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A Sculptor’s Rope Walk

Moscow-based artist Alexander Povzner on the burdens and benefits of starting from scratch.

Alexander Povzner is one of participants in the Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art. For most of his life, he has been living and working in a family studio in Konkovo, organizing chaos of life into sculptural forms. 

Generally, it all comes from chaos. I have been keeping journals all my life, because I have a terrible memory and forget everything all the time. Notes, sketches, ideas and daily reminders to buy yoghurt or to go meet someone, for example, are in there. I make drafts, which disappear from my memory and then come back to me again. And from this chaos I create something.

Around three years ago I did a residency in Leipzig. It was my first trip of this kind – an experience akin to my first exhibition, a sort of spacewalk. I knew nobody and came to a new place with nothing except my tools for sculpting. The organizers showed me around and then left me in a huge white studio, filled only with echoes of my voice. 

I wasn’t obliged to do anything and felt completely different – filled with such adrenaline and excitement. I didn’t eat for three days while I was just trying to find and feel myself within this new situation, losing all connection with the outside world. At the time my attention was strained to the limit, but it was a powerful experience. During those two months I built my life from the ground up and found my own place there. An artist has to travel this way – dash and march across.

I like open areas, streets, natural environments. If someone offers me the chance to exhibit, first I always pace around the gallery and look for opportunities to place my work outside. But it happens very rarely, most of the time my sculptures inhabit these white cubes. I dream of having a big house where I could live and work all the time. But at the moment all I have is this state-owned studio, where my parents worked and I grew up. I have no property of my own and no money to buy it.

Yesterday I spent a restless night walking in the park around the Central House of Artists and thinking about an artist’s burden. You have to earn money and have confidence in your own well-being. What can you say? It sucks. But then again, I don’t live in misery, I have a studio and I have food. But it is also uncertain that you will succeed with an artwork. It’s a necessary part of the living artistic process and you always have to walk this tightrope, and if you slack off even for one moment, you will fall.