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Interview with Olga Markaryan, literary director of the Days of Alexander Blok in St. Petersburg festival

First of all, I would like to thank you for the idea and implementation of the Days of the Blok in St. Petersburg festival in our city. The festival has become an important cultural event of our city. Tell us, how did the idea of creating the festival arise and, within its framework, the idea of railway aspect in A. Blok's life?

Olga Markaryan: A year ago we, together with the director Andrei Lunin, came up with the concept of festivals combining all sorts of events around the name of a major writer associated with the fate of the Northern Capital. The first was Leonid Andreev, a writer very consonant with our time, forgotten in the Soviet years because of the rejection of Soviet power. This year, Alexander Blok became the hero, and not only as a poet, but also as a person who interpreted the history of Russia and his era, which become the turning point for Russia.

What were your main tasks in the process of creating an exhibition at the Russian Railway Museum? Please, tell a few words about the artistic image and concept of the exhibition.

Olga Markaryan: The Steel Way of Alexander Blok exhibition has become one of the most important festival projects for us. We wanted to create a fragile, translucent artistic space in which the most important issues of Blok’s individual destiny - the brooding, lyrical, peace-creating person - and the fate of Russia - will be told without pathos and ideological pressure. The path of the Block is metaphorically conveyed by the railroad track recreated right in the exhibition hall. Artist Alexander Yakunin led this railroad into the borderland between life and death, life and poetic being. There is only one rail of the road - the second is reflected in the mirror wall that penetrates the entire hall.

What difficulties did you encounter during the preparation and holding of festival projects? Maybe, on the contrary, something turned out to be easy to implement? Have you managed to implement all your plans?

Olga Markaryan: It was difficult to organize a huge number of events during our festival – that is about 46 events from academic lectures to performances. But suddenly it turned out that there are so many people willing to help a good cause. The restaurateurs fed our artists, six theatrical-musical groups helped us in the performance on the expanses of the Blok estate, we were given a car for the performance, flowers for the final chord, the doors of ancient ruins were opened to us and even a balloon flew to us.

Did your hopes for public reaction come true? Who are the main recipients of the “exhibition message”? Do you think everything was clear even for an unprepared viewer?

Olga Markaryan: For me and the artist, the question arose all the time: will this or that installation element be understood by our viewer? In an effort to speak poetically and without scholastic pressure we gave a lot to the audience intuition. Not everything needs to be pronounced. But, of course, the viewer needs to connect to the exhibition, tune in to it mentally - with a blank look you miss a lot. There is one more peculiarity - a visitor to a railway museum is hardly prepared for an exhibition about Blok, especially speaking the language of modern art. On the one hand, this is bad: the exhibition may pass by the main target audience of the museum. On the other hand, an unexpected love may arise between the visitor and the exhibition - a person who went to watch steam locomotives may not himself expect that he is the most ideal visitor to our exhibition.

With what thoughts, conclusions or impressions does a visitor leave the exhibition?

Olga Markaryan: You should ask visitors. We would like the dark, obscure to us and at the same time almost light to holiness soul of Blok to become a little closer to the modern man, to become clear in its objective relationship with the man of our time.

What audience is the exhibition intended for in the first place? Can the works of Alexander Blok, who lived at the beginning of the last century, be interesting for the modern generation?

Olga Markaryan: Blok predicted many problems of our time. He understood that European culture was coming to a crisis, that humanism was degenerating into fictitious humanity. He understood that the power of the masses is approaching, that the individual responsibility of a person is overwritten by uncultured collectivity. He thought the future and therefore he is almost our contemporary. The publicism of Blok, which is little-known in Russia, is especially interesting for today's matured people who survived the nineties which was the next after the Blok’s time turning point in the history of Russia. And in his Poems of the Beautiful Lady, Blok is a poet who is enthusiastically in love, and thus closes to the new young generation.

What are your plans for the future? Festivals? Exhibitions? Writers? Literary works?

Olga Markaryan: For now we have to rest. Although innovative - semi-artistic, semi-historical - trends in the organization of exhibitions and theatrical performances in the urban environment lead us to new searches.

Dear friends!

On June 26 the author's tour on the Steel Way of Alexander Blok exhibition, organized in the exhibition hall of the Russian Railway Museum took place.

The next author's tour of the Steel Way of Alexander Blok exhibition performed by Olga Markaryan will take place on August 7, 2019 at 7 pm. You have a unique opportunity to visit our Museum and the exhibition, which ends its work on August 28. Guided tour is free. You only need to buy a ticket to the Museum. For information please call: 457-23-16, 457-21-37