Normally, all conversation of Russia’s art scene focuses on Moscow. Yes, there is the “Second Capital,” St Petersburg, but that pristine sister has always been more interested in its own affairs. Occasionally, something from the provinces – Perm, Kaliningrad or Ekaterinburg – will surface in the news, but for the rest of the year, Moscow is pretty much the beginning and end of geography for contemporary artists in Russia.
That is, except for one rave-like weekend a year, when suddenly everyone packs up for Nikola-Lenivetz. The otherwise obscure village (whose name loosely translates to “Nikolay the Lazy Bones”) is nestled within the Kaluga Region of Russia, about 3 hours to the Southwest of Moscow. It was “discovered” in 2000 after retreating Mit’ki artist Nikolay Polissky began to recruit the villagers to help him build his massive sculptures and earth works. The village became something of a site of pilgrimage in 2005 after Polissky and some of his colleagues (including Anton Kochurkin) schemed up ArchStoyanie, a festival of architecture in the open fields.
This weekend, ArchStoyanie celebrates another edition. In its eight years, the festival has evolved considerably from a few sculptures in a field into a full-on biennale-like animal, replete with lecture programs, international guests, bike rentals, concerts and even a Parallel Program. This is due in some part to Baibakov Art Projects‘ installation genie/Gogolfest revitalizer/ArtSquatForum innovator/and the list goes on (hey, what can we say, we’re biased…), artist and curator Katya Bochavar, who is co-curating the program alongside Kochurkin. Bochavar has brought with her many of her coterie of sound artists, musicians, and media pioneers, so that what was once the exclusive domain of wooden sculptures now is populated by interventions from the Electroboutique, composer Vladimir Rannev, and even Ira Korina, who is fresh off of her installation, Chapel, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
While the festival wraps up today, from the social media coverage, we can tell that one of the hits of the weekend was Olga Kroytor‘s performance. We’ve mentioned her before, as we’re quite fond of her intricate, slightly-off collages, which repurpose Soviet and Constructivist tropes, but in a way we can’t quite put our finger on. For this performance – very smart-phone-photo-friendly – Kroytor buried herself under a glass panel, not far from the road. She was naked, but for long black hair, which she wrapped, witch-like, around her. The piece is untitled, and if there’s a subtext, we haven’t been given it in the millions of photos we’ve seen, but her ability to work a crowd makes us think this is a name to keep an eye out for. (And here’s one of our favorite images so far, so you’ll recognize her. Many thanks to curator and critic Grisha Konstantinova, whose image it is.)
More information about ArchStoyanie can be found on its website. Meanwhile, we extend congratulations to Bochavar, Kochurkin, and the entire team for once again proving that art can exist outside Moscow.