BACK TO THE LAND

Period: January - March 2019
Place: Nikola Lenivets, Kaluga Oblast, RU
Technique: Digital 

The kolkhozes were a form of collective farms, spread in the Soviet Union since 1917; a sort of agricultural cooperatives in which the farmers collectively used to work the land owned by the State using their own equipment and being paid according to the quantity of production and the working hours, in part economically, and in part with the products themselves; the farmers also had at their disposal a plot of land for private use and some livestock.
The kolkhozes became soon the pivot of agricultural collectivization in the Soviet Union: the State used to buy the products with a lower prices than the market one, while what was produced in excess was sold on the market with prices based on supply and demand.
Following de-Stalinization, in order to improve agricultural planning and the standard of living of farmers, many kolkhozes were transformed into sovchoz (which were real state farms of which the peasants were em- ployed). In 1950, the 84% of the USSR agricultural area was destined for kolcoz, while in 1970 this percent- age was reduced to 48% and the sovchoz passed from 10 to 44%. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, the remaining kolkhozes were privatized; agricultural production suffered a collapse that lasted until 1998. Only with the economic and currency crisis that saw the dollar growing up, internal agricultural production proved again advantageous compared to importation. However, the harsh climate, low profits and agricultural holdings affected the reduction of the rural population with the consequent depopulation of the villages and the extinction of small agricultural realities.

Kol’tsovo is a small village located 200 km South-West of Moscow, in the Kaluga oblast: it was once a collective farm. At the beginning of the 1990s there were seven crumbling houses and only three local residents used to live there permanently. In 1989 a young architect from Moscow, Vasily Schetinin, moved there to find a place for escape from civilization: followed by a few friends, among which the artist Nikolai Polissky, he built his house over there.
Starting from 2000, the artist Nikolai Polissky began the construction of a series of artistic installations involving directly the local residents and neighboring villages. The contamination between the artistic creativity and the knowledge of materials and building techniques of the inhabitants, have allowed the realization of various permanent works of art which fit perfectly into the rural context and at the same time safeguard it from the gentrification process that we would expect from establishment of a new social group of middle class.
The construction of art objects immediately began to attract guests from the capital and from various countries: critics of art, journalists, students; there are several artists who have contributed to the realization of new installations, including Alexander Brodsky, Alexander Konstantinov and Oscar Madera.
This is how the annual craft festival and non-profit organization start: they were later renamed in Project Nikola-Lenivets. The work of cooperation between artist and inhabitants is the conceptual foundation of the whole project and on many occasions has led to define its aesthetics, values and the spirit of freedom.
As a result, the area adjacent to the village began to be covered with art objects that gradually reconverted new spaces. Abandoned fields and forests gradually began to transform into an artistic park with an exhibition space and service infrastructure.

This case is exemplary of how art, functioning as a condenser of the local inhabitants who otherwise would have migrated to the cities, both of the creative class, through their interaction, can save the rural realities from their state of abandonment while maintaining the historical cultural heritage .

©2019 Piercarlo Quecchia