Culture in Focus – ufa and Russian Street Fashions
Despite its glamorous and historical tinged name, the German-based UFA Film is an entirely contemporary outfit, directly plugged into Bertelsmann, an international media conglomerate. The company’s main headquarters are based in Cologne, in the city which in turns houses the European film industry’s major film festivals. The company’s roster also features prominently in German media, with half a dozen directors, producers, and executives having worked on some of Germany’s most celebrated films (and vice versa). It was from this backdrop that the UFA 24H project was conceptualized.
As opposed to previous exhibitions which were largely confined to cities such as Leasingen, Cologne, and Frankfurt, this exhibition is open to visitors from all over Germany, as well as from Russia and the rest of the world. Curators describe their aim as providing a platform for artists and curators from both German and Russia to exchange perspectives, experience and works through a cultural museum. In addition to visiting the gallery, visitors are also invited to attend a series of workshops organised by the Berlin UFA. This series brings together international contemporary artists as well as established artists with an interest in the Russian culture. These sessions, collectively known as the Berlin International Movie Festival, focus on topics such as the history of ufa and contemporary art, as well as issues pertaining to the cinema in Russia and Germany.
The exhibition is organised to coincide with the celebrations which mark the centennial anniversary of the First World War’s end, and the organisation hopes that by putting on such a large and diverse collection of Russian and German movies in one place, participants can gain more insight into the rich heritage of Russian and German art and be better prepared to engage with it. Among the venues for the UFA bashkir festival, which runs parallel to the Leni Rast exhibition, are the German Museum and the Russian State Museum in Berlin. While the former features mainly German films, and the latter exhibits mostly Russian motion pictures, both collections are accompanied by artists from either country. This exhibition, arranged in collaboration with the German Film Ministry, has been made possible by financing from the Federal Ministry of Culture through Bammersholen, the Netherlands’ leading cultural agency.
The UFA’s programme is organised around a series of workshops, which combine the collaboration of an artist with a curator, a Russian artist with a German colleague and the live street theatre. At the beginning of the programme, street artists from both countries are invited to perform in the street in front of the museum. The programme then goes on with a short film screened on the public square. The street performers are asked to perform a series of Russian traditional songs, whilst the music is interpreted by the Russian speakers. A section of this film is dedicated to the street entertainers, inviting those not currently familiar with Russian or German culture to participate in the film and perhaps learn something about the performers.
Next, on the last day of the fair, a reading and musical event takes place, attracting people from all over Germany and beyond. Two Russian-speaking women reading from the ufa dictionary engage the audience in a friendly conversation. At the end of the programme, you are encouraged to attend a programme that has been organised around the theme of ufa and Russian culture. At this point in the fair, it would be worth remembering that ufa is also known as bashkir, and the word means ‘store’. A few stalls sell everything from wooden implements to hand-woven shawls.
From the perspective of the artists themselves, ufa represents the ideal place in which to practice their trade and make a living. In addition to being able to sell their works on the street, they are offered regular commissions by art galleries and museums as well. They also say that ufa is the best place to buy paintings and other decorative items from a trustworthy source, as prices for pieces on the street are often significantly lower than those charged by professional dealers and auction houses.