Burning Poems (2005) is a site specific 3 channel digital video installation based on events that took place in the Fountain House 1938-1946 the home of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, now the Anna Akhmatova Museum in St. Petersburg. The trilogy uses the space of the museum as a means to meditate on time, event and place, censorship and surveillance in the soviet union through a close reading of Akhmatova’s life at the Fountain House. Three re-enactments extracted from texts by Lydia Chukovskaya, Nadezhda Mandelstam and Isaiah Berlin were performed by three of the museum curators in the rooms where the events depicted actually took place.
Part 1. ‘Burning Poems’ explores in visual language a ritual of destruction, co-ordinated between hands, match and ashtray.
‘It was a ritual: hands, match, ashtray – a beautiful and mournful ritual’ (Lydia Chukovskaya}
Part 2. ‘Meeting’ reconstructs the mythical meeting between Isaiah Berlin and Akhmatova.
Part 3. ‘The Garden’. The decree of 1946 signalled the deprivation of civil rights for Akhmatova who was instructed to stand by her window so that she was visible to her minder .
The research, production and catalogue were funded by the British Council and Central Saint Martins. Burning Poems was the first project created by a contemporary artist for the memorial display in the Anna Akhmatova Museum and was shown there November – December 2005. Burning Poems was included in the 2nd Moscow Biennale in 2007.