V-A-C Live: Tunguska Event, History Marches On A Table, By Vadim Zakharov

21–22 Sep 2017
Whitechapel Gallery, London

An exhilarating and subversive performance celebrating Russian music and culture from the first half of the 1900s through a mixture of different genres.

V–A–C-Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery are proud to present the second edition of the V–A–C Live performance series. The renowned Russian artist Vadim Zakharov presents a performance on two evenings, taking its inspiration from the book Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music by Stephen Fry. Entitled Tunguska Event. History Marches on a Table, the performance coincides with the centenary of the Russian Revolution.

Each evening, spectators are invited to take a seat at a large rectangular table, which acts as the stage and spans the length of Gallery 2. A cast of actors and dancers appear on the table-cum-stage and transport the audience back a century, presenting some key events from the first half of the 20th century. A ballerina, a dog, a couple in love, an accordionist and garbage collectors feature among the characters. They present fragments of Fry’s book dedicated to the history of music through theatre, performance art and cabaret.

References range from Hubert Parry’s anthem I Was Glad (1902), traditionally sung at the Coronation of the British monarch, to composer Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka (1911) to Marcel Duchamp’s Bottle Rack (1914) in this humorous journey across time and history. There are also references to songs associated with war and military action, including the British music hall song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary (1912), popular among soldiers in the First World War.

“Sitting around a table with friends is one of the greatest achievements of mankind,” comments Vadim Zakharov. “However, in this case, history marches on the table either in dirty army boots, or barefoot, or even in pointe shoes. The absurd thing is that some of humanity’s most iconic work is created against a violent backdrop. In Fry’s book and in my performance, unusual and unpredictable historical and cultural events collide absurdly, causing a cultural explosion in our own minds. I needed a strong yet absurd image to describe this phenomenon. The Tunguska meteorite, which exploded 100 years ago over Siberia, is a fitting metaphor. The crater left by the explosion was about the size of London. You might ask what the two have in common. Well, almost nothing, apart from the fact that explosions on a much bigger scale often take place in people’s minds, and the consequences are experienced in human history.”

Vadim Zakharov was born in the USSR in 1959. He is an artist, an editor, an archivist of the Moscow Conceptual art scene and collector. Since 1979 he has participated in many exhibitions of unofficial art and collaborated with such artists as Viktor Skersis, Sergey Anufriev, Andrei Monastyrski, Yuri Leiderman. From 1982–1983 he worked with the AptArt Gallery, Moscow. Since 1992 he has published Pastor magazine and founded the Pastor Zond Edition publishers. In 2006 he edited the book Moscow Conceptualism,  and two years later, the website conceptualism-moscow.org.

Zakharov's retrospective 25 Years on One Page was held at the Tretyakov Gallery in 2006. He represented Russia at the 2013 Venice Biennale with the project Danaë. Currently Vadim lives and works in Berlin and Moscow.