Anatoly Yamanov - home-made chair
from Home -Made: Contemporary Russian Folk Artifacts
A couple of months ago, I found a book about the collection of Russian artist Vladimir Arkhipov called Home-Made: Contemporary Russian Folk Artifacts. The book is a document of a selection from the thousand or so pieces he has collected as part of his project. The objects are made by ordinary people in their day-to-day lives to fulfil a practical necessity. During the collapse of the Soviet Union impoverished people did what people do universally when they need to solve a problem, they adapted the materials at hand to the task. The results are ingenious, resourceful, inventive and unique.
Here is the artist talking about his collection:
"In the Russian language the word for 'creative work' (tvorchestvo) shares a root with the word for "Creator' (Tvorets). The word for 'art' (iskusstvo) shares a root with the word for 'Tempter' (Isskusitel). Formerly, when artists still believed in God, they 'Created'. Today, when most artists do not believe in anything, they make art. There is no creation left in art. So what is an honest artist to do? I have found a partial answer to that question. Since I require a viewer and I am doomed to self-conscious aesthetic reflection, I cannot be absolutely honest and sincere. But I know that every day hundreds of millions of people discover their connection with God in some way when they create. The act of creation has no need of justification. It is self-sufficient. The most interesting visual traces left by creation are those that have not been subject to conscious aesthetic assessment by their creators. All that is required is to find them and present them in a skillful manner. The right of choice is mine. I spent a long time searching for and selecting a modern folk phenomenon (which as yet has no name), as an example: millions of people throughout the world create unique everyday items for themselves. I interview them, take photographs, show their things in exhibitions. In this way, I combine their creative work with my art". P.303
I love this book for many reasons. The objects themselves are wonderful; extraordinary; but so is the documentation. Arkhipov attributes each item with the name and photograph of its 'creator' (unless they have been withheld) and also a story from the maker about the circumstances that brought it into being. The narrative context immediately animates the object and deepens its meanings.
I empathise deeply with Arkhipov's dilemma as an artist, the struggle with 'honesty' for which he has found his expression, the problems of aesthetic irony. I admire his approach greatly but I find my own solutions must involve making.
The chair above was made by Anatoly Yamanov from the Ryazansk region in 1993. His photograph shows a kind faced older man in a check shirt and a flat cap. Sacked without a pension from his job as a plumber he and his wife sold their town flat and moved to a village in the country to live a modest self-sufficient life. "...We bought a small house, but it's got a stove. Without a stove you can't survive the winter. That's the main thing. There was no furniture at all, so I made the most essential things: a table, a bed, some chairs, out of anything I could find lying around". P.276
Arkhipov continues the reach of his project through his Folk Forum website where anyone is free to post examples of hand-made objects.