Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Toast to Nastya!

These projects will not be possible or nearly as much fun without Nastya. She’s more than just a project manager, interpreter, organizer, accountant, mediator, psychiatrist, photographer, flamenco dancing travel companion, box-and-teabag stenciler, menu-reader, giggle-juice-drinker, dog-petter, banya-organizer, abandoned-burned-down-house-scavenger, phone-text-master, etc, etc, etc. Nastya is a friend. And I want to thank her for making these exchanges extraordinary experiences.

Thank you Nastya!!

Enter Bishkek!

Three months ago, in June, Ji Lee and I went to Bishkek to initiate conversations and creations about public art. The art center where we called our home for the 2 weeks ended up with a new identity and a couple of public art projects. Now, I have returned to maintain the momentum at high. CEC generously provided funds for artist initiated public art project. Through a call for proposals, artists were invited to submit ideas for public artworks which will be installed on the grounds of B’Art. Each artist will be given up to $150 to realize his/her concept. I was there to show artists how to propose and to share some smart, whimsical and interesting public art projects done by emerging artists like themselves. This would be done through a series or workshops or Master Classes.

The first workshop had a low attendance but the attendees had idea which I reviewed and provided some creative criticism. I ended that day’s workshop by encouraging all to spread the word about this opportunity. I had a feeling they would so I anticipated a larger crowd at the next workshop.

Something extraordinary happened between the workshops – my computer died. Wait, there’s more. While preparing for the next day’s presentation my computer shorted out. There was a power surge, then nothing. How can I present without images? I went to the hotel lobby to look for some options. (Here’s the extraordinary part). A complete stranger, Kyrgyz, offered me his new laptop, for free, to do my presentations. I didn’t ask – he just offered. MANY THANKS ALEXEY!!

The next day, my one presentation turned into three – the laptop was a lifesaver.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Finished Boxes

Here's a look at the finished boxes. There's only two ways to get one. Be on the 9 AM train to Moscow tomorrow or win the Ebay auction listed here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Take Nizhny with you

The boxes we've been making are like seed pods. They even contain seeds. There are cones from the local pine trees. You'll be able to plant them with Nizhny soil samples, and water from the Volga. We've even provided a bottle of Nizhny air. The boxes are a collection of scientific specimens, original artworks, and local delights. The project references Marcel Duchamp's 'Box In Valise' which itself contained a bottle of 'Paris Air'. Our boxes include photographic prints, hand drawn stencils, and local found objects. There are lyrics from a local song and a collection of native words and sayings. We've provided matches to keep you warm, chocolate to sweeten your palate, tea to soothe you, and a condom should you get lucky on the train. There will even be origami instructions to turn your tea bag into a Nizhny Novgorod deer, the symbol of the city.
We've been hard at work creating and manufacturing these boxes that we'll be giving away on Saturday. There will be a limited edition of 50, each numbered with certificates of authenticity. We've decided to make one box available online via an Ebay auction. The proceeds will go to CEC Artslink. Stay tuned for details.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Room Service

You gotta love the room service they've got here in our hotel. Tuesday after a hard day visiting chemical factories and doing presentations on public art, we retired to our hotel. Soon after, the telephone rang. I figured it was Nastya. We had been having difficulty connecting to the Internet and Nastya had been dealing with the computer guy. I tried to be funny, answering the phone in Russian, "Priviet! Horosho. Da." It wasn't Nastya. "Do you speak English?", I asked. "Girls? Bed?", the person asked. My bed had been made. The room had been cleaned. I didn't know what they were talking about, so I hung up the phone. Five minutes later there was a knock at the door. Outside in the hallway stood several prostitutes. I was being asked to choose one. Somewhere I think there was a misunderstanding.

The Chemical Factory

During the cold war, Nizhny Novgorod was a closed city. Westerners were forbidden to come here, not to mention a chemical factory. Well not any more. Tuesday we paid a visit to a chemical factory on the outskirts of town. It was guarded by a tiny old lady who asked simply that one of us sign our name on the guest list. No further questions asked, we walked into one of the strangest places I've ever been in Russia. What were we doing at a chemical factory? Our gift boxes will contain samples of Nizhny Novgorod air, water, and soil. We were shopping for containers. This is the sort of item that would take about a minute to locate in New York. But we aren't in New York- we're in Russia!

Gift Boxes

Perhaps it had something to do with not getting our gift boxes on the train trip to Niznhy. We hadn't bothered to go to the supermarket beforehand because we were expecting them. We were traveling first class after all. Last year we got gift boxes. Where were they anyway? Perhaps this feeling of being short-changed is what motivated our idea.

