Artist Statement

The St. Petersburg Bridge Tour was a rolling performance by artist Robert Hickman celebrating the beauty of public space by calling attention to bridges, as the architecture of daily life, which often go unnoticed. The tour promoted alternative types of transportation and safe cycling. Bridges overcome obstacles to connect communities. The wheel is a universal symbol of unity and the earth's cycles of renewal. St. Petersburg boasts a world famous collection of bridges. It has 342 culturally significant spans, the majority of which were crossed by Hickman on only one wheel. The project was a part of Art Prospect Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia, September 25 – 28, 2014, which was produced by CEC ArtsLink and curated by U.S. public art expert Kendal Henry. Special thanks to Susan Katz, Fritzie Brown, and Jane Lombard.

Robert Hickman's installations and sculptures were exhibited in solo and group shows at New York venues PS1, SculptureCenter, Exit Art, White Columns, Socrates Sculpture Park, Smack Mellon and Saint Peters Church, among many others. His permanent public commissions are at 72nd Street and Broadway subway station in New York (Laced Canopy); Bryant Avenue pedestrian bridge, Hunts Point, Bronx (Silvered); Capital Community College, Hartford, CT; and Roosevelt Island Station, New York. Hickman has been reviewed in publications such as Art News, Sculpture Magazine, Time Out, New York Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Post, New York Daily News, and The Miami Herald. Hickman’s work was recognized by many national and international awards, among them two CEC Artslink Project Grants and a New York City MASterwork Award for Best New Public Art from The Municipal Society of New York. An Ohio native, Hickman currently is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at Hunter College, New York. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

1. Liteyny Bridge across the Neva River 9.20.2014

Liteyny Bridge across the Neva River 9.20.2014

From Wikepedia:
The Liteyny Bridge (Russian: Лите́йный мост) is the second permanent bridge across the Neva river in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It connects Liteyny Prospekt with Vyborgsky district. The bridge's length is 396 meters, the width is 34 meters. At the vicinity of the Liteyny Bridge, the Neva river reaches the maximum depth of 24 meters.

The ancient maps reveal that even before the city was founded, there was a crossing on the way from Russia to Sweden approximately at the location of the modern bridge. At one bank of the river the road from Novgorod was ending, and at another bank the road to Vyborg was starting.

The decision to build a permanent bridge was made after rough ice destroyed the temporary floating bridge on April 4, 1865. Even though similar events have happened in the past, this particular one caused strong reaction from the government, and special expert commission was created. But it took until 1869 to agree on the location for the bridge. On April 22, 1871 the open contest was declared, and total of 17 projects were submitted. As a result of the contest, the project under the Vestminster banner was chosen by the city authorities. However the transport ministry rejected it and created the expert commission of its own and declared a winner to be engineer colonel A. Struve who was one of the members of the commission.

The building of the new bridge started on August 30, 1875. The work conditions were difficult, and during the next four years there were two fatal accidents which caused death of 14 people. The official opening ceremony took place on October 1, 1879. Struve was promoted to the rank of Major General.

The bridge is named Liteyney which literally means Foundry after the Liteyny Prospekt and Liteyny district which in turn were named after big foundry which was established on the left bank in 1711. In 1903 the bridge was renamed Aleksandrovsky in name of tzar Alexander II. But this name was never adopted by the public and after the October Revolution in 1917 the original name Liteyny Bridge was restored.

Soon after the opening, the bridge was equipped with electrical lights - the invention of Russian inventor Pavel Yablochkov. It was the first bridge to get electrical lighting and for the long time it remained the only one, since the monopoly of gas producers in city opposed it.

From art.net:
Voina in St. Petersburg
by Matthew Bown

It took members of Voina (pronounced va-ee-NA) 23 seconds to draw a very large, erect penis on the Liteiny Bridge in St Petersburg.

They’d been practicing for weeks in a car park and had it down. The job had to be done quickly, because there was usually only half a minute or so between the stopping of the traffic and the raising of the bridge. A few accomplices -- a cyclist, a hysterical woman in a car and an apparent drunkard --distracted the security guards’ attention. Five artists -- including one, Natalya Sokol, aka Koza (Goat), who carried her child Kasper on her back -- scampered over the bridge.

