Friday, May 29, 2009

The Interpretation and Advice Box: Valya Kan

Valya's project is an opportunity for people in the streets of Nizhniy Novgorod, to see their personal struggles through an other perspective. Patiently, she sits in this box and holds out a paper with a note written on it, asking people to help her help them. When approached by the curious, she asks them, again, strictly using written notes to communicate, to write down a situation they themselves feel trapped in; a situation they have a hard time to solve in their lives. After receiving the written statement from those passers by, Valya, thinks of an other perspective and writes her advice or a different view  of the situation on the other side of the note. 

Here is she sitting in her little house which she constructed for herself. This shelter, resembling a ship, is now ready to navigate the scary oceans of strangers in the streets of Nizhniy Novgorod. Valya’s cabin is all painted white with little holes cut into the sides for her to stick out her arms to exhibit papers with various messages written on them. 

The roof of her shelter is made of white fabric to let in enough light and also the holes on the sides have little pieces of fabric attached over them to give Valia the most possible privacy and highten the sense of mystery. After we help her set up, she starts her performance by holding out a piece of paper with big letters, requesting people to help her help them. 

At first it seems that no one will ever take the step to approach her box and Masha and I decide to go and buy some water for Valia, to help her feel good and be patient while sitting in the blazing sun.

When we come back, we find a big crowd gathered around her. That’s so exciting! Valya, doesn’t even manage to answer all the requests at once. 

After people read the first paper asking for their assistance and, Valya asks people to write down and describe a situation from their lives with which they feel stuck, a situation they have a hard time solving or dealing with. 

Many people write notes to Valya while she sits in her cabin contemplating on their issues. To each note Valya receives, she writes a piece of advice on the other side of the paper in response.(this exchange has a very mysterious aspect, as neither Valya, not the people, ever get a chance to see each other)

Sometimes the exchange goes back and forth many times until the client is satisfied. 

But everyone walks away with a smile and a lighter heart. We are so excited to see this, and this in Nizhniy Novgorod, which many had only known as a heartless, cold city. Actually, quite the opposite is true and Valya is excited to see her new home in a completely different light!

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