Nestor Engelke: Pavilion for Clumsy Reading

10 August - 16 October 2020

Nestor Engelke is a member of North 7 art-group. North 7 is a unique example of non-programme creative work, that unites free individuals who are alien to any manifestos. The members of North 7 are mockingbirds-Tricksters. Inheriting the practices of the avant-garde, they subvert high style, mix different media, sweep aside borders and raise the history of art to the level of courage and obscene naughtiness. At the same time, they remain the most subtle and inimitable masters. The North 7's art way correlates with one of the communities that move on the principle of rhizome. They do not insist on anything, shun dogmas, but involve you into a full-flow, powerful, generous, non-systemic creative work. This was Fluxus. And this is North 7. Today, this strategy of living like a tumbleweed or rhizome corresponds to the new hybrid assembling of metaspace.

Nestor Engelke has been dealing with his own biography of a certified architect for a long time. Like the masters of arte povera and of Brutalist architecture, he follows the path of reducing means and techniques to the primeval forms of construction and artistic integrity. From the materials, the artist kept a wood. From technical means – an axe. Founded by Engelke architectural bureau "Woodman & partners" became a remake of the workshop of the heroes of the fairy tale about Pinocchio. Rough-carved planks bloom with fantastically beautiful mirages about Paradise, palm trees, Gothic cathedrals, and illusions of virtual worlds coming out of artist’s axe. Rudeness, rawness magically turns out to be the underside of a fragile dream of perfection. 

In a new project, the full name of which is "Designing a pavilion for clumsy reading on a turnkey basis", Nestor cuts with an axe the anthology of our knowledge about writers and estates, by rejecting all excessive elements and preserving what should be preserved - the most primeval forms of Russian literature, because we know that "the pen is mightier than the sword." 


The "Woodman & partners" bureau offers a project of a twenty-first-century manor house, in which porticos with classical columns are transformed into shields, bars, sectional frames, pediments - the primary elements of the construction. And textbook portraits of Russian writers are cut out on wooden boards. Tolstoy, Nekrasov, Krylov, Dostoevsky are likened to chthonic creatures in a crust with empty eye sockets, which are still in mind due to the paintings of Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, and other masters of the "Cobra"group. To look at the portraits, you need to walk on wooden decks, as if Recalling the experiences of the slush from Peredvizhnik's landscapes created by the same artists (Perov) who immortalized Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

The most intriguing thing is that there is no reduction of meaning, mockery in this clumsy, turnkey manor of the XXI century. Let’s remember history. In the scribbles and blotches of the masters of post-war outsider art or art brut, mutant creatures came to life. These creatures showed the shattered state of the world, called to life and unable to fully find itself after the hell of universal crimes. A similar destroyed identity of the people responsible for the face of culture is embodied in the works of Nestor Engelke.


Like the architecture of the pavilion, the characters are suspended between being and non-being, decay and form, life and death. At first sight there are fibrous, gnarled undead, goblins, horror movie characters. But if you’ll look closer the nobility of texture and posture  are almost more impressive than the original paintings. This strange barb of crushed creation / creative crush is haunting. It is like a morbid memory of a large culture living in the archetypes of the mossy subconscious of civilisation.

The technogenic era that has come today has thrown man on the fringe of the Universe. However, there is no happiness. Despicable humanism teases, bothers. Chthonic luminaries of Russian literature in a rickety house with a bridges communicate like ghosts from "Dialogues of the Dead" by the ancient satirist Lucian. They knock you out of your comfort zone of today… More than that, in many ways, these damned questions that are being thrown at the present day precisely answer the challenges of literature and art of the period of critical realism and psychologism of the XIX century. 

I am not a poet, but a citizen! - Lift my eyelids!



Sergey Khachaturov