27 May 2022

The circle of times and a crack in the sky

Art expedition & plein air practice 25-27.05.2022

The expeditionary part of the “Circle of Time and a Crack in the Sky” project began in the early morning of May 25, 2022. Technically – in the center of Volgograd, meaningfully – in Staraya Sarepta, on the square between the old Lutheran church and the “House of unmarried sisters” (built in 1772 and 1779).

We will go to the endless Kalmyk steppe, so we need to choose the right place to start. Sarepta is the right place. Monk Ioakinf (Bichurin), Nikolai Nefediev, Professor G. Ramstedt, August Kern set off from Sarepta to the Kalmyk steppes. Velimir Khlebnikov also constantly passed through Sarepta to Tsaritsyn (and back to Derbety or Astrakhan). So will we.

Neat German houses of the 18th century with a silicate-brick military registration and enlistment office embedded in the cute old quarter and block high-rise buildings in the background are a suitable starting point. After this point – rapid de-urbanization and only the steppe.

Фонд Семь Ветров
Project participants in Sarepta [5:30 am]

Our project has several goals and several semantic levels. Firstly, all this is about the Khlebnikovs (both Velimir and Vera) – an amazing Russian poet, mathematician, graphic artist, playwright, creator of words, chairman of the globe, one of the inspirers of the entire Russian avant-garde of the 20th century and his sister – a wonderful artist.

We intend to get to that amazing place where they were born and spent their childhood – in the emptiness of the Kalmyk steppe filled with countless shades of color and light. We want to go ourselves and bring the artists to the very boundlessness in which Khlebnikov’s worlds arose.

We have several hypotheses. One of them is that only childhood in the steppe and in the Kalmyk environment could cause both Velimir Khlebnikov’s language and his ways of calculating the world  and the peculiarities of his sister’s painting. The other is that contemporary artists, torn from the context of their usual (urban) perspectives and lines, will enthusiastically depict the endless emptiness, moreover, we hope that they will do it rapidamente).

We want to test these hypotheses with experience and observations, and we will also to see the Velimir Khlebnikov monument standing in the empty steppe, to meet with its author Stepan Kimovich Botiev and other Kalmyk artists, to visit the legendary Khlebnikov Museum, created by Valentina Borisovna Bastaeva in the Badmaev Gymnasium, wander around the Elista quarters of the 60-70s, go to the Lonely Poplar tract, realize the unreal scale of the abandones wind turbines and much more. We will also try to follow several circles of time and see what happens.

The project involves artists from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Volgograd – Yulia Kartoshkina, Maria Ivanova, Stanislav Azarov and Tamara Shipitsina, as well as President of the Seven Winds Foundation Nikolai Malygin, member of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation Nikolai Fomin, art curator Victoria Kharitonova,  a photographer and traveler Alexey Shulyakov, Olga Belskaya and Natalya Tarakanova from the Saratov Radishchev Art Museum.

On the one hand, “The Circle of Times and a Crack in the Sky” is a continuation and development of the long-term Plein Airs project of  the Seven Winds Foundation, that was launched more than ten years ago and that already involved dozens of artists from different cities of Russia. On the other hand, this is a completely new and, in many ways, experimental undertaking.

Travel shots

Photos of Stanislav Azarov, Alexey Shulyakov, Yulia Kartoshkina and other project participants.

Oddly enough, we made it all! In addition to plein air work, many photographs and impressions, our new friends became the most important result of our expedition. We all were very touched by the warmth with which we were received by our Kalmyk colleagues and now we are already thinking about the possibility of collaboration and joint projects.

We were very pleased to meet Stepan Kimovich Botiev and Valentina Borisovna Bastaeva and, of course, we must express special gratitude to Lyudmila Moshuldaeva – without her help and participation in our project, much could not have happened.

Meeting with S.K. Botiev and Kalmyk artists
Meeting with Stepan Botiev and his colleagues in Elista

Preliminary results of our expedition will be presented to the public at a meeting / artists talk on May 28 at 17:00 in LOFT1890 (Volgograd, street 10th Division of the NKVD 5A). We will inform you about the dates and locations of further project exhibitions later.

P.S. By the way, all our hypotheses were confirmed and we will talk about this separately.