Editor’s Letter – February, 2013

February 3, 2014

Editor's Letter

Editor Marisa Mazria Katz with artist Dmitry Vilensky of Chto Delat? outside FABRIKA Center for Creative Industries, for the opening of the art collective’s show “Nevrossiya (Not In Russia)” on February 1, 2014.

The polar vortex pummeling much of the American Northeast has, for the most part, been reviled. Black ice mixes with wind chills in the single digits. Only tears from the frigid winds moisten chapped faces and lips. I have tried to use the drop in temperature, though, to prepare for an upcoming trip to Russia’s cultural capitals—where highs lately have been a cool 0 º F. With generous support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU), I will be visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg this month to expand Creative Time Reports’ network of contributing artists. TMU awards grants to American nonprofit organizations to support travel for cultural exchanges with institutions and individuals in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.

As I was preparing for the visit, suggestions of people to meet poured in. Of the many, one in particular kept coming up: Kiril Medvedev, a young Moscow-based poet. Keith Gessen, novelist and editor of n+1, recently co-translated (with Mark Krotov, Cory Merrill and Bela Shayevich) a collection of Medvedev’s writing, It’s No Good: poems / essays / actions, which has received widespread acclaim here in the United States. In a beautifully written introduction, Gessen describes Medvedev as “Russia’s first genuinely post-Soviet writer.”

With this in mind, I wanted to include a passage from It’s No Good, as I have been reading the book fervently for weeks now, before venturing into a turbulent post-Soviet Russia. Medvedev’s mesmeric observations pull you in immediately. Take this short excerpt from a poem (translated by Gessen) describing an outing to a supermarket:

I was very sorry
for these fish
this wine
several hundred types of wine
and all the cookies
and the magazines
the candies
giant boxes of candies
massive pieces of meat
and fish;
and I looked for a long time
at these
idiotic beautiful expensive
lying there
on the shelves
of that supermarket
and I thought that this probably was
the main fuel
of civilization

With the help of the artists I meet, I’ll be gazing at both novel and pedestrian objects, like the ones Medvedev describes in the passage above, in hopes of uncovering insights into everyday life here in Russia. Check back for regular updates on the trip as well as all the wonderful pieces that will be published this month on Creative Time Reports.

Marisa Mazria Katz