An Alliance between TSU and the Pushkin State Museum: Possible Ways of Collaboration (Part II)
20.09.2021

This issue of the blog presents the second part of my dialogue with Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. a famous Russian curator, gallery owner, art critic, art manager, and collector, who recently visited Tomsk and TSU to sign an agreement on the organizing of a branch of the Pushkin Museum in our city and the developing collaboration with TSU.

The Pushkin Museum is famous not only for its unique collections and experts but also for its unusual projects, and also for its experience in organizing extraordinary educational programs. For example, since 2016, along with outstanding Russian plastic surgeons, the Museum has been helping to raise a new generation of specialists in this field. Here young doctors develop their aesthetic taste, which is so necessary in their work - studying the history of world art, and improving manual dexterity by drawing and modeling under the guidance of professional artists and sculptors.

The first events held at the end of May as part of the joint birthday celebration of TSU and the Pushkin Museum showed that our partnership has great potential.

9.jpegEduard Galazhinsky:

- I hope that our collaboration with you will help to form a new attitude among students and teachers of the Big University in Tomsk not only toward museum spaces and art but also toward their future and present profession, life, and the world in general.

Marina Loshak:

- Yes, disciplinary science has "shattered" the modern people’s worldview, and only the artist's integral, albeit subjective, view is able to put it together again and set new perspectives. There is a wonderful professor in America, his name is Gary Radke. He is an expert on the ex-supporters of the Florentine Renaissance and has authored many books. His home university is Syracuse University. Professor Radke has a wonderful short lecture in which he explains why a person studies art history and gets a degree in this area. This is a very good approach on which you can build a course about how understanding art can be useful to a person in any profession, any major, and that art gives us the very language that we talked about earlier. It seems to me that this is extremely important for a university. You just need to compose such an educational course in a very clever and unconventional way.

In general, this is all free-floating, which can be executed in completely different ways. It is possible, for example, to organize dialogues between international and domestic visionaries in science and art. It seems to me that this is also a very promising form of collaboration. Such people are few, but they exist. One of them is Yuri Avvakumov, who has come to Tomsk with us to participate in the Days of Art and Science at TSU. He has mastered various professional skills: he is an architect, artist, and the architect of world-class museum exhibitions. By the way, he has his own “guest” course that consists of six stories of six different world exhibitions that he attended and organized as an architect. This is a very interesting story about history, art, culture, and other museums.

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Such author-developed courses are completely self-sufficient, and can be taught separately from other courses. All parties would be thrilled. And this is also a great expansion and entrance into transfession, despite the fact that it is special knowledge. However, it broadens a person's understanding of the world. Such things can be very diverse, including completely thematic ones, becoming part of larger educational courses and programs. This is not necessarily a credit-based format, just a developmental one. Let's hope that the world will reopen over time because communication should be not only informative but also inspiring. People coming together will inspire each other and students through charisma, which is very important for achieving the ultimate goal. I am sure that everything can turn out very interesting for us. Within our endless online attempts to express ourselves as a museum, we bring together charismatic “non-museum” people speaking on a variety of topics. We can do similar things in collaboration with you.

E.G .:

- We do not yet have a task to enter this field in terms of the formation of professional competencies, but if, nevertheless, such a project of visiting lecturers develops into something large and significant, then, of course, we will support it. I must say that this format is not new for us either. For example, quite recently Alexei Maslov, the director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a well-known Russian orientalist, and historian, came to TSU. The visit was very fruitful. Professor Maslov gavethree lectures on China, more precisely, on how the scientific and educational sphere functions in this country and how we can partner with it. Then we discussed the possibility of creating joint universities in China and Indonesia. At the same time, he drew our attention to the fact that it is very important to initially choose the correct focus when organizing such institutions. As an example, he cited Novosibirsk State University, which at one time decided to focus on Chinese art, even on some of its narrow aspects. And now they are considered the best in Russia on this issue. Therefore, if we have such a focus, then we can invest here. It can be something anthropological related to Siberia. Shamanism, for example.

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M.L .:

- Yes, the locality is very trendy nowadays. Very interesting and important things can turn out. However, it seems to me that now, first of all, what we need is not specialized programs (if only not to develop professional specialists in relevant fields), but "open" programs, designed for large audiences of about five hundred people. There are such inter-faculty courses at Moscow State University. This is something not too "deep" and at the same time not entirely superficial, but interesting for people studying in different directions.

My colleagues and I talked about Tomsk as a place to work on the creation of creative clusters, connecting people engaged in art with people working and studying at the Faculty of Economics, where people can not only create a project but also earn money for themselves and the University. The results are very interesting when students, educators, researchers, and artists enter the startup field, and they create a product together. All this would be in great demand by the urban community. And it is relatively easy to do. The general scheme for the implementation of such a project can be something like this: some people create content, others through marketing and economic models, organize its promotion and viability. For example, in any museum gift store, there is a department in which marketers and economists work, that is, people who understand how production works and what the outcome should be. The creation of creative industries is a national social trend, and significant funds are allocated for it. This is a very simple, very visible, and very real move that brings together representatives of different spheres and turns what they are doing into real applied history.

E.G .:

- Our University has already begun to develop a series of artifact souvenirs based on the history of TSU.

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M.L .:

- In general, university museums and independent museums can be successfully combined within your university spaces. You have different museums that your colleagues and I can transition into an entirely new phase of life, revising their essence. You can instruct good artists to reflect on this topic, delicately introducing art into university museums and making them widely known in the country and the world. In other words, it can become a great international story.

E.G .:

- We would be extremely grateful for your help in the implementation of such projects!

M.L .:

- The specialist who showed us your museums said that the University wants to improve some of them a little. The word "improve" scared me a lot, because all the museums we saw are so beautiful that any improvement would be a big risk. These are wonderful collections that work great as they are. Improving them in any way needs to be done very delicately, so I wanted to ask you for a favor: if you decide to do it anyway, then do not forget to include us. We are ready to advise you, find the best designers and architects, because few can boast of such a history and authenticity as Tomsk State University. For example, the pre-revolutionary professorial office, which was shown to us. It’s incredibly interesting! All this can be turned into well-exported values. And this is what we can help you with. It is our mission because such authentic spaces and artifacts are also objects of art. We are very interested in working with them. This should be the activity of our branch in Tomsk. Not only in terms of contemporary art, but also in order to find the money for the further development of your museums. We need to talk about such spaces and objects. It seemed to us that you are underestimating what you have.

E.G .:

- What do you think about such a possible direction of collaboration as the digitization of cultural heritage? In part, we have already begun such work, digitizing the inventory of our Scientific Library and some artifacts of our university museums.

M.L .:

- Yes, indeed, this is the area in which the interests of Tomsk State University as a progressive and high-tech university and our Museum can intersect. This is what is called Digital heritage in the European context. Some experts believe that a kind of philosophy is already being formed, helping to comprehend and re-evaluate the world heritage with the help of digital technology. However, I believe that we need to thoroughly understand this issue ourselves. For a start, it would be good to digitize everything that is needed. Yes, this work has begun, but not enough has been done yet. Of course, there are completely new technological opportunities associated with the copying system that everyone is talking about now. Our colleagues have already figured this out to a certain extent and are even giving lectures on this topic. They should be invited to help everyone interested in understanding this issue. Ultimately, this will also speed up the work on the digitization of cultural artifacts.

E.G .:

- I think that in the context of the Big University in Tomsk there will be many such interested persons. In addition, the future Big Campus needs a new organization of public spaces, including digitization, which could fill them with appropriate virtual expositions. Recently, I visited the exhibition of the American artist Bill Viola "The Journey of the Soul" at your Museum. The broadcast of visual images from huge screens instead of canvases makes a strong impression and remains in the memory for a long time. I had the idea that in our future campus there should be something similar, which, on the one hand, makes it seem as though time has slowed, immersing a person in a meditation-like state and freeing their consciousness from information overload, and on the other hand, awakens creative energy and the desire to create. 

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M.L .:

- Art is always an exchange of energy between a person and a work created by an artist. Of course, the new campus should have a space where this can take place and where one could do visualization on topics related to science and art, including digital aspects. Virtual art exhibitions can become part of our systemic presence in Tomsk. All this, in one way or another, should be related to science. It will be very organic if we combine everything with university practica. Not abstract, but the real one. In our country, almost no one is doing this yet. It is also necessary to think about the appropriate event series, which could become another way to attract the attention of target audiences to the Big University and its new campus. These should be different events within the art and science direction in order to focus on certain things that are interesting and important for many people.

E.G .:

- Summing up our conversation, we can conclude that the model of collaboration between TSU and the Pushkin Museum will be built on a synthesis of science and art, a synthesis of two types of thinking. On the one hand, this is the formation of the language of a scientific breakthrough, joint foresight as an attempt to look beyond the horizon of what is happening and determine the choice of new scientific strategies. On the other hand, we are talking about a completely new direction of contemporary art and new educational programs that we plan to develop together on the basis of the University to fully perform our cultural and educational functions, our “third missions”. 15.jpeg

We have understood that talking today only about technological entrepreneurship and the development of new technologies is a very one-sided approach. It is necessary to take into account the expansion of a person. This is the essence of our collaboration. All the details that we have discussed today are the elements that will make up the whole "puzzle". In one of your speeches, you said that "The Pushkin Museum is a museum that always demonstrates the human." Our classical university is also always about the "human". You also said that your Museum is a bearer of a great brand and that you believe in its great future. Our Tomsk State University is also a bearer of a great brand, and we also believe in its great future. Finally, you are now building the Big Museum Quarter in Moscow, and we are also on the verge of building the Big Campus in Tomsk. So many coincidences cannot be accidental! Therefore, I believe that our collaboration will be long and truly fruitful!

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Eduard Galazhinskiy, 

Rector of National Research Tomsk State University,

Acting President of the Russian Academy of Education

Translated by Snezhana Nosova