Thursday, 2 October 2008

Sharmanka & The Chronophage



I THINK I HAVE FOUND work by another artist that is the closest thing to my own sensibilities that ever I have seen, and I'd like to show it to you ...
A few months back I was given a little local Scottish magazine by a neighbour who thought a particular article in it might be up my street. And Oh it was. I read in there of a Russian kinetic theatre of wooden sculpture hidden in the heart of Glasgow. And two days ago I went to see it.





Down a narrow alleyway and round the corner was a door, and on the door was a drawing of a behatted crow with a bell in its beak. Behind the crow were stairs, and at the top of the stairs was the most unusual wonderland I could ever have hoped to come across. A roomful of contraptions, huge automata-like machines, moved by and moving small painted woodcarvings with hooked noses. There were endless wheels, cogs and clocks, old pieces of scrap, sections of sewing machines, typewriters and lawnmowers, bicycles and bells, and delightful characters ~ melancholic, strange and grotesque in the best possible of ways.
Fat bellied mice, nuns and hunchbacks, clowns and skellingtons, monkeys with donkeyheads for hands, grinning jesters and snap-jawed monstrosities, bears, saints, artists and alchemists, monkeys with wayward willies, and organ-grinders and ravens of all sizes and sorts joined in a mechanical dance ~ macabre and humourous, sad and wise and utterly fascinating. They seemed to be telling me tales of the world turning, of lives and deaths and back again, of torture and spirituality, of the wheel and all its spokes. Lights shone on the pages of this kinetic story and took me from one character's part to the next, and all the while music played ... something from a far off circus, a dusty street musician, an echoing dungeon, a shtetl in winter.




Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre is the work of Russian artist Eduard Bersudsky. Born an outsider in St Petersburg in 1939, he is a self confessed black sheep or "white crow" as the Slavs say, who began his work amidst the struggles of Soviet Russia and and left in 1994 to settle in Scotland and bring with him his magnificent theatre. His work has been brought tirelessly into the public eye by Tatyana Jakovskaya, theatre director and critic who he met in 1987. Sharmanka (which means organ grinder or hurdy gurdy in Russian) has its base in Glasglow at present but a touring version can be seen here and there and elsewhere, and Eduard's works have been commisssioned to stand in various town centres, museums and private collections in places as far an wide as Scotland, Jerusalem, Russia, Denmark, America.



Eduard requests that he never see his audience nor they him, and speaks only a handful of English words. I was lucky enough however to meet him briefly and see his workshop and new piece in progress which will incorporate an old set of bellows into its heart. He is a man dedicated utterly to his work and collects like a magpie more bits and pieces of machinery to incorporate inside his creations, which have names like The Clock of Life, The Hunchback, The Tower of Babel, The Little Organ Grinder, Time of Rats, The Rag-n-Bone Man, Willy the Barrel Organ, Brainwashing Machine, The Tower of Medieval Sciences, The Leg, Eternal Triangle of Love, The Tree of Life, Druid's Clock, The Autumn Walk in the Belle Epoque of Perestroika ...


I cannot express adequately quite how in thrall I was to these little wooden men and the wheels that turned them. Bersudsky has been described as "an icon painter for our times" and that he is. Really it is impossible to convey in words how brilliant this kinetic theatre of woodcarvings is. You simply MUST go and see it. Even if you do not live in the UK ... get a plane, a boat, a train, a bicycle, a tricycle, a donkey, a snail, a unicycle! Just come to a show! They are on thursdays and sundays. Photographs cannot evoke the magic enough, so here are a few videos, but even they are like weak imitations compared with standing close to one of the beautiful Sharmanka machines as it creaks into life. Thank you Eduard.












all photographs copyright www.sharmanka.com
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Now, if your senses are not overloaded, I thought I'd invite another guest to this clockish automata-party: The Chronophage.
It was recently brought to my attention that on my just gone birthday, a new and astonishing clock was unveiled in Cambridge. The invention of John Taylor, clockmaker and admirer of John Harrison, who solved the problem of longitude in the eighteenth century, is a 24-carat gold-plated clockwork clock, that keeps accurate time whilst showing that it time is relative. On top of the clock, time is measured out by the grasping legs of a demonic locust-like chronophage or time-eater.

