Moscow 53” x 53” x 4”
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Moscow, The Master and Margarita
The sculpture of Moscow is comprised of a poster of the book cover of the novel “The Master and Margarita by Bulgarkov written in the 1930s, The interior content contains a sculptural interior of twisted and fragmented sections of tattoos from the Russian prison populace between 1930 and 1980. This set of tattoos was collected by prison warder Danzig Baldaev over the many decades he worked in this role. “As in a mirror, everything the country has gone through has been reflected in prison and camp life” Baldaev. Many elements of 20th century Russian history are represented, and incorporated in the tattooed prison world. The tattoos themselves represent a thieves biography, a complex language of status, standing and authority. Tattoos denote the standing of the criminal, whether a boss or authority, the body language of the main criminal bosses are capable of structuring the life of the whole country, “as in Russia every politician has his “Roof”, or protection, and the language of thieves has long since permeated the whole society” Plutser-Sarno Every fifth inhabitant has passed through the camps and every second has been through the army, the language of them permeates the mass consciousness of Russia. The awareness of mafia practices has infiltrated the minds of the populace and “we can begin to see all of our life in terms of thieves’ culture”
The content of the tattoos presents a sort of inverted mirror of Soviet history and culture, an order in which the top criminal thief is overtly recognized, Every image carries a specific meaning, for example the skull denotes an “authority”. the language of the tattoos tells us that thieves regard themselves as characters from the world beyond. Prison itself is symbolically regarded as a grave, and visiting it is a major part of the life of a thief”
The Master and Margirita set in Moscow is a satire of 1930s Stalinist Russia, the fall of mankind is illuminated in the tale of Pontius Pilate acquiescing to the evil passions of the excited mob to allow for the crucifixion of Jesus. In Russian terms this equates to the killing off of the spiritual dimension in life and the resulting bleak human condition that has been a frequent feature of Russian life. Satan in the guise of the character Woland and a group of unruly misfits including the vodka drinking cat Behemoth visit the city of Moscow and wreck mischief and havoc upon the populace. Woland terrorizes the intellectual community as did Stalin.