Sergei Eisenstein: The Mexican Drawings

Title : Sergei Eisenstein: The Mexican Drawings
Number in Section : 3
Description :
The Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts – “Archive of Muses” is the largest collection of Russia where the richest materials on the history of the Russian literature, music, theatre, cinema, fine arts are stored. It was founded in 1941 as the Central State Literary Archive partly on the base of collection of the State Literary Museum – Goslitmesei( GLM). The profile funds from TsGAOR of the USSR, GIM, TsGADA, the State Tretyakov Gallery and others archives were transferred to the Central State Literary Archive. In 1954 it was renamed TsGALI of the USSR and in 1992 it was renamed RGALI. By the decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated 2 April 1997 RGALI, together with the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, the State Archive of the Russian Federation, the Russian State Military-Historical Archive, the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents, was included in the State Code about treasures of heritage of the Russian Federation peoples. Information about cultural life of the country, about different stages of development of literature, fine arts and public opinion, about creative contacts of representatives of domestic culture and foreign culture is concentrated in documents of RGALI. Funds of the central administration of the cultural area, theatres, film studios, special educational establishments, publishing houses, public organizations and private funds of writers, arts critics, artists, composers, theatre and cinema figures and document collections are stored at the archive. The Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts has the biggest collection of Eisenstein’s drawings. Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), the director of Battleship Potemkin (1927) and Ivan the Terrible (1944), is widely acknowledged as a seminal modern artist. His cinematic work was always closely tied to his writings and theoretical reflections, which drew on a vast range of sources in its attempt to position film historically and politically as the paradigmatic, synthetic art form of Modernity. Eisenstein's radical concept of montage has become seminal within the theory and practice of the Avant-Garde in the cinematic and cultural history of the 20th century. Other aspects of his work, especially his unfinished scripts, theoretical projects, and drawings, have remained less known. The exhibition “Sergei Eisenstein: The Mexican Drawings”, organized in collaboration with MuHKA Antwerp, brings together an extensive selection of drawings culled from the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art in Moscow (RGALI), that Eisenstein made during his visit to Mexico in 1931/32, including works never before presented in public. In Mexico, Eisenstein developed his drawings in a parallel manner to the Surrealists' écriture automatique, producing a large number of variations on recurring motifs based on Mexico's hybrid imagery, which Eisenstein treated like a historical tableau of junctures and simultaneities. In a single dynamic line, Eisenstein explores transformation of forms, obscenity, death and violence. Mexico, for Eisenstein, was a revelation. The style and intensity of drawing he developed in Mexico would be sustained until his death. Images of the carnivalesque inversion of life and death in the famous Mexican “Day of Death” celebrations triggered Eisenstein’s curiosity about Mexican culture. There he discovered a dialectic, hybrid pictorial language, a historical tableau of reversals, interfaces and simultaneities, in which firmly established oppositions such as rationality and archaic prelogic, subject and object, individuality and collectivity, merge. The surmounting or inverting of such dualities, so characteristic of modernity, were considered by Eisenstein as being the foremost challenge of the revolutionary aesthetic. Eisenstein channeled his interests into three distinct medial forms: film, drawing, and writing. In contrast to the semi-documentary nature of the film he shot in Mexico, “Que viva México!”, the drawings he made there are abstracted, schematic expositions of mythical scenes that interlace images of Mexican life with biblical themes. The ‘contour drawing’ technique was for Eisenstein a medium in which to explore states of ecstasy, the relation between