Taylor says:

“Clocks are fixed, whereas we all know, time is fluid. It drags and it flies. Like Einstein said, an hour sitting next to a pretty girl can be like a minute, and a minute sitting on a hot stove can seem like an hour. I wanted this clock to reflect that, to play tricks with observers.”

Dr Christopher de Hamel, Fellow Librarian at Corpus Christi, says:

“I wanted it to be a monster, because time itself is a monster . . . It is horrendous, and horrible, and beautiful. It reminds me of the locusts from the Book of Revelations. It lashes its tongue, and flicks its eyes at you. It’s bonkers.”

And here it is in action ...





So I leave you with all these lovely mad tickings and ringings of bells and will return soon with my own clock ... Once Upon O'Clock number 5.

43 comments:

Erin Gergen Halls said...

i am numb.
and yet tingling with electricity...

i will have in the corner of my mind all day, the realization that there are minds out there, like eduard's, that move a cog, and sets to motion a pulley that winds its way to my imagination, where a gear shifts, my hand moves pencil, and the bells and whistles go off on the paper.

today your mind, rima, was the key that got the contraption started.

bright blessings.....

Curious Art said...

I'm in rapture! Can't imagine what it must be like to see the automata in real life. How I wish I could hop over the ocean & see the show!

By the way, when I saw the first image I really thought it was yours... you must have absolutely shivered with the wonder of the connection.

Barbara J. Kirby Davis said...

Fascinating!

littlerobot said...

I absolutely love sharmanka! I had a chance to visit before they went on tour (and then went to the lovely restaurant Cafe Cossachok (Have you been? It's a russian eaterie and they seem to have some relationship with Sharmanka)). I ask people in Glasow about Sharmanka all the time, but it seems to be very little-known wonderland....It is as you say utterly magical.

Ohhh, and I recieved my lovely print today! It's beautiful, thanks so much! x

Jess said...

OMG Rima! I'm in total RAPTURES over this place! I want to live there and be surrounded by this world! I've just shown my daughter the vids and she's the same. Thanks so much for showing us! x

Griffin said...

Fab stuff... first chance I get, I'm off to Glasgie for a gawp. Reminds me of that Czech version of Alice in Wonderland as well as your work. So this is who you are in a parallel life then.

Chris' Shady Grove said...

This is amazing. You must have been in seventh heaven. Lucky you!

Shelley Noble said...

Holy cow! Talk about kindred spirits! You and Mr. Bersudsky are indeed of the same realm!

The contraptions, the animals, the medieval quality presented with a fine hand, it's as if his works are yours come to life!

As usual, you described the experience beautifully! Thank you for sharing it all.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

What I see in my dreams.
How long with he be in Glasgow?

Elizabeth Harper said...

Fascinating post and unbelievable work. I can't imagine the focus and commitment it takes to complete it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Belated happy birthday...mine was September 10th.

panther said...

Oh, Rima, thank you SO much for telling us about this man and his extraordinary creations ! I have just watched two of the vids-saving the other two for tomorrow!-and find myself transported to other worlds.

I'm now off to the sharmanka website :)

Nao Sims said...

You do discover the best stuff Rima!

You have a knack for finding the most interesting beings and inspired creations, whether they are born of your own mystical heart, or in this case, that of another fellow traveller.

As always, your Blog is such a treat.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Yowza, thanks for gathering all this in one place. the mind is boogled. You actually met Sharmanka, what did you say what did you do? Did you shake hands? Does he have real hands? What a treat. Yes, I have had a sale at my Etsy, and a commission, imagine!

ruthie said...

Oh yes,Rima it is enchanting work, so magical. The millenium clock tower at the Royal museum in Edinburgh was created by four masters - one of whom was Bersudsky - for the Scottish Millennium Festival. My boy and i were bound for ages by its spell, the intricacy, the humor and its fairytale quality. so like your own work, beautiful. The clock has its very own web site and you can take a magical virtual tour around it. * ruthie*

herhimnbryn said...

T
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Latreille said...

I, I can't believe it. These are all things, roaming in my mind, I never can seem to put an actual face on my ideas though. My ideas are not concrete, and then I always see myself copying someone else's work. Wood is definately the prettiest medium for art I believe. This is nice stuff you've shown us, and I sure hope to visit the Sharmanka some day!

Terry Rafferty said...

Beyond amazing, thank you so much for sharing it with all of us!

Pam said...

Thank you!!

