Travel & Culture
Made in Zvizzchi
Vegetables in a Russian village
This year I am working in the Russian village of Zvizzchi on an art project called MADE IN ZVIZZCHI. I am building an image of the village in three seasons by staying there for one month in spring, summer and autumn. The project involves the compilation of a folder containing six picture postcards, geological animations about the landscape, the collection of boulders, the exchange of tips, and a field for trials of Dutch vegetables to mark the Netherlands-Russia Year.
In 2013 the Netherlands and Russia celebrate their special bilateral relationship (NLRF2013) of friendship. The village of Zvizzchi also boasts a Dutch connection that can be traced to the 19th century. Probably the only remaining witnesses to this connection are some of the trees. So this year I will try to reconnect. Many of the local residents have a vegetable patch, and when I was spending a few weeks in the village to find my way around, a few of them approached me with a request.
Being aware of the reputation of the Dutch for growing flowers and vegetables, they wanted to know if I could suggest other types of vegetables that they could grow. I asked around and with the help of a Dutch Seed company we could lay a field for vegetable trials in the village. The new vegetables will be part-tested in the village and processed and photographed. A specially designed stall is being set up as a point of sale and to spread the word about these vegetables and the local cottage industry in handicrafts and preserves. This stall will also be part of the Archstonya Festival in the Nikola Lenivetz Park at the start of August and feature in the Moscow Biennale in the autumn of 2013.
Having barely come to terms with the abrupt termination of the milk production from 450 Frisian Holsteins in the 1990s, the Russian village of Zvizzchi is getting on with life. The cowsheds stand empty and deserted, the livestock having been carted off. Some people left the village, but many remained or return in the weekends. They come together to give the school a revamp in the summer, make some extra money from the dachas and, in the past ten years or so, they have been taking part in the art productions of the famous Russian artist Nikolay Polissky (http://www.polissky.ru/en/). They also grow their own vegetables. Much of the food is produced by the villagers themselves: there is a local beekeeper and a goat and a dairy cow for fresh milk. In the winter months a lot of reading is done and the turkeys are slaughtered. There are horses on hand for teaching people to ride and dinners are organised in the gardens. The village of Zvizzchi lies on the river Ugra and in a now famous cultural centre called the Nikola Lenivetz Park, which has been developed more actively in recent years and can definitely expect to welcome more tourists. How will the image of this village stay imprinted in people’s minds?