Maxim Didenko’s production I AM HERE is inspired by a “joint emotional experience programme”. The play is based on texts by the poet Lev Rubinstein written at the end of the Soviet era onto index cards. The creative team – the actors, designers Pavel Semchenko and Maxim Didenko, composer Alexander Karpov, video artist Oleg Mikhailov and light designer Igor Fomin – have arranged two hours of tense collective contemplation, bringing the artistic matrix of Moscow conceptualism of the 1970s and 1980s into resonance with today. They conveniently draw on the postmodernist aesthetic of repetition, plastic, visual and musical minimalism, and Sots-Art collage. Didenko creates a space for sensual reflection, juxtaposing naked bodies and uniforms of violence, the rhythmic monotony of marching masses with the unique countenances that video designer Oleg Mikhailov films in real-time.
Not consciousness, but reflexes of memory drive the way we watch the performance. Bodily formulae trigger some definitive associations. Didenko, who has been working with plastic images of collective memory and trauma for a long time, uses both the arsenal of the Soviet avant-garde of the 1920s and later discourses or “languages” of Moscow Conceptualism, minimalist performance of the 1970s-1980s, or the plastic metaphors of Yury Lyubimov’s political theatre.
Watching the performance based on his own texts, Lev Rubinstein was amazed to find out what they were about. Thus, his famous line: “The author is among you. The author,” is in Didenko’s production clearly redirected at Stalin, whose portrait is present everywhere with an oppressive insistence: it floats out among the naked worn-out bodies, then appears among the cheerful and marching people. According to the creators of the performance, the terrible “author” of the defeats and victories of our bitter history, is still among us. Suddenly the bodies begin to sing, and it becomes even more terrible: the roar of distant Soviet history begins to sound through the voices of its new victims.
I AM HERE. Really? Again?
Presented in the frame of Russian Case 2018
Director: Maxim Didenko
Set designer: Maxim Didenko, Pavel Semchenko