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SHARMANKA

SHARMANKA (Russian for barrel organ) is a collaboration between the sculptor - mechanic Eduard Bersudsky and the theatre director Tatyana Jakovskaya, which began in Russia in 1988.

A self-taught visionary artist, Eduard (b.1939) started carving when he was 25. While making a modest living as a metal worker, electrician, skipper on the barge, night guard and a boiler man, he spent a lot of time in libraries, exhibitions, and evening classes for drawing and sculpture.

In 1974-80 Bersudsky took part in some exhibitions of non-conformist art - a movement of artists who wanted to avoid the control of official ideology. They attracted a lot of public attention - and the furious anger of the KGB.

In 1974-1986 he worked as a park keeper, carving giant figures for playgrounds in Leningrad parks and gardens. At the same time he began producing the kinemats - kinetic sculptures driven by electrical motors and controlled by sophisticated electro mechanical devices, incorporating pieces of old furniture, metal scrap and grotesque carved figures (the first was made in 1968). Until 1989 he kept them in his own private room activating them only for a few friends and never thinking about any public exhibition (which would be anyway impossible under communist regime).

Tatyana who was brought to Eduard's flat by the mutual friend, had recognised this sculptures as an ultimate theatre and arranged a performance, where mechanical movement of kinemats was supported with music, light and shadow play.

Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre was launched in 1989 in St. Petersburg on the premises of a former kindergarten.

In 1990 the exhibition of Jean Tinguely in Moscow inspired Eduard to make three kinemats which performed a 15-minutes piece "Proletarian Greetings to Honourable Jean Tinguely from Master Eduard Bersudsky out of the Cradle of Three Revolutions"

In 1991 Sharmanka was invited to perform at the International puppet festival in Utrecht (Netherlands)

Sergey Jakovsky joined the team in 1992 at the age of 12 to grow over the years into lighting designer and technical manager of Sharmanka.

In 1993 Sharmanka left Russia because of the increasing economic depression and the withdrawal of the local authorities' support for art. Julian Spalding, then Director of Glasgow Museums, invited Sharmanka to make exhibition in McLellan Galleries and purchased three sculptures for the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art.

In 1993-1995 the Sharmanka workshop was situated in a small old country house in the village of Blainslie in the Scottish Borders, next to and under the wing of the Scottish sculptor and furniture-maker Tim Stead(1952-2000) and his wife Maggy Lenert, linguist and graphic artist, who have been supporting Sharmanka since their first meeting in St. Petersburg in 1990.

In 1995 the Sharmanka Kinetic Gallery and Workshop moved to Glasgow, into a derelict warehouse in the old Merchant City (14 King Street/109 Trongate) . In 1996 Sharmanka received a significant grant from the National Lottery and Glasgow City Council to build a performance hall and improve public access to the gallery.

New kinemats have been added to the show every year. At the moment there are three dozen kinemats at the gallery, performing an hour-long show for a wide range of groups: tourists from all over the world, schoolchildren, community groups, students, people with special needs.

The biggest project undertaken by Sharmanka so far is the Millennium Clock Tower for the Royal Museum (in cooperation with late Tim Stead, Annica Sandstrom and Jurgen Tubbecke) which was later included into permanent collection of the National Museums of Scotland.

Other commissions include kinetic sculptures “World of Artist. Homage to Storm P.” for Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen, “Homage to Leonardo” for the Big Idea, Centre for Inventors and Inventions in Irvine, “St.Mungo at the Tron” for Tron Steeple in Glasgow, “The Flight” for Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.

In 2000 Friends of Sharmanka was awarded the National Lottery Grant for 3 years programme for children and young people that was matched by Arts Development Grant of Culture and Leisure Services of Glasgow City Council and private donations. This programme allowed Sharmanka to improve public facilities and provide free performances-workshops for schools and other groups, as well as to give free access for children to the performances.

In January 2002 Sharmanka made its London debut at the London International Mime Festival with “Noah’s Ark”, performing at the foyer of the Royal National Theatre at South Bank. The success of the show led to the major exhibition at Theatre Museum (Covent Garden), which run for 14 months and attracted more than 25,000 visitors.

In 2002 Sergey Jakovsky received a BA in technical theatre from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and now is making his way up in theatrical lighting design.

In 2005 Eduard Bersudsky won prestigious Creative Scotland Award, which funded co-operation between Sharmanka and Derevo Dance Theatre Company - a performance "The Druid Clock" at the Royal Museum.

In 2005 Sharmanka launched a touring exhibition of specially designed set of medium and smaller size kinetic sculptures “Sharmanka Travelling Circus” with support of SAC National Lottery Grant and grant of The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, which toured Stornoway, Falkirk, Inverness, Thurso and Kingussie. This exhibition attracted more than 25,000 visitors.

Text and images taken from the Sharmanka website

In 2006 Sharmanka became a part of "Trongate 103" project - an ambitious undertaking of Glasgow City Council to build a centre for visual art at King Street/Trongate. For the period of building works Sharmanka Gallery was temporary relocated to 64 Osborne Street.