video installation / mixed technique, 2014


“Belyana” is an installation created of old wooden fragments and a video featuring Shiryaevo village inhabitants.

Belyanas were unique wooden ships, used for timber-rafting on the Volga river in the XVIII – beginning of XX centuries. These utopian objects, works of art, invented by unknown Master, have faded in the past and disappeared from our memory. Huge and fantastic, they were floating down the Volga river. Their length could reach one hundred meters. Smaller belyanas were pulled by barge haulers. When having reached the destination, belyanas were disassembled and all the pieces were being sold.

“Belyana” installation is an image from the past transferred into the future. It has been created using the material from the past - a wooden trash. I have collected these wooden fragments for “Belyana” in Ilya Repin’s places: in Repino village close to St. Petersburg, in his “Penaty” estate. There is even a twig from artist’s tomb, and also pieces of wood from Shiryaevo village, town of Samara and other areas of the Volga region, and from Moscow. I painted gold all these pieces of wood. Since olden times covering an object with gold was not only for decoration, but also for preservation. Gold painted “Belyana” is not so much a decorated wooden trash, as an attempt to save the image of this fantastic ship in our memory.

I have delivered “Belyana”, in a way like a barge hauler, to its destination point in Samara, where I assembled it, my “spakling golden belyana”, as these Volga ships were once described.

In a sandy space of Fabrika-kitchen exhibition hall “Belyana” stands on a mirror surface as on a hyaline of the river. This is not a model of the Volgian belyana, it is a generalized image. It refers to those remarkable ships that cruised on the Volga at Repin’s times, and to a Russian man that pulls a strap like a barge hauler, remembering the old proverb that says “don't count out a prison cell, a begging bowl may come as well” and not feeling free, even if the barbed wire in front of him is painted gold.

The logical final of the project will be disassembling of “Belyana” installation in the end of the exhibition and distribution of its fragments signed by the author to the audience and viewers. After all, the belyana life cycle is only one season.

First spectators who got the fragments of "Belyana" became members of the delegation from Stuttgart headed by the dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Württemberg Soren Schwesig.

The video, that is a part of the project, shows a research I’ve made in the village of Shiryaevo. Do those who live by the Volga still keep some memories about a fabulous belyana-ship? How can they imagine belyana if they don’t know what it is?

View the embedded image gallery online at:

“Belyana” is a part of Special project of International Shiryaev Biennale"Burlaks: Between Europe and Asia".

Curators Nelya Korzhova and Roman Korzhov.