Balovin and Beccato. In Kind Exchange
In 2010, I hid in China from being drafted into the Russian army. Exhibitions there brought me a lot of money. I was swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck. But pretending to be a 19th-century landscape painter got bored and I came up with the idea that allowed me to forget about conjuncture pictures and money.
I started painting for food. Only portraits, though. And not just for food. For any kind of gift. I published wishlists and got: clothes, crockery, furniture, SIM cards, telephones, computers, visas, and airline tickets. I managed to take a cashless trip around the world. Google remembered me as an artist with no money. To some misunderstanding, I ended up in Forbes as the poorest and in the top ranking of young Russian artists, without living and exhibiting in Russia.
Without money, I got a family and a house. Claudia Beccato agreed to become my accomplice, leaving a prestigious job. Together we traveled through a dozen other countries and ended up in an old farmhouse in the Italian Alps. It became an ark for artists and anyone wishing to break out of the city routine. We carelessly opened exhibitions, read poetry and played concerts, planted carrots, and collected donations to pay for electricity.
It was a return to money, but money was no longer associated with freedom. We knew that freedom had been given to us with our lives and that everyone was free to use it in his or her own way. We decide for ourselves where our boundaries are. They have nothing to do with what is marked on maps. Unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem of the limitedness of one’s own world with money often lead to an attack on someone else’s boundaries.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine finally separated me from my homeland and took away almost everything that bound me to it. But the war did not succeed in taking away the ark – Stone Oven House.
People began to arrive, trying to save themselves. And now we understood the real meaning of what we came to intuitively. Our residence is the practice of living in harmony with others and with nature. Strangers from different generations and cultures come together around a round table. It is not always easy for everyone. It is an effort, it is a work in progress. Living under the same roof and facing the elements teaches patience, understanding, and empathy. Exposure to a foreign culture at home encourages you to question conventions and reject prejudice. It is not a school of survival, it is a school of life. A life without war.
Devoting almost all of our time and energy to the residence, Claudia and my daughter Yara and I sometimes try to travel so that we don’t forget what the world outside paradise looks like. We remember the In-Kind Exchange and draw all comers for food and gifts.
We’d love to meet you and draw your portraits. You can invite us to lunch, to dinner, to an exciting walk. We can give you something useful, which will not encumber our hand luggage on the low-cost flight. For example, tickets to a museum, a taxi to the airport, or a donation to the Stone Oven House association account.
In 2022, the association’s account received 6,860 euros in donations from friends and guests of the Stone Oven House and 3,750 euros from the Aritst in Risk organization. In the same year, we were able to host fourteen people who fled Ukraine and seven Russians who do not support Russian aggression and oppose the Putin regime. We published a book with graphics by Daniil Shumikhin from Kyiv. We have held eight public anti-war events.
Continuing our partnership with Artist in Risk, we host artists who find themselves in life-threatening situations. In 2023, we will continue to host those who need help. We will continue to do what we can and are able to do, whether we have the money or not. But with your participation, we will do more.