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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BABA' BABO




Ask St. Petersburg's Rechniki, or River people, and they will tell you they are not artists. Sitting on a chair -- actually more of a fantastic synthesis of comfy lounger and cobbler's equipment -- Roman has a beer in his hand at 10 a.m. and dangles an arm on an up-turned metal shoe that serves as an armrest.


"We are not active. We are very lazy," he says with a broad cockney accent picked up from six months in a squat in Berlin. An enormous dog, a Great Dane, bounds into the room and goes for my feet. "Foo! Foo!" shouts Roman, taking a swipe at it, and it slinks off into a corner of the squat we are sitting in. The walls, papered with silver foil, are crumbling, and the sharp end of a helicopter gunship's missile launcher stands in the middle of the room serving as an ashtray. Next door in the workshop, bits of junk and half finished ... well, "things" I guess you'd call them, are scattered about.


One is a robotlike head with mechanized parts that will be part of a video for a new St. Petersburg band called Dead-ushki that begins shooting next week.


The rest of the things are little more than ideas.


Roman and the seven other people that live here enjoy their life. Without even wanting to, they have becomewell known in St. Petersburg for the wild statues and "installations" -- Terminatoresque metal constructions -- they have created for the local clubs and parties. For example, for the last two years they have built a mechanized statue for New Year's Eve. Last year, the year of the rat, they built a giant moving rat, which now stands in the Fish Fabrique, and the year before they made a huge mechanized bull.


But their pi?ce de r?sistance was a year-long project to construct nearly all the furniture for Port, the latest addition to St. Petersburg's nightclub scene. They had the most fun with the computer room: From a central column made of plumbing castoffs, they hung computers and perches at three different levels so that people gaming could sit and talk to their friends without the distraction of being able to see the other screens. The tables are polished silver sheets of metal on legs held together with industrial-strength wire hawsers and huge bottle-screw bolts. The window to the next room is the same scarred, bright metal, vaguely resembling a porthole in keeping with the name of the place.


"Because of Port we began to get a lot of orders," Roman goes on, "but we have stopped it now, as it got like a job. We made one shop [Oxydo, opposite 10 Pushkinskaya] and had orders from three more. But all these people want the same thing. You need something to put the shoes on, you need something to hang the clothes on. You can do it once, or maybe twice, but after that you can't think of anything new to do."


One of their members passes the time at the computer in the corner, animating a green cube that turns itself inside out, morphing into a small elephant that bounds off the screen.


There are some plans in the works. This summer, the Rechniki are going to be part of a group that is organizing a rave on an island in the middle of the Neva River. (The last outdoor party they participated in had British big-name Carl Cox playing and brought 6,000 people to the middle of nowhere to dance.)


But that's not until the summer. Roman sits back crossing his arms over his head in a luxurious stretch. "So we canceled all the orders and decided to be free and poor again -- to start the morning by lying in bed and drinking beer."