OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Oksana Sarkisova: A Pale Phantom: Motives of Liberation in the Post-Soviet Cinema

From a growing temporal distance, the Soviet historical ‘episode' seems to entail an emphatic beginning and a somewhat less spectacular but equally distinguishable ending, marked by a bittersweet aftertaste. Yet, a closer look at the social and cultural fabric of ‘post-communism' subverts the simplistic opposition of ‘before' versus ‘after' due to the recurrent long-term intellectual frameworks, narrative devices and visual imagery which are employed to make sense of the world ‘here and now' as well as ‘there and then'. The presentation takes up one of the cornerstones of the new-old ‘order of things' – the discourse of liberation – and considers its cinematographic manifestations in the first post-Soviet decade, with particular reference to how it copes with the past and structures the present.
The crumbling ideological confines and an anticipated leap to the ‘kingdom of freedom' mutually justified each other. Freedom was the ‘carrot' of changes and liberation was expected to be a shared experience. However, reflections on this experience – the representations of its political, economic, historical, and military dimensions – were not mutually congruent and evolved on different trajectories, remaining in dialogue with the preexisting visual and intellectual traditions. Altogether, the notion of ‘liberation' remained an attribute of a ‘transitional' period in Russia, gradually losing its relevance for public discourse, and particularly fiction cinema, being substituted by a mélange of the motives of individual survival intertwined with the themes of collective security, paternalism and national pride.
In my presentation I will sketch out various dimensions of the imagery of liberation, which facilitated the establishment of a symbolic rupture with the Soviet value system in the context of politics, history, and economics. I will concentrate on the imagery of "escape" which shifted from the context of a closed repressive ‘zone' towards spatial self-sufficiency. I will further touch upon the representations of history, which evolved from overcoming past traumas to the gradual salience of a nostalgic modality. The withering away of the motive of liberation over the post-Soviet decade points to the gradual stabilization of the new order, witnessing the acceptance and routinization of social changes. Arguably, the disappearance of one of the constitutive discursive elements of the ‘post-communist condition' suggests the emergence of a new cultural configuration in contemporary Russia.

Oksana Sarkisova holds doctoral degree in History from Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. Her dissertation project – "Envisioned Communities: Representations of nationalities in non-fiction cinema in Soviet Russia, 1923-1935" - brought together film analysis with the Soviet nationality politics. She was a co-researcher with Yurii Tsivian et al. at the project on Dziga Vertov's works and their reception in the 1920s. Resulted volume "Lines of Resistance: Dziga Vertov and the Twenties" was published by Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, 2004. In 2003 she participated in research project "Post-Communist Condition" organized and coordinated by Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsruhe. She was also a guest researcher at Geisteswissenschaftliches Zentrum Ostmitteleuropeas (GWZO) for the project Visuelle und historische Kulturen Ostmitteleuropas im Prozess staatlicher und gesellschaftlicher Modernisierung seit 1918. Among her publications are "Cine-intellectuals or cine-proletariat? Ideological Allegiances and Professional Identities in early Soviet Cinema" (2005); "Inter-national Loyalties: A/Olexander Dovzhenko's Films in the Context of the Nationality Policy in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s" (2004); "Life As It Should Be? Early Non-fiction Cinema in Russia" (2003); "Grenzeprojektionen: Bilder von Grenzgebieten im sowjetischen Film" (2003), and other articles on history of the Soviet and Russian cinema. She is currently a Research Archivist at the Open Society Archives at Central European University and the Program Director of the International Documentary Film Festival VERZIO (Budapest, Hungary).

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Date: June 11, Sunday

Time: 11-11.30 am



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