Gruff Rhys: The History of Nails

As 2016 drew to a close, a group of artists, photographers and musicians from Russia and the UK embarked on a journey across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Invited by the British Council, they shared stories, created new music and stopped to perform en route as their train made its way through the ice and snow, taking in Moscow, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. Writer and researcher Andrew Dickson, writer Alisa Ganieva, poet Joe Dunthorne, literary critic Konstantin Milchin, media artist Francesca Panetta, photographer Max Avdeev and cinematographer Arseny Khachaturyan were joined by composer Gruff Rhys, perhaps best known for his work as front man of psychedelic rock band Super Furry Animals.

Gruff explains the timing of his invitation to Russia: "Last Summer, in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and it's resultant power vacuum I began meditating on the power and pitfalls of combining pop, politics and art. I started reading about the Russian Futurists as a case study; their Agitprop train journeys, their role in the Russian revolution, the promise of the long lost Far Eastern Republic and ultimately the collapse of the movement under the Bolsheviks' cultural stranglehold - as participants were either co-opted or destroyed by the regime. Unbelievably a few weeks later I received an invitation to take part in an artistic residency aboard the Trans Siberian railway ... I wrote a bunch of songs and shot this short film."

And so was born The History of Nails, Gruff's film, comissioned by the British Council – an experimental video diary which turns a lo-fi lens on the Trans-Siberian Railway.


The History of Nails


Trans-Siberian journey in pictures

Gruff's trip to Russia was captured in these incredible pictures from the photographers also on board with him.

TransLit: a travelling art residency