Anna Martynenko

"Guests", 2022

as a part of "Art of living at home" project by the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, curators Daria Boldyreva and Nicolas Audureau,
Rimsky-Korsakov Museum, Saint-Petersburg

The interior of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s memorial apartment was recreated with amazing accuracy with the help of the composer’s family who preserved furniture, household items and wrote memoirs about the house. The artist Anna Martynenko researched the house’s history to see that besides working here the composer also hosted parties. Every Wednesday, composers, artists, musicians, opera singers, sometimes up to a hundred people gathered in the apartment on Zagorodny Prospect. The space was filled with singing, noise, voices, and the neighbours’ children from upstairs lay down on the floor desperate to hear the voice of the famous Feodor Chaliapin.

Now the memorial halls are quiet, with only a lot of empty chairs reminding of the polyphony of sounds that once filled this house. Anna Martynenko's project contrasts the silence of today’s apartment-museum and the voices that used to resonate in this space. Some voices of the visiting opera artists were documented in recordings and contemporaries’ descriptions. For example, "Mravina's voice was a lyric coloratura soprano of such crystal purity and transparency that it sometimes sounded like silver bells ringing, especially since the timbre of the voice was cold. Her voice was even over the entire range, all notes alike, and large enough for such a room as the Mariinsky Theater" (Stravinsky and the Opera of His Time. Chapter XIX. The Tenth Season by Edward Stark, 1885-1886).

Rimsky-Korsakov was a synesthete, he saw keys in colour. Anna Martynenko uses this to play along with the composer: she presents the singers’ voices as sculptural casts. Casts that may seem abstract at first rhyme sound and shape. For example, the voice's pitch, range, and coloratura determine the number of protrusions, the amplitude of the rays, and the reliefs on the sculptures’ surface respectively. Besides the voices’ characteristics, the "inner synesthete" of the artist herself informs the sculptures as well.

Anna Martynenko places the voices’ “casts” on the museum’s empty chairs, which used to host famous guests, to recreate their presence, fill the halls with inaudible sound and invisible movement. Together with the museum staff, Anna Martynenko researched documentary materials (audio recordings and texts) that shaped the sculptures. These documents are presented too, on a custom-made music stand.

Project page:

photos of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts


ГОСТИ каталог голосов_Анна Мартыненко.pdf