Rudensky’s Photos Featured in Times Story on Russian TV

Early this year, Gary Shteyngart embarked on an experiment for The New York Times: For a week straight, he would “subsist almost entirely on a diet of state-controlled Russian television, piped in from three Apple laptops onto three 55-inch Samsung monitors in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan.”

Assistant Professor of Art Sasha Rudensky documented this experiment in a series of photographs that accompany the story. Here is Shteyngart lying in bed, feet encased in hotel slippers, while Russian President Vladamir Putin’s stern face fills three towering television screens. Here Shteyngart is dining on Wagyu beef slices and sipping pinot noir while staring vacantly at the screens. And here, lying in bed gesticulating while a visiting psychiatrist listens to him talk. Russian TV, explains one photo caption, “dulls the senses and raises your ire.”

“Here is the question I’m trying to answer,” Shteyngart explains. “What will happen to me — an Americanized Russian-speaking novelist who emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child — if I let myself float into the television-filtered head space of my former countrymen? Will I learn to love Putin as 85 percent of Russians profess to do? Will I dash to the Russian consulate on East 91st Street and ask for my citizenship back? Will I leave New York behind and move to Crimea, which, as of this year, Putin’s troops have reoccupied, claiming it has belonged to Russia practically since the days of the Old Testament? Or will I simply go insane?”