Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
artists LUNA NERA, SPHERE and DIRIZHABLE
When asked, what we are doing, I once answered, “I, personally, love.” And the rest of us? It seems that my friends were doing the same…Eugene Grinevich
In June 2000 London group Luna Nera joined Russian group Dirizhable (based in Nizhny Novgorod and artists from Moscow and Nizhny Tagil) in the city of Nizhny Novgorod to create Floodplain of Time a site-responsive art-action in an abandoned electricity-generating plant and surrounding area on the banks of the River Oka.
The locale was not chosen at random: the city began its modern life here when in 1900 the Nizhny Novgorod branch line of the Moscow to Kazan railway was built. Modernity went then further into the trusses of the bridge, towers of elevators, boilers of thermal plants. Now everything is disused, desolate and deserted.
When artists work in an “exhausted” medium, they “recultivate” it in a peculiar way: they introduce the objects of the medium back into culture, but in other, sometimes paradoxical, connotations. By that, it is only natural that the theme of Time, of the receding century, of the Millenium frontier, comes into life, and we turn to the image of the city as a technogenic and cultural test site.
In terms of land art the most interesting objects and structures are bankseats of the bridge, the former water supply plant with its pump tower at the very shoreline, old bodies of trucks, collectors of rainwater sewage, anti-slide structures on the hill, navigation marks, and ruins of the railway that existed here in since 1900 till the 1950s.
Working together for a week, the artists built installations in the derelict buildings and on the river bank. The site lies on the low ground beneath the upper (old) town. The site is fully visible from the city’s modern core on the far side of the River Oka – from both of the bridges – but the access road ends by the ruined Romadonovsky railway station (the modern station is on the other bank) and peters out into a dirt road. So the site has the paradoxical quality of being constantly visible yet largely unknown and unexplored. Again, the role of the artists was to make the “invisible” visible.
Every day we overpass this place. Only artists are able to stop and say “look at the riches that we have!” We see a chimney stalk in the bushes and a dark red tower which looks like a little gatehouse when you look from the bridge …[It] can become (though it is hard to imagine!) a perfect exhibition hall. Perfect not in terms of gilt fretworks or modern repairs, but in terms of a vast space… the clear-cut , weighed proportions: it is almost age-tested classicism.Marina Ignutashko, Floodplain of Time
Floodplain of Time was curated by Eugene Strelkov and supported by the Soros Foundation and the Centre for Contemporary Art Nizhny Novgorod