Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre
Eduard Bersudsky's home-made theatre is a feast for the eyes and a window onto another world
Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre is a bizarre collection of automated hand-carved sculptures made from wood, sewing machines, bike wheels, lawn mowers and whatever else Russian-born artist Eduard Bersudsky could lay his hands on. As the show starts the contraptions, described as Kinemats, shudder and thrum into action, revealing disturbing and grotesque Hieronymus Bosch-like characters acting out all the weird and wonderful parts of life, as puppets in a great and pointless play; relentlessly grinding wheels, operating unfathomable machines, banging instruments, dancing, and dangling. The machines light up one by one, with the audience rushing between them, unsure of what will happen next, while lights of many colours and eccentric folk music give these monstrous dioramas real and powerful emotions.
The first section of the show is contained in a small room, just a few metres square, engulfed by the moving sculptures. The room is a recreation of Bersudsky’s only live and work space at the time he made this display back in Russia. It gives you a feel for how large a part of the artist’s life these puppet machine were, and still are, although times have changed – is work shop is now in the back rooms of the theatre in Trongate. The name Sharmanka is the Russian word for barrel organ, a wind up instrument with preset tunes which became a profoundly depressing symbol to Bersudsky.
This home-made theatre, run by Bersudsky’s long time collaborator, Tatyana Jakovskaya, is a glimpse into another world, perhaps behind an iron curtain, or just the solitude of a small room and a furtive mind. It speaks of the many miseries of the world, the struggles and comic triumphs of the human spirit in the incessant circle of life and death, as the organ grinds on. Similarly it has the ability to instill a kind of wide eyed enthusiasm, and it’s easy to marvel child-like at its craftsmanship, drama and design. An esoteric jewel, and a must see for anyone who values idiosyncratic craziness and black humour. There should be more of this.
Trongate 103, Glasgow, until Thu 1 Nov; St Enoch Centre, Glasgow, until Sun 26 Aug