The Sharmanka Travelling Circus - A delightful exhibition of spectacular automata by Eduard Bersudsky

June sees the arrival in the Highlands of a unique opportunity to see The Sharmanka Travelling Circus. Eduard Bersudsky’s “kinemats” are not so much sculptures but performers. Each one in turn springs into life and performs an intricate dance. Myriad little tableau play out their part within the whole structure; mice turn handles, ravens ring their bells, music plays and for a few minutes each sculpture is the centre of attention.

Sharmanka, meaning Barrel Organ, is the life’s work of sculptor Eduard Bersudsky and his partner Tatyana Jacovskaya. Tatyana was working as a theatre director in St Petersburg in 1988 when they met. He was working as an engineer but his passion was the growing collection of sculptures he was making in his spare time, using a combination of wood carving and scavenging scrap from old typewriters, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, bicycles, whatever he could find in scrap-yards and markets. Since then Tatyana has devoted herself to making his work more widely known.

Working under the Communist regime, his sculptures represent far more than whimsical humour. They recount traditional stories, memories of his childhood, but they were also shaped by the repression and darker experiences of Russian history. The Millennium Clock, which can be seen at the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and was built in collaboration with Tim Stead, Jürgen Tübbecke and Anika Sandström contains twelve figures representing the millions of victims of torture and genocide of the 20th century. He has said that "To make it took eight weeks and all my previous life in Russia." The Barrel organ symbolizes the repetitiveness of life in Russia; they are associated with patience and with hope but also with fate, as you cannot change the melodies that are programmed into the instrument – just as Eduard’s figures are programmed to endlessly repeat their little tasks. 

They moved to Scotland after the fall of Communism, encouraged by friends and curators like Julian Spalding of Glasgow Museums. In Glasgow his work flourished and for ten years the Sharmanka Gallery has been one of Glasgow’s hidden gems. Known by aficionados, news of its existence was passed on with enthusiastic zeal. This Scottish Arts Council supported tour gives Highland audiences the chance to experience the haunting charms of this extraordinary experience for the first time.

The tour will take in Highland venues in Inverness, Thurso and Kingussie and performances of the travelling circus will be given hourly. Each performance lasts approximately 15 minutes.

Tour Schedule
Performances will be given hourly, visitors are recommended to ring ahead for times

2 June - 1 July
Inverness Museum & Art Gallery  +44 (0)1463 237114
Monday – Saturday from 9am-5pm

15 July - 5 August
Swanson Gallery +44 (0)1847 896357
Monday - Wednesday 1-5pm; Friday 1-8pm; Saturday10am-1pm

18 August - 9 September
Iona Gallery  +44 (0)1540 661307
Monday- Friday 1-5pm; Saturday10am-12pm

For further information and to arrange press photographs and interviews please contact Astrid Shearer on 01463 710978



24 May 2006