They poured white emulsion diluted with water, 55 litres of liquid in all, out of paint-tins. To depict the balls and the glans, they doubled up the tins for extra thickness: don’t say this wasn’t art! The resulting image had all the insouciance of a toilet-stall scrawl; just a diagram, really. The bridge rose at 1:40 am on June 15, 2010, in front of the local FSB (Federal Security Service) building, known as the Big House. The work was titled A Dick Captured By the FSB.

The biggest “up yours” ever?

What's in a name? The Russian word in the title, khui, is more offensive than “dick” and is used in Russian rather like “fuck” in English, ubiquitous and un-translatable at once. The philologist Aleksei Plutser-Sarno, co-activist of Voina, wrote a book of several hundred pages on the various uses of the word “khui.” Where we would say “fuck knows,” a Russian might say “khui knows;” where we would say “fuck off,” a Russian might say “go to khui,” and so on. It’s a word that is aggressive, anarchistic and nihilistic in its usages; there's scarcely any potential for tenderness in it; it isn't likely to be used between lovers in the way that “fuck” can be. And “Voina” itself simply means “war.” The Voina attitude, then, is pure Fuck You.

The Voina influences don’t really come from graffiti or street art, or from cerebral Russian non-conformism, or from elegant Hans Haacke-style analysis of our discontents. There’s a little bit of Viennese Actionism in Voina, and a little bit of performance artist Alexander Brener, whose speciality used to be defecating at other artists’ shows, till he got driven out of Moscow, Berlin and London. But unlike the Viennese, Voina don’t have hang-ups about sex (Communism enabled Russia to bypass the whole cult of Freud): they use it strictly for publicity purposes. Unlike Brener they have no beef with the art world -- they have a beef with the real world. Their spiritual roots aren’t in art at all but in pre-1917 Russian anarchism and direct action, in the half-crazy idealism (or is that nihilism?) that simmers in the novels of Dostoevsky.

Not that I think there’s anything crazy about Voina. Theirs is a response to abuses of power and the lack of civil rights in Russia. A Dick Captured By the FSB was part of a succession of works all ridiculing the establishment in one way or another. A Fuck for the Teddy Bear Heir was an orgy staged in Moscow’s Biological Museum: “teddy bear heir” referred to Dmitri Medvedev, Putin’s successor (“Medvedev” means “bear”). Storm of the White House was a skull-and-crossbones projected onto the White House. How To Snatch A Chicken? The Tale Of How One Cunt Fed The Whole Group involved the theft of a chicken from a shop, which was smuggled out while concealed in a Voina member’s vagina. Decembrists’ Commemoration was a mock-hanging of migrant workers and homosexuals. A recent action by the "militant-feminist" faction of Voina, which includes a Facebook friend of mine, Nadya Tolokno, was a pro-lesbian action called Kiss Rubbish (“rubbish” being a slang term for the police), and involved forcibly kissing policewomen. It sounds fun, but viewing the video is uncomfortable: there’s a degree of violence involved.

In September last year, Voina activists Oleg Vorotnikov, a former Moscow University philosophy student, and the group’s unofficial leader Leonid Nikolaev, aka Crazy Lenya, were arrested for their role in another violent work, Palace Coup, which involved overturning police cars with the officers still inside. That made it clear, after the Dick, that they weren’t interested in making pretty pictures. Banksy heard about the arrests on the radio and, with the help of British film-maker Nick Sturdee, who is currently making a documentary on the group, sent them £80,000 to pay bail and for the necessary lawyers. The activists gave most of the money away to help political prisoners. No one should underestimate the dedication of the group’s members: they face being wiretapped, followed, arrested and assaulted in custody. Nikolaev and Vorotnikov still face prosecution and are confined by bail conditions to St Petersburg; Plutser-Sarno is said to be on the run.

