The stories told about my forebears, and the fantasy of Russia I had as a child were very potent to me as I grew up. At least some of my family, my father's side, were exotic and different from my 1970s suburban surroundings, and I was keen to embrace that difference and use it to define myself, to create an identity. My dad was Jewish. My mum wasn't. It was all very complicated. From the comfort of my centrally heated suburban home I liked to imagine snow drifts, forests, samovars and balalaikas. These were images loosely based on family memory, elaborated in my mind with the help of literature, film and TV programmes. The 1974 BBC adaptation of War and Peace with Antony Hopkins was particularly helpful in that regard. Russian-ness and Jewishness as personified by my father formed me and explained me to myself. My moods, tastes and talents could all be understood as manifestations of a sensibility we shared, my dad and me, us Russians.
The idea of this work was prompted by a visit I made to Russia in 2005 when I performed my solo show Guided Tour at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. It was my first and only visit to the country I had often imagined and dreamed of, and the piece concludes with the story of that trip and how the fantasies of childhood measured up in the face of adult, real-life experience.
Developed at Battersea Art Centre
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