VDNKh: Top Three Temporary Exhibitions
VDNKh: Top Three Temporary Exhibitions
Known until only recently as The All-Russian Exhibition Centre and now by its original name, VDNKh (ВДНХ), this really is the perfect place to engage with exhibitions on a broad range of themes and topics. The magnificent pavilions house an entire host of retrospectives, expos and fairs throughout the year: I may even venture to say that there are too many to count, and certainly too many to see in a day. So here is a roundup of my three favourite exhibitions that you can see at the moment.
In the Main Pavilion, the one whose majestic Soviet architecture is unmissable as you enter through the main arch, and towards which you are beckoned by Grandfather Lenin himself, is currently hosting Cosmos: The Birth of a New Era (Космос: рождение новой эры), a continuation of the Cosmonauts exhibition that was shown in The Science Museum in London last year, following the development of Russian space travel, from its very conception as a (seemingly improbable) possibility to its current accomplishments and aspirations. The Soviet Union for a long time dominated the Space Race, and the stellar achievements of its scientists is highlighted here.
Landing capsules and spacesuits are interspersed with information about Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and about the animals that preceded him. It is no secret that dogs, monkeys and even mice were involuntarily flung into the atmosphere, undoubtedly scared witless, and homage is paid to the invaluable contribution that these creatures unwittingly made to space exploration. Most importantly, in my personal opinion, is the small, but nonetheless present, section dedicated to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Not only that, but Tereshkova was also the first civilian to fly in space, as her induction into the Soviet Air Force was merely honorary, to allow her to join the Cosmonaut Corps. And did I mention that she was an amateur skydiver before her ventures in space travel? Needless to say I am sure you can expect an entirely separate article about this remarkable woman soon.
This exhibition is definitely worth a look. It is exciting, inspiring and is inside one of Russia’s most remarkable building. The interior walls of the Main Pavilion, while less well maintained than its exterior, rather explicitly hint at its original purpose as a testament to Soviet glory: lyrics from the national anthem of the USSR circle around the cupola, and a recently rediscovered frieze of the Soviet People walking as one on a backdrop of impressive Moscow architecture, Lenin’s face adorning their flag, is found in one of the main rooms, currently framed by spacesuits and flying gizmos. Cosmos: The Birth of a New Era is informative, well curated and, for space nerds like me, tremendously striking.
Sound and Vision
You just about have time to catch the Russian Cinema exhibition, Beyond the Dreams (Вам и не снилось) in Pavilion No. 15. Again beautifully curated, the displays take you through the processes involved in making a film idea become a reality, with a particular focus on Russian cinema. Genre is discussed in the first room, where you are invited to sit and watch extracts from various films, old and new, on a tower of tiered benches. Clips are played on all the walls of the room, with fancy headphones installed for listening to the extracts provided. From Social Drama and Musical Comedy to War Epics and Sci-fi, a wide variety is on show to give you a taster of the rich history of Russian and Soviet Cinema.
Further on, displays concentrate on screenplays, actors and costumes. The importance of the cinematographer is explained – a role too often forgotten by the common cinemagoer. Elsewhere, the development of filmmaking technology is dissected, with cameras from the very earliest up until more recent models on display, accompanied by clips showing relevant footage. The exhibition is incredibly interactive, with extracts being projected at every available opportunity, headphones at every turn and even two rooms in which you can create your own sound effects. This was my favourite part: inside Perspex boxes with holes for your hands were items and a microphone. Put on the headphones, watch the sound-effect-less video in front of you and fiddle with the items – hey presto! You have fire crackling (thick plastic sheets) or snow crunching underfoot (a beanbag). Who knew that two fork handles being banged together would create such a realistic and effective swordfight sound?! The Cinema exhibition is creative and hands-on. If you can get to VDNKh before it finishes later this month, I would greatly recommend it.
So maybe that’s not how the USSR is remembered by all, but I certainly know a few older Russians who look back with much happy nostalgia for the good old Soviet Union times. This City Transport of the USSR exhibition (Городской транспорт в СССР), certainly portrays city life from the 20s onwards as an idyllic time of happy commuters and efficient public transport, much to the contrary to what one may experience in Russian cities today.
Mainly through means of photographs and paintings, the Karelia Pavilion, or Pavilion No. 67, will take you on a journey from early last century up to the 80s, showing how transport in the city has changed. The introduction of tramways and trolleybuses transformed the way the city functioned as people travelled further for work and leisure. The Metro revolutionised city life further, making the city more accessible but ultimately busier, even if the city-dwellers found themselves underground more often than normal. Then came the cars. Although no strangers to Moscow and St Petersburg life previously, as cars on the road multiplied like rabbits in a field, Russian cities became the busy metropolises we know today. And Moscow traffic is indeed a phenomenon like no other… Installations of model cars join the photos, paintings and other relics to transport you along an intriguing and aesthetic timeline that warrants a visit.
Cosmos: The Birth of a New Era (Космос: рождение новой эры) is on in the Main Pavilion until 10th January 2017
Beyond the Dreams (Вам и не снилось) is in Pavilion No. 15 until 23rd October 2016
City Transport of the USSR (Городской транспорт в СССР) is in Karelia Pavilion (No. 67) until 12th December 2016
Find out more about these exhibitions at https://vdnh.ru/events/
Ellie, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow