The name of the festival translates as “archaic standing” and refers to the historic event that took place here more than five centuries ago – the Great Standing on the Ugra River. This was a bloodless standoff between a Tatar khan and the Grand Prince Ivan III, which resulted in the retreat of Tatars and the end of their rule over Moscow. In a somewhat similar manner, the festival shares the spirit: collectively created land art objects symbolise change, renewal and the beginning of a new era.

Archstoyanie, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Russia’s Burning Man’, was created back in 2016 by the artist Nikolay Polissky in order to attract new creative forces and expand the audience for the Nikola-Lenivets art park, which has been in existence for over a decade. When Polissky visited this unique location for the first time back in 1989, he was still painting oil landscapes, but was inspired to ‘enter the landscape’ and began to create installations.

Nikola Lenivets and its idyllic scenery are the perfect setting for modern land art.

Nikola-Lenivets is located next to a small Russian village, 220 km southwest from Moscow. Taken over by a group of architects and land artists more than 20 years ago, the once abandoned village became a dramatic open-air exhibition space filled with gigantic wooden installations. Collection of land art objects finds itself in the beautiful rural landscape. All of the objects created for this place by the artist Nikolay Polissky, participants of the Archstoyanie festival and the local residents are site-specific. These monumental works are distinguished by a grand scale and harmony, existing in the continuous dialogue with the surrounding landscape. More than 100 objects of contemporary art were created in the park since its founding. Nikola-Lenivets is open for creative experiments and new pieces of art are constantly added to the collection. It is the only place in Russia which showcases landscape installations by the most prominent local and international artists. Many of the Nikola-Lenivets’ art objects already became iconic within the world of contemporary art. Some of them are burnt every year during Maslenitsa, a slavic holiday which symbolises the arrival of spring.

The mastermind of Nikola Lenivets and Archstoyanie, Nikolai Polissky

Archstyoanie centers around Nikola-Lenivets and spans across the space of several villages, fields and forests of the Ugra national park. There’s a different theme each year, which participating artists and architects must reflect in their objects. They can only use natural materials which are available in that region. After presentation most of the objects become an interactive playground and are then burned.

“Archstoyanie works with the development and understanding of the territory of Nikola-Lenivets. That is why we show how art objects are born: new architecture and new music. Each of the processes is self-sufficient, but together they intertwine into one work marking different points of the art park”.

(Festival curator Anton Kochurkin)

The festival functions as a single organism thanks to many people: local residents, artists, architects, musicians, volunteers and a team of curators. This summer the festival has brought together 321 participants. Every festival guest had a unique chance to look behind the scenes and find out how land art is created. They could observe the process of erecting a new object by Nikolai Polissky “Ugruan” and, at the same time, the birth of new music – five opera premieres were taking place during the festival, all of them written by young composers, directors and playwriters. The three-day symphony seized the entire territory of Nikola-Lenivets to its farthest borders – for the first time the festival occupied almost 300 hectares of land.

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Also published on Medium.