July 2, 2016

The Street Artist. My Trip to Nizhni Novgorod

The thistle by Artem Filatov

I was only for one day in Nizhni Novgorod and it was totally worth it. It’s actually not that far. I thought Moscow would be hours flying, but basically, it’s like going to London, who would have thought! Nizhni Novgorod is near Moscow and its new airport opened this year.  I spent 7 hours in it since my flight was cancelled on my way back and I think I’ve never been in a public space that is so spick and span.

My good time in Nizhni Novgorod started already during the drive from the airport to the museum Arsenal. My host, the curator Elena Belova, showed the art deco architecture, the compounds built for workers in the 1920s, and a Piet Mondrian-style house. Even Lenin said hello.








The car trip was followed by a walking tour with the street artist Artem Filatov, who took us to the beautiful wooden houses in the city center, mostly neglected and uninhabited, waiting to be torn down and replaced by commercial buildings. I must admit that I never gave street art much thought. In Berlin I’ve never cared about aerosol spraying youngsters at Mauerpark or wall paintings like the one on the facade of the taz building (with its huge penis, ugh), and even the art on that touristy stretch of the Wall that still exists leaves me cold (because it’s ugly). 

Probably the oldest wooden house in Nizhni Nowgorod
Behind these pine trees...

... is hidden this beauty in ruin
Chess players on the roof of this beautiful uninhabited art deco building in the city center

Yet Artem Filatov told me he doesn’t want to use the city Nizhni Novgorod as a canvas: “I want to arouse consciousness but not by making a bad impact on people’s life.” Street art is according to Filatov not a “cool thing”. Nor does Filatov thinks street art's aim should be to fill the city with art on social and political protest. He doesn’t want to paint in the language of social public announcement but in the language of art. “Street art is about understanding places,” he explained to me, “how they behave with the people living there.” 

So starting in situ, with respect for the inhabitants, Artem Filatov uses the wooden houses as a surface for his art and uses rollers and brushes instead of Aerosol. Most rewarding is to him when he sees that his art work is preserved by other city dwellers who share the mindset of the street artist. The wooden fence, for instance, on which Filatov depicted a thistle, was repaired by somebody, preventing it from falling down. The thistle, so Filatov told me, is a humble weed but a very resilient one, covered with little sharp thorns. It has a very stubborn and invasive root system so that if you try to remove the plant from a piece of ground, chances are that it will be back next year. I find this very promising indeed. 


This wooden house survived investors who surrounded the place with high-rise. 
Street art by Artem Filatov


Recently Artem Filatov started making objects, like this billboard in a field where not long ago wooden houses stood, for now the construction of a new building is being stopped because of protests of the inhabitants surrounding the place.
Street art by Nikita Nomerz







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