Is the work of Voina art or politics? Crazy Lenya is on record as saying “I don’t give a fuck about art.” Only an artist would say that, of course. The group, which has activists in Moscow and St. Petersburg, wouldn’t distinguish between the two. In a sense there is no art that is not political and the esthetic is implicit in all political presentations. Image-makers seek to control everything, from the graying, or not, of the president’s hair to the release of TV footage of the current war. But to my mind, Voina’s fundamental impulse is political.

The technique of undermining the institutions of power by mockery is a classic radical tool, used, for example, by the Serbian youth group Otpor in their struggle against Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Art is the medium. The esthetic experience is made explicit and overt and the art world and its activists (including, in this case, myself and the text you are reading) are used as the primary channel for dissemination of the message. The art world is a bridgehead into the mass media. Art becomes, to adapt Clausewitz’s phrase, “a continuation of policy by other means.”

On April 7, 2011, at a glitzy ceremony held in the Roman Abramovich- and Dasha Zhukova-funded Garage Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow, Voina received the 400,000 rouble ($14,000) Innovation Art Prize for A Dick Captured By The FSB. The prize is organized by the State Centre for Contemporary Arts, and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, but it seems unlikely that the Ministry had any direct influence over the choice. Earlier, in what seemed to be a response to official pressure, Voina had been excluded from the shortlist on the flimsy grounds that they hadn’t signed a document agreeing to participate, but they were reinstated after critics chastised the prize for its cowardice. But how to understand the jury’s choice? As merely a vote for the best art? That’s probably how the organisers of the prize will spin it as what is sure to become a scandal gains force.

Jury member Ekaterina Degot has written about the deliberations. She describes the winning work as a symbol of developing popular hatred for the ruling party, United Russia, and says that although most of the jury members didn’t like the work very much, none of them wanted to vote against it, thereby placing themselves on the wrong side of history. One member, Vienna-based Peter Weibel, who is slated to curate the upcoming Moscow Biennale, excused himself, perhaps feeling he was in a no-win situation.

So, it would seem, in the face of an imminent revolution in Russia, the jurors were pre-occupied with their own immortal reputations. Whatever the case, the big dick on the bridge is part of the canon now. Is it also the successor to that other great phallic event in St Petersburg, the blasts from the battleship Aurora that heralded the October 1917 uprising? Who -- or khui? -- knows?

MATTHEW BOWN is an English art dealer with a gallery in Berlin and an office in Moscow.

2. Sampsonievsky Bridge across the Bolshaya Nevka River 9.20.2014

Sampsonievsky Bridge across the Bolshaya Nevka River 9.20.2014

From Saint-Petersburg.com:
Crossing the Bolshaya Nevka River next to the Cruiser Avrora, the Sampsonievsky Bridge (Сампсониевский мост) is a 212-meter, seven-span bascule bridge that dates in its current form from 1958. The original pontoon Grenadiers Bridge existed near this site until 1847. Wooden bridges were built and rebuilt on the site throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The current structure, fully renovated in 2000, consists of steel spans resting on granite-faced reinforced-concrete piers. The name refers to a nearby cathedral. The bridge was known as Freedom Bridge under Soviet rule.

3. Trinity Bridge across the Neva River 9.20.2014

Trinity (Troitskiy) Bridge across the Neva River 9.20.2014

From Wikepedia:

Trinity Bridge (Russian: Тро́ицкий мост, Troitskiy Most) is a bascule bridge across the Neva in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It connects Kamennoostrovsky Prospect with Suvorovskaya Square. It was the third permanent bridge across the Neva, built between 1897 and 1903 by the French firm Société de Construction des Batignolles. It is 582 meters (1,909 ft) long and 23.6 meters (77 ft) wide.

The bridge takes its name from the Old Trinity Cathedral which used to stand at its northern end. In the 20th century it was known as Equality Bridge (Russian: мост Ра́венства, 1918-1934) and Kirovsky Bridge (Russian: Ки́ровский мост, 1934-1999).

History and construction
In 1803 the Voskresensky ponton bridge, which was built in 1786 near Voskresensky Prospect (now Chernyshevsky Prospect), was moved to the Summer Garden. In 1825, the ponton Suvorovsky Bridge was built to link Suvorovskaya Square with Troitskaya (Trinity) Square.

