(Saint Petersburg, Russia)
The dacha cooperative, a place where the artist spends a lot of his time, is situated in the northern part of the Leningrad region, not far from St. Petersburg. It is a small cooperative of people who enjoy gardening and spending time outdoors, founded some 25 years ago. The majority of members’ plots are, as is customary in modern-day Russia, surrounded by solid metal fencing, painted in the classic colours – green and brown. In keeping with strict guidelines, the cooperative itself is encircled by a dirt road, separating the plots from the wild forests and swamps. This road is a favorite walking route amongst the locals. Children on their bicycles, retirees with their baskets, parents with their strollers, joggers – everyone travels this ‘square’ journey. The only point of interest along this route is an old fire water pond. Here, one can pause and take a break, sitting down on a specially placed log, put there presumably to make water collection easier for the fire engine. At the opposite end of the cooperative stands a burnt down house, completing the picture of local fire safety. The artist decided to add a personal touch to the picture by installing a fountain in the pond, thus drawing a connection between the quiet cooperative and the famous gardens of Peterhof. The topic of fountains in and around St. Petersburg has long been a subject of particular interest in the artist’s explorations. The presence of functional, as well as a myriad of no longer functional fountains point to the local inhabitants’ love of luxury and fluid beauty, along with their obsession with mystical sources of power. The artist hopes that his fountain in the dacha cooperative will be able to connect us to this international network of fountains, uniting all people in their love of H2O.
*Translator’s note: a ‘dacha’ is a country house or cottage in Russia, typically used as a second or holiday home, often featuring a simple wooden house and a garden. A cooperative in this context is a collection of dachas, similar to a small village.
Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai is an artist. He graduated from the Leningrad State Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinematography in 1995, and became a member of the Artists’ Union of Russia in 1998. He has been a member of the Parazit Art Gallery collective since 2010. Alexander is the recipient of two nominations for the Kandinsky Prize in the Project of the Year category (2011, 2016) and winner of the Sergey Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Award for Best Visual Art Project (Bath of Marat, 2016). His Flemish School project was exhibited in the Russian pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019).