For many years Samara has been a closed city as Soviet and Russian space rockets have been – and still are – produced there. In the meanwhile, this magnificent old city on the Volga river has opened up for its citizens, international business, tourists, and most important: the arts.
Rich in architecture and museums, it is an open space in the realm of contemporary art. A lot of young talented Russian artists come from Samara, and whoever visits the city can feel why: There is a rich cultural heritage – the unique architectural complex “Fabrika Kuchni” (a Soviet city kanteen of the most stunning constructivist architecture in form of a hammer and sickle, which was supposed to free women from kitchen work), beautiful nature, open-minded people, and, finally, really good fish from Volga and freedom in the air.
My reason to travel to Samara was to participate in the Austrian Culture Forum at the VIII Shiryaevo Biennale of Contemporary Art with two Austrian artists, who were invited there: Katrin Hornek and Swetlana Heger.
The biennale is traditionally split into two main parts – one involves the main sites of contemporary art life of Samara, such as the Alexei Tolstoy Literature Museum, the former industrial site Gallery Art-Center, the Victoria Gallery Samara, and the second part is the Nomadic Show in the Russian village of Shiryaevo (a two-hour ship ride away from Samara). For the latter, an international crowd of artists travels there for two weeks to prepare the Nomadic Show Works of Art and Performance in and around this wonderful village. Hotels are not needed – all biennale participants are hosted by local families, who give their guests not only a warm welcome but the incomparable experiences of staying in one of the beautiful wooden houses, biting into a fresh apple, or trying mind and heat blowing Banja. This initiative opens up an artistic exploration of the Russian countryside, letting big city life and the artsy scene show off there while at the same binding people of different generations and backgrounds together. The project is run by the local branch of the National Center of Contemporary Art and the wonderful couple Roman Korshov and Nelya Korshova.
I can only recommend it: Go and apply to Shiryaevo!