Best of 2014 – Black Dwarf

Sampling old musical passages to create new music is a rich and widely discussed practice. But sampling old music to make new photography?

My work with the °CLAIR Gallery introduced me to the photographer Petr Lovigin and his remarkable ‘Black Dwarf’ video. Simply put, it is the most beautiful piece of art I saw in all of 2014. It has everything I love: oddity and splendor and, perhaps most importantly, a nice little intellectual kick; thanks to Lovigin, I discovered that Alexander Vertinsky was the baddest Russian composer and artist I’d never heard of.

I sent Petr an email in Bangladesh where he is in the midst of a multi-month project. He answered three questions for me:

1. Why Vertinsky? Is he beloved in modern Russia?

I think that no. Already one century past his maximal activity. But for me that time (Silver Age of Russian Art, October Revolution 1917, Civil War 1918-1920) is very interesting… I know all the songs of Vertinsky but his romance ‘’Black Dwarf’’, the story behind it – it’s like it is about me.

2.  You are like a DJ: you sample images in your photography. (I am also thinking of your Louis Armstrong series.) Why this approach?

Yes, from 2006, I used to make some photo-audio-libraries. I take my favorite songs and music, “project’’ them in my life, make some interpretation and … voila! Robertino Loreti and his “Jamaica’’, Louis Armstrong and his ‘’What A Wonderful World’’, Vertinsky and his “Black Dwarf” became part of my art.

Maybe they are not popular songs and artists now but I think that this is eternal music and I love it. Nothing is more important for me. 

3. What are you doing in Bangladesh?

I like this country. I visited Bangladesh in 2013 for 5 days… it’s a tiny period of time, but it was something fantastic. But not only Bangladesh – I love all this region: India, Pakistan too. Another planet for me. 

About Jeremy Mercer

Jeremy Mercer is an author and translator who lives in in the Luberon with his fiancée, two children, five cats, two chickens, ten fish, and one pregnant dog. He is currently on the market for a cheap horse. More at
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