Anastasia Kvasnikova „The metamorphosis“

By /ART/


This is a story about how an idea is born.
It’s a mystical cocktail of chance and causation. An idea is capable of changing the world. It grips the mind, inspires with energy, and gives you a dream. It’s the key to victory that opens any lock.
A metamorphosis. As mysterious as … the birth of a butterfly. Transformational processes take place within the cocoon. An incredible cycle of rebirth at the very essence of which lies the start of a new life. You can’t glue wings onto a caterpillar, it has to change on the inside too. Like a first thought that gradually grows in detail, develops images, moving from one stage to the next.
And finally it reaches a peak, and takes flight. The idea has been brought to life and this moment can be relished. But the existence of a butterfly is no more than a flapping of wings in the vast Universe. Death awaits the butterfly. It disappears. In short, everything develops in a spiral. And that means that, one day, the process starts anew from the very beginning.
Cocoon, caterpillar, wings. Thought, idea, flight…

Art Director& Photography& Designer by Anastasia Kvasnikova @kvnastya_photo
Model by Marina Loyko @marina_loya
Light designer by Nikita Ivanov @nikitosprofwork


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Model: Oliwia Magdalena Jabłońska @m4models @oliworia
Model: Laura Schwerin @m4models @laura.schwerin
Makeup Artist: Anastasia Misko @ohinastia
Photographer: VALERIA GORDIENKO @valeriagordienko_

Underwear Elle; Top No name; Underwear Photographer’s property

Underwear Elle

Tops No name; Underwear Photographer’s property; Underwear Elle

Top No name

Tops No name; Underwear Photographer’s property; Top No name

Top No name; Underwear Photographer’s property

Giulio Cerruti „Bad habits“

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Hair: Lucrezia Paradiso @lucrezia_paradiso_mua
Model: DARIA MAKARENKO @daria__makarenko
Make up: Ilaria Morici @ilariamorici_makeupartist
Set Designer/Photographer/Creative Director: Giulio Cerruti @giulio_cerruti
Stylist: ALICE BALDUCCI @ali.balducci

Designer: Letizia Cocciantelli; Jewelry : Chiara Quatrale; 

Designer: Letizia Cocciantelli; Designer: Maria Enrica Affinita

Designer: Letizia Cocciantelli; Jewelry : Chiara Quatrale; 

Designer: Letizia Cocciantelli 

R e p e a t N a m e: Future is already here to interact with you

By /ART/

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

J u l i a  K r y s h e v i c h

‘R e p e a t N a m e’: Future is already here to interact with you

No patterns, no ethics, no personal background. It’s hard to imagine a human like that. But thanks to ‘Repeat Name’, now you can witness an interaction, which is NOT based on the life experience of its participants, at least, on the one part… A three-day rendezvous in a sterile, transparent room with a bunch of viewers gazing from behind the glass. Another ‘Artist is Present’? Well, it’s the robot who is present here, and it’s certainly about to stay in the near future. 

‘Repeat Name’ features two mirror installations located in two cities: for 72 hours the rooms will host a robot and a human who will interact continuously in front of the audience (whether spontaneously or algorithmically, amicably or indifferently, we may only guess). Illogical, counterintuitive, the performance might bring us to a better understanding of reality, according to the project team… Hence, Purplehaze reached out to three of the ‘Repeat Name’ originators, Anna Peplova, Natalia Fedorova, and Ilya Karpel, to briefly question them on the mind-blowing initiative. Enjoy it below.

