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The Russian Concept: Reflections on Russian Non-Conformist Art

By Igor Sopronenko

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The Russian Concept: Reflections on Russian Non-Conformist Art


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The documentary explores the conceptual trend in nonconformist art of 1960-1980s in the USSR. The film also touches upon the issue of the history of one of the largest collections of art-works of the Soviet period – a collection of American Professor Norton Dodge that numbers today more than 20 thousand pieces. Many of artworks appearing in the film are now the well-known classics of the art of the twentieth century.

In addition to stories about their own works participants of the documentary tell about the relationship between the artist and power, politics, emigration and pragmatic psychology seized the contemporary art world. Among the recognized masters, who took part in the filming, there are such artists as Vitaly Komar, Oleg Vasiliev, Vagrich Bakhchanyan, Alexander Kosolapov, Leonid Sokov Victor Skersis and others. Unique video chronicle of the 1980-s used in the film allow us to see and hear again Dmitry Alexandrovich Prigov, Ilya Kabakov, a performance by "The Collective Action" group in the fields near Moscow... American and Russian art historians the Gerald Janecek, Jane Sharp, Mary Nicholas, Andrey Erofeev, Alla Rosenfeld also participate in film. The stories of artists and critics are illustrated with works from the collection of Norton Dodge.

Many of the Russian artists from whom Dr. Dodge was buying art works were unknown outside a small circle of connoisseurs. Their paintings were considered provocative by the regime, not because they were particularly experimental, but because they depicted Soviet streets and interiors as they really were: more dilapidated than glorious. Some of those artists now live in the US and Europe.  Formerly banned from showing their work, denied materials and workspace by the state, they now struggle with Western economic realities and a mercurial art market. The film alternately contrasts the most successful of them, who are well established in Western art society, with those who are still trying to make a breakthrough.  
This irony is not lost on a generation of artists who braved harassment and even risked their freedom by working outside official Soviet doctrine. Thus the film shows many art works and includes many comments from artists on this theme.     

 

Producer, Director: Igor Sopronenko
Associate Producer: Gerald Janecek 
Camera: Igor Sopronenko, Pavel Chuprov
Editor, Igor Sopronenko
Narrator: Charles Watson
Translation: Cynthia A. Ruder
Music by Don DiNicola, Gerald Janecek

Igor Sopronenko was born and raised in Moscow, USSR. He began his career as a director’s assistant at “Mosfilm,” the largest Russian film studio. Before moving to the United States in 1992, he made a number of documentaries, television and radio programs, and he also worked as a contributing movie critic for various Moscow magazines and newspapers. Sopronenko was an established producer, director, and scriptwriter whose films were shown on Russian national television.
Since 1992 he has made numerous documentaries and TV programs many of which were broadcast on national and local television. His creative principle can be described as follows: “Everything that involves people is interesting…. People with their concerns and expectations, history and problems, love and hatred, opinions and experiences---that’s the essential, the most intriguing, and the most miraculous part of documentary film.”  Sopronenko has worked as an independent documentary filmmaker since 2004. He received awards in the US for “Russian Feminism: Twenty Years Forward” (2008), “The Humanities: The Heart of it All…” (2007), “Top 10 Asian Brands” (2007), “Tribal Nations” (2005), and in Russia for “Salt of the Earth” in 1991.

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