Burning Man and Nikopol

June 23, 2020
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Viacheslav Hudenok became known thanks to the American Festival, Burning Man, where in 2017 he presented a fire sculpture symbolizing Ukraine’s entry into a new era. Impressed by the event, Viacheslav brought the idea of organizing festivals to Nikopol. Together with Tetiana Maksymchuk they started an art studio that unites local youth and brings change to the city’s life.

In 2011 Viacheslav Hudenok, a manager for a garment manufacturer, met Tetiana Maksymchuk, a teacher at an art school, in Nikopol. They founded the art studio “Africa”, which brings together creative youth. It gives young people an opportunity to develop without limits, which is unlike traditional art schools. Together with their students, Viacheslav and Tetiana fearlessly experiment and integrate artistic experiences of the whole world into their practice.

The art studio “Africa” is the perfect place to bring creative ideas to life. Apart from art studies, the studio is also home to artistic events. In addition, the members of “Africa” take part in Burning Man and its regional counterpart: “Precompression Kyiv”.

BURNING MAN
An annual festival of independent art which takes place in the Black Rock Desert (Nevada, USA).

Tetiana and Viacheslav explain that their studio supports all creatively active people.

— We have created a special world ruled by spontaneity and original ideas.

Working with students, the artists stick to their main principle: to highlight the uniqueness of every one of them:

— Our principal idea is self-accomplishment. Each person is unique and we give our students the opportunity to discover their uniqueness.

The Beginning

The idea of arranging an art studio appeared in response to the tight limits established by conventional art schools.

At that time Tetiana combined teaching at an art school and giving private art classes. Tetiana realized that the school didn’t allow students to violate certain rules and standards, which prevented them from revealing their creative talents:

— At school I felt a lack of artistic freedom, materials and opportunities which I now have in the studio. The school had its own “dress code”: we don’t paint with paints, we don’t sculpt with clay. Why? Because they said it was too dirty!

Tetiana is convinced that artists can’t express their creativity when squeezed into limits. That’s why she decided to develop her own concept of artistic space, “Africa”.

— Here we are free to do anything: we work with clay, paint and even decorate clothes.

Tetiana is fond of working with children and enjoys leading them into the world of art. Without any hesitation, she made her choice long ago with no doubts about this path of creativity.

However, Viacheslav’s story is completely different. He started his artistic career not so long ago and quite unexpectedly. In 2011, he came to Nikopol from Kyiv on business. At that time Viacheslav had little to do with art – he was a manager for a garment manufacturer. The man was looking for an interior designer and someone recommended that he contact Tetiana:

— So that was how we got to know each other. I found out that we had a lot in common. Tetiana is a creative person and she cultivates this trait in children. It was so interesting to talk to her. And so our story began.

Tetiana taught Viacheslav to paint and eventually they started working together. They experimented a lot and Viacheslav tried various art techniques.

— I wanted to make sculptures, I really enjoyed it.

Working with Tetiana, Viacheslav realized that art is an essential part of people’s lives and each person has the potential to create.

— We began to create art together and carried out different projects. We started from our kitchen and after some time we established the studio. However, when we began to feel that the studio was not enough for us, we went on to hold events in the city.

Artistic “Team”

“Africa” is mainly a place to teach art to children, where parents bring their children for education. However, young learners are regarded here as mature artists, valuable members of the so-called “Uhrupuvannia” (Team). At first, Tetiana and Viacheslav used to call their students — Ania, Karen and Vitalina — “kids”. But one day they realized that it was the wrong word as the learners started producing original pieces of art, Viacheslav explains:

— We realized that they had already grown and constituted a small but powerful “team”.

He explains that in their studio no one draws a line between teachers and students:

— We try to share our interests with other people, including the young learners. Students come into our environment, they catch fire, they support us, and we work side by side.

Tetiana and Viacheslav take pride in their students who have participated in city events since 2017. The young artists create sculptures which are integrated into the city’s landscape.

For instance, at Easter in 2018 the students from “Africa” arranged a sculpture showcase in the city which was mainly contributed by “the Team”. The students used wood rolls and screws to create tall sculptures which adorned the city park for several months:

— That was unbelievable! Vandals often damage such things, but this time no one wrecked the sculptures. They fit amazingly into the park’s landscape.

The sculptures astonished the viewers not only by their size but also by their deep meaning. The pieces of art were pretty mature even though they were created by teenagers.

— Each of them is completely different from the others, creative in their own way, and that is the thing that unites them.

Burning Man

Along with their mentors, young “Team” members also took part in “Precompression” in November 2018.

Apart from the shared project “Iron Brain”, the young art studio members also presented their own works in Kyiv.

Preсompression Kyiv
A regional Burning Man event which took place in Ukraine in Spring 2018 for the first time.

In 2017 Viacheslav was fortunate to participate in the legendary festival in the Black Rock Desert:

— Burning Man became a part of my life 10 years ago. I had aspired to attend the festival long before I started my artistic career. I associate the festival with freedom, personal fulfillment and spending a week without any limits.

Viacheslav enjoyed watching videos and reading articles featuring Burning Man. When his friend Oleksandr Ovsianko organized the first Ukrainian burners’ camp, “Kurenivka”, together with Yaroslav Korets, Viacheslav was one of the first to offer to make a fire sculpture for them:

— I called and offered to make a fire sculpture to take it farther into the desert and to burn it there. They suggested that I could do it myself and after considering it, I realized that I really wanted to do it. I actively participated in the preparation and activities of Kurenivka Camp. That is how the project of the fire sculpture was created.

He was working on the idea of the project in Nikopol together with the members of “Africa”.

— The idea of bearing and giving birth to a baby, when a woman becomes a mother, this was for me an interesting moment. I wanted to apply this concept to Ukraine symbolizing the country’s transition to a new period. I was convinced that the idea was worth being presented at Burning Man.

The sketch was followed by making a test model which was presented at a symposium on fire sculpture. Viacheslav and Tetiana created a life-size model to see how it would work. Later Viacheslav replicated the project in the desert in Nevada.

It was difficult to work in the desert. Viacheslav had only three days to create the sculpture on his own in rough weather conditions.

— On my first day there I thought that it was impossible to create a sculpture which would survive in scorching heat and fierce wind. Nevertheless, I employed my experience in making sculptures in Ukraine. I managed to repeat it, and the sculpture was born in the desert.

City events

The founders of “Africa” dream of organizing their own version of Burning Man in Nikopol.

Viacheslav thinks that Nikopol makes the perfect place for it, both geographically and spiritually.

— We are inspired by the Scythian heritage — burial mounds and artefacts. The city isn’t very busy and it allows you to understand your needs and your mission in this world. What is more, the vast steppe warmed by the sun and the scent of sage give you a magnificent feeling of freedom, the freedom of Scythians and cossaсks. We are going to organize Burning Man in this area because it is perfectly suitable for that kind of a festival.

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The art studio is the generator of artistic life of the city. The artists do almost everything on their own, without counting on external support.

Viacheslav and Tetiana introduced the new direction of the city sculpture contest, “The land of five siches”. Thanks to the artists, the contest now has a separate nomination for sculpture, and the works created by the young artists are even exhibited at the museum.

The members of “Africa” organized a symposium on fire sculpture “Skif-i-ya” (a wordplay, which means both “Scythia” and “Scyth-and-I” in Ukrainian) which was devoted to Scythian culture. The works which had been installed during the first two years of the event have created a small sculpture park in the city centre.

Another spectacular event organized by the art studio is an open air gallery.

— We wanted artists to be able to come out of their studios and show their works to the public. Nikopol lacks places where artists can present their works. So we decided to organize the open air gallery, “Gvozd” (Russian “Nail”) as a place to hang up pictures.

The artists hung their works on the walls of the buildings to the sounds of music and invited people to have a talk — just as the exhibitions themselves were held.

According to Viacheslav, they managed to change the city’s artistic dimension thanks to the aspiration to come out from the studio and develop.

— That was a part of our development – we were eager to come out of the studio and to organize an open air gallery in the street. We invited our colleagues, sculptors and ceramists to show that we are genuinely interested in their work.

Broadening horizons

The young members of the studio wanted to participate in big artistic events and share their experience with other artists. They needed to get closer to the capital city and in September 2018 another “Africa” appeared in Kyiv. This is a special residence for young artists from Nikopol who want to take part in various artistic projects in the capital. However, the newcomers are always welcomed here as well.

Tetiana and Viacheslav handed down the studio in Nikopol to their most senior students, Ania Prokopenko and Vitalina Zelenska. Tetiana and Viacheslav manage “Africa” in Kyiv and keep organizing various artistic events in Nikopol.

The very desire and passion to create helps artists not to stop, but to move farther in imagining new possibilities for the personal realization and development for the next generation of those same bright personalities. Their drive definitely has a huge influence. The members of “Africa” truly succeed in involving citizens in the cultural life both in Nikopol and Kyiv.

The material is prepared by

The author of the project:

Bogdan Logvynenko

Author:

Maria Maksymenkova

Editor:

Kateryna Lehka

Producer:

Olha Schor

Photographer:

Alina Kondratenko

Cameraman:

Yevheniy Lyakh

Cameraman,

Director:

Mykola Nosok

Film editor:

Anna Vorobiova

Photo editor:

Oleksandr Khomenko

Transcriptionist:

Yuliia Kostenko

Translator:

Mariia Pekariuk (Bunko)

Translation editor:

Richard Benton

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