stasis and mutation, transformation and violence, made notable by the coexistence of geometric forms and amorphous lines. It was finally in his writings that Eisenstein attempted to combine the results of the various strands of his research to form a comprehensive theory. He worked on a book entitled Method until the end of his life. Eisenstein conceived this book as a three-dimensional object, rather than in a linear form. But that project, too, remained uncompleted. This exhibition would not only be interest historically, but would also answer a renewed interest in Eisenstein not merely as a seminal filmmaker, but also as a writer, theorist, and artist beyond his cinematic masterpieces. For the exhibition Sergei Eisenstein: The Mexican Drawings, RGALI received support of The Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation is a resource for innovative people and institutions around the world. It was founded to advance human welfare, and all of our work flows from this fundamental commitment. Biography Sergei Eisenstein 1898 - Born January 23 (10 according to the old calendar) in Riga; only child of civil engineer and architect Mikhail Eisenstein and his wife Yulia, born Konetskaya. 1906 - Sees his first film in Paris: Les 400 farces du diable by Georges Méliès. 1909 - Parent’s separate; E. stays with his father. 1913 - Turandot, performed by the Nezlobin Company, awakens E.’s passion for theater and commedia dell’arte. 1915 - Graduates from Realschule. Begins studies at the Petrograd Institute of Civil Engineering. 1917 - Meyerhold’s production of Masquerade strengthens E.’s desire to become a professional artist. 1918 - Recruited into Red Army Corps of Engineers as technical expert, North-eastern Front. 1919 - Works as actor and designer in army clubs in Voshega, Dvinsk, Kholm, Velikie Luki. Intense study of theatre; sketches and designs sets. 1920 - Polotsk, Mogilyov, Smolensk. Reassigned to the PUZAP (Political Administration of the Western Front) theater. Joins a Rosicrucian order and later, in Moscow, a Masonic lodge. September: transferrred to General Staff Academy. in Moscow to study Japanese. In Moscow begins work at the Proletkult theater; designs set for The Mexican. Expelled from General Staff Academy. In charge of set design at the Proletkult. Studies at the Proletkult workshop as of December; students include childhood friend Maxim Strauch, Grigory Alexandrov et al. 1921 - Joins leadership of Proletkult theater. Premiere of The Mexican; Accepted to Meyerhold’s Higher Workshops in Directing (GVYRM). Costume designer in Foregger’s theater MASTFOR. 1922 - Trip to FEKS (Factory of the Eccentric Actor) in Petrograd. Becomes director of Proletkult’s travelling theatre company. 1923 - Premiere of The Wise Man with short film Glumov’s Diary. ‘Montage of Attactions’ (E.’s first theoretical manifesto) published in LEF. Premiere of Tretyakov’s Can You Hear Me, Moscow? under E.’s direction. 1924 - Gas Masks premieres in a Moscow gasworks. Reedits Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse the Gambler. July-October: The Strike filmed; November: editing. Break with Proletkult in December. Begins writing screenplay The Red Cavalry, based on short stories by Babel, for the Moscow section of the studio Sevzapkino. 1925 - The Strike premieres on April 28 in the Moscow cinema ‘Coliseum’. Begins work on film The Year 1905. July: filming in Moscow and Leningrad; August: Odessa. project narrowed down to The Battleship Potemkin. Filming in Sevastopol. November: editing in Moscow. December 21: premiere of The Battleship Potemkin in the Bolshoi Theater to commemorate 20th anniversary of 1905 Revolution. 1926 - March: Travels to Berlin with Tisse to study new film technology. May: begins work on the screenplay for The General Line. July: meets Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford inMoscow; they represent United Artists and invited E. to Hollywood. First takes of The General Line in Rostov on the Don, Baku, and the northern Caucasus. September: the state film committee Sovkino commissions film in honor of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. November: E. writes screenplay for October. 1927 - Interrupts work on The General Line. Continues work on script for October. April: filming in Leningrad. September: editing in Moscow. Contemplates making film of Capital. November 7: first public screening of October. Continues work on final cut. 1928 - Breaks with the LEF-group. October premieres March 14. Begins teaching at GTK (Stae Technical College for Film). Attends Kabuki guest performance in Moscow. ‘Statement on Sound’ (manifesto). 1929 - Finishes and submits The General Line. Cycle of essays for a ‘spherical book’. Theory of intellectual film. August: travels to Berlin with Alexandrov and Tisse. Takes part in the Congress of Independent Film-Makers in La Sarraz (Switzerland). Co-directs Women’s Misery – Women’s Happiness in Zurich for Lazar Wechsler. Lectures in Berlin and Hamburg. Spends time in Belgium, England, France, Holland. 1930 - Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Paris. Lectures and meetings. Co-edits sound for film Romance sentimentale (directed by Grigory Alexandrov). Negotiates with Paramount. Invited to Hollywood. May: arrives in USA. Lectures at Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and elsewhere. Meets Chaplin, Sinclair, Dreiser, and Disney in Hollywood. Works on screenplays to Sutter’s Gold and An American Tragedy. Develops the concept of inner monologue. Leaves Paramount. Begins work on film about Mexico, financed by Upton Sinclair’s Mexican Picture Trust. December: begins filming in Mexico. 1931 - Films all over Mexico. 1932 - February: interrupts work in Mexico. Returns to Moscow via USA and Europe. Works on screenplay for eccentric comedy MMM. Travels to Armenia and Georgia. 1933 - Works on a theoretical and practical program of film Direction, on the book Direction, based on his lectures at GIK (State Film Institute). Works on the scenario Moscow. Signs directing contract with the Moscow film studio Soyuzkino. 1934 - Prepares production of play Moscow 2 by N. Zarkhi at the Theater of the Revolution. Takes part in First All-Union Congress of Writers. Spends time in Yalta and Odessa. Marries journalist Pera Atasheva. 1935 - Gives speech at All-Union Creative Conference of Workers in Soviet Cinema outlining his book project Grundproblem (‘Fundamental Problem’). Works on script for Bezhin Meadow. Moves into new apartment next to Mosfilm studios. Begins shooting in Moscow and Kharkov. 1936 - First version of Bezhin Meadow banned. Works on a new script with writer Isaak Babel. Resumes shooting in Yalta and Odessa. 1937 - Appointed professor at VGIK. Terminates work on Bezhin Meadow on order from the main film administration. Forced to leave VGIK. Works on screenplay Rus (later Alexander Nevsky) with Pyotr Pavlenko. Book manuscript Montage. 1938 - Collects material for Alexander Nevsky in Novgorod. June: films at Mosfilm studios and near Perelavl-Zalessky. Premiere of Alexander Nevsky. 1939 - Receives Order of Lenin and honorary degree ‘Doctor of Arts’. Reinstated at VGIK. Works on film project Ferghana Canal. Travels to Central Asia for testing shooting. Interrupts filming. Writes ‘On the Structure of Things’. December: works on the production of Die Walküre at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. 1940 - Outlines color film about Pushkin. Begins taking notes for his autobiography. Works on ‘Vertical Montage’, Grundproblem (first draft of the book Method), ‘Once Again on the Structure of Things’. Begins drafting screenplay for Ivan the Terrible on Zhdanov’s order. 1941 - Evacuated to Alma-Ata. Finished script for Ivan the Terrible. Works on the book projects A History of the Close-Up and Method. 1942 - Script for Ivan the Terrible approved by State Committee for Artistic Affairs. Writes preface to The Film Sense, an American edition of his essays. 1943 - April: begins shooting Ivan the Terrible. Works on the book Method. June: returns to Moscow. Finishes and turns in the first part of Ivan the Terrible. Writes the essay ‘Dickens, Griffith and Ourselves’. 1945 - January 20: Premiere of Ivan the Terrible, Part I in Moscow. Begins working on second part. Writes Nonindifferent Nature. 1946 - Stalin Prize for Ivan the Terrible, Part I. Central Committee of Communist Party bans Part II. E. suffers severe heart attack and spends time in the hospital. His mother dies. E. completes his autobiographical writings. 1947 - Appointed director of new Cinema Section at the Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences. Finishes book Pathos, essay ‘Stereoscopic Film’, plans a ‘History of Cinema’. 1948 - Essay ‘The Question of Mise-en-scène’. February 11: dies of a heart attack. February 13: buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.