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Vladivostok / Kemerovo / St. Petersburg

by Pavel Shugurov

33+1 is an organization which unites public artists in three Russian cities: Vladivostok (Russian Far-East near China and Japan), Kemerovo (in the middle of Siberia) and St. Petersburg (in Europe). Artists of 33+1 prefer to create projects for hometowns, because it is an effective way to do something very intimate, substantive, and impressive. But if we create something in unknown space, we can at first find information about the history and mythology of this place in books and on the internet; and most importantly with immediate contact with local inhabitants. After we see into our chosen environment close up, we try to understand the ideas of the architectural engineer and other regularities of space. Inspired by this the members of 33+1 originate their concepts. During an open discussion between artists, a collective decision of the best sketch will be determined, and an elective draft will be developed in detail afterwards. In a few projects we tried to discuss concepts with local people and officials, but this democratic approach proved unsuccessful. Because non-professionals could not understand a true and quality design in the future in a mini scope, and affectedly appraise the concept without accent in art experimentation, innovation - the main motion power of art.

The main ideas of each public art project by the art-community 33+1 are representations of respect for the people who will be living near this piece. This respect is expressed by a subject of work (with attention to history and mythology of the local community), by styles of pictures and by professional interaction with specific architectural environments. We dont "flirt" with the audience; we pose actual questions for all stratums of this community and do it frankly and politely. Our basic concern is to instigate and to sensitize unknown people to communication, because communication is the essence of social unity. Therefore we dont keep to one and only one method of realizing projects. A unique method is created for each specific case.

Some curators think that the best way to respect the local community would be to present a masterpiece of a well-known artist. They believe that this piece will be a mark of pride and public value certainly. However, in our opinion, costly standardized artwork, which essence is a validation of author, looks more like disrespect and, in some cases, like scorn.

A public space is an environment of human communication. Who owns it? 33+1 hopes and works toward the goal that people do! But who are the owners of public art? In an infant state, a new piece of public art (and responsibility about it) owns its authors: artists, workers and other contributors. When a community completes the treatment to this piece, they will love it, will become relatives with it, and the concerns over ownership will come down to the responsibility of official representatives of the society. However, nobody can predict the period in which this happens. Therefore a monitoring of public opinion (through the internet, mass-media and gossips) are also parts of our work. We pay great attention to it, and when practical, will have a portion of our budget dedicated to it.

The public reaction is the main evaluation criterion of our art. We are dissatisfied if all comments to our piece are bad and similarly we are dissatisfied if all comments are good. Polar reactions from different groups of society are the base for dialogue and are the best appraisal for us. The worst response would be a project with no reaction; it would be a total failure! But it hasn't happened with 33+1 thankfully!

We dont see discrepancies between the interests of the artists and interests of the public. The information about the local community is equally important as the architectural properties of a place, specific characters of light, dynamics of perception, and choice of materials for piece of art. The skill of making a graceful authorial mix in predetermined conditions is the essence of public art. So in the streets we have other selection standards for masterworks than in galleries and museums.

What is free and not free in public art action? If it isnt forbidden, do it and a little bit more because we are artists we are the motor of society and its rules.

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