In 1892 a contest for constructing a permanent Troitsky Bridge was announced. There were 16 entrants from Russian and European engineers, including one from the French engineer Gustave Eiffel, the creator of the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. The winner was the out-of-competition design by Arthur Flachet, Vincent Chabrol, and René Patouillard from the French Société de Construction des Batignolles. Some contributions to their proposal were provided by a team of Russian engineers. A special commission from the Imperial Academy of Arts, including Leon Benois also participated in the project.

Construction began on 12 August 1897. Félix Faure, the president of France was present at the ceremony. In the same political spirit, Nicholas II of Russia laid the foundation stone for the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, another memorial to the Franco-Russian Alliance. The bridge was completed in 1903, in time for the 200-year anniversary of Saint Petersburg.

Originally the bridge had nine spans. Five of these were permanent metallic riveted spans, with novel console-arch-beam systems and gradually increasing span length from banks to the middle of the river. A three-arch granite viaduct linked the metallic central section to the right bank, and a two-winged bascule span joined it to the left bank. The design of the central spans, in which single uncut girders bridge more than one span, significantly relieves the stress on the central part of the arches, decreasing the support required in the river and giving the span structures a gentle arch shape. The bridge is decorated with cast iron gratings with artistic casting, granite pylons with lanterns and metallic three-color lanterns in the Art Nouveau style.

The obelisks flanking the entrance to the bridge from Suvorov Square were remodeled in 1955. In 1965-1967 the bascule span was rebuilt as a one-winged, lifting design. Its length was extended to 43 meters (141 ft) and its appearance modeled on the other metal spans. A granite arch slope was set on the left bank. During the reconstruction water slopes were enlarged and granite benches were set along left bank abutment.

Andrey Izgrebin and Robert Hickman, Sep 26, 2014

4. Upper Swan Bridge over the Swan Canal 9.20.2014

Upper Swan Bridge over the Swan Canal - at the Palace Embankment 9.20.2014

Translated from Russian Wikipedia:
Swan Canal (Swan channel) - Canal in St. Petersburg, linking the river Neva and Moika between Summer Garden (Island Summer Garden) and the Champs de Mars (1st Admiralty Island).

Dug between 1711-1719.

Name of the channel is due to the fact that in the XVIII century it moved swans from neighboring ponds.

In the years 1955-1956 the coast fortified granite banquets (architect L. Noskov, AD engineer Gutzeit), similar to those that were later built along the adjoining site Sinks. On the right bank of the Swan Canal, on the corner of the Palace Embankment of the Neva, is the former home of Betsky. On the left bank - stone terrace in the Summer Garden.

Geographical information
Length: 648 m. Average water flow: 1.4 m³ / s.

The Swan channel is spanned by two bridges:
Upper Swan Bridge - at the Palace Embankment (Верхний Лебяжий мост — по Дворцовой набережной)
Lower Swan Bridge - on the Moika Embankment (Нижний Лебяжий мост — по набережной Мойки)

Former home Betsky (now - Institute of Culture)
Summer Garden
Field of Mars

5. Prachechny Bridge across the Fontanka River 9.20.2014

Prachechny Bridge across the Fontanka River 9.20.2014

From The St. Petersburg Encyclopedia:
The Prachechny Bridge (Прачечный мост) crosses the Fontanka River, where is meets the Neva, linking the Dvortsovaya Embankment and Kutuzova Embankment. The name of the bridge refers to Prachechny Yard (Laundry Yard, where the palace laundries were located) next to the Fontanka. The bridge, one of the first in St. Petersburg to be made of stone, was built in 1766-1769 (architects I.L. Rossi, T.I. Nasonov), when the stone embankments of the Fontanka were laid. The three-span arched bridge is made of granite. In 1926-1928, the bases of the piers were reinforced (engineer B.D. Vasilyev). The bridge is 40.9 metres long and 14.3 metres wide.

Route from 9.20.2014

Ride Time: 44:59
Distance: 2.93 miles
5 Bridges Crossed