Cardboardia: developing cultural mobility in and out of Russia | MAYYA LOBOVA


 Panoramic view of Kartonkamsk

Panoramic view of Kartonkamsk 

Since time immemorial the territory of the present day Russia was an area of high mobility and frequent interactions. Without any doubts this mobility has affected many aspects of life including art and culture. Being a reason for frequent interaction, mobility also gave a way and place to various kinds of experiments, especially in the sphere of art and culture. Russia was always changing and these changes are still ongoing presently. Mobility and experiment are parts of modern Russian culture in search of alternatives to replace the old obsolete cultural models. As an example of an alternative cultural project and alternative cultural model this article aims to present the story of Cardboardia project, explaining the new trends of mobility in culture and arts of the present-day Russia.

Cardboardia was founded in 2007 by two Russian artists Sergej Korsakov and Victoria Novikova. During the wedding preparations Sergej Korsakov (presently known as the “Tyran of Cardboardia”), journalist, producer and art-director from Moscow realized that neither a standard secular wedding nor a traditional religious one would work for him. Sergej wanted his wedding to be special, yet was aware that stereotypes are hard to break in the surrounding Russian cultural reality. So in order to make the event remarkable and special, he decided to create his own country, where all traditions, including weddings, would be unique and original. Cardboard was chosen as the main construction material for the project, as it was quite cheap and therefore affordable within the budget to make the sufficient amount of decorations. This was how the first Cardboard town came into being in 2007 during the Afisha Picnic Music Festival,  which is held in Moscow, Russia, every summer. The first Cardboard town was a real size structure with all attributes of a standard town and a range of great entertainment activities for the town residents and general audience. The project received inspiringly positive feedback from the Festival visitors.

Cardboardia Giant Camera

Cardboardia Giant Camera at Think Blue Performance, Moscow, May, 2013

Eventually the positive feedback from the public played its part and, as a result, the first Cardboard town was followed by the second one and the third one. However, at this stage the project did not turned into an annual Festival, though this was apparently the easiest way to follow. On the contrary, Cardboardia town materializations continued to appear and develop within the different areas of the city of Moscow in places like museums and creative art spaces .

People got more and more interested. The amount of participants who wanted to join the project started to grow together with ideas and suggestions on what could be done within the Cardboard town.  From 2007 to 2009 three more Cardboardia towns materialized in various districts of Moscow city. In 2009 the idea started to spread beyond the borders of Russia. The Cardboard town project eventually was presented in Germany. In this case it was introduced to the public in the form of presentation and exhibition. Later the same year Cardboardia team (by this time the project already had a team of personages) moved to Helsinki Festival in Finland to materialize another Cardboard town within an actual city square in order to meet and inspire the people of Helsinki.

Cardboard town Pahvistan Finland

Cardboardia materialization in Helsinki, Finland, 2009

Thus at the very early stage of its existence Cardboardia project started to be mobile. It did not move as such but its personages did travel actively to other cities and towns in order bring the idea of creativity to the people.  This was how Cardboardia started to grow and expand as a country without borders and actual territory. In order to feel comfortable in the new place Cardboardia personages materialized and brought creative ideas into life with the help of cardboard and support of the audience.

Due to this fact, every Cardboard town had its own unique topic, original idea and way of development. Usually a Cardboard town exists for about two weeks on an area of two to three thousand square meters. The power of Cardboard town is in its people and their actions: one may come and open a shop, or build a labyrinth and charge the visitors for entrance, or work in the Town Mayor Office. People are free to express their ideas and materialize their dreams: one can open a circus or a theater, make a street band performance, build a gallery or a prison or work as a guide for tourists. It all depends on one's ideas and wishes. The main criterias are fantasy and a willingness to create and take part in activities.

After successful experience in Europe, Cardboardia team returned to Russia with a new energy to continue creative exploration and development. In 2010 another Cardboard town materialized in Moscow, followed by one more materialization in Saint Petersburg.

Soon two more towns have grown at the territories of Perm and Ulyanovsk. Everyone was eager to take part in arranged activities and events. Families, young people, children, senior citizens – everyone was coming to visit Cardboard towns.  Eventually those people who already happen to take part in Cardboardia town materializations before, started to travel from one Cardboard town materialization event to another.Thus, gradually Cardboardia  got the mobile audience of permanent supporters from communities within Russia who were moving together with Cardboardia personages.

Car races by Cardboardia

Participation at cardboard car races is definitely fun!


Bus races by Cardboardia

 Preparing for bus race competition

Within the concept of Cardboard town all participants received a chance to become creative and implement their own projects. Together with the high attendance project organizers received an enormous amount of the new creative ideas. New small scale projects and partnerships were born, small businesses flourished, celebrations were held here and there. These events were also marked by high number of international participants from the Netherlands, USA and Mexico. The participants from Mexico made an amazing creative contribution to the Cardboard town by creating a big dragon of out cardboard!

Cardboardia Giant Shark

At the Day of Tyran’s Giant Creatures, Moscow, Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure, 2012

Cardboard town materialization in the city of Perm became an important point in the history of Cardboardia. During this time the event was attended by more than 300 000 visitors!

Straight after the completion of materialization, Cardboardia team developed the new set principles/laws and added some new national holidays and celebrations.

On the other side, in order to uplift the skills in performing arts and design, “Made in Cardboardia”  workshop was founded to produce furniture, decorations and spatial installations out of cardboard. On the other side, Cardboardia team focused on active participation in various festivals and cultural events in Moscow and adjoining regions of Russia.

In 2012, with new forces and energy, another Cardboardia town materialized at the “Use The City” Festival in Kosice, Slovakia. This was the fifth anniversary of Cardboardia. The Town called “Kartonove mesto” became a place of great intercultural dialogue and cooperation in terms of multicultural creativity and artistic flow.   People from various parts of Slovakia, as well as from Poland, Hungary and Germany came to visit the event. It was a time of great knowledge sharing and amazing inspiration!All participants had lots of entertainment and fun!

Cardboardia Parade in Moscow July 2013_1

On the streets of Moscow during the Parade, July, 2013

Cardboardia Parade in Moscow July 2013_2

 During the Parade, Moscow, July, 2013

In July 2013 Cardboardia personages are coming to Taiwan to take part in 2013 Yilan International Lohas Festival. Here they will celebrate the national Cardboardia Day of Tyran’s Giant Creatures together with the residents and guests of the Festival. The event will be concluded by a Parade and s Stage Performance. Cardboardia personages are eager to meet guests and residents of Taiwan and to welcome them to become a part of Cardboardia project!

Think Blue Performance Cardboardia

Having Fun during Think Blue Performance by Cardboardia, Moscow, May, 2013

By materializing Cardboard towns and arranging cultural events in Russia and other countries, personages of Cardboardia are working towards providing residents and communities with an opportunity to reconsider creative possibilities and discover creative talents.

Thus, for the case of Cardboardia, mobility of its participants serves as perfect tool for making cultural connections and fostering creative economy beyond the borders. Cardboardia team believes that cultural mobility truly unites people on the way to more creative everyday life.

Mayya Lobova

International Project Manager. Cardboardia, Moscow, Russia


Videos about Cardboard towns:

“Kartonove Mesto”, Use the City Festival, Kosice, Slovakia, 2012

One Day in Cardboardia, KartonKamsk, Perm

Cardboardkovo. Day of Moscow. Gorky park of Culture

Pahvistan Street Report, Helsinki, Finland, 2009

Seasons 2013