The Fleeting Life of Papier Mâché: Beauty in Impermanence - In Conversetion with Yaroslav Korets, Leader of Kurenivka Community

The Fleeting Life of Papier Mâché: Beauty in Impermanence - In Conversetion with Yaroslav Korets, Leader of Kurenivka Community

KC: For those who don't know who Yaroslav Korets is, please introduce yourself.

Yaroslav Korets: Over the past few years, my name has become strongly associated with the Ukrainian Burning Man community. A few years ago, I had the desire to build a Ukrainian camp at Burning Man. When we returned to Kyiv, we felt united as a community, and I volunteered to lead it.

KC: What is a playa name, and under what circumstances did you get yours?

Yaroslav Korets: When you arrive at Black Rock City, you can don any costume or mask and become anyone you want. The magic of Burning Man is that regardless of your chosen persona, the community sees the real you – your desires, habits, fears, and motivations. That's why a playa name often reflects your true self, as it did in my case. I think I took on too much responsibility and became overly enthusiastic about building a utopian society, which is why I was nicknamed "Vozh'" what does mean the Chief of Tribe.

KC: Did you give anyone a playa name? What kind of people were they, what names did you give, and why?

Yaroslav Korets: Yes, during my fourth Burning Man, which was the second year of Kurenivka camp and my wife Ella's third Burn, I gave her the name "Mama-drama." She is like a camp mom who dramatizes situations around the camp and worries about everyone.

KC: How would you describe the history of Kurenivka?

Yaroslav Korets: I believe that Kurenivka's history has just begun. In only three years, it has already attended Burning Man twice, held four regional Burning Man events, participated in several Ukrainian events, and even established its own permanent, massive location in the center of Kyiv. Kurenivka is now a registered trademark belonging to the Ukrainian Burner community, ensuring that it will live, develop, change, die, and be reborn as long as we enjoy doing it.

KC: "Spherical Kurenivka in a vacuum": what does it look like, and why is it impossible in reality?

Yaroslav Korets: Everyone has their own vision of it, and that's why it's possible only in a multiverse.

KC: April 2020, without a pandemic and everything proceeding as usual, what should have happened by the end of the year?

Yaroslav Korets: This question still pains me, as it turned out my ambitious plans were overly grand. In March, April, and May, Kurenivka was set to host five large-scale events for over 4,000 guests, with hundreds of tickets sold. At the end of May, we planned to organize an incredibly cool Pre-Compression. Kurenivka would host the biggest art event in our history. The Burning Man Project granted a substantial amount for this art, recognizing Ukrainians' work as one of the best among thousands of applications. By the end of May, this art and an updated Kurenivka Camp with numerous decor and art objects would be transported to the United States. Then the incredible Burning Man would take place, with Kurenivka Camp for 150 people. The number of gifts, interactives, and art that Kurenivka prepared for Black Rock City was so significant that it deserves a separate post. In the fall, Decompression would traditionally occur...
KC: What are you doing right now? 
Yaroslav Korets: Surprisingly, my lifestyle hasn't changed much in April. I still spend every day at the Kurenivka Palace of Culture, located near my home. Although we are closed as a cultural institution and not receiving guests, we continue to work in a production format while adhering to sanitary safety standards. Prior to the quarantine, Kurenivka operated in two modes: open for events and closed for building and preparing. Now, with closed doors, we are busy dismantling everything we've set up. We're in a hurry and hope to finish by the end of May. In my free time, I'm developing my business projects.

KC: April 2021. The pandemic has subsided, and everything has more or less calmed down. What are you doing now? 
Yaroslav Korets: I used to disagree with the saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." However, when the coronavirus happened, I reconsidered my views on long-term planning and voicing my plans. So, I'll be ready to answer this question in a year.
KC: Returning to the present, let's still dream: "Kurenivka can be saved. By what miracle?"Yaroslav Korets: Kurenivka lives on because it's a community, not just walls. But if we're talking about the Palace of Culture project, it could be saved through significant donor support. It costs around $4,000 a month to keep it running in its current format, which, honestly, is quite small. With a $10,000 monthly donor support, we could create the dream art center we initially wanted to build.

KC: Let's assume miracles don't happen, but you could have done things differently from the very beginning. How exactly? 
Yaroslav Korets: As a leader, I made an incredible number of mistakes in a short period. Sometimes I think my inner genius is in finding rakes and pitfalls, even when they are deeply hidden. One of the first mistakes was in scale. The scale and model of the project didn't match. If the Palace of Culture was five times smaller, I'm sure we could have survived the quarantine with a more stable model. At the same time, it wouldn't have been as cool and interesting. We made many mistakes in communicating ideas, delegating, and distributing responsibilities. I'll probably save the rest of the mistakes for a fail night.

KC: The art space is closing. The space disappears, but the art remains. What is left after Kurenivka, and what can be done with it? Sell it, donate it to the city, burn it? 
Yaroslav Korets: When creating an art object, artists always face context, answering questions about the art's purpose, how it will be exhibited, its lifespan, and, most importantly, the budget and implementation period. All projects made within Kurenivka and the Ukrainian Burner community were done on minimal budgets, in short periods, and for specific events. The project's lifespan was initially estimated at one day and one night. That's why we don't have anything monumental that could be placed in a public square. After all, the cost of such a sculpture or installation would be much higher than the annual budget of the entire Kurenivka project. Unfortunately, papier-mâché doesn't last long, and art projects like wall paintings are also difficult to move or gift. However, after dismantling is complete, we might have some art objects left that could be put up for a charity auction.

KC: In the +/- year of Kurenivka's existence, have any new creative units and formations emerged from it? Tell us about them. Yaroslav Korets: Kurenivka not only hosted raves and lectures but also creative workshops. Two workshops formed viable, interesting, and independent creative communities. The first one was united by Semen under the banner of the Kurenivka Artists' Guild. These artists are engaged in painting, sculpture, customization of clothes and gadgets, and they are currently seeking a new location. Alina Volkova led Papaykalab, focusing on music, DJing, and various electronic endeavors. The group is now developing digital formats.KC: What is the funniest story from the walls of Kurenivka, according to you?
Yaroslav Korets: There were so many stories that it's impossible to remember and rank them all by their level of amusement. I smile when I recall how two people, half an hour apart on New Year's Eve, fell off the stage. Both were drunk, filming, and decided to lean on the screen hanging behind the stage, which led to a thunderous fall from the meter-high stage. Both incidents were caught on camera. Fortunately, the story is funny because neither the acrobats nor their equipment were damaged.

KC: Tell us a not-so-funny story: Yaroslav Korets: I'm not sure why I'm drawn to stories about falls, but this not-so-funny story is also related to that. When Kurenivka was just being built, exactly a year ago, I climbed a ladder to secure something and fell off with a bang. As a result, I had to continue construction on crutches that you kindly lent me, Lesha. It's not funny because this injury still imposes limitations on my sports activities.