Bimbimbie said...

Bet you skipped home with your brain tick tick tick ticking with imaginings... thank you for telling us about the world of Eduard Bersudsky

From This Moment to That said...

I was so excited alighting on your site today to find another post! Wow!!!! I'm transported, thank you so much for showing us the entrancing things... it's all just magical!
I'm fascinated by time and anything to do with it. I shall pass all this to my brother who is a bench jeweller and clock-maker, I just know he'll love it.
Thank you Rima and belated Happy Birthday felicitations!

Carl V. said...

I cannot thank you enough for sharing this with us as I may have never heard about it or seen it otherwise. I am all a'quiver just reading your description of the place and of the way leading up to it. I wish I could find a donkey or snail that could whisk me away to that place as this kind of work captures my imagination in a way that is really hard to describe. You obviously know what I mean because you've experienced it! Thank you so much!

solsticedreamer said...

that is amazing, when i first opened the page i thought it was your work!

Yoli said...

Rima, can we hope to see in the future from your shop this kind of thing? Eduard Bersudsky must have sparked your already electric creativity.

Natasha said...

Hello Rima! It's Natasha (Gunnersbury) here

I'm recovering from an operation, hence I'm stuck on my laptop trawling anything of interest including your wonderful blog. I need to say THANK YOU for finding and posting these, the models are so inspirational for my next show, which, now I have a great venue, hopefully is going to be bigger and better than anything I've done so far. The sounds of these in particular has sparked ideas for what can be done, as well as the puppets I need.
Speak soon - probably about some ideas for witches/devil dogs and grotesque morris dances xxx

Jo James said...

I can't take any more! It's all too wonderful!
My words are so inadequate. Thank you for bringing these treasures to me.
Surely you have found a soulmate in Eduard Bersudsky.

Michelle said...

Wow. No words! His stuff is just... wow. :-o

Erin Gergen Halls said...

and p.s...saw the "nina" clock/#5.
there is no end to you, clearly.
cant wait to hear the details of its coming to be!

Robyn said...

Oh. my. word! Its your work in wood. I bet your little heart pounded when you saw these enchanting little wood carvings. Absolutely wonderful!!!

Ciara said...

Wow RIma! What a find! It looks as though they were made by YOU! Or FOR you. They are simply stunning, and I will one day make a point of seeing a show, without doubt.
Thank you!

Koldo said...

This blown my mind!
One of the most beautiful pieces I've seen. I'm a big fan of automatas, been to York's museum a few times and of course I love Lodon's Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

I was just wondering if you like the work of animators Quay Brothers...

herhimnbryn said...

Dear Rima,
I read this and thought you might like to as well!

http://teatimetraveller.blogspot.com/2008/10/note-about-faeries.html

Gwen Buchanan said...

Utterly Amazing!!!

Julianna said...

What wonderful things!!

Christie said...

What a wonderful blog, full of amazing things!

jai and Lauren Soloy said...

Hi Rima, thanks so much for sharing! I was blown away by the automatons - truly very inspiring. And I just discovered the Chronophage earlier today, so I'm not surprised at all to discover that you had already heard of it. Hmmmmm... how to get to the UK?

sarahblank said...

Rima, this is so inspirational! thanks for sharing.

Karen said...

Truly amazing!!!
What a brilliant mind he must have!
Thanks for sharing.

Vickie said...

Absolutely amazing! I love all the mechanics. It's just so facinating. I love such orignal minds. I wish I could go see. Thanks for sharing as in my little corner of the world I would miss such things otherwise.

Eric Orchard said...

Really wonderful stuff, Rima! Thanks for sharing this. I can see where your sensibilities meet. Mine are somewhere in that geographical location as well.

Laetitia said...

thank you for sharing these WONDERFUL finds, I'm under their spell!!! I couldn't suspect Glasgow had so magical treasures, hope I could see them once in person :)))

tlc illustration said...

Amazing. Totally looks like your work in moving, three-dimensions. How wonderful and surreal for you to be able to immerse yourself in it in person like that! Thanks for sharing such enchanting, other-worldly art.

valonia said...

This is right up my street, so to speak. I intend, someday not too distant, to visit the north and I think I'll continue going until I reach the doorstep of this amazing place. Thank you so much for sharing it with us all.

x V.

Amy Short said...

Ahhhh so much eye candy...so little time! :o) Amy