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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Garbage-Man Puts Up the Trash

In a small, grassy yard overgrown with shrubs and weeds, they build the sculpture from pipes, boards and a giant cut of steel netting.

"They" are American sculptor Steven Siegel and two members of his team of Russian students, Sasha Romanov and Timur Kozyrev. Siegel, whose rubbish sculptures are exhibited all over the world, issues orders to the young men: where to place a certain piece of wood, how to cut some wire.

Siegel arrived in Moscow on Saturday to read a series of lectures at the Moscow Russian Center for the Study of Contemporary Art and to set in motion his trash sculpture project - he has undertaken similar projects with students all over the United States - for which he enlisted the aid of 23 students from the center.

"We don't really know how [the sculpture] is going to look," Siegel said. "It will be our piece - it's not just my piece."

Siegel said the sculptures he builds with students differ from his other work in that, although he also enlists help to build his other sculptures, the student works are "collaborative."

"Here, a lot of the decisions are being made by the students," he said.

Although, since Siegel is more knowledgeable about the construction of the sculptures, he said he must take on a supervisory role to a certain extent, if only in order to "show them how their own ideas can be a part of [the work]."

Siegel, who is well-known in his native United States and in Europe for his large sculptures made from old newspapers, has chosen to use materials for the Russia sculpture, which will measure about 2 by 3 meters, that he hasn't used in 25 years: metal and wood.

"Usually, within a week, there are enough newspapers that have gone unsold or been returned to the distributor, and we just use them," he said.

No such luck in Moscow.

Siegel and the students gathered the materials for the Moscow sculpture from a single Moscow courtyard. Their purpose, Siegel said, was twofold: to collect wood and metal for the sculpture and to clean up the neighborhood.

In fact, the majority of Siegel's work has an environmental theme: Although they are made of paper, for example, Siegel said his newspaper sculptures are not as short-lived as one might think.

"They can last for 20 years because, in a pyramid, paper is very thick and very heavy," Siegel said. "Take a newspaper and bury it in the soil. Come back in five years and it'll still be there."

Not an unimportant point, as far as Siegel is concerned, and one with ramifications for the entire planet.

Siegel, who had never been to Russia before his arrival last weekend, said he's not sure how Russian audiences will perceive the project, or its implications for the environment.

"These are political and social issues that concern me," he said Tuesday. "I don't know the Russian mentality very well. I've only been here for a few days. ... Over the course of the week, I'll come to understand what they think and what the project is about for them."

The Russian participants, at least in one area, do differ: Siegel usually doesn't name his work, but they've dubbed the trash sculpture, which will take a week to build and be completed Monday, "Pugalo," or "Scarecrow."

"I don't usually give names to my creations," he said. "Because, someone could look at the name and say 'Oh! Now, I understand!' and think they've understood the meaning. ... The work, not the artist, should tell the viewer what it is."

The sculpture and a series of photographs documenting its construction will be on display from Tuesday through May 30 at the Zverevsky Center for Contemporary Art, located at 29 Novoryazanskaya Ulitsa, Building 4. Metro Baumanskaya. Tel. 261-1210. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.