At the time, I was already investigating the evolution of art brut in the former Soviet Union. Arising as it does from the popular masses, it seemed to me art brut could readily fit into the ideology of Communist Russia. I wanted to advance my research. I knew I would find art brut in Russia, but what would it look like? Was it recent, an inevitable product of the old regime or, on the contrary, had it always existed?
I made amazing discoveries in Russia. The art Soviet authorities favoured aimed to stimulate people’s intellect in order to enhance their productivity at work. Today, the vaults of the Narodnaya Galeria [Community Gallery], where workers were once invited to create, are packed with a proletarian art collection that many would envy. The elderly people who still frequent this old-regime studio constitute a vivid mirror of the new reality, a telling reflection of the society that made them. Some can’t get enough to eat, while others are simply unable to adapt to a new regime that completely baffles them. Yet even though they live in precarious circumstances, they manage to get through by-and-large by investing themselves in art. Their social situation thus becomes a major motive in their art.
I met the two men profiled in this film through this Community Gallery. Both lived most of their life under the Communist regime, and both find solace and fulfillment through art. The life stories they tell vary from one artist to the other. One experienced the fall of the Soviet regime as a tragedy while the other was glad to be out of the Red Army, and actively denounces the social and political situation in Russia. Again, this film is not about the art per se; it is a portrait of the individuals themselves. Significantly, Alexeï Ivanovitch and Alexeï Yakovlevitch were meeting a “foreigner” for the first time. They had things to say, criticisms to level, that did not necessarily revolve around my initial theme. Besides, I could never claim to be a documentarist if I hadn’t let them exercise their right to speak out, the right they were finally given to tell the whole world what they experienced in their own words.
I was deeply moved by their stories and their intensity. Elderly people are a gold mine of extraordinary stories. They have been privileged witnesses of world history. By listening intently to what they have to say, I hope I have succeeded in conveying the value of their message .
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Ferland made her first award-winning experimental videos whilestudying
visual arts at UQAM (Université du
à Montréal). After working in sculpture for a
years, she completed her first feature film Something like immortality
(L'Immortalité en fin de compte) in 2003. The film, a
documentary about the obsession of creating, was a finalist at the
Jutra Awards in the best documentary category. Exploring the same
second feature film, Tree with severed branches (L’arbre aux branches
coupées), was completed in 2005. It
received critical acclaim and went on to be presented at numerous
national and international film festivals. In 2006, Ferland received
the Lynch-Staunton Award for the outstanding quality of her
work. Adagio for a biker
is her third feature film.