Birch √0

27 Apr–30 Jul 2023

An installation by Anna Pospelova and Nadezhda Bakhshieva in which two worlds collide—the imitation of digital reality and the archaic.

The exhibition Sorcerers shows how different artists work with dark folklore. They are all intrigued by various aspects of the fantastic, supernatural and horrific, as manifested in history, local mythology, Soviet folklore, and digital reality. Although it may seem at first glance that sculptures of wood spirits and references to 1980s children’s films have nothing to do with modern nightmares, the project helps to focus our perception.

Birch √0 is an installation by composer Anna Pospelova and musical theatre director and media artist Nadezhda Bakhshieva. The birch is one of the most recognizable symbols of Russian culture. The authors draw parallels between this primary element of the cultural landscape and the binary system used in digital technology. In the space of the installation, two worlds collide—the imitation of digital reality and the archaic. During this psychedelic journey, the leitmotif of the work gradually emerges—an attempt to find a modern reading of ancient cultural images. Within this subject two parallel lines develop, where a mystery play and a street carnival coexist with the story of a secret laboratory developing a new cultural code out of a balalaika, a mermaid, birches, and a dulcimer.

The soundtrack for the installation was assembled using several theatrical methods: terrifying tales are intertwined with the fate of one of the central characters—a mermaid who is being used in a laboratory experiment, and the story of a mother cuckoo who cannot get enough water to drink, combined with the aria of a dying mermaid set to a poem by Anna Akhmatova.

An updated version of the folk song Are You My Beauty, echoes of which are heard in the main exhibition, mourns a character who gradually loses his familiar appearance. Finally, in the computer adventure game, a dulcimer plays and a mermaid sighs, while the voice of another character is heard from the corner—the Stump, who reads a lecture about the Birch algorithm.