1903. To be continued...


Remains of Medea Material performance

She is screaming. A long razor sharp scream. Her long red hair is wet and wriggles around her throat as snakes. A bandage twines around her breasts, agitated by her stormy breath. Her legs open up like a scissor, with her claw-like hands she rips to shreds her brownish tights and presses out a black package, a trash bag consisting the two sons of Jason, murdered by their own mother Medea. Students from national art academy for acting present Heiner Müllers  "Medea Material" on fifth floor of an old labyrinthine house full of murmurs and secrets. "We did this play in our spare time" says Natascha, a tall skinny director wearing a black t-shirt announcing "Я люблю своих детей"  (ya lyublyu svoikh detey) what means "I love my children". Tradition, you are confirmed by different artists you met, tradition is still carved in stone, and blood sweat and nudity are still banned from serious acting in theaters. So young acting students rehearse the break through in their spare time and on hidden stages. You have to know the labyrinth or you need a local guide, a stalker - you remember tarkovskijs film from the eighties? - and you need definitely Ariadne who speaks the cryptic language and spins a red thin line through the unknown. Sergei is your guide your door opener who brings you to the underground venues and knows the code for the gates you have to cross observed by sleepy guards. 

enter the zone

Narva-St.Petersburg on the road

You jump on one of this bus lines that cross Europe and end up in Moscow or St.Petersburg. The travelers are a middle aged couple, some very black and very blond colored Russian speaking ladies on high heels, some older ladies who don't care anymore about their appearance, two young guys, tough and broad shouldered, tattoos on their arms, watching videos or tracking their mobiles, later sitting with open mouth as some forgotten dentist clients in the hopping bus chairs. The ride from Tallinn to Narva, the boarder town far northeast, crosses endless woods and fields. Accurate farming, European standards, with flocks of dark shaped cows on fat green canvas. Exactly at 12.12 your bus stops in a rainy red bricked town and you look through a close-meshed fence on the chrome steel water of Narva river. The bus driver gives instructions and reminds you to follow always the green line if you have nothing to declare. And you have better nothing to declare, if you want to be in time at your destination. All passengers get out of the bus and line up in front of two desks inside a tall functional building made for entering the zone. Nobody had anything to declare, the customs officer was a friendly young lady who does some corrections in your migration form and reminds you before handing over your migration card, not to leave the zone any minute later as your permission is valid. 

Under constant rain the bus jumps on the trail again heading to st.petersburg.