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Research trip / Moscow residency / Museum Night Moscow presentation / Dutch Design Week presentation / Publication / Motel Spatie presentation / With Artist: Elejan van der Velde

Motel Spatie curated and produced two earlier projects for Dutch artists in Russia between 2014 and 2017. For Motel Spatie this was a continuation of research into ‘Engaged autonomy’, wherein the utilisation of public space for art, direct connection with and exchange of social and political context and the rules and laws that are faced are considered central, become visible and most preferably are actively stretched. Motel Spatie sets up an extensive network for artists involved, wherein new work or a new method of working can be developed, as well as supporting artists with necessary means.

In 2014 we started with Mathijs Lieshout in Galleria, a fashionable shopping centre in the heart of St.Petersburg. A repetition of the project previously conducted in the Presikhaaf shopping mall was envisioned, this time in a comparable but even more complex and challenging context; private, like Presikhaaf, but also a public space.

Motel Spatie also curated and produced a Silent Skies project by Arnhem-based artist Rob Sweere in Moscow and St.Petersburg in 2015. Amongst other things, the project involved sociology students from St.Petersburg staging an intervention, laying down on the square in front of the Hermitage. A daring project, bearing in mind the strained relationship between the Netherlands and Russia at that moment. Both projects succeeded in achieving their intention, much that seemed impossible proved to be possible.

All of the experiences and contacts gained since 2013 contributed to an invitation and another new project, with the theme of the lost Sukharev tower in the centre of Moscow, for which Elejan van der Velde was invited.
In his work van der Velde examines memories of spaces and objects, as well as the traces in spaces that form a visual memory on the surfaces of built-up living environments. He is also interested in concepts such as ‘time’ and ‘memory’ in relation to materials.

The ‘Network of Friends’ again manifests itself; Claudia Schouten and van der Velde have been working together since 2009, from intern and neighbour at the first Spatie, to Cum Laude Sandberg. Van der Velde also held a part-time position in 2016/2017 as ‘MultifunctionalMotelSpatieMiep’ and as such represented Motel Spatie amongst others in a panel discussion in Wroclaw, Poland in November 2016, alongside other residency programmes including Meatfactory, Prague and the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw.


During a work visit to Russia, Claudia Schouten came into contact with a small local museum that willingly sought to work together with a contemporary artist who could contemplate and turn their thoughts to the ‘heritage’ of the lost Sukharev tower. Built by Peter the Great and later demolished by Stalin to make way for a six-lane motorway, the tower once housed Russia’s first secular school; an institute of navigation where Russia was mapped for the first time. The first Dutch-Russian dictionaries also emerged there.

Elejan’s work remained a proposal. The initial design was approved by the Moscow City Department of Culture, but was rejected by the the Department for Transport and Road Infrastructure Development. Nevertheless, Motel Spatie is proud to have brought the work this far.

Imprint is a proposal for a road monument. A four-centimeter elevation of the asphalt in the shape of the tower’s floor plan, covering 1100 square meters on the site where the tower once stood; now an intersection of a busy six-lane motorway running right through Moscow. The metro tunnel beneath runs around the remaining foundations of the tower, which are concealed from view.

‘By raising the floor plan from the asphalt, it is as if the memory will rise up again. The word imprint is derived from the metaphor of Aristotle; that everybody’s soul has a block of wax on which all of their memories are imprinted. Some have a softer wax, some have harder. Some memories are pressed harder into this block of wax and some are softer. But in the end these will always fade away to a certain extent.’

— Elejan van der Velde

The extensive project involved a period of research followed by a period of work in Moscow conducted by van der Velde, as well as a presentation during Museum Night Moscow of a 3.20 by 3.50 meter scale-model of the intersection and the to be realised work. The presentation took place in the metro tunnel next to the hidden foundations of the Sukharev tower.

The presentation of a second scale-model, this time made of asphalt and accompanied by a publication, took place during Dutch Design Week 2016 in Eindhoven. The asphalt scale-model and accompanying publication were subsequently exhibited in the therewith newly opened Motel Spatie project space at the independant premises in Presikhaaf, as opening of the January 2017 season.

Motel Spatie in collaboration with and invited by the Garden Ring Museum, Moscow, supported by the Dutch Embassy in Moscow and CCI-Fabrika Moscow. Elejan van der Velde was supported by the Grant Programme for Talent Development – Architecture 2016, care of the Creative Industries Fund NL.

IMPRINT was presented in the Sukharevskaya underpass/ metro entrance as a scale-model measuring 3.20m by 3.50m, accompanied by a photographic impression of the idea: Looming #1, Museum Night Moscow 2016.

Project Space Motel Spatie

Motel Spatie Season Opening and the opening of the new project space, featuring work by Elejan van der Velde, Erik Tlaseca (Mex) and Jakub Nepras (CZ). View the extensive visual report via Trendbeheer.

Poster for the Motel Spatie Season Opening on 27-01-2017, designed and screen printed by Sido Dekker.
Flags by Erik Tlaseca
Visitors attend the exhibition at the Motel Spatie Project Space.