Last July I received a project prospectus entitled Non-Moscow, organized by the Ekaterinburg branch of NCCA, National Centre for Contemporary Arts. An art train was planned to make its way across Russia, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. It sounded a lot like Festival Express. It sounded fun! When the train reached Niznhy, artists here were considering presenting artwork on the railway platforms carried on porter carts. Unfortunately the entire project has been postponed. But parts of the idea stuck. Decentralization. Non-Moscow. Hmmmm. At first I considered a giant saw symbolically severing the track. Then we got to Nizhny and I looked up at the front of the railway station. There in large bold letters read Moscow Station. Say What? Um, that should be Non-Moscow Station. But we'd probably never get permission to do either. Nonetheless, we wanted to do something at the railway station. It needed to be something that focused on Niznhy's identity. We wanted to make Niznhy central. And we wanted somehow to disseminate Niznhy. And that's where the gift box idea was born. Lucky passengers on this Saturday's train to Moscow will be handed boxes brimming with things Niznhy. These boxes will reach destinations all over the world. And they're gonna be really cool!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back to Banya

After the long train ride to Nizhny, there was only one thing on our minds: Banya. After booking into our hotel we headed straight to the closest one. It was a public banya this time. First things first, we headed to the whipping stick shack. There was a wide variety of sticks, and the stick lady was very helpful. It smelled plenty aromatic inside that shack. The pine needle sticks particularly terrified Kendal. We purchased our sticks, bought our skimpy towels and flip flops, and headed into to the banya. We stripped down in a big public room supervised by a sweet little old lady. We weren't sure where to go next, so we snooped around until we found another room filled with naked men. We grabbed a pail and filled it with hot water. We soaked our sticks like pros. Next the sauna. It was crammed full of naked bodies. Kendal and I couldn't make it much past the door, not that we wanted to go any further. It was searing! And they kept splashing more water on the rocks. It was ridiculous! There was no cooling pool at this banya so we dumped pails of cold water on ourselves. A man from Uzbekestan was sitting next to us. We couldn't stand more than a few minutes in the sauna at a time. I survived about a minute on the top shelf and almost fainted on the way down. We watched in horror as an 18 month child was brought screaming into the sauna. I suppose he'd better get used to it! After two hours we were ready to go. Cold pints of beer were only 15 Rubles in the cafe below. It was a satisfying way to spend our first day in Niznhy!

Where is Nizhny Novgorod?

Following the project presentation and the obligatory party, we boarded the train for a fifteen hour trip up the Volga to Nizhny Novgorod. We were here exactly a year ago doing a public art project which you can see here. For those of you who haven't heard of Nizhny Novgorod, I've copied and pasted a Wikipedia entry:

Nizhny Novgorod (Russian: Ни́жний Но́вгород, Nižnij Novgorod), colloquially shortened as Nizhny, is the fourth largest city in Russia, ranking after Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk. Population: 1,311,252 (2002 Census); 1,438,133 (1989 Census). It is the economic and cultural center of the vast Volga-Vyatka economic region, and also the administrative center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and Volga Federal District.
From 1932 to 1990 the city was known as Gorky (Го́рький) after the writer Maxim Gorky.

The train trip to Nizhny

For those of you who haven't been on a train ride up the Volga from Samara to Nizhny Novgorod, this is what it looks like out the window...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Этот макет

Этот макет – это выражение тоски, тоски по уходящим временам, по уходящей архитектуре, пропитанной духом старой Самары, пропитанной жизнями жившими в ней людей. Город сбрасывает старую кожу, и переодевается в новое одеяние, серое и почти бесчувственное. Бесчувственное не столько потому, что не несет за собой истории и вкуса, а скорее потому, что не вписывается в городскую среду, не относится бережно к здешним старожилам, а как незаконный хозяин, вытесняет их, выпячивая свою грудь вперед, навязывает свои новые правила и вытесняет старые.

Шел дождь

Шел дождь, а может слегка накрапывал…
Все было мрачно: улицы, дома, непонятные входы, не имеющие выходов…
Все было так, как каждый придумал в своем воображении стоя на обрыве.

Скрип двери

Скрип двери, и вот он уже вдыхает утренний ветер с Волги. Как это приятно выйти с утра, когда все соседи еще спят, и только иногда видна чья-нибудь собака из-за забора. Сев на лавочку, его сразу охватили воспоминания минувших лет, ведь все в его дворе, точнее их дворе, напоминало о каком-то событии. Лавочка, которая еле дышит, выдержала не одну сотню посиделок, услышала не одну вымышленную байку, и была свидетельницей сотни поцелуев под луной. Крыльцо, которое было главным героем его неожиданного решения отменить поездку и остаться на лето в городе, дома. С тех пор как он себя помнил, он всегда здесь жил. Более того, его родители и родители его родителей жили здесь. А вот теперь настал вроде бы тот самый счастливый день переезда на новую квартиру. Но он чувствовал сейчас только пустоту внутри, такую, которая безжалостно стирала всю историю его семьи….

Юлия, Ааня, Максим,, фарида

Сколько ему лет

-Сколько ему лет?- спросил Андрей Иванович.
- Не знаю, не меньше

С тех пор прошло тридцать семь лет. Год за годом Андрей Иванович Баранин восстанавливал дом. Когда-то работа шла быстро, были деньги на материалы и силы на строительство. Но в трудные дни, а иногда месяцы или годы строительство останавливалось. Андрей Иванович знал, что хотя сейчас работа приостановлена, она будет закончена.
У них родились дети, сначала старший Павлик. Он родился прямо здесь в доме. Спальня тогда была уже построена. Анна Сергеевна поняла, что вот-вот родит в 3 часа ночи. И так как до больницы уже ехать было далеко и боялись, что она родит прямо в пути. То позвали соседку акушерку, живущую через улицу. Через два года родилась Маша, а ещё через четыре ещё один сын Михаил. И все родились дома, по сложившийся традиции.


Привет, читатель! Идея проекта, который был воплощен у нас в городе, посвящена исчезновению старых домов, представляющих не только историческую ценность, но и духовное наследие. Позволь рассказать тебе о том доме, который ты видишь перед собой. Возможно, семья прожила здесь очень долго. Может они знают историю тех, кто жил здесь раньше. Есть соседи, с которыми иногда ссорятся, но всегда откроют двери в трудную минуту, обращаются к ним за помощью. Истории могут быть разными, но общее среди большинства из них то, что сохранился устой сложенный за многие, многие десятилетия. Сейчас идет уничтожение таких домов, не смотря на протесты краеведов, жителей этих домов, художников и застройки безликими и уродливыми многоэтажками, безликими, холодными, чужими. В которых, зачастую, сосед не знает соседа, где никто не откроет стальную дверь человеку, просящему помощи. Дома, за которые мы боремся, как фотоальбом. Фотографии незабываемых моментов, портреты прежних жителей, счастливые воспоминания, на их счету сохранились воспоминания тех моментов, когда еще не было фото. Они хранят воспоминания о прежней жизни. Мы теряем не только воплощение деревянного зодчества, но и культурное наследие, говорящее с нами из далекого прошлого: символика, эстетика поведения, соседство как таковое и образ жизни. А может быть, и ты что-то теряешь с каждым исчезнувшим домом?


Света Шуваева.
Материалы: плексиглаз, молоток, деньги

Кто-то стучал молотком, казалось, что мир рушится от этого стука.
Все строили то, что не рассчитывали разрушать.
Стук закончился. Хрупкий мир зажил.
Теперь тот же молоток, те же дома, но другие руки и другие цели.
Стук возобновился.

Когда Самара была ещё молода

Когда Самара была ещё молода, скромна и неприхотлива, но, как и полагается молодой породистой девице, недурно сложена, весьма красива и обаятельна, немало было желающих отдать ей своё сердце и связать с ней свою судьбу. Как положено от жгучей этой, всегда взаимной любви рождалось нечто новое и замечательное: будь то дома или домики, парки или скверики, улицы или, может быть, улочки, да мало ли что ещё.
В этой всеобщей суматохе и издал свой первый рубаночный писк домик Коля. А потом ещё долго рождался под звуки лобзиков, молотков, пилы, ну или что там ещё используют акушеры плотники?
Когда же он наконец родился, оказался скромным и молчаливым. Лишь открыл зеленозанавесочные глаза и больше ничего не осмелился сделать. Поэтому и имени его никто не знал, а чтобы различать с другими новорожденными присвоили номер. Так и повелось, не Коля, а номер 109.
Купец-отец жил в доме с двумя дочерьми и женой. Все они много историй рассказать успели, да и гости их заграничные до разговоров охочие были. Какие-то происшествия Коля и сам видел или нутром чувствовал.
После отца Коля сапожника вселил, потом булочника, позже швея с сыном Василием въехала, который после смерти любимой матушки в дом жену привёл и детей приплодил, и дети эти выросли в доме, своими семьями обзавелись.
А номер 109 всё молчал. Когда после Василия в нём художница Валя жила, и продавщица Елена его тоже не слышала... Таксист и его жена Юля тоже. Домик впитывал запахи, запоминал истории, не роняя ни звука много-много лет. И вот только недавно осмелел наконец, развлекает своим скрипучим басом своих ныне живущих, да так разошелся, что не останавливается ни на минуту. Сыплет историями, проявляет на стенах картины, запахи показывает, комментирует. А жильцы думают, почему пол ходуном ходит, отчего балки прогнулись, откуда пахнет это и чем, и двери неужто осели? Старый думают. Не понимают…

Из нашей жизни многое со временем исчезает

Из нашей жизни многое со временем исчезает – воспоминания, люди, дома… Историческую архитектуру либо забрасывают, или же просто не реставрируя, прячут за высокий забор.
Наш макет олицетворяет старый дом, который вот-вот исчезнет из поля зрения и жизни горожан.
Скоро в нашем городе не останется подобной архитектуры.
Скоро у нашего города не останется истории.


Туалет на улице, вода в колонке. В детстве очень боялась Ледяной горы: вода в колонке замерзала, образуя толстый слой бело-пузыристого льда, а бабушка, укутанная с головой в серый, мягкий и грубый одновременно, платок спокойно взбиралась на эту гору с нашими синими ведрами. Дом сам, наверное, потому что каменный, чувствовал себя отлично и не собирался разваливаться. Только сараи – мы по ним лазили – в ужасной разрухе… Но, е мое, если бы мы не лазили по сараям, а сидели перед компами – где бы была наша пространственная реальность? В скорлупе? Дойти до дома, лифт, пуск Windous….

БАБУШКА: В доме жило пять семей: моя из восьми человек (шесть братьев и сестер!) Соседей –то было тоже пять человек! Еще в одной комнате три человека! И общая кухня. А на кухне… Кирогаз!!! не плита, а кирогаз, фитиль, который нужно зажечь спичкой. Вот сосед – он всегда мучился, зажигал…И ведь успевали… Успевали все эти семьи кипятить-стирать и мыть, и варить… На всех окнах были ставни, деревянные и резные. Потом снял кто-то ночью. А перед окнами много цветков мальвы.
Пол мели чилижным веником…утюг заправляли углем. И радости были полные штаны!
Все кто-то виноват… никто не виноват – в себе все дело…
Кто стремиться тот находит! А сейчас у вас миллион возможностей, а радости в глазах не видно… Мы были интересными.

Дом исчезнувший из старого города

Дом, исчезнувший из Старого Города
(House disappearing from the Old City space)

Данная модель посвящена проблеме сноса деревянных памятников архитектуры Самары. И не только памятников, но и обычных деревянных домов, создающих ауру старого города, ценных своей историей и красотой.
Куб- символ деревянной архитектуры Самары. Дыра в форме дома- вытесненная, вынесенная за пределы существования часть этой архитектуры. От сноса этих домов образуется пустота, не только физическая. Это пустота в образе города, ведь взамен снесенным строятся картонные дома, спичечные коробки, груды стекла и металла. Современная архитектура стальным поездом проносится сквозь хрупкую деревянную эстетику.
Этот проект- чтобы напомнить о том, что мы теряем, и чтобы не потерять то, что мы можем сохранить.

Некрасов Анатолий
Альбокринова Анастасия
Чекушкин Данил
Дермейко Андрей

Помощь в реализации:
Петров Николай

Finished Projects

The Architect / Designer Teams finished up their projects for a final presentation on Saturday. We were extremely impressed with their extraordinary work, in both concept and execution. We've posted the team statements in Russian. Please bear with us. We'll be adding images and translations soon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Got My Lucky Number!

Last night we took a mashutka to a fancy restaurant on the other side of town. Mashutkas are the mini buses that zip around through traffic. They're quicker and more convenient than regular buses or trams. They're cramped and intimate. I stepped on a few toes to pay the driver, who handed me my ticket in between gear shifts. When I sat back down, I did what all Russians do. I checked to see if I had a lucky number. Like many things here, I didn't completely understand this lucky number business. I thought there needed to be a series of three zeros lined up, but it's more complicated than that. You have to add the first three numbers, get the total then do the same for the last three. If the totals are the same then BINGO! It was only my second matshutka. Anyway, last night I hit the jackpot. I got a lucky number! But I didn't realize though, that for my dream to come true I had to eat the ticket. So there in the back of the careening matshuka I was convinced to wad the thing up, stuff in in my mouth, and swallow it. I'm still waiting for my dream to come true...

Dude, Is That A Purse?

I see all these Russian men carrying what looks like a purse. They come in a variety of colors and are held the same way you would a clutch purse - under the arm. This one was spotted at the hardware and lumber market.

What’s up with that?

I wonder where I can get one.

Construction Begins...

Build Me A House

The project has evolved overnight, as the usually do. The plaques changed into house sculptures, which will both draw attention to itself and visually tell a story about lost history, the wooden houses or about past occupants of those houses. The young architects and designers were separated into groups. Each group had an hour to create a preliminary sketch of their design. After all the designs were reviewed, it was determined that the size of the houses would be 15 cm x 15 cm x 22.5 cm. They would all be made out of wood. The next day, we bought all the necessary materials and construction began.

I Feel Russian

It's taken awhile, but I finally feel at home here. My first trip was just a primer. I got my feet wet, so to speak. Having purged all those paranoid fears of policemen, gangsters, and open bridges in St Petersburg, I returned this time fearless and ready to fully immerse myself. Last night I finally hit my stride. I spontaneously went out with some folks I met at the architectural academy. We went out to the cinema club. I knew that Russians were big on film and theatre, but the language barrier had prevented me from going. But last night's film was in English with Russian subtitles. It was a gala affair. We missed the introductory lecture and stood out on the balcony under the starts surrounded by beautiful people. Having just come from the studio, I was clearly out dressed. The movie, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, was provocative and clearly enjoyable. It inspired plenty of discussion afterwards, while wandering around the town. Samara's landmarks are beautiful at night. We stopped at a store and purchased large bottles of beer and dried fish. Then we went to a park overlooking the beautiful Volga. We tore open the fish with our bare hands and passed around the bottles. This is what young people do here. I had seen it so many times before. But this time, I was one of them. And it felt great!

You'll Never Miss the Water Till The Well Runs Dry

The task at hand was to bring to the attention of other young people and citizens of Samara the loss history and culture due to the slow destruction of the historic wooden houses. While some of the houses were deliberately being destroyed, others were the casualties of neglect and abandonment. Either way, if nothing was done to save at least a few, eventually they will all disappear.

Without having a specific art object in mind we discussed what target audience and location would result in the greatest impact. Some of the artists thought that others like themselves should be the primary audience because they are the future and eventually their decisions will influence what happens in the city. Others thought that the older citizens- the ones with the money- should be the target audience. We eventually decided that the artwork should reach all age groups.

Now the question was, how and he brainstorming began.

We can put labels on the water bottles –No, that would take too much time and effort and people would think it’s an advertisement and not pay attention or drink the water from fear of it being tapered with.

We can cover one of the houses (a la Christo) and make it “disappear” – Great idea, but a building will be too big. Perhaps covering smaller “landmarks” throughout the city, making those disappear. There are no small landmarks. Let’s keep this one on the table.

We can use ourselves as the art objects like street performers who paint themselves to resemble statues or perhaps create a flash mob – great idea, we can actually do something like that to kick off the project but that wouldn’t be the project itself (the flash mod idea, not the painted statues).

The ideas kept flowing for the rest of the day. Some employing the use of video and photography, while others appealing to the emotions through stories of, and about the personal histories of the occupants of the houses.

At the end of the long day, we agreed that we would create plaques that and place them on and around houses throughout the city. Some of the plaques would tell stories about the former occupants, others about the building structure and meaning behind the ornamentation. Some could address the concerns of loss or be a sounding board for protest. We took that idea and let it simmer in our thoughts.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Love These Houses!

Preserve don't Destroy!

This beautiful historical Samaran structure is in imminent danger of being torn down. There are many such extraordinary wooden houses here in Samara in derelict condition- the ones that remain. Samara is quickly changing. It's a familiar story. Tear down the old to build the new. Erase your city's history, build the ubiquitous ugly glass skyscraper, make a quick buck. I've heard many stories here of developers burning the wooden buildings at night, mysterious nighttime demolitions, or residents being forbidden to make improvements. Such stories are not unfamiliar to New Yorkers such as myself. But we have become much more mobilized, perhaps having learned from our mistakes, Penn Station for example. Russians need to learn how to organize, set up watch dog groups, and empower themselves. I first fell in love with these beautiful wooden houses last year on my first CEC Artslink project. The first one I saw was in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. It would be a shame if one could only see these structures mothballed in a museum. Later that same trip, I saw many similar type buildings in Nizhny Novgorod. Unlike Samara, Nizhny Novgorod has received Unesco World Heritage Status to protect their architectural heritage. The wooden ornamentation includes symbols to protect the dwellers inside. It's beautiful architecture which should be preserved, if not for cultural heritage and civic pride, then for future tourist revenue.