© 2007 Stefan Nussbaumer.
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Mysterium Vegetatum or how to build an island

My first week in Russia is over now (not counting the one I spent here in April). Time’s rushing fast and surprising things happening all around. Just last weekend I was to witness a very special performance here at Grysnaya Galereya: Mysterium Vegetatum.

Mysterium vegetatum

Mysterium Vegetatum is a longtime project by Misha a Crest, artist and “alchemist” from St. Petersburg. On occasion of the presentation of his latest alcoholic creation, Mysterium Vegetatum Philosophorum, I had the chance to look inside a collaboration between young artists from different fields of art. Besides Misha there are Dasha Khlapova and Sasha Aksenova, a young performance-duo, Brigitta and Van Cok, a painter.

Even though I don not know much about alchemy, this constellation seems to have a very special kind of chemistry. St. Petersburg is not a city of big art-business. Rather it seems artists feel attracted by the absence of it – though not really promoted, last saturday’s performance here at Gryasnaya Galereya attracted about 30 people (in a room of not more than 25 m2). The protagonists seemed concentrated and focused … what’s the issue that makes them work so hard?

Probably alchemy is a rather unusual issue in contemporary art. Probably the term really doesn’t reveal the true issue behind this particular constellation, though it might give a hint for a better understanding. In my personal observation esoteric tendencies (well, just for now, let’s connect alchemy with this) seem to have a not so small influence on especially young people here. As an artist I always tried to keep some distance to these things as I have rather percieved my work as a rational determined practise. But more than that I have become fascinated by the expression of what I have seen here.

Beyond the mystical message there seem to be numerous influences. Within saturday’s performances I felt reminded of many things I already knew. Fashion, film, media, modern dance, all these contemporary forms of expression seem to have left traces, though it’s just that last bit of secrecy that produces a the aura of a splendid isolation, which lets the protagonists continue their experiments. More than just an esoteric thing, Mysterium Vegetatum seems to be a social, collaborative modell, protected from the insecurity and vulnerability of living in a changeable artsphere.

For sure, life isn’t easy for many of the people here, also not for artists. At least it may be possible for them to find their own island, not only in a metaphoric sense (St. Petersburg was build by Peter the Great on the islands of the delta of river Newa).


  1. Posted 12 Jul ’07 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Sergey! I have to say, this entry cost me some time. I’m still thinking about the meaning of Mysterium Vegetatum in connection with contemporary Russia – I’m sure there is more to say about this, but decoding takes time.

  2. Posted 12 Jul ’07 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    veru gut!

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