A Sign in the Field


Museum of rural labor designed by architects Sergei Tchoban and Agniya Sterligova was built on a potato field as one of architectural objects for the 10th International Festival Archstoyanie, which takes place near the village of Nikola-Lenivets in Kaluga region. The history of the festival began 15 years ago, when artist Nikolay Polissky and architect Vasily Schetinin bought houses in the village. At that time it was a typical dying Russian village famous only for its samogon, a homebrew nicknamed by fans Nikola-Lenivets product. The parade of snowmen was the first event which initiated the festival. Nikolay Polissky asked the locals to build what seemed like an army of snowmen, wandering from a slope. A modest fee was paid for each snowman and each snowman was unique. In the following years the locals, led by Polissky, constructed a Tower of Babel made of hay, a ziggurat made of firewood and other objects from commonly used materials. As a result a whole group of villagers was formed who worked with the artist to build his colossal wooden installations at various international exhibitions. It can be seen as a bizarre example of rural labor in the post-industrial era. One of the achievements of Polissky’s team are decorations for the lower level of the Russian pavilion at the xi Venice Architecture Biennale (Sergei Choban and Agnia Sterligova worked on the design of the Russian Pavilion exhibition for the xii Biennale). Step by step an idea for a festival of land art emerged and other artists and architects were invited to participate. The festival was called Archstoyanie (literary arch-standing) in the honor of the Great Standoff on the Ugra river in 1480, when Russian and Tatar army met near Nikola-Lenivets, stood for a while and went away without a fight. The festival was granted an international status and became a driver of local development and an attraction on the tourist map of the Kaluga region.