Performance led from the 1st to the 12th of July, from Monday to Friday, 8am, 12am, 1pm and 5pm, according to the schedules of the whistle of the Naval factory of Kronstadt.

Video documentation, written story.

Project accomplished during one month residency of the National center for contemporary art in Kronstadt, Russia.

Laureat of the award "Prix Sciences Po pour l'art contemporain"  in 2014. 

With special thanks for their help and contributions to NCCA, Elena Gubanova, employees of Kronstadt’s House of Culture, musical school № 8 of Kronstatd, and espacially to the teacher Viktor Iosifovitch Popov, Mikhail and Daria, Magdaléna Nováková and Jan Zdvořák.

Week 1 : the quest

When I arrived in Kronstadt I wanted to understand what was the relationship between the residency and the local population. While talking with the team I realized that the residency was generally perceived as some foreign matter, a strange place, sparking distrust rather than curiosity.

This situation has prompted me to search for a specific language, a way to get into a dialogue with the city and its inhabitants.

My exploration of the island began with a visit to the famous Naval Factory, former “lung” of Kronstadt. After a long period of bankruptcy and abandonment, it resumed its activity in 2010. In 2012, the whistle of the factory, which once punctuated the rhythm of life of the inhabitants, has been restarted : four times a day, at 08/12/13 and 17h it sounds through all the city . But it has no longer the same function - there are no more workers without a watch, no more city that would live according to the rhythm of the factory. However, the revival of this sound in a town plunged in an economic and social crisis, acted on the population in a very positive way, as an awakening, a sign of life .

Thus, the two situations have connected - I realized that the residency needed a whistle.

Week 2 : the rehearsal

My research led me to choose the sound of a wind instrument for this task. Of course, it had to be the biggest instrument that exists – so, a tuba. Thus, I went searching for it through Kronstadt.

First I went to the music school of the island. But there I was told that the instruments were lent only to students, and, anyway, miss, in a week it’s the holidays. - Come back after the 1st of September. I was advised then to address the House of Culture – it seemed that they were renting musical instruments.

At first, at the House of Culture of Kronstadt there was no sign of instruments. However, during the discussion it was revealed that the storage room was “packed” with them. The keyholder has opened the door to the storage - at the top of a shelf there was a tuba .

I asked permission to look at it, and the answer was - “ just keep it! It’s been 12 years since I work here, and this tuba has never moved. Better if it would be of some use. “

- But where does it come from ?

- Well, from the orchestra of the factory.

- Naval factory?

- Well yes. Since they dismissed the orchestra, it is here, gathering dust.

This is how everything connected. I took the precious instrument and went back to the music school to learn how to play on it. The director that I met the same morning agreed to call the trumpet teacher. - Hello, Victor Iosifovich ? You know how to play the tuba? - It’s fine, he knows, come back tomorrow for the lesson.

The next day Victor Iosifovich taught me how to play the tuba.

The instrument was buzzing, trembling, did not obey at first, but finally I got to play some notes. With V.I. we went to the workshop where we unscrewed all the keys, and oiled each piece carefully - it has been twenty years since anyone has played this instrument.

Two hours later I returned to the residency and started repeating the whistle.

Week 3 and 4: the whistle

From the 1st of July, during two weeks, I performed from the balcony of the second floor of the residency according to the schedules of the factory whistle: Monday to Friday , four times a day - 8, 12 , 13 and 17 hours I played a note on the tuba , immediately after the sound of the whistle of the factory, like an echo. Each time I tried to tune the note to the whistle and to hold it as long as possible. 

The performance lasted two working weeks from the 1st to the 12th of July.

NCCA residency and the Naval  factory on Google Earth view of Kronstadt.

The whistle of the Naval factory of Kronstadt.

Boris Vasilyevitch and NikolayYakovlevitch, in charge of the whistle at the factory.

© Elizaveta Konovalova 2020