Bulat M. Galeyev


The author provides a short description of the first video artworks of the group SKB "Prometei" (Kazan, USSR) as well as several artworks created by himself with the help of his colleagues during the period 1990- 1991.

Our group, SKB "Prometei," in existence for some 30 years now, has conducted many experiments involving the unity of art, science and technology. However, until recently, video art was not one of our interests - except for our "Electronic Painter" installations created in 1975-1980 with conventional color TV sets (Fig. 1). Through a set of electronic generators on the monitor of the color TV tube, abstract color (RGB) figures were obtained that could be programmed to move and change, synchronized with sound [1].

Fig.l. V.Bukatin, B.Galeyev, R.Saifullin. Electronic Painter,' installation based on conventional color TV set, 1975-1980. (Photo: Rustem F. Saifullin)

Discussions on whether video is art are still going on; nevertheless, our artistic practice includes a diversity of experiments with TV, specifically with the TV tube. At the Ars Electronica festivals held in Linz, Austria, computer animation experiments are shown that require a TV monitor to reproduce the images - a condition that the audience accepts. At other festivals, for example, at WRO-89 in Poland, another genre - conventional videotapes - was presented, also under the name of "video." During discussions at these festivals, such videos were contrasted with "television art," which in turn was contrasted with "the art of television." This article is devoted to yet another artistic role of the TV set (the TV set as a box with a luminous monitor) - as a means of manifesting a certain paradoxical, grotesque or witty concept. Video art - or video installations, to be more precise - is a concrete display of so-called "conceptual art" - for which the title "art" has been disputed in the USSR. If one looks up "conceptual art" in the recently published Soviet glossary book 'Esthetics,' one is referred, for some reason, to "anticulture" [2].

I had previously been acquainted with video art only through foreign magazines and saw it "live" for the first time in 1989 at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz. Alas, only a few of the compositions exhibited were striking to me, and some of them (forgive me, artists!) simply bored me. Yet on board the jet airliner on my way home I outlined as many as 20 possible video art projects. Some of them I was able to realize and show for the first time at a multimedia concert commemorating Alexander N. Scriabin (April 1990, Kazan, USSR) [3].

 I showed a video recording of our video art compositions at the Second International Symposium on Electronic Art (SISEA) in Groningen (Holland, 1990) and at the Impakt-91 festival in Utrecht (Holland, 1991). Although some of the compositions were intended to be obviously humorous parodies, it was a great surprise to me that our program was viewed by Western experts with marked interest. For this reason I decided to record this description of my first artistic video experiments. I should mention here that I did not work alone, of course. My friends helped me realize my concepts - including cameraman Kamil Gimazutdinov and electronic engineers Valentin P. Bukatin, Max Bychenock and Rinat Khairullin.


Video Ave Maria

A TV set is on a high stand in front of an organ, showing a close-up of a singer's face (Fig. 2). The stand is wearing a singer's concert dress. There are candelabra with candles on each side. Everything is as it should be! The singer in the TV monitor sings into a microphone, which is placed in front of the monitor. The organist's head is displayed on another TV monitor placed on the bench of the organ console [4]. At the side of this scene, slides of images of Madonnas from Raphael to Salvador Dali are projected onto a large cinema screen in dissolve (fade-in) mode to the music of F. Schubert. This composition is dedicated to Dali's wife, Gala, who lived in Kazan during her youth.

Fig.2. Bulat Galeyev. Video Ave Maria, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.Saifullin)

Electronic Court

This composition is based on the motifs of the finale of 'Blow Up,' Antonioni's film (Fig. 3). Two TV sets are placed face-to-face on a ping-pong table. The monitors show players rushing about with their rackets; each player has an individual soundtrack.

Fig.3. Bulat Galeyev. Electronic Court, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.Saifullin)

Alive and Not Alive

A TV monitor shows goldfish swimming against an emerald background (Fig. 4). Their prototypes swim in a flat aquarium placed directly in front of the monitor. At the end of the video recording a greedy cat appears on the monitor and eats the electronic fishes; he then gazes with surprise at the live fish in the aquarium. 

Fig.4. Bulat Galeyev. Alive and Not Alive, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.Saifullin)

The Op Art of Video Art

A disk made of transparent material rotates before the monitor of a small TV set that is broadcasting a TV program (Fig. 5). The rotating disk has built-in lenses that cause iridescent spots of color on the TV tube.


Fig.5. Bulat Galeyev. The Op Art of Video Art, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F. Saifullin)

Blowing Protracted Electronic Kisses through the Glass of a TV Tube

The lips of a boy and a girl are stuck to their respective TV monitors (from the inside); they are dying for each other from a distance (Fig. 6). Taking into account that the videotape may be 3 or 4 hours long, this kiss turns out to be quite protracted.

