art as labour
Seeing Nikolay move through the landscape and leave his footprints in the snow, almost as if drawing on a communal canvas, takes us back to the origins and the very essence of ideas... for him, labour is a channel to transform physical force into cultural expression
Alejandro Haiek, architect
Interview with
Nikolay Polissky
artist & founder,
Nikola-Lenivets Art Park
"What is important is the interaction of thought, material, and money. The idea has to be so large that the cost of the material would fade against that background.
What we can do is not get hung up on the material, but present the entirety of our bitter life in this. The way all these sticks lay strewn about, rotting, so too do our people. What would these guys do otherwise? Something awful. In the best scenario, they would go work as guards or cops, but even then, they get fired.

Before, some community would create truth for others, but now, blacks and Eskimos alike make everything only for tourist consumption. Traditions have degenerated everywhere from the far north to the far south. In our village, no one will make a scythe, or weave a basket, not even to mention a weaver's loom. Fellas have nothing to occupy themselves - only drink vodka, that's it. They live in the village, marry broads from Moscow sometimes, but it all ends badly. It's rare that anyone turns into a normal average Joe.

May be I too, had I not ended up in a certain environment, would not have known what to do with myself. One has to help them. I am, of course, a little afraid - after all, I lure them after me, seduce them. Like before when they would teach serfs to be musicians, artists - and then it's back to the cow barn.

Their relatives put pressure on them, want them to do something normal, have a job. But they run away anyway - because in this, there is a feeling of flight that does not exist anywhere over there. They are broad guys; it's easier for them to do something big rather than putter around
They are very receptive. They understand in an instant; how - I don't know, there aren't such words, after all, with which one could truly explain an idea to them. Plus it's not interesting that they should only make what I draw for them; one wants to be surprised by something. And they surprise. Right now they are making small-scale objects, small-scale sculpture - we call them toys or furniture. They do everything faultlessly - each in his own way, but within a plastic unity, a common style has been worked out.

Brutality, crudeness - I am also learning that from them. I can see, after all, how careless a Russian person is when he is relaxed - he takes a big old hammer, axe, or sledge - and starts plopping it down every which way. There is something in this recklessness of character, and we aestheticize this.
Of course, he won't be able to stand at a conveyor belt and make Mercedes cars - he'll do something different. "Poor" art, for instance. In general, we are, after all, a poor people; what other kind of art can we be making? It's not as if I'm some kind of nationalist; I'm not saying that we are the best. What we are, we are, and one has to use what he has - material, mentality, character."

The Classroom took these ideas and applied them to architecture, creating a pavilion

Sliced White
Sliced White is comprised of two main elements: a permeable wall of birch saplings, which creates an outdoor room; and a timber-finned roof made from the deconstruction of a single huge log, which shades the space from the powerful summer sun. Both elements utilise the character of the trees they are made from to create a secluded space for working and thinking, transforming the adjacent disused sauna building into a year-round education centre.
Assembly of the Sliced White Pavilion : to be used as the summer classroom for future schools in Nikola-Lenivets
Sliced White is directly informed by the vast forest which surrounds it and makes use the unique combination of available resources: abundant timber, craftspeople who were re-skilled through local arts economy, and wood and metal workshop facilities provided by the art park.With a sawmill at our disposal, the students had complete control over their materials. Using the largest log the sawmill could accommodate, they made 29 cuts along its length, leaving it in fine slices with two remaining 'crusts'. A structure was then designed to delicately hang and display this exploded log. The columns are made of charred tree trunks sliced into three to support paired beams, making reference to the adjoining burnt-out building. The exterior of these blackened columns contrasts with their clean white interior.

There is a gradual transition from the weight of the oak foundations through the charred sliced columns to the lightness of the timber fins. This mirrors the transition from natural trunk to milled timber elements, as well as from traditional log structures into a contemporary engineered-timber aesthetic. All the materials used during the summer school were taken from the immediate surroundings of the park. The centrepiece – the sliced log – lay in a local village for several years and more than 100 birch saplings were felled by the students to thin the local forest. The outdoor classroom was designed to imply a clearing in a young birch forest, with the whiteness of the bark reinforcing the contrast of old and new, and adding drama to the neighbouring burnt building.
The wall acts as a windbreak and privacy screen and casts zebra-like shadows in the low evening sun. Depending on the angle of view, the natural contours of the undulating roof can seem heavy like a storm cloud or light like the gills of a mushroom.

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