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   


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. 

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...


Paldiski parking lot

 Paldiski, Baltischport, old German founded seaport west from Tallinn, on the shore of the Baltic Sea. Old greenish five store flats with wooden verandas, pigeons practising Spring, a lonely howling dog in a forgotten two-room Appartment, crying the blues on Pakri-street this afternoon. A bewildered apple tree wastes his blossoms as a late married woman veiling embarrassed her aged beauty. In Paldiski ended independency of the first Estonian republic when sovjets forced the young and vulnerable state to accept red army  military bases pretending to support friendship in times of war. That was in September 1939 after the fatal Molotow-Ribentrop-contract which divided Eastern Europe between Germany and Sovjet Union. So began Paldiskis career that gained his high days as a forbidden zone in the seventies when it became a nuclear submarine base. Before the sovjets left the place in the nineties they destroyed the labyrinth of souterrainian caverns where the submarines were hidden. So told us a local who draw a map of the peninsula showing all remains of history. On the peak of the flat cliff surrounded peninsula arises a tall lighthouse 85 meters. The red colour flakes of the walls leaving a omnivisible long stretched map of hidden or sunken countries. 

You climb the 500 steps up and look over the green carpet made of birches, weed and prairies. And then you discover this strange building almost looking like a synagogue lost in the nowhere. So you hurry down the steps as if you had seen a seldom bird and you don't want to miss him. When you enter the outburst of spring you find the abandoned, given up house, whose doors are wide open as if the owner has waited for your coming. You walk on glasbricks and listen to the echo of your steps. DON'T SMOKE OR YOU WILL EXPLOSE is written in dark red letters in Russian language on a white door. A gas mask lays at the bottom of a metal ladder as someone had lost his face. Picking up a black glassy sign you discover on the backside a paper showing a map of an island. Height curves surround in slingery lines the archipelago which is named in Cyrillic letters MAINLAND. Where is Mainland you ask yourself and you imagine A kind of motherland. Later in the tavern, peetris tavern, a sinister medieval like inn beside the harbor, run by Russians the owner a veteran of the Chechnya war deciphers the Military map and locates your by accident found Mainland on the Shetland islands in the North Sea. Again you question the coincidence. What if your entire life was meant to bring you here to find this map that calls you to the Mainland? Nothing happens by accident, coincidence is the hidden roadmap of your life. All the little nondescript homey things which crisscross your way daily, moment for moment, they are meaningful and you realize how many tracks you fail to see and you miss to follow. So what to do if you consider all the littered signs, hints or references that you find on your way? Don't look at them? Shut down your awareness? No the answer seems to be as simple as it can be: just slow down your traveling, get attracted, stop, bend over and pick up what is catching your attention, then not you found the abandoned house, the mask, the map, no they found you.

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.