ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished piece. This week, Ekaterinburg-based urban intervention and street artist Tima Radya talks about Figure #2: Game — a giant, dynamic sculpture welded from steel, lifted by cranes and exploding with two billion ruble bills. (Translated from Russian.)

I wanted to show the project from the inside, which I don’t usually do. Although, it’s interesting and relates, foremost, to the countless questions I ask myself. (Another question: What’s more important — confidence or questioning?) This article will be have more questions than answers, but maybe, that’s not a bad way of narrating.

For me, The Figures is an attempt to find a visual form for the occurrences you can’t talk about. Rather, we’re always talking about them, but in a mechanism that seems to be missing something and leads nowhere. These things aren’t verbal. You should see them. I search for the lost details, for the keys to the castle. Sometimes, I make them myself. That usually happens when I unearth something precious, when I rely mostly on feelings — the part of the human that belongs to culture. The word ‘culture’ seems to me intimate and necessary than ‘art,’ which seems egoistic.

I could very clearly imagine how ‘a letter to the president’ should go. It should be dedicated to the horrors of war. But it was difficult to word, sharply, and complicated by the fact that I don’t have any sort of a universal process. Each time, it’s exploratory. I’ve worked in the street many times, and each time I’m confronted with the same situation. I never know what the thing is going to look like until the end. There’s a major perk in the approach. If everything is done correctly, it will be amazing. It will turn out bigger than expected. Alternatively, it’s difficult. Sometimes, the challenges occur dangerously close to the finale. Sometimes, they don’t.

“Деньги на ветер.”

A few years ago, I had half a cup of coffee and realized how it should go: Throwing money to the wind. I went to Sochi to scout locations and understood that there is no need for one. A snow-covered field is an ideal location. It is pure, and very Russian.

Perhaps I haven’t found the Russian idea, but I definitely found the Russian space. Interestingly, its visual neutrality is close to the sterile spaces of galleries and museums. But they are different genetically. A field is not sterile. It is full with wind, light and mythology.

Another idea, relating to the project’s location in time and space, emerged later. I was planning to do it before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but technical difficulties pushed it until after the closing ceremony. The Olympics is a most massive contemporary spectacle. There is nothing bigger. (There’s also war. That has also become a spectacle. But it still remains war, at least, to me.) The thing is, I do not trust spectacles. If they happen to unite people, it is by a fragile thread for a short period of time. It’s like doping.

It did work very well though. Despite delays, the project became timeless. Before the opening ceremony, it still fell into a popular genre. After, it is no longer a popular idea. But popular ideas rarely have depth, and actual ideas must. I’m not sure how true this is, but it interests me. The nuances are crucial. They make up our work.

It all began at the moment of punk rock. As it happens, after one gets stupid drunk (which is incredibly rare situation for my life) — on the morning when the two billion were delivered, I got up with much difficulty. Rather, I didn’t get up at all. Twenty-seven boxes laid there, in the backyard, long into the night.

Then, we got down to the steel. There’s this belief that it’s inappropriate to work with some Chinese plastic when you live in the Urals, where metals have poured continuously for three centuries. The machinery all looks like giant, dangerous animals, but they can be tamed.

There is something inherently human to welding metals. Two red hot details that grow into one another. When you lift the mask, they are already one. It expels a great warmth. If only some other things, like promises, had the strength of welded seams.

It became necessary to chop, pour, boil, drill, straighten, and haul. Each of these verbs is full with tension. Each is interesting and made of feeling, inseparable from those occurring at the bloom of poetry or music, when a play is put on or a sculpture is born.

They are all details of the same mechanism, pages of the same book, words of the same language. Maybe it is the thread which penetrates everything made with human hands — all culture.

As soon as the rings were finished, we could tell that no wind would be able to blow off the bills. Especially, not 300 kilograms of bills. A helicopter could, but we were unfamiliar with the interactions of cranes and helicopters.

We decided to use a copper pipe riddled with small openings. Copper looked good with steel. We synthesized wind with balloons with the atmospheric pressure of 150. We upped their volume 40 times.

Now, we may still be uncertain about helicopters, but we’re well-versed in certain aspects of gas valves and hoses. It’s a pleasure to obtain technical grammar in such tempos. The whole system makes as much noise as a helicopter.

Russian fields share another Russian narrative. It is impossible to get to them. I’ve long been familiar with all the fields around Ekaterinburg, but we couldn’t find one with enough ground to turn around.

And each time, after an entire day of working in a field, I would quickly get used to it. It would be difficult to leave each place.

Initially, we planned it like this: Two billion, two cranes, one attempt. We needed two attempts. In reality, it’s always like this. A three hour installation turns into a day-long installation. We are used to this, but it is very difficult with no result.

“На Урале жизнь бьёт ключом.”

Or rather, with a result, but not the one we needed. Like a rocket that ends up in the sea instead of space. You become that sunken space rocket.

We kind of collected all the money from the field and drove off, but I was still collecting parts of myself days later. I’ve only felt this terrible twice in my life — both times after an unsuccessful installation.

Altogether, the project took two months. We reached orbit.

I wanted to thank you, friends. Everyone who helped with the production, the installation and the documentation. Like my grandfather says, ‘You’ve done a big thing!’

TIMA RADYA, FIGURE #2: GAME (2014)

Previous Artist’s Notebook selects:

Artist’s Notebook: Parker Shipp
Artist’s Notebook: Brenna Murphy
Artist’s Notebook: Genevieve Belleveau
Artist’s Notebook: Andrew Ohanesian
Artist’s Notebook: Buff Monster
Artist’s Notebook: Melissa F. Clarke
Artist’s Notebook: Tristan Perich
Artist’s Notebook: Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw
Artist’s Notebook: Don Hertzfeldt