Solovky Island, Gulag Residency, Russia

Original Performance on July 17, 2004

2004 – Solosphere Project took place on Solovky Island,  White Sea of Russia – Art Angar Contemporary Center for Art (Hanger for the blimp that transported food and materials to the Gulag:  Maida Withers and Anthony Gongora, dancers, Linda Lewett, filmmaker, and Audrey Chen, cellist/vocalist, participated in a unique residency with dancers from Finland and Russia on Solovky Island in the North Sea of Russia.  Solovky Island is the location of the first “Gulag” experiment by Communist Soviet Era Russia (forced labor camps).  Author and Russian dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, wrote extensively about terrible events,punishment and deaths, on this island under the Soviet Era experiment of forced labor camps.  Solovky Island is rich in locations for site performances – some unavailable for performance and other used regardless of restrictions.

During the three-week period of our residency under the leadership of Luba Kusovnikova, founder of the Art Angar Contemporary Art Center on the Island, artists joined together to create daily site events and performances.

Events were created for two high metal towers, rooftops of barns, events in boats, performances viewed through doorways in an environment of white sheets hanging on line, dances on the small church monuments located throughout the island.  We filmed dancing in the 14th Century Monestery, much against the rules.

Soviet leadership had decided to industrialize the island and build factories  there, but after the collapse of Soviet Russia these unsightly structures were left standing and decaying.  Luba had been organizing artist residencies on the island to use these materials to engage the community in building sculptures and installations in an effort to establish new and positive attitudes on the island that had such a violent history of pain and sorrow.  Dance was the subject during the third summer.  We were so honored to be invited and to participate.

Solosphere generally was housed in the Art Angar Contemporary Art Center – an astonishing architectural structure – one of only 18 created in Russia.  This center is the only surviving structure of those designed and built.   This structure housed the dirigible that brought food and sometimes people to the Island since getting to the Island is quite impossible. Since the historic building was to go into renovation the next summer, the festival was not allowed to use the space during our residency.  However, we did get access to the key for one day and film the first half of Thresholds Crossed – Gulag/Art Angar in the space (see video).

VLUU L210 / Samsung L210
VLUU L210 / Samsung L210

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Artists and Collaborators
Director of Solosphere
MWDCCo Dancers
Other Performances
  • (map) on January 1, 1970