Future innovation, be it artistic, technological or even philosophical, is born by way of a challenge to conventional thinking.
With regards to past artistic challenges, do you remember what Francois Duchamp submitted as “art”, almost 100 years ago in 1917? It was this urinal with R. Mutt scribbled on it.
Duchamp explained his submission as ‘anti-art’ and it was fully meant as a general slap in the face of the establishment and all of the thinking surrounding it.
Picasso challenged our thinking.
Miro challenged our thinking.
Many pipe-makers and artists, including our own Michail Revyagin, have and continue to challenge our own pipe communities thinking regarding what it is we are looking at in a pipe and how it should or could be constructed & approached. Both from an engineering and artistic perspective. If you have ever met Michail Revyagin in person and spent some time with him like I have, you may know that his personality is a difficult beast to deal with. For the moment, we will ignore the personal emotions that Revyagin tends to elicit and focus exclusively on the work he has produced.
Several years ago on this blog, I covered Michail Revyagin with an article titled,’Changing The Game’. It has been a short but full 2 years since Revyagin’s reverse calabash approach (in small sized, non-gourd like Calabash pipes) hit the scene and the trail left behind is nothing short of amazing. The number of artisan’s who have applied his general approach to their own work is far too many to count (and still counting) and the number of design spin-offs that other artisan’s have applied from the initial design approach have been fantastic and wonderful to watch as well. The step by step effect of these new ideas, slowly making their way into the rest of the pipe community is a lesson in quickly circulating viral behavior. Michail Revyagin is no stranger to ‘game changing’ tactics and he is now at it again.
I ask Misha to explain to me how he see’s this pipe. What it’s purpose is, what it is supposed to stand for and what statement he is trying to make through it.
Misha begins by telling me that pipes should not be like super models in fashion. He explains: “It became clear to me that all the great pipe-makers have been chasing the idea of a perfect model for the pipe. Everybody from Chonowitsch to Dunhill, all of them are chasing the perfect model. Because I have a desire to explore further, I began to realize that I am being held back with this type of thinking. I felt like a prisoner, like I was chained. Even the material we have to use, must be briar, or so they tell us. There are so many restrictions in and around the pipe world. I simply decided that I wasn’t going to be a prisoner anymore”.
Revyagin continued: “I wanted to be able to build the pipe with anything I want to and build it in any way that I want to. I don’t want restrictions. In my mind, Freehand pipe-making is Dead! I want to destroy that word and focus on a new system and method with which to approach pipe-making. Pipe ModeliZm. Which I see as the pipe-maker having the freedom to create & build the pipe, as best as possible, with whatever material or approach that he or she see’s fit! It is the same thing that anybody making fashion does, the same thing that anybody who builds a car engine does, anybody who builds a plane and frankly anybody who builds and creates anything. The designers and engineers apply a modaliZm approach and they find what works best for that particular object. Have we found the best approach to making pipes?” Revyagin asks. “I am not sure. From now on though, this is what I will do.” Says Revyagin, as he tells me again: “Freehand is dead!”
What has the quaint & generally docile pipe hobby and those within done to deserve this? Why has the mad scientist Revyagin, come to this small & quiet community and turned it on it’s head? Why not pick some other ‘study’ or ‘craft’ where traditional thinking is less entrenched? Those are questions I can’t help but ask myself on the one hand but with the other, I am so thankful that we have our own version of a Duchamp, Picasso and/or Miro, all rolled into one and actually something truly all it’s own, calling himself Revyagin.
At least Revyagin is consistent. This is the second time he has done something to elicit an either fight or flight response / love it or hate it feeling.
Crazy Michail actually feeds off of the antagonistic public sentiments. They invigorate him and he relishes every bit of it. If someone were to yell at him and tell him his pipe making is the work of something evil, Revyagin would consider his work a success.
While it only takes the removal of 2 pieces to clean this pipe, in total, it has 5 pieces.
The front (bowl) and rear (rear chamber & stem) are in fact, not connected. They only become connected when the tunnel/smoke passage is put in place.
What an interesting approach to look at & marvel. Revyagin placed the tunnel/smoke passage/canal on the outside of the pipe. Yes, that is where the smoke will travel for this pipe. From the bowl, out along the exterior, back inside and into a rear chamber and then up a stem. Just saying those words is pleasant.
I would like to stand up for the artistic expression we are seeing here. Hopefully the average viewer can see that the general construction of this piece is completely thought out & fully considered. This is not some ‘accidental and haphazard’ combination of pieces. Michail actually went through 3 variations on the ‘tunnel transfer’ before settling on the one we see here, as well as 3 distinct variations on the stem. Just to be clear and please make no mistake about it, this man has an inner artist inside and his talents are tremendous. Whatever it is that Michail Revyagin has, it allows his work to look purposeful & focused, rather than accidental & immature.
No stranger to Revyagin and his work, the proud new owner of this pipe is Leslie Ng and he has aptly named it “The Motorbike”.
Whatever you yourself choose to call this pipe, just as the purpose and response to Duchamp’s urinal above. If it is a general statement to pipe-making society, a random experiment or even a focused attempt at something specific. When such an act is in the hands of talented individuals like Revyagin, it’s result is bound to produce offspring in very large numbers. This idea will give birth to many more new ideas and this is where I give people like Revyagin my utmost respect. In a few years, we will see this initial step, taken further, by so many different artisan’s and their work will then inspire others and so on it will go. All beginning here with this pipe but actually starting much further back, with other unique and similar typed individuals.
At it’s essence, Art is freedom. That is the best definition of art that you will ever be able to find. So we have Michail Revyagin practicing his freedom. If that independent spirit is something you can relate to, then you understand some of Revyagin’s motives. If you feel like you can appreciate a little more in this pipe, then all the better.
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