Sonia Leber and David Chesworth
Zaum Tractor, 2013
2 channel HD video, 26 minutes
Zaum Tractor is a 2-screen video work filmed throughout Southern Russia as part of the artists’ 3-month residency in Rostov-on-Don. Zaum Tractor addresses notions of freedom and collectivity - contradictory forces within contemporary Russia - sweeping past tractor races, church bells, river barges and the religious and military ceremonies of modern-day cossacks.
Throughout, a series of individuals perform zaum, the experimental performance poetry of the Russian Futurists that avoids fixed meanings to reveal the pure sound and wild rhythms of language. One hundred years after its invention, zaum is performed here in front of symbolic Constructivist Soviet architecture, presenting a clash between past and present, the rational and the transrational.
Elsewhere, Leber and Chesworth reimagine Sergei Eisenstein’s 1929 film 'The General Line' with main character Marfa reinvented as a feminist, Futurist zaum convert.
What emerges is a portrait filled with parallels and oppositions, of a complex country that moves backwards as it moves forwards.
A full project history can be found at leberandchesworth.com/filmworks/zaum-tractor/
56th Biennale of Venice: All the World's Futures (2015); Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne (2014) and Gridchinhall Art Centre in Moscow, a parallel event of the 5th Moscow Biennale: More Light (2013).
Commissioning curator: Maria Sigutina. With sincere thanks for the invaluable participation of Olga Kalashnikova.
Supported by Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Victoria, Fehily Contemporary (Melbourne), Gridchinhall Art Centre (Moscow), Art-Amnesty Project by Olga Kalashnikova (Rostov-on-Don), Theatre 18+ (Rostov-on-Don), CreativeSpace.Pro (Rostov-on-Don) and 16thLINE Gallery (Rostov-on-Don).
'Sonia Leber and David Chesworth revisit Russia and its tense ideological history… One [moment] comes from a sequence where beautiful young people scale the broken masonry of a ruined building. Wearing nothing but bathers, they perch precariously on ledges or beams; and every so often, one of them plunges into deep water below. Set in a pre-revolutionary warehouse, this idyll has no industrial prowess; on the contrary, it takes place where progress has failed and the human spectacle is a remnant of some ritual of heroic youth, no longer organised but random, sublime and wilfully voyeuristic. It's a portrait of a new life after ideology, beautiful, capricious and aimless.'
- Robert Nelson, 'Sonia Leber & David Chesworth's Zaum Tractor: Diving into a brave new world', The Age, Melbourne, 5 February 2014