Natalia Fedorova, curator of the St. Petersburg-based venue, artist, researcher, lecturer

Ilya Karpel — author of the project ‘Repeat Name’, artist; 

Anna Peplova — producer of the Moscow-based venue, co-curator and producer at Vzor Future Culture Lab, art manager, digital art producer (TECHNE Platform at NCCA, SIGNAL festival), performer, co-founder at LabirintLab; 

Natalia Fedorova — curator of the St. Petersburg-based venue, artist, researcher of history and philosophy of technology, curator at 101. Festival of Digital Art, lecturer at SPbU and ITMO (Art & Science Program). In her artistic practice, Natalia focuses on the intersection of natural languages and technical mediums;

Ilya Karpel, author of ‘Repeat Name’, artist. Photo: Daniil Primak

Anna Peplova, producer of the Moscow-based venue, digital art producer, performer. Photo: Daniil Primak

Authors of the ‘Repeat Name’ project: Ilya Karpel (below), Dmitry Masaidov (left), Maria Rozhkovskaya (overhead). Photo: Daniil Primak

PH: How did you come up with the idea for the project? 

Ilya Karpel: Do you mean how the ideas are usually born? Honestly, I have no answer to that question: sometimes you just come up with an idea, that’s it. However, it’s not the desire to create something, but the determination to carry it through that requires will and efforts. 

PH: Can you compare ‚Repeat Name‘ with any other existing art project, either in Russia or abroad? 

Ilya Karpel: A lot of things happened before us, and some more will take place in the field of contemporary arts; we’re just mediators between the past and the future. So keep on moving forward.

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Dmitry Shelestov

Natalia Fedorova: As for me, ‘Repeat Name’ focuses on our future, i.e. living with robots. In the installation, the future is being sought after through the artificially prolonged communication between a human and a machine. For test purposes, a human participant of the project needs to be isolated from other humans. 

Such practices of isolation have a long history: here I should refer to hermitry and, indeed, art of stamina. The most obvious example might be a three-day performance ‘I Like America and America Likes Me’ by Joseph Beuys, in which he locked himself in with a wild coyote in the room.

Besides, there are quite a few works aimed at creating interfaces for interspecies communication. Take for instance, ‘Myconnect’ by Saša Spačal: an installation suggests communicating through sound that one can hear not just with auracles, but also with knees and elbows. Some less obvious but still bright examples are those from art & science: e.g. the introduction of horse blood serum into the blood of artist Marion Laval-Jeantet.

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Dmitry Shelestov

A more robotic and far more communicative example is SEER (the Simulative Emotional Expression Robot) by Takayuki Todo: a robot that mimics the facial expression of the viewers and, thus, recognizes their emotions.

Anna Peplova: I always find it difficult to compare. You know, there are some artists today who take the robotic mediums to explore the forms and means of communicating, whereas the bioart-oriented projects reflect upon the interaction of bacteria and plants and animals. 

Speaking about the communication of a human and a machine, we might refer here to the sophisticated dance by Huang Yi and KUKA, (Editor’s note: a robot conceptualized and programmed by the artist). It’s also worth mentioning the attempts of finding the common language within the Co(AI)xistence project by visual artist Justine Emard. 

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

In that sense, the project ‘Repeat Name’ keeps on immersing us into the topic, yet from a different angle. While exhibiting various agents of communication in one space and locking up that lively process behind the glass panel, the authors leave them alone to co-exist, making the entire procedure visible for the external viewer. That’s certainly a physical and emotional challenge, both for the participant and the audience. We’ve just started, so we all wonder how it plays out. 

PH: Which audience do you primarily focus on? What kind of person, from your point of view, might be very interested/completely uninterested in the project?  

Ilya Karpel: I guess people engaged in academic arts, if I may say so, will enjoy ‘Repeat Name’ the most. That doesn’t mean, however, that contemporary art fans may find the project boring: they will definitely savor the beauty of the process, whereas the classics lovers might also benefit from discovering something new. All those who see the installation will probably appreciate it, except for the Russian Ministry of Culture (I’m kidding). 

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

Anna Peplova: If you more or less consider the global future of humankind, the way people change when technologies are interwoven into their lives, then you might get interested in the project. Also those involved with theatre and performance might be impressed by ‘Repeat Name’, precisely because it’s a different performative form, an attempt to exist intuitively in front of the viewer watching. 

