His loathing of “capitalist pigs” led Piero Manzoni to can his faeces and put it up for sale as artwork in 1961. However, when 61-year-old Mikhail Bopposov created a giant cobra out of frozen cow dung, he did it for the kids. Speaking about his 400-kilo (882-pound) creation, the native of Yakutia in Siberia told RIA-Novosti by phone Friday, “I made it so that the kids could play around it and have some fun”. The snake… coiled, with head upright and hood widened… is on display in the village of Yolba, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of the republic’s capital, Yakutsk. Bopposov created it to mark the coming of the Year of the Snake, which begins 10 February according to the Chinese calendar.
Cattle-raising is widespread in Yolba, which has about 500 people. Bopposov works as a building manager at the village school, but his 17 cows provide him with an ample supply of dung, or “balbalkh” as it is in his native Yakut language. When asked about his artistic aspirations, Bopposov said modestly, “This isn’t sculpture, it’s just a piece of work that I did”. Bopposov first dabbled in the medium in 2008, when, inspired by his military service in a tank division, he created a tank out of dung. Encouraged by the reception from local children and adult villagers alike, he proceeded last winter to mark the Year of the Dragon by sculpting a winged serpent, also using cow manure.
Yolba villagers also sculpt from snow and ice… Bopposov and his son contributed a rabbit in the Year of the Hare in 2011… but the medium isn’t as convenient, as it’s hard to shape when temperatures fall far below freezing. January temperatures in Tattinsky Raion, where Yolba is located, hover between -42 and -44 degrees (-44 to -48 degrees Fahrenheit). Come spring, the dung sculptures are always dismantled, both out of aesthetic concerns and because “balbakh” is a valuable fertiliser sold for compost or used locally in the fields during Yakutia’s short summers. Carefully enunciating the words in his correct, but heavily accented, Russian, Bopposov said with a laugh, “Guess I’ll have to try to do a horse in 2014, if I can pull it off”.
12 January 2013