“Tales We Tell”: Dean Young, Farid Matuk, Susan Briante, & other contemporary poets in collaboration with Yuliya Lanina

A collection of mechanical sculptures by artist Yuliya Lanina and poems inspired by them…

A Process Note by Yuliya Lanina

Tales We Tell is a series of small-scale mechanical sculptures based on folk tales popular in Western and Eastern Europe. Collectively, they examine the underlying moral messages of fairy tales and their effect on child’s psyche. Each sculpture is a wind-up music box comprised of a painted wooden box with moving figures, as well as music clockwork that plays a melody, composed by Yevgeniy Sharlat, particular to each scene.

The music is played by a revolving brass cylinder that plucks the tuned teeth of a steel comb. The mechanism was designed by engineer Theodore Johnson. The miniature size encourages up-close viewing, and visitors are allowed to pick up the toy in order to opera the wind-up mechanism.

Rather than telling a story, Lanina chose to provide a snapshot of the setting and the character, spotlighting the emotion of the latter. Absent the framing of narrative, the viewer is invited to read into the ambiguous circumstances of each scene, trying to unlock its mystery. To supply the missing subtext, the artist reached out to poets — Taisia Kitaiskaia, Farid Matuk, Susan Briante, Noelle Kocot, Carrie Fountain, Cecily Parks, and Lisa Olstein.

Each poet chose a piece that spoke to them and wrote a poem in response. The poems were exhibited alongside the corresponding boxes that inspired them. Most of them were recited by their authors at the opening.

Thus, words, images, and music work together to provide a uniquely drawn psychological portrait for each protagonist, most of whom — like Thumbelina, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, and Kroshechka — are victims of the patriarchal social order. Fairy tales tend to focus on circumstances but rarely dwell on the characters’ state of mind or the real reasons for their predicament. All that is left to imagination. And in this series, an artist, a composer, and a poet collectively attempt to re-imagine the story in first person, to lend the voice to the voiceless. Read more about Yuliya Lanina >>



“Little Mechanical Song” by Dean Young

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 12.32.26 PM“…This music box scares me but
it’s probably nothing more
than the usual grinding rainbow machine,
the usual pirouette of skulls laughing
like the moon, crying like a sermonette
my friend says who also no longer
exists, at least not so we can split
a bottle of red….”



“Kroshechka Havroshechka” by Taisia Kitaiskaia

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 12.44.22 PM“…I wish you a snout, a dead fish coat
so stinky no one will touch you.
Teach you to fry evil eyes in a pan.
Grant you a taste for plunderage,
milk down the chin. But even the fish
coat weeps, looking at you: A child
smuggled from plural winter, a girl
tossed out from thrashing nurseries.
Hostile geometry. Georgic sorrows…”



“The Voice” by Farid Matuk

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 12.51.51 PM“…I want you to see the leaves are gone and white like winter
you said let’s make like a girl mean something amazing commercial
flickered in that dead patch today is where I saw
the cardinal’s glow you wanted to see

me go first you say to use a pleasure in seeing me
“walk behind this man” the voice said to Duriel so she could live
on the train platform soft and touched come to see the suds in the sink
lighting on workmen’s calls and some of the Buddhist advice
bends air before breaking it…”



“Falls First” by Susan Briante

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 12.56.49 PM“..The sun spun like a coin on edge.

Mostly we worried about money,
about currents and the catch and the value
of the homes we lived in that the bankers owned.

Mostly we worried about the future.

In forest time, a river unwinds like the hem of a fairy’s tulle dress,
but in our city hours, a river riots like a falcon, chides us
like an old bookkeeper
teaching us time and again we do not own it or what floats within…” Read more >>



“Sleeping Beauty” by Noelle Kocot

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 1.04.07 PM“…Looking out from the visible, an empathic
Rain beats down like nails. Ambiguities
Force their wonders unto us, and a fictive
Decision is made. Sleep now, you are a

Relic, as the movements of a sunset resemble
That peace that enriches the waters. Brooding
& curious, hold yourself inside a burning hem.
Make no mistake about the heart on the lake,

Make no mistake about surface and luxuries…”

Click here to view a gallery of mechanical sculptures by Yuliya Lanina, featuring original music by Yevgeniy Sharlat >>