26.02.2010 - 20.04.2010
Peter and Paul Fortress, Nevskaya kurtina, right side

St. Petersburg Charitable Foundation for Culture and Arts PRO ARTE

Museum of the history of Saint Petersburg

Center for Electroacoustic Music of the State Moscow Conservatory, THEREMIN-CENTER

supported by the Ford Foundation


Exhibition opens on Thursday, February 25, at 17.00

The brief period between 1910-s and 1930-s was so intensely packed with social cataclysms of extreme complexity (revolutions, wars, totalitarianism) that it equals a whole era.  Starving, freezing and struggling with poverty, artists of that time were living by visions of a new country, where everything would be DIFFERENT, where the man will become perfect, the language - universal, and  where the power of new machines would be next to limitless.

We call them Generation Z.  The letter Z is in many ways emblematic of the period.  Z is for zigzag, the spark; it is the symbol of energy, of electrical charges and of lightning. It became ubiquitous on book covers, posters and paintings.  At the same time it is evocative of the anarchical, adventurous ideas and projects that went on during this period and that would have been inconceivable in other times – projects that were often anonymous and many of which have largely been forgotten.  Artists, poets, musicians and architects rushed enthusiastically into the new reality, studying physics and mathematics, embracing sciences concerning the nature of light and sound, and developing theories about what became known as ‘the Art of the Future'.  Many were inspired by the analytical minds of Renaissance. In 1918 Lunacharsky, the people's commissar of education, officially proclaimed that the arts should be developed on an experimental basis.

In 1919 an artist named Solomon Nikritin came up with a fundamental theory of "Projectionism" and stated that:  "The Artist is not a producer of consumer goods (a cupboard, a picture), but of (PROJECTIONS) METHOD – the organization of matter." The method, therefore, invented by the artist, becomes the purpose of the creative process. Through this idea of projecting a method all the mistakes, mishaps and paradoxes acquire a new constructive meaning and significance. 

It's nothing less than the new essence of creativity! That period abounded with all sorts of experimental projects, such as Alexei Gastev's "Art of Movement" exhibitions, the concert-lectures by Leon Theremin, Evgeny Sholpo and others, Arseny Avraamov's concert series "Music of the Future" etc.  Allmost every artistic language that has ever existed, ranging from futurism to realism, reemerge at that time, as artists were striving for universal knowledge, as if they were about to take off to another planet.  

The firs section of the exhibition tells the story of Alexey Gastev (1882-1939) - a scientist, a poet, an anarchist and a philosopher.  The scale and paradox of Gastev's individuality goes well beyond the limit of the common.  His influence on the cultural landscape of the period was monumental.  In 1922, influenced by Gastev's ideas, composer Arseny Avraamov (1886-1944) wrote his acclaimed “Siren symphony”, that employs the city itself as a musical instrument to be played upon, as a gigantic orchestra comprising fabric sirens and whistles, with machine guns as snare drums and heavy artillery as bass drums.

The exhibition then takes us explore the life and work of Leo Theremin (1896-1993), who was an inventor, a physicist and a musician, well known as an inventor of the first commercially produced electronic musical instrument, the Theremin, and universally acknowledged as the "father" of electronic music.  Next stop of this journey is the story of the State Institute for Musical Science (GIMN) Numerous documents from the institute's archives are displayed at the section "The death of utopia" as direct testimony of the pressure applied by the "vertical of power" on "horizontal artistic networks".

The project also includes a partial reconstruction of Solomon Nikritin's stand shown at the Projectionism section of  “The First Discussion Exhibition of the Active Revolutionary Art Associations”  in 1924. 

The main and largest section, Graphic Sound, highlights the unique technology of sound synthesis through the use of light and graphic information. Along with authentic manuscripts and designs it displays unique tone-films - synthesized sound tracks created by Arseny Avraamov, Evgeny Sholpo, Nikolay Voinov and Boris Yankovsky in 1930-s.

Despite all the grandeur of breakthroughs made by these pioneers, the work was tragically doomed to oblivion. While the country was suffocated by Stalin's repressions, entire chapters were being written out from the "official history". Many ideas of genius are cauterized as "utopian".  Names of the people who brought about a true cultural breakthrough in the revolutionary 1920-s largely remain unknown to the world and completely forgotten in Russia.  

And still, nearly a century later, the results of their work are breathtaking.  The life has confirmed correctness of their foresights. Many ideas and inventions, which have been considered as utopian, are reinvented after decades abroad, we use them today not knowing their origin, and many ideas, apparently, are waiting for rebirth.

Author of the project - Andrey Smirnov.

This exhibition was prepared by: Liubov Pchelkina - the researcher at the State Tretyakov Gallery.Liubov Pchelkina - the researcher at the State Tretyakov Gallery.Liubov Pchelkina, Nikolai Izvolov, Konstantin Dudakov, John Appletov and Mathew Price.

Materials are courtesy of the following archives and collections: the Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive, the Central State Museum of Musical Culture, named after  Mikhail Glinka, the State Tretiakov Gallery Manuscriot Archive, Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI), collections of Marina Sholpo, Hanna Reichenshtein, Andrey Smirnov and Leon Bolotsky. 

The first time the exhibition under the title “Sound in Z” was held in 2008 in Paris at the Museum of Modern Art ‘Palais De Tokyo' in the framework of the project by the British winner of the Turner Prize - Jeremy Deller, under the title “From One Revolution To Another”. 

The exhibition in Saint Petersburg is prepared by the authors together with PRO ARTE Foundation and the State Museum of History of St.Petersburg. The “generation Z. Pioneers of sound art in 1920-s” significantly exceeds the size of the original exhibition, many of the items will be displayed for the first time. 

Special program:

Opening night:

Concert of the PRO ARTE eNsemble 

Yefim Golyshev (1897-1970), Ivan Vyshnegradskiy (1832-1895), Arthur Lourie (1891-1966): 

pieces composed in 1910 - 1920-s.

February 26, 2010, 18:00

PRO ARTE Foundation

 Remembrance of sounds lost. Russian pioneers of sound art in 1920-s Lecture by the author of the exhibition, Andrey Smirnov

 March 10, 2010, 18:00

PRO ARTE Foundation

Concert-lecture  “Leon Theremin”. by Olesya Rostovskaya 

April 1, 2010, 18:00

PRO ARTE Foundation

Concert “Music for thereminvox”. Lydia Kavina 

 April 10, 2010, 12:00

Naryshkin bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress. 

 "Siren symphony" by Arseny Avraamov. Reconstruction by Sergey Khismatov 

Exhibition is open February 26 through April 20, 2010

Thursday - Monday (11.00 to 18.00), Tuesday (11.00 to 17.00)

Closed on Wednesdays. 


PRO ARTE Foundation (812) 233 0040, 233 0553

State Museum of History of St.Petersburg (812) 230 6431

Activity Type :  Music 

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