For the Archstoyaniye festival in Kaluga region SVESMI has created a unique Field library, eight installations dedicated to the subtle and, at the same time, powerful relationship between great literature and a beautiful, romantic landscape. Eight installations in various natural set ups offer eight thought-provoking experiences, celebrating the very old Russian tradition of reading amidst nature.
The reader got to know how it felt to contemplate a text by Erasmus from Rotterdam while sitting high up in the air and listening to the rustling leaves; or what text could we read through a telescope; or what would be a wooden equivalent to a newstand application for iphone; or what happened when a spread from the War and Peace by Tolstoy was literary towering over the crowd in an open field. Installations formed one route that visitors of the festival could follow, discovering various regimes of reading in various contexts and experiencing great literature – from T.S.Eliot to haiku, from Li Bo to Russian Avant-Guard manifesto – afresh.
The Grove of Short Poems
Laying on the ground, sitting in a chair, perking at the top of the ladder or just firmly standing on their feet, children and adults, men and women, literature savvies and even the illiterates could eavesdrop – through large conical speakers – on what is going on in the Grove of Short Poems. Limericks and Chinese lyrics, Russian absurdist poetry and haiku, Prigov and priapea are to be heard amidst the birch trees for just two days and two nights.
Reading on the water suggests another, more sophisticated level of privacy and of concentration. Water creates a significant zone of fluid calmness around the reader, allowing for an ultimate estrangement from reality and therefore for deeper focus on complex mental games that a truly innovative literature can offer. The installation Streamreading creates an ideal setting for a book, which teases, provokes, seduces, and ultimately turns out to be not what it seemed to be at the very beginning. Here one can leave behind not only the shore but also his, or her, own prejudices…
A Book Beyond
There are texts that used to radiate the powerful energy of the New, but lost some of their futuristic glow over time. It is almost impossible to read them with a naked eye, without special optical equipment; they are too distant and due to the thickness of time are out of focus, as it were. A telescope – a device, that was designed to observe celestial bodies well beyond our reach, will help to concentrate the attention on a literary body and to read the old and somewhat stale manifesto anew.
To lie on the sofa deep in the forest is a pleasure. To lie on the sofa deep in the forest while reading a great book is a double pleasure. Should the forest and its insects start to compete with a book for the reader’s attention, one could simply draw the curtains, so the forest (and the insects) will become nothing more than a background noise. This regime of Low Reading, however, may present a danger: the urge to sleep could overpower both literature and nature. Low Reading therefore offers books that could only benefit from the “dotted line” reading.
To read high above the ground and the crowds, simultaneously taking in the vast poetic landscape that stretches far out in all directions, is one of the rare and most sophisticated pleasures. Submit yourself full-heartedly to the regime of the High Reading in a field and experience the “chemical reaction” between the great literature and the beautiful nature…