Fig. 6. Bulat Galeyev. Blowing Protracted Electronic Kisses through the Glass of a TV Tube, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.SaifuUin)

Electronic Grimaces in the Magnetic Field

A small TV set is placed in the center of a powerful electromagnetic coil. The image distortions occur when the coil is connected to the power source, thus creating surrealistic television (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7. Bulat Galeyev. Electronic Grimaces in the Magnetic Field,' 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.SaifuUin)

 Never Refuse a Prison Cell or a Beggar's Bowl

Spectators approaching the TV set can see themselves behind bars (a video camera is behind the TV box) (Fig. 8). This is an optimistic video art composition, a festival of the soul dedicated to the Amnesty International organization.

Fig.8. Bulat Galeyev. "Never Refuse a Prison Cell or a Beggar's Bowl," 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.Saifullin)

Electronic Video Baby in Wet Bedclothes

A TV set is inside a baby carriage (Fig. 9). As one approaches the carriage, one hears the baby cry (the baby appears wrapped in bedclothes on the TV monitor). When one rocks the carriage, the on-screen baby stops crying and becomes quiet. Just when one thinks the baby has gone to sleep and starts to leave, the baby begins to cry again. It turned out to be quite risky to exhibit this composition as part of our open-air "Fairy Garden" multimedia show in June 1991. Hundreds of children crowded around trying to quiet the baby [5]

Fig.9. Bulat Galeyev. Electronic Video Baby in Wet Bedclothes, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.Saifullin)

 TV Set Playing the Piano

Photocells with color filters are attached to the monitor of a working TV set by means of suction cups (Fig. 10). Each photocell is connected with wires to the keyboard of an electronic synthesizer. As the TV picture changes, something similar to "avant-garde" music is created. 

Fig.10. Bulat Galeyev. TV Set Playing the Piano, 1990. (Photo: Rustem F.Saifullin)

Go Towards the Victory of Capitalism!

I ask foreign readers to pardon us for this humorously intended video installation (Fig. 11). What it represents is very real for us now - at a time when the "Wild West" begins in the East. A cup of money is placed in the center of four TV sets depicting images of dogs barking on the monitors. The dogs strive for the cup of money, ready to tear each other to pieces. This is an illustration from Karl Marx's Capital.

Fig.11. Bulat Galeyev. 'Go Towards the Victory of Capitalism!' 1991. (Photo: Rustem F. Saifullin)

Dog Barks, Caravan Keeps Moving

Our most sophisticated video installation is illustrated and discussed in the Art/Science Forum article "'Prometei' in the Stalin Catacombs" found elsewhere in this special issue.


Can serious content be mastered with video art? Probably. For an example, consider our still-unrealized project titled 'Babiy Yar' (the name of a fascist concentration camp in Kiev). Two TV monitors resist each other. On one monitor one can see fascists armed with tommy guns; on the other, figures of doomed people standing on the brink of a gully. The fascists shoulder their guns . . . shots ring out. A new group of doomed people appears, and again shots ring. This repeats again and again from morning till night, from day to day, as it was in reality.

At a Moscow exhibition, our colleagues living in the capital presented two TV sets tuned to two different broadcast channels. The TVs leaned against each other. The name of the composition was "Art for Art's Sake" ("Art pour l'Art").

Unfortunately, we could not realize another project. Several video cameras were to be positioned on automobiles driving along a road parallel to the railroad tracks to shoot footage of the individual cars of a rushing electric train. All of the roaring train footage would be rendered (reproduced) in 'TV Train', for which we would create a train of TV sets rather than train cars. Each monitor would show a train-car, shot with a changing landscape in the background.

References and Notes

  1. Valentin P.Bukatin and Rustam F.Saifullin, "Electronic Synthesizer of Light-Music Images on Color TV Tube," - 'Tekhnika kino i televideniya,' No 2 (1983) pp 51-54 [in Russian].
  2. "Conceptual Art". In: 'Esthetics' (glossary) (Moscow: Politizdat, 1989) p.158 -[n Russian].
  3. Interested readers can learn about the entire concert from an article by Irina L.Vanechkina, who was a participant in the event. See Irina L.Vanechkina, "A Concert for a TV Set with Orchestra," - 'Tekhnika kino i televideniya,' No. 10 (1990) pp. 7-10 [in Russian].
  4. The photo shown here was taken at the rehearsal with a real person sitting on the bench. At the actual concert, there was only a TV sitting on the bench, showing the image of an organist.
  5. Incidently, this electronic video baby is enjoying international popularity. A copy of the composition was presented in Montreal (Canada) at the international exhibition 'Images du Futur,' which was held in Summer 1991.
Published in "Leonardo", 1994, vol.27, No.5, pp.399-402