Guest Lecture by Prof. Kevin Karnes

On November 29 at 3 PM guest lecture "Bolderājas Stils: Disco Culture and the Ritual “Journey beyond the City” in the Soviet 1980s" of Professor Kevin Karnes /Emory University, USA/ will take place at the JVLMA, room 210. 

At three in the morning in late November 1980, the musician Hardijs Lediņš and the poet Juris Boiko left their Riga home on a six-mile trek to the forsaken coastal suburb of Bolderāja. Timing the end of their journey to coincide with the sunrise, their trip was highly ritualized: they ate hardboiled eggs, painted pictures of their surroundings, penned poetry, and documented their progress in photographs. As such, their project might seem a local variant of the “Journeys beyond the city” (Поездки за город) organized by the poet Andrei Monastyrsky and his Collective Actions group in Moscow starting in 1976. Now widely considered landmark works of Soviet experimentalist art, Monastyrsky’s journeys were conceived as vehicles for sparking new imaginings of social and spiritual relations among participants, as “tuning forks,” Monastyrksy wrote, for “directing the consciousness.” 

Monastyrsky’s words might aptly describe the hike to Bolderāja, too. But I will suggest that Lediņš and Boiko’s journey turned out to be something else as well, a project that brought the experience of experimentalist performance into the world of Soviet pop. Upon their return, the pair set the poetry penned on their trek to music, and they recorded it on magnitizdat albums, beginning with Bolderājas Stils (1981). Conjuring the sounds of Laurie Anderson, Roxy Music, and other Western acts, Boiko and Lediņš thus produced and marke-ted, through underground channels, one of the first New Wave albums in the USSR. In the early 1980s, their hike to Bolderāja evolved into an annual pilgrimage, and they memorialized their treks in further albums played widely on an emergent Riga disco scene. In this way, they extended a distinctly Soviet strain of experimentalist performance art – one that regarded the ritualized journey into the countryside as a means of experiencing social and expressive freedom – into the socially cohering, broadly accessible realm of the disco hall.

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