Natalia Fedorova: I would say the installation might appeal to those used to seeing media art on the screen, which operates data and delivers abstract visualizations and sonifications. The currently bored regulars from international art biennials might also like ‚Repeat Name‘: the former usually represents video pieces as a narrative, while the latter doesn’t have it at all, just a pace and a deep breath. 

PH: Anna and Natalia, what do you find special about running ‚Repeat Name‘ at each of your venues? How may (choose the option: Sevcable Port/Flacon Design Factory) affect the way the audience perceives the installation? 

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

Anna Peplova: I would rather talk about the Moscow-based part of the project. ‘Robohall’ at Flacon Design Factory is a kind of home to one of its machine residents, which used to stay in this place for some time already. Bright and clean, that space is tailor-made for experiments, like making a fine drawing. In both cities, we locate the installation in lofts, i.e. originally industrial areas that at some point became cultural platforms. We furnish the installation rooms with AliExpress goods, introducing some usual, household things into an art space.

Natalia Fedorova: For Sevcable Port (Editor’s note: St. Petersburg’s venue) both robots are aliens that, however, are far from being from another planet. As you may know, Sevcable Port is a space that used to belong to the first Russian cable factory. It’s no secret that a cable as a structure of electronic communication is equally important both for electric machines and a human, who depends upon the Internet and electricity a lot. Today Sevcable Port is a point where the city meets water. Water had long jeopardized the existence of Saint Petersburg and for that reason, Obvodny a.k.a. Bypass and Griboedov Channels were dug, while the embankments were faced with granite. A rendezvous with water can be compared to that with a robot: it’s enthralling, dangerous, and almost inevitable. 

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

PH: Ilya, what kind of decision was that to demonstrate ‚Repeat Name‘ at two venues in different cities, an organizational or conceptual one?

Ilya Karpel: Indeed, the decision was a part of the concept. Lots of people from the project team were involved in the process, big thanks to them! 

PH: Please continue with the rest of the sentence: ‚Robots and humans are…‘ 

Ilya Karpel: Robo-humans, whatever you call them. 

Anna Peplova: A part of the future, an immense and shockingly beautiful one. 

Natalia Fedorova: Partners, who, however, neither know, nor can understand each other well. Yet it’s already clear that machines are coming, thus, the ability to communicate with them will soon become a key human competence.  

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

PH: What should the viewer know before going to see the transparent room? 

Ilya Karpel: One shouldn’t enter it, actually… 

Anna Peplova: The viewers aren’t allowed in the room. It’s a different world out there, to say the least. Still the audience can watch the process from the outside, through the glass panel. I would recommend the viewer not to think too much about the things (s)he sees, but, instead, to reflect upon the possible future scenarios. What’s a machine to you? Who is a human? What do you feel while watching the installation? 

Natalia Fedorova: Well, we invite the audience to watch the transparent room, yet, as with a mirror or a glass ball, one can’t enter it. Therefore, an unusual but very important and precise view of reality is provided to the viewers. 

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

‘Repeat Name’ runs parallely on two venues, Flacon Design Factory, (Moscow, Russia) and Sevcable Port (St. Petersburg, Russia) on September 27-29. 

Authors of the project: Dmitry Masaidov, Ilya Karpel, and Maria Rozhkovskaya. 
Curators of the Moscow-based venue: Anna Peplova, Olga Remneva.
Curators of the St. Petersburg-based venue: Natalia Fedorova, Anastasia Blur. 

Learn more about ‘Repeat Name’ here:
And don’t miss a chance to see it first-hand.

Cosmoscow 2021: Spectacular, Against All Odds

By /ART/

J u l i a  K r y s h e v i c h

Cosmoscow 2021: Spectacular, Against All Odds

Attending Cosmoscow this year (Sep. 18-20, Manege Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow) was certainly a special experience. Firstly, the art fair unfolded into a record-breaking, fully-fledged programme, despite all those unexpected changes that took place at short notice. Initially planned to run at Gostiny Dvor in the second week of September, the event doesn’t seem to have lost anything from being transferred in space and time. The current edition featured 82 galleries (a number never seen at Cosmoscow before), 16 of which enjoy international presence in countries like Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong-Kong, Switzerland, the US, and Estonia. Some tech upgrades made the visit to the fair even comfier and more enjoyable, while the extensive framework of projects helped to channel the guests’ attention to the most noteworthy things.

In the middle_ ‘Soul piercing, Aura kissing, Mind blowing’. Neon installation by Genda Fluid (Antonine Baever), 2020

Where digital art meets NFTs

Along with the variety of galleries participating, Cosmoscow impressed its visitors with a range of special projects this time. An absolute novelty of the season was a section of NFT art hosted by the Moscow-based fair together with their colleagues from New York, CADAF Crypto and Digital Art Fair. Immersive videos to discover, displayed on flat screens, were presented by some young but already famous Russian artists, the award-winning millennials, such as Maria Agureeva (b. 1985), Ivan Plusch (b. 1981), and Dima Rebus (b. 1988).

From left to right_ NFT-installations by Ivan Plusch and Dima Rebus

Among those who came to stay it’s worth mentioning an Irish tech-savvy, contemporary photographer Kevin Abosch, who pioneered in being on the first-basis with AI and blockchain, and Anne Morgan Spalter, a US digital mixed-media artist with a great academic background. A certain trend of the year, a show of NFTs, has been promised by the Hermitage Museum’s director (St. Petersburg) Mikhail Piotrovsky, while Russian art fairs are gradually catching on to that kind of crypto fashion. The Cosmoscow NFT section was curated by Elena Zavelev of CADAF and Jess Conatser of Studio As We Are, just to note the names. 

NFT art section at Cosmoscow featuring works by Kevin Abosch, Maria Agureeva, Anna Taganzeva-Kobzeva and others

From Moscow with love 

Unless we’re talking about the fairs of young art, some large-scale art events rarely focus on its novice members: while the latter might be presented at the show, a greater emphasis is usually given to the acknowledged maitres. It’s the second time in 2021 that Cosmoscow sabotages the ingrained tradition, making way for the new. The section titled ‘Created in Moscow’ (curated by Alexey Maslyaev) aimed at highlighting works by some emerging Russian artists, who were, in turn, represented by the local city galleries. 

Created in Moscow_ section aims to highlight emerging talents. Curated by Alexey Maslyev

That is not to say, however, that all the gallerists who applied for the section were up-and-comers. Indeed, quite a few freshmen like a-s-t-r-a gallery (since 2018) and ARTZIP (since 2019) seized the opportunity, yet they shared the space together with the residents of some full-blooded art venues, take pop/off/art and JART Gallery, for instance, founded in far 2004 and 2008 respectively. So what’s so special about ‘Created in Moscow’? The thing is, each gallery admitted to the section could demonstrate a work by one of its artists for free. Impressive, isn’t it? Considering the very preliminary cost of Cosmoscow participation, that might amount to a few thousands dollars per booth in the main section.

P. S. Apparently, Cosmoscow adheres to a rather sensible pricing policy as compared with its international colleagues, yet there is no exact, publicly available information about the fees at the fair.

Booth C03, pop_off_art gallery, Moscow. Featuring Vladimir Potapov, _From Inside_ series, 2017

Booth D4, 11.12 Gallery, Moscow. Featuring Rinat Voligamsi, 2020


Since the time it was founded in 2017, Cosmoscow Foundation for Contemporary Art has delighted its audience with a great assortment of projects that primarily aim to support and encourage young artists and noncommercial art institutions by reinforcing their names in public view. That means not only financial support, but also a great help in promotion, including an opportunity to show one’s project at the fair and present oneself at Cosmoscow Talks. It was Irina Korina, Russian installation artist with a theatrical background, who received the main nomination for her tangled work ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ this time.

Installation ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ by Irina Korina, 2021. Courtesy of Cosmoscow_

Irina Korina was named the ‘Artist of the Year’ by Cosmoscow in 2021. Photo_ Sleek Magazine

Just like Korina became the ‘Artist of the Year’, the Vyksa Art Residence (Nizhny Novgorod Region) was named the ‘Institution of the Year’. The same age as Cosmoscow, Vyksa functions as a year-round research platform for culture professionals from the entire country, which has been a great matter of interest of late.

The Vyksa Steel Works, the major factory in the town of Nizhny Novgorod Region, painted by the Russian street artist Misha Most. Courtesy of the Vyksa Art Residence_

Neither did the organizers forget about the museums. It’s not by chance that the Multimedia Art Museum has been acknowledged in 2021: this year MAMM marks the 25th anniversary and does it with great pomp in the space of the fair! Some works by Russian conceptual artists including Sergei Shutov, Valery Chtak, and Andrey Kuzkin have been recently added to the museum’s collection and proudly shown at the display. At the same time Garage MCA, which was honoured as the ‘Museum of the Year’ at Cosmoscow in 2020, turned to their St. Petersburg-based archives, to highlight the practices of performance coming from the northern capital.

The Multimedia Art Museum has added some works by Valery Chtak to their collection for the anniversary

The contemporary art fair had also room for loving memory: specially created for the show at a Japanese university, the work ‘A Night at Shore’ by the late artist Nikita Alexeev, ex-member of the ‘Collective actions’ art-group, was exhibited in Russia for the first time. The no less exciting section ‘Collector Eye’ based on the gems of some private collections featured the artworks by some outstanding Russian non-conformists, including the recently deceased Oleg Tselkov and Oskar Rabin.

Ironic vS Serious_ the ‘Collector Eye’ section was organized thematically this time

Simply incredible 

Cosmoscow goes digital, fortunately, only in part. While we are still able to watch the best from the world of contemporary art live, loading ourselves up with some audio guides produced by the Russian Association of Galleries (often abbreviated as AGA; founded in 2020), the process of purchasing the artworks has been greatly transferred online. Launched by the Cosmoscow team in 2020, the digital TEO platform, which is by the way the biggest Russian marketplace now to sell contemporary art on the web, enables the audience to learn more about the liked work, discover the price, and, actually, purchase the piece. Just get your camera phone ready to scan the QR codes written on the label. In fact, the Cosmoscow online version runs until September 26, so we are still able to speak of it in the present tense and, if desired, support the vibrant Russian contemporary art market… 

Wait, QR codes as a work of art_ Recycle Group says yes

To be continued…

Interview with artist Polina Polikarpova

By /ART/

I r e n  R u s s o

Interview with artist Polina Polikarpova

How would you describe what you create?

I try to project the very special state of melancholy and nostalgia for times before the Internet era.


I was born and grew up in a creative family, my father is a commercial photographer and my mother is a seamstress, so I usually try to use my parent’s craft in my artistic practice. Also I’ve got my BA as an art historian in Kharkiv state academy of design arts. But academic education gave me much more networking skills among other students who became gallerists, artists, art managers, etc.

What kind of photographer did you set out to be?

Independent photographer-flâneur, who is always aestheticizating the local Ukrainian context for creating my own visual vocabulary of characters, landscapes, vernacular architecture. I always wanted to be a “pioneer-discoverer” in different aspects. For example, for creating portraits I am always much more interested in finding interesting, unknown people, without having a rich model experience and having nice Instagram. Or I enjoy finding new “wild” locations for shooting, then share it to other colleagues on Google maps, then to be calm and pleased that I was the first who has been there.

What are the fundamental messages you want to get across with your work?

I never have some strict messages, for me it is important to transfer the general state of nostalgia.

What is the concept behind your ongoing ‚Absentee — Attendee‘ series?

From the very beginning of my photographic journey, I have explored my habitats with a clear, defined goal — to find new, