Sunday, January 13, 2008

The public art projects in St. Petersburg

In the fall of 2007, Susan Katz, the director of CEC Arts Link in St. Petersburg, Russia wrote to me to ask if I would be interested in coming to St. Petersburg to head a week long seminar in public art projects for the Pro Arte students. I didn't think twice and I said "yes!" Then I asked, "so when will it be?" and she replied, "December". That's when it hit me: Russia? December? Public Art? I'm a wimp when it comes to cold and I have no problem admitting it. I grew up in the warmth of Brazil and facing winter in New York is already a challenge which I barely make it alive every year. But winter in Russia? I was frightened. My immediate question was: "Any chance we can do this in Spring perhaps?". Susan's response was short and clear: "No, not really..." Me: "OK... cool. I'll see you in December then (gasp). I'm so excited!" (gasp)

This would be my second collaboration with CEC Arts Link, an international arts organization which supports the exchange of artists and art programs between the United States and Eastern and Central Europe. My first collaboration happened in the summer of 2007 when I was invited by Kendal Henry, an artist, curator, a frequent collaborator with CEC, and now a good friend, to work in a public art project in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This experience was so amazing, I had to dive in again, although it meant enduring the real terror: the Russian winter.

After two days of lectures, the Pro Arte students had about three days to come up with their ideas for the public art piece, then install them on the last day of the seminar. Here is the outline of the assignment:

Conceive, produce and install a public art piece for the streets of St. Petersburg.

1. The piece should not exceed the size of 30 cubic centimeters.
2. The piece should be made in multiples of at least ten.
3. The piece should be inexpensive to produce and easy to install
4. The piece, when installed should disrupt and engage the viewers.

Considering many of the students had full-time jobs or classes during the day, this was truly a challenging task. They worked very hard to produce their pieces in time. For the remaining sessions, they presented their ideas and we all critiqued the pieces and we had very intense discussions. Our interpreter Olga Berg did an amazing job translating everybody and she was one of the main reasons for the success of the seminar. Thank you, Olga!

So on the last evening, we all went out to the cold street and installed the pieces. It was an exciting moment for everybody. Here they are...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Hello Stranger." by Olga Lovcus

The texts describing the projects were written by the students. Translated into English by Anastasia Tolstaya from CEC.

"100 wallets are found on the streets of St. Petersburg. What is inside of them? A photo with the words:"Hello stranger, nice to meet you!"

Olga Lovcus /

"Street Museum of Garbage" by Pavel Rotts

"What is art? Why does art have to be in the museums and galleries? What is beauty? People usually associate art with institutions and context rather than the pieces of art themselves. Scraps of metal inside an art gallery with a tag is perceived as art. The same piece in a junkyard would be perceived as a junk. So, art is about creating a context, a frame. For my project, I collected interesting objects (slice of dried bread, plastic bag, crushed spray can) from the garbage bins on the streets of St. Petersburg. Then I created small transparent boxes to contain the objects. My inspiration for the boxes was Damien Hirst. Hirst is a master of framing objects with beautiful boxes. The objects, which alone may not be so amazing, gain a striking new appearance and status by the heavy, industrial boxes. I wanted to do the same with the garbages on the street. These small boxes are placed all over the streets of St. Petersburg attracting the passersby to stop and look at the newly framed garbage. So they will see the garbage in a completely new way and even find beauty behind it."

Pavel Rotts /

"Fake Flowers" by Alexandra Fadeeva (Sasha)

My project is devoted to the museum scandals on the subject of falsification of the works of the Russian Futurists, which were found in some of the Russian museums. There is even a special office album of the falsifications and the list of the forgery artists.

"I secretly placed fake plants and flowers next to the real plants in the flower pots of the museum halls and lobbies. The fake flowers are almost imperceptible to the unsuspicious public eyes, but that's the exact point of the project: Most of the visitors will not notice the difference, in the same way they the cannot distinguish the original paintings from the fake ones. Only the most attentive ones will notice the substitution and think about the difference between falsification and original and about the gap between something alive and dead."

Alexandra Fadeeva (Sasha) /

"Pick me!" by Olga Lovcus

Olga, the artist behind "Pick me." ended up doing two great projects. Here is her second project:

Olga was always dressed in very colorful and bright clothing in contrast to most of the people in St Pete who dress in dark, grey colors. Her project, like her bright clothing brings a fresh joy and smiles to often very serious and somber minded Russians.

"People are living their everyday life. They go to work, earn money, and spend them in supermarkets and shops. They buy things automatically. They keep their minds and faces self-possessed and serious. But when they notice smiling fruits and vegetables with different characters and souls on the supermarket shelves, they can realize that this fruits are even more alive than customers themselves. "Hi, guys! Pick us and smile!"

Olga Lovcus /

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Bombs as Garbage" by Rozalina Turovskaja

"Garbage is everywhere around us. We do not pay any attention to it. Most of us think this is not our business. Someone cleans the garbage but not us. And the streets remain dirty.

The aim of the project is to attract people’s attention to the question of war and peace and to the possibilities of addressing the world’s conflicts. The paper bombs on the street become garbage that we need to clean from our lives, something that is unnecessary for our world."

Rozalina Turovskaja /

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Supremacy Censorship" by Pavel Rotts (Pasha)

Pasha, the artist behind "Street Museum of Garbage" was very productive and ended up producing two great projects. Here's his second project:

"Censorship usually creates a mysterious aura around the censored subjects. By placing the iconic black censorship strips on top of the featured products in the banal street ads, I let out the fantasies of the spectators who wonder what's behind the black strips. The censorship strips create the illusion of the forbidden fruit and provokes curiosity among the viewers.

Mystery and the freedom of fantasy produced by the censorship strips relates to the boundless supremacy space of Malevich’s works."

Pavel Rotts (Pasha) /