The latest translation of «The Song of Igor's Campaign» by Victor Tinayev was handed to Dmitry Likhachev, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, more than thirty years ago. It is rumoured that he said that the translation was no worse than any other translation, but that it was unlikely to ever get published. Indeed, very few of more than 90 translations of «The Song of Igor's Campaign» from Old East Slavic were published. But, as we now see, the destiny of this «NEW SONG» is different and even quite unique.
«THE NEW SONG» is a unique experience of restoring and modernizing the classical French tradition of «livre dartiste» in the context of Russian art and literature. This exhibition came about as a result of two initiatives. One a relatively old one dates back to the 1960s, when Victor Tinayev produced a new interpretation of «The Song», which resonated with him and the epoch. The other one is the initiative of Boris Friedman, a collector and a connaisseur of livres d'artiste, who, with the participation of Victor Goppe, who realized a rare project he prepared and published a new edition of «The Song» in the true good quality livre d'artiste format. The format that this very special artistic genre was understood by its classics: Ambroise Vollard, ... Eugene Teriade, Albert Skira, artists like Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Juan Miro, Salvador Dali and Georges Rouault.
A livre d'artiste is in fact a book and a collection of individual works of art. Each copy contains original oeuvres, unique materials, unusual printing techniques. An artist's book can be unique, hand-made by the artist, or can be issued in limited editions. An artist's book is a special artistic method, in which the author uses book medium as a key instrument of self-realisation. Here «the author» is understood in its broad sense, as a creator, a master of a particular kind of art. Unlike the writer, he sees a book as a whole, where text becomes one of the components of the complex artistic utterance.
«THE NEW SONG» exposition occupies three halls and develops three interrelated themes.
The exposition in the first hall is devoted to the illustration and publication history of «The Song of Igor's Campaign». Multiple about 40 editions of «The Song», from Russian avant-garde artists to stylized designer versions of the past decade, will be displayed on specially designated shelves. Original etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs by Vladimir Favorsky, Alexander Alekseyev, Vitaly Volovich, Dmitry Bisty, Natalia Goncharova will be exhibited next to the books.
Images of characters and visual metaphors for the key moments in the plot development can be perceived both as self-contained pieces of graphic art, and as a special form of translation from the language of literature to the laguage of art. The theme of translation and interpretation is enhanced by the juxtaposition of several translations of the same episodes by Zhukovsky and Maykov, Balmont and Zabolotsky, Tinayev and Evtushenko, all united by a single artist's vision of the battle scenes, primary characters and their enemies.
The new edition of «The Song of Igor's Campaign» in the form of a livre d'artiste, with texts by Victor Tinayev and illustrations by Victor Goppe, is presented in the second hall. Alternating text and lithograph pages produce rigorous rhythm; the translation by Victor Tinayev can be heard. In the showcase, the book itself is presented as a complex multi-component object.
The third hall represents an artist's studio. It gives a detailed account of how the artist's book is created, and what the editor, the project originator, the artist, and the printers were driven by. Here one can watch short films about «The Song» and its history of creation, and study descriptions and samples of custom made paper, learn about printing technique and stages in fine art printing, and many other, unfamiliar even to experts, elements of book making. Little screens in the exposition will explain all about making litographs, paper making, or letterpress printing which involves the use of moveable types.
Victor Goppe, the author of the illustrations, will present his preliminary sketches, which will unveil the process of finding creative solutions for separate illustrated pages of «The Song of Igor's Campaign».
Famous literary critic Lev Anninsky and animation artist Yuri Norstein wrote texts especially for this project.
Meetings with literary critics and artists, literature readings, discussion boards, educational seminars for specialists and students designers, philologists, and graphic artists are scheduled to be held during the exhibition.
With «THE NEW SONG» exhibition Moscow Museum of Modern Art
opens «Masterpieces of Livres d'Artiste» programme planned for 2010-2011.