October 31, 2018

Russia: Exciting shared past inspires contemporary artists

The Museum of Moscow. F.l.t.r.: Zeinab Shahidi Marnani (participating artist, Iran), Larissa Ivanova (International Projects Curator, the Museum of Moscow), Irina Leifer (curator Impossible Journeys, NL/RU).

For the ‘Impossible Journeys in Russia and Persia Now and Then’ project by Castrum Peregrini, different artists reflect on a shared history described in 17th-century travel journals.

Three perilous journeys
An exciting but lesser-known shared history of the Netherlands with both Russia and Iran, written down in the travel journals of Dutch explorer and sailmaker Jan Janszoon Struys (1630-1694), has served as a source of inspiration for contemporary artists from all three countries. His journals tell of his yearlong, perilous journeys through remote parts of Europe, the Caucasus and Persia. The book was first published in 1676 in Amsterdam, became a bestseller and was re-published in many different languages and countries. The book was first published in 1676 in Amsterdam, became a bestseller and was re-published in many different languages and countries. In this project initiated by Castrum Peregrini, artists reflect on the gaze of this 17th-century traveller, as well as present-day perspectives on the extreme East of Europe and the adjacent area, which is marked by an enormous variety of cultures, customs and traditions.

New artworks inspired by the past
The project’s curator, the Russian-Dutch Irina Leifer, visited Russia in October to continue the cooperation with the Museum of Moscow, one of the partners in the project. Artists Oleg Elagin and Sepideh Behruzian have just finished their residencies in Amsterdam. During this working period together with Cecilia Hendrikx, they researched the possibilities of transporting objects between Iran, Russia and the Netherlands – a problematic endeavour that does not seem to have changed much since Struys mentioned it in his stories. Or has it? Artists Paulien Oltheten, Oksana Stogova and Zeinab Shahidi Marnani are currently developing new works. Victoria Gallery’s curator Sergey Balandin will visit the Netherlands in December to participate in the Sharing Contested Histories training offered by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

This project is supported by DutchCulture’s Shared Cultural Heritage Matching Fund.