Video by Ilya Pusenkoff
A total installation
Curated by Marcello Dantas / Curated by Vittoria Matarrese
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Brasilia, Brazil / Palais de Tokyo, Paris
August 15-24, 2015 / April 6-8, 2018
I was born inside the potato.
It wasn't a matter of choice. My family was extremely poor - and all they had in the fridge for the first New Year's Eve of my life (the 31st of December is the most important day of the year for all Soviet people) were a few potatoes.
The potato is dull, common and simple - yet crucial to every Russian. It's a means of existence. The potato is a story in itself: about surviving, and saving food for a severe winter, for war, for famine, or for the end of the world. The potato is always there for you - when everything else, including the bread, is gone.
Historically, the potato made it all the way from South America to Europe, and it was first introduced in Russia -– though with the very little success - from Holland during the era of Peter the Great, and then it made its second arrival in the nineteenth century - via Germany and Poland this time - and stayed forever. Now, Russia can symbolically return the potato to South America - with O Batatôdromo.
Potatoes can easily survive the whole year, until the next season - when Russians celebrate the latespring arrival of the young potatoes as a new hope, as evidence of rebirth. Meanwhile, the mid-winter pale roots, which grow out of the old potatoes, subtly speak for themselves, as a memento mori.
O Batatôdromo is a cave, a dugout, a hideaway, an air-raid shelter built of real potatoes. They remind you of stones, and it is undoubtedly dark and cold inside, yet this is a cave where everybody can take refuge and feel safe.
The potatoes live their own lives inside the cave (greetings, George Orwell or Evgeny Zamyatin, or both). They produce a specific noise and create a kind of ‘life cycle’ in the space - although quite a pointless/senseless/endless one, which doesn't start or lead you anywhere, and is quite Sisyphean in its mechanism and by its nature.
The visitors are welcome to access O Batatôdromo after covering their heads with aluminum basins-turned-hats - both for their own safety and in order to make them part of the Potato Saga.
Photos by Ilya Pusenkoff