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The Art of Brown Soil

The Art of Brown Soil

  • Red programm
  • 10.09.2017
  • 17:00
  • Music

A transmedia project dedicated to the life and works of the Greece-born Soviet underground writer Lesaserma Pokhunakhis.

Alexey Nadzharov, Sergey Khismatov, Alexander Khubeev (music), Marina Poleukhina (music, installation), Dmitry Mazurov (video), Vadim Keylin (text)

Performer: Ensemble Nadar

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Lesaserma Pokhunakhis

Alexander Khubeev: Industrialization as the First Stage

Sergey Khismatov: N-Musik

Alexander Khubeev: Industrialization as the First Stage deel 2: Taiga. Alienation

Alex Nadzharov: The Literacy Campaign: Science for People

Marina Poleukhina: the forest of electrical magnolias

Coproduction: Ultima Festival (Oslo) & Concertgebouw Brugge


Special thanks to video artists and researchers Dmitry Mazurov, Vadim Kejlin, Yury Kasparov, Fedor Sofronov, Viatcheslav Kuritsyn and Maxim Kolomiiets.

Supported by the Embassy of Belgium in Ukraine



Marieke Berendsen, scenography, violin

Toon Callier, guitar

Rebecca Diependaele, manager

Katrien Gaelens, flute

Yves Goemaere, percussion

Wannes Gonnissen, live electronics

Pieter Matthynssens, cello, artistic director

Elisa Medinilla, piano

Thomas Moore, production

Stefan Prins, artistic director


Project description

The Art of Brown Soil is a transmedia project dedicated to the life and works of the Greece-born Soviet underground writer Lesaserma Pokhunakhis. A daughter of a left-wing university professor, Pokhunakhis joined the Greek resistance as a youth and later was forced to seek refuge in USSR. Fallen victim to one of the last waves of Stalin’s repressions, the writer spent several years in labor camps before disappearing during a transfer in Siberian woods, where she wandered on foot for two more years. Pokhunakhis spent most of her life in Yerbogachen village, where she got to apprentice under an Evenki shaman, create an authentic naïve version of Arte Povera, start the first siberan lesbian family with a local postwoman Antonina Ouvachan and become an object of worship for a local cult. However, the writer’s opus magnum was her book The Brown Soil that she wrote throughout her life. Split into four volumes of different genres, The Brown Soil encompasses thousands upon thousands of pages of epic and lyric poetry, mystic revelations and aphorisms that reflect all the stages of Pokhunakhis’ incredible life and creative career. Her writings, having never been published, were uncovered by accident by a group of Irkutsk scholars in early 2000s.

The Art of Brown Soil project was first realized as part of Ultima Oslo festival in September 2016. The project encompasses a contemporary classical music concert, a documentary and an exhibition of Pokhunakhis’ surviving paintings. The project’s core consists of pieces by four composers – A. Nadzharov, M. Poleukhina, S. Khismatov and A. Khubeev – themed after the four volumes of The Brown Soil book. In a concert setting they compose a single narrative telling the story of the writer’s life: her prison experiences (Industrialization as the First Stage, A. Khubeev), wandering the Siberian woods (The Forest of Electrical Magnolias, M. Poleukhina), her techno-shamanistic teachings (The Literacy Campaign – Science for People, A. Nadzharov) and quiet village life of her last years (N-Musik, S. Khismatov). All the pieces actively involve elements of multimedia and performance art, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of Pokhunakhis’ works. In concert performance, the pieces intersperse with fragments from a documentary composed of interviews with the researchers studying Pokhunakhis’ works, archival footage and video art. The project creators see the documentary’s experimental structure, opening with academic accounts and gradually evolving into chaos and nonsense as a better match to the project’s heroine than the more traditional cinematic forms. At the premier of The Art of Brown Soil project, in parallel to the concert, Lesaserma Pokhunakhis’ paintings-collages made of various food and everyday materials were also exhibited.

About the exhibition

When working on this piece, the researchers explored the small collection of artifacts and objects that document the extraordinary life Lesaserma Pokhunakhis. They reflect het strong connection with nature and het free spirit, thus forming a valuable addition to the manuscripts of “The Brown Soil”.

This exhibition presents a number of items from this collection, in combination with video footage that places the legacy of Pokhunakhis is a wider perspective.

Many thanks to the University Archive of Irkutsk for lending the items on display.








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