Thursday, 15 August 2013

Russia: Your Actual Art

Everyone knows about Tchaikovsky, but it’s not so well-known that the greatest Russian epic opera, Boris Godunov, was composed by another gay composer — Mussorgsky. The two greatest 20th-century Russian pianists, Horowitz and Richter, were gay. So were the century’s greatest Russian male dancers: Nijinsky and Nureyev. Eisenstein, the Soviet Union’s top film-maker, preferred men, as did Diaghilev, the visionary Ballet Russes impresario. So did innumerable writers through Russian history — though many, like Gogol, were forced to suppress their feelings. These geniuses didn’t just change art; their charisma also greatly increased the gaiety of a nation otherwise inclined — by politics, climate and temperament — to a grim stoicism.

I had a bizarre personal experience of that homoerotic charisma back in the late 1970s. As the most junior journalist on a tiny arts magazine I had the weekly job of visiting the bohemian lodgings of our dance critic — a magnificently camp dilettante who possessed neither a typewriter nor any understanding of the word “deadline” — and standing over him until he had composed his article.

One week I walked in and found a stranger draped over the chaise longue. Being a mustard-keen cub reporter, I didn’t take more than five minutes to register two remarkable facts. The first was that he was Rudolf Nureyev. The second was that he was wearing only a silk robe that had fallen open to reveal, well, let’s say his entire corps de ballet. I can’t remember which of those observations hit me first, but I was flummoxed by their combined impact. I stammered “Oh gosh”, which I think Nureyev took as a compliment. Either way, he broke into a grin — and regally offered me his hand to kiss...

Richard Morrison in The Times.

On the Olympics boycott? "Right idea, wrong tactics".

"The campaign against Section 28 of the Local Government Act (1988) which prohibits the spending of municipalities on 'promoting homosexuality', drew upon the notion that gay men have produced a notable proportion of what is called art and literature. The campaign was courageous, well organised and much publicised, and arts celebrities came out. Astonishingly, at first sight, this carried little weight with the government and newspapers who support it; the votes in parliament were  were the same at the end of the campaign as at the beginning. The reason, I believe, is that people in our cultures already know that art is associated stereotypically, with male homosexuals..."

Alan Sinfield, The Wilde Century.

Update: In The Independent David Lister says Russian artists should speak out on Putin's [sic] anti-gay laws.
Again, better than Western celebs pontificating, but it won't be The Arts that stop this...

1 comment:

  1. Derek Jarman recounted a similar story, encountering a fully naked Nureyev. He certainly was stunning.