UNREAL
REALITY

А public art project
by Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai

RU
This is a series of eleven plywood
objects installed in the courtyards
and vacant lots of the Kronprinz
tower barracks
Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai is an artist and set designer from St. Petersburg. Alexander has won the Golden Mask theater award multiple times and has also been one of the exhibitors of the Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2019. He creates stage and performance designs for the major theater venues in Moscow and St. Petersburg. His famous flat figures came to life as a result of the artist's many years of work on stage designs: according to Alexander himself, it was a way to stimulate his creative process - by cutting and placing 1:20 scale figures inside the stage mockup before a performance. For the artist, these tiny figures turned into universal modules that he would use to create the stage design. Drawn with a black marker and then cut out of plywood, the figures quickly became popular.

For his street installations, Mr. Shishkin-Hokusai uses plywood, which turns into some sort of a medium between culture and everyday life - a lightweight, cheap building material, which is also fragile and easily delaminated. The fact that plywood is a natural material plays an important role in the artist’s vision: the layers that are gradually removed from a tree resemble human skin. Shishkin's flat figures can be installed anywhere -whether it’s in a forest, field, private territory, or a city courtyard, the figures quickly "inhabit" the place and change its meaning. They retain the original playful element that once allowed the author to compare them to tin soldiers. Using these figures, one can tell an endless number of stories. “Plywood figures are a magical tool that allows me to easily transform any place,” says Shishkin-Hokusai and begins “rendering the world”, filling it with his installations.

Baltic branch of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (NCCA Kaliningrad) presents "Unreal Reality", a public art installation by Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai. This is a series of eleven plywood objects installed in the courtyards and vacant lots of the Kronprinz tower barracks (currently the territory of Oktyabrsky district of Kaliningrad). The choice of the location is deliberate: the very fabric of this area is highly eclectic since it represents a mixture of different architectural styles and periods of history - German, Soviet, and post-Soviet. Coincidentally, this site has been the main focus of the NCCA Kaliningrad and its projects that include dozens of art interventions, concerts, and exhibitions.

Text:
Aleksandra Artamonova
For the Kronprinz tower barracks, Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai created a series of small abstract sculptures that contain elements of fixed memory - visualized moments of history created from photos of this area. This links the sculptures to the outside world not only by their physical presence but also by an optical reflection of the past, which inevitably affects the reality and might even change it. The figures are installed in courtyards, wastelands, or other abandoned places that are not immediately popular among local residents.

The sculptures act and feel differently: sometimes they blend in with the surrounding space and become invisible, other times they create a stark contrast with the urban environment. The "Unreal Reality" project implies interaction with the local community and suggests sparking interest among the local residents in the history of the development of the district. A map of objects and a route will be created for the visitors, both accessible via a QR code. Also, direct contact with the exhibits is also possible - simply because people who are coming back home from work or study will interact with the objects in one way or another, which may lead to some objects continuing to live their lives while others can disappear or change their original look.


Event dates:
Opening: August 27
Location: 38 Litovskiy Val street, gate 14 of the "Kronprinz" tower, Kaliningrad

Event organizer: Baltic branch of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Kaliningrad)
Partner of the project: Danish Cultural Institute (Copenhagen, Denmark; Riga, Latvia)

Project coordinators: Irina Chesnokova, Evgeniy Umanskiy
Artist: Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai (Saint Petersburg)

Admittance: free

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This installation is created as part of the international project #R089 UrbCulturalPlanning "Cultural design as a method of urban social innovation", which has been implemented by the NCCA Kaliningrad since 2019. The main goal of the UrbCultural Planning project is to develop cooperation and improve communication between cities of the Baltic Sea region.
In Kaliningrad, the project focuses on the Kronprinz barracks, a 19th century historical and cultural monument, which served as an important element of the city's historic fortification ring. For many years, the historical site has been used by the Baltic branch of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (NCCA, Kaliningrad) to hold public art projects, concerts, and exhibitions.
With the help of cultural planning, as well as urban research methods that include surveying, mental mapping of the territory, and interviewing the local residents, we’re looking to define the role of contemporary art in the current landscape of Kaliningrad. This knowledge will allow us to understand how various cultural initiatives and projects created with reference to a specific place can unite and bring together the residents of a particular area. The project will last until September 2021 and includes a promenade performance, an urban laboratory, public art projects, an exhibition, and an art guide.

To learn more about the event dates and participants, please follow the links below:

https://kronprinz.nccakaliningrad.ru/about
https://www.facebook.com/nccakaliningrad
https://www.instagram.com/nccakaliningrad

The Cultural Planning project is being implemented within the framework of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Cross-Border Cooperation Program, which is co-funded by the European Union and the Russian Federation. For more information about the project, please see https://urbcultural.eu/