Director Margy Kinmonth provides an insight into what inspired her to make Revolution: New Art for a New World.
The starting point for making REVOLUTION was the great epic film “October” by Eisenstein, a story which I discovered to be a lie and a propaganda exercise, which immortalised the political events through the lens of a great artist.
Art was the means to spread the communist ideology, many artists played a key role at the centre of the Russian Revolution. I knew there was a whole story to be told about the artists themselves and how their experiences were so intertwined with political events and creation of propaganda. A very different scenario to today’s art world.
I wrote a script for a major feature documentary which would tell the story of the Russian Revolution through the eyes of the artists of the Russian Avant Garde, the pioneers of Modernism, how they created the form, became the vanguard of the Revolution and then how political events unfolded over the decades that followed, eventually casting many of them as victims of what they had created.
I worked with my regular fixers in both in St Petersburg and Moscow setting out to find the descendants of the Revolutionary artists. At first I found that the art of the Avant Garde seemed little to be seen publicly in Russia itself, it was largely tucked away behind the scenes in stores and archives, or else has long since been absorbed in the West. I found the crowds who flock and queue to see Russian Avant Garde art in Western museums were not much in evidence in the galleries in Russia. I discovered that the propaganda monumental sculptures commissioned by Lenin had long since disintegrated, famous Revolutionary modernist theatre like Biomechanics was rarely practiced in Russia, buildings of famous constructivist style were decaying in disrepair and falling down. In fact,despite it being a period of intense unique creativity, one to be proud of, I actually discovered when I started to interview contributors, that the Revolutionary and especially post Revolutionary period, was a chapter of Russian history which had been effectively “filed away” -a period of history which nobody wanted repeated.
I wanted my film to come from Russia itself. My search for descendants, some of whom were initially shy, some quite elderly, hardly any on the internet and email, involved dozens of phone calls, took me to their homes, in dachas in the deepest countryside and in artists’ studios. Once I was trusted, I was welcomed warmly and I was amazed to find out how many are still practising artists and teachers today, keen to celebrate their grandparents’ and parents’ legacy and to tell their stories of survival, and some of heartbreaking loss.
In conclusion, the reason I made this film was to champion the role of the artists in this tumultuous political period of the Russian Revolution, in order to understand the context, but most of all to enjoy and be inspired by some of the most inventive and brilliant works of art the world has ever known.