From metal scrap to cutting-edge art

From metal scrap to cutting-edge art

An exhibition at Loft Project Etazhi showcases industrial equipment that has been given a new lease of life.

Published: May 25, 2011 (Issue # 1657)


Another former factory transformer has itself been transformed into a chandelier nicknamed ‘The Spider.’

How is it possible to give objects that appear to have served their natural working life a new and even better existence? The organizers of the Prolom industrial exhibition at Loft Project Etazhi may hold the key to this secret.

“We were working with metal, taking different scrap metal objects,” said Vitaly Yakovlev, the project’s curator. “But I didn’t want to throw some of the objects away, because I saw certain artistic value in them, and was sure that they could still be useful. That’s how it all started.”

Yakovlev set up the Jacob’s Machines creative factory, which presents the most large-scale objects at the exhibition.

Old Soviet transformers and other aged machines are barely recognizable in the “Spider” chandelier or “Harsomtus” sound system for iPod and iPhone.


A DJ table made out of an old transformer is the curator’s favorite exhibit.

“My favorite object is the organ DJ table,” said Yakovlev. “It was our factory’s first invention.” Made from an old Soviet transformer that lived out its days at one of Leningrad’s numerous factories, the DJ unit would make an enviously original addition to any nightclub. Built-in functions such as split-level backlighting and a smoke machine that pumps dry ice out of the 48 offtake pipes allows DJs to easily manage visual effects as well as satisfy the crowd’s musical appetite.

Yakovlev says he is inspired by “the uniqueness of every object, which not everybody can usually see.” However, the main rule of his Jacob’s Machines project is that besides artistic value, each object should continue to be useful to people.

“I see an object and imagine a future product that could find an application in the modern world right away,” Yakovlev says. “And then the process itself of bringing the idea to life begins.”

Another company showcasing enormous objects at the Prolom exhibition is Dmitry Tikhonenko’s handicraft workshop. Its trademark skill is crafting exclusive interior items such as an old-fashioned red microwave oven with small carved legs, or a plasma TV set adorned by a heavy antique frame that would certainly not look out of place on the bare wall of a modern apartment.


Many exhibits have a practical use.

Smaller but no less fascinating objects made by the artist Andrei Sazonov, designer Vasily Chuikov and other creative artisans can be seen at the exhibition and even touched. The exhibits mostly comprise pictures and sculptures made of various kinds of trash metal: Nails, bicycle spokes, pins and whatever else the masters’ imagination adopts as its muse. These objects may lack a practical application, but compensate for this with intriguing titles and thoughtful, philosophical meaning.

In this respect, the exhibition’s title, “Prolom,” is particularly fitting. Spelled in one word in Russian it means “breakthrough,” which essentially is what the exhibition is, as nothing of this kind has appeared in Russia so far. At the same time, the two separate words “pro lom” are literally translated as “about metal scrap,” reflecting the exhibition’s main theme.

After St. Petersburg, the Prolom show will travel to Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and other Russian cities. From there, the organizers have ambitious plans to take the items to Paris and New York, where such events are a more common sight, yet no less appreciated for being so.

The “Prolom” exhibition runs through June 5 at Loft Project Etazhi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, 5th floor. Tel. 458 5005.

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