The Frozen Theater: An Archival Production

Grisha Bruskin changes the image of modern Russia and Russian society when he reconciles Soviet myth from reality in a parallel history. The Frozen Theater shows the filmed excavation of the artist’s archeological recovery of the fallen civilization as ruins, fossils, and writings. As the resurrected civilization faces its collapse again, Bruskin creates a frozen theater impenetrable by the enemy of death.

Artist Grisha Bruskin

Bruskin was born in 1945 in Moscow. It was the beginning of the nuclear age and Russia had just suffered 30 million deaths in the second world war. His country, especially the Russian Jewish population, would continue to suffer under the antisemitic dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. The labor camps would claim the lives of millions more. Bruskin’s early childhood would be marked by the country’s ideological struggle and the ongoing sacrifices it demanded from humanity.

Horseman in a Gas mask

As the artist grew, he began to study the social environment around him as an intellectual of the underground, a subcultural movement that would come to be known as Russian Nonconformism. This ideological struggle would play out in Bruskin’s troubled relationship with his conservative communist father. In the underground art community, Bruskin documented a second record of history through art, one that experienced a Soviet mythology and an unfortunate Soviet reality.

Happy Childhood, Archeologist’s Collection
Happy Childhood, Archeologist’s Collection
Butterfly collection

Bruskin created 33 life-size bronze statues to represent this society called, Archeologist’s Collection. He dug a mass grave in the same manner of those dug in Stalin’s purges and WWII. He buried all traces of the civilization in the same disorderly fashion of a mass grave burial.

After 3 years, he conducted an archeological excavation to recover the horrifying casualties suffered in the failed attempt to establish a communist paradise in the USSR. As archeological ruins, the society could be studied to reveal the parallel history of the Soviet situation.

Soviet Symbols

Bruskin observed communism as a mythology with many subtexts, one being the myth of the enemy image. Yet no matter what national form the enemy image would take, Bruskin finds that the universal enemy of mankind would ultimately appear as death itself. Lost in this circular dilemma, the artist constructed a battle scene based on Soviet civil defense fears called, H-hour. During this conflict, all living things instantly freeze in space, time, and memory. The fossil remains precipitating from the catastrophic experience create a frozen theater.

On the Edge, H-hour
On the Edge, H-hour
Mouse Fossil

In The Frozen Theater, as Bruskin’s resurrected society faces catastrophe, the artist launches H-hour to challenge space and time itself. Through these events, Bruskin overcomes the casualties of the age, reconciles myth with reality, and finds his unique purpose in the art world.

a frozen theater impenetrable by the enemy of death

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