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Underground Judaism in the Communist Sphere

Moscow born artist, Grisha Bruskin’s Birth of a Hero depicts the Soviet civilization in a manner inspired by the biblical story of Lot’s wife who looked at the “forbidden city” and turned into a pillar salt. According to Bruskin, “they looked too far away, what was forbidden and like the wife of Lot from Bible they became er sculptures.” The Soviet people in this installation are fossilized as a collective after gazing into the communist paradise. This theme has often been repeated in other works over the course of his career. Bruskin is the first artist of Russian Nonconformism, or underground art during the Soviet time, to depict images of Judaism with those of communism as a mythology. Bruskin’s grandmother used to make matzo for him and his siblings to eat in the dark recesses of hidden cupboards during the Soviet time. [/vc_column_text][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”56568″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Boris Orlov is another Russian Nonconformist artist and friend of Bruskin. In Moscow, during his interview with Archival, he stated, “We had to realize and to describe what we had seen in artistic images. And… we just faced this… this situation, this reality as analysts, as anatomists. We wanted to decide for ourselves – what was that and how we should… should live with that… live in that… face to face with… with this monster.” Monster being the Soviet system associated with bread lines, communal apartments, and prison camps as a result of collectivism, the destruction of the self, and sacrifices of totalitarianism. 


“This is the symbolism that I now look at with horror after the collapse of the when exactly all this symbolism can be found in the American empire now.”

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Using Archeology as a Style to Explore Hidden Language

Grisha Bruskin’s work has progressed beyond the collapse of the Soviet Union to address the past as history of a fallen civilization. In his work titled, Archaeologist’s Collection, Bruskin shows the society in terms of lost ruins and takes on the role of a scientist unearthing artifacts in which to examine hidden truths about the Soviet life, or the Soviet “situation.” For the artist and other members of the Nonconformist Movement, the codes, signs, and symbols used in both the public life and the unofficial or underground culture have yet to be fully explored and communicated inside Russia and internationally.


Perhaps the biggest statement for Archaeologist’s Collection is the burial of the forms as a mass grave to be dug up as an excavation after three years of decaying in the earth. One of Bruskin’s forms is the archetype called, prisoner, referencing the gulag labor camps and the camp system within the Soviet Empire.[/vc_column_text][vc_gallery interval=”3″ images=”56553,56552,56546,56545,56550,56555,56556,56561,56551,56554,56559,56560,56549,56564″ img_size=”large” css=”.vc_custom_1537385629277{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Destroy After Reading

The Iranian artist, Barbad Golshiri is also interested in burial aspects of life and death in Iran’s grave markings of political prisoners. In Golshiri’s pieces, however, the art is part of actual burial places in which families and friends of political prisoners may use to remember their loved ones. These have evolved into temporary installations that fade in weather in order to protect the sites from government authorities tasked with disturbing the tombs and relics of those who have offended the state. [/vc_column_text][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”56572″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]The funeral is often also the subject of protests and dissent. Funerary honorations have been vehicles of resistance in Iran in times of revolution and unrest. “I’ve focused on creating grave markers so tombstones, sarcophagi, cenotaphs, even ephemeral grave markers that are mostly for political people who cannot have a permanent tombstone.” The graves of political prisoners in Iran are often destroyed in a similar manner to the destruction of satellites confiscated for accessing international news networks.

“It could be the militia forces.  It could be hardliners or God knows who but so – and many of those I do not consider as works of art because they have function.”

For one burial Golshiri describes, “he couldn’t have a proper tombstone because the militia forces or hardliners or they … each time that the family put a tombstone, they broke it. And so what I made was a stencil in two parts of iron. And each time they visit the cemetery, the bring along the stencil. They put it on the tomb and pour soot powder on it and it’s imprinted on the tomb. And depending on the wind strength or all those things, it disappeared each time, each season, so they repeat it as a ritual the first day of each – of every season.”[/vc_column_text][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”56570,56571″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Photo credits: top Birth of a Hero, Grisha Bruskin, 15 Bronze and White Enamel Figures, 1985; Grisha Bruskin and Shannon Niehus, Founder of Archival Institute, in London; Archeologist’s Collection (slideshow) by Grisha Bruskin, Set of Bronze Life-size Figures, 2012; Barbad Golshiri in Rome; Stencil/The Untitled Tomb by Barbad Golshiri, outdoor installation, no date.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Learn more about Archival Institute’s mini series, Iran: The Third Path” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.archivalinstitute.com%2Firan-the-third-path%2F%3Fv%3D47e5dceea252|||”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Producing a groundbreaking historical series, the Archival Institute has brought to life Iran’s history using narrative animation and documentary culminating in the release of Iran: The Third Path, which is now available for purchase through Archival on Demand. Committed to educating and entertaining audiences worldwide Archival on Demand is a multimedia streaming platform, including written and video content, for world history focused on the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, some of the most conflict heavy regions of today. The release of the documentary series Iran: The Third Path will provide historical context for Iran’s current internal conflicts and international rivalries. These long-standing cultural clashes include democratic social movements, the evolution of political and militant Islam, economic struggle, and relations with superpowers throughout the events of the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, WWI and WWII, the Cold War, the global conflicts of today.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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