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“Art-avenue” in St. Petersburg – a knitted street light and a natural-sized whale

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The “Art-avenue” festival is taking place in St. Petersburg. The main stage is the Petrogradskaya side. The “Pulse of the City” show brings you a report about the festival and traditions of street culture in the Northern Capital.

Yuriy Zinchuk, “Pulse of the City” host: “Dozens of artists from Russia, USA, Finland and other countries seriously changed the look of some streets at the Petrogradskaya side. The “Art-Avenue” festival has opened in St. Petersbug. A considerable part of the district was given to the artists for work. All installations can be touched, moved, one can climb on any objects with no restrictions. The Festival is dedicated to ecology and preserving environment.

Street art, however, came to St. Petersburg long before this Festival. So what is Public Art? St. Petersburg’s traditions of street art, which city wall now has a full-sized whale on it and what can be considered the country’s first public art installation – all in Pavel Nikiforov’s report.

People grown into trees – as if from a horror movie – at the Posadsakya park. A knitted street light with a gigantic spider web across the street from the mosque. Pigeons made of plaster at the Kuibysheva – to commemorate all birds died in St. Petersburg. And a natural-sized whale in a yard at Michurinskaya.

Stas Bags, artist: “When I was a kid, I went to zoological museum and saw a whale’s skeleton there. Well, it’s a skeleton and you don’t realize the actual size. Then I saw this playground and decided to draw it here. I hope kids will be interested to see what a real-sized whale – well, almost real-sized – looks like”

Light-box with a sign “the soap was dropped”, mocking city ad banners – at the same Michurinskaya.

Semyon Motolyanets, artist: “Citizens have not reacted yet, we talked with the security guard in that yard there. She asked whether it would not get light into her booth at night. Everyone takes care of one’s comfort”

And also little men made of carton, pasted in unexpected places all across Posadskiy district. There are 21 objects of public art in total, all hidden like guerillas in forests, across the Petrogradskaya side

The 3rd festival “Art-Avenue” has opened in St. Petersburg for only 4 days. But this does not mean that our city doesn’t have a tradition of street art

Pavel Nikiforov, reporter: “If you want your public art to be noticed in St. Petersburg, you’ve got to invade its very heart – the Petropavlovskaya Fortress. So in 1976, well-known human rights activist Yuliy Rybakov wrote on the Emperor’s bastion – you are crucifying freedom, but a man’s soul knows no bounds. 10 years later, in 1986, Kuryekhin set up another one of his “Pop Mechanics” at the same place. These two mischiefs contained concrete messages, directed at residents of St. Petersburg. Its hard to think of a more direct intrusion into St. Petersburg’s public space. And that’s what public art is about – to be closer to the public”

The term was born in the 1930s. A unit of artistic works for public use appeared at the US Department of Civil Service – Public Works Art Project. By 1960s this art hit the cities - 1st graffiti artists, 1st large-scale performances and installations.

In that time, the USSR had a bustling artistic life of its own, closed to the rest of the world. Here are bits of German TV’s report dated 1990, which was to unveil the mystery of Leningrad’s public art to the whole of Europe

Timur Novikov, Afrika Bugayev, Kuryekhin, the “Mitki” headed by Shagin, Shinkarev and Florenskiy had a field day, while the country was falling apart. What was forbidden yesterday, hit the streets today. Here’s a recording of Vladimir Vankok’s public performance “the cue”

1988, Leningrad. Closed doors. Standing next to them, as if waiting for them to open, stands the artist. Passers-by join in for some reason. They don’t need to be there, but a huge cue of people grows in a matter of minutes. This is one of public art’s missions – to make people see themselves from a side.

Alexander Florenskiy, artist: “Public art is different to Tsereteli’s works, because its not eternal. It was there and then it was gone. I like this idea. Because the more talentless an artist is, the more he wants to make oneself eternal in bronze – and use money, bronze, marble”

Public art legalized underground street art. In the public’s perception, works of Banksy have long moved from vandalism to being viewed as museum exhibits. In Russia, particularly in St. Petersburg, street art is going through the same legitimization process as it did in the West 30 years ago. Here is, for example, the work of artist Pasha 183 “Alyonka Chocolate Bar” – now kept in St. Petersburg’s street art museum. Although, 3 years ago, Pasha had to scout construction sites for a suitable panel.

Pavel Nikiforov, reporter: “Fences are really popular in St. Petersburg. Houses wrapped in construction beams and blue gopher fences are, unfortunately, integral parts of a city landscape. When, for instance, the Aurora disappeared from the Petrogradskaya embankment, a fence was erected here straight away. The painful subject of too much fences is one of the most visible in the Russian public art. Here’s how it was exploited in street art – feel yourself in a cage, thanks to the fences, while being in a city”

After artistic and civic explosions of the 80s and early 90s, St. Petersburg’s artists went underground again in 2000s. And only now have started to reappear, gradually conquering city spaces in a new way.

Its quite possible that soon such white or pink trees will become normal for St. Petersburg. For now, you have just a few days to see them. Although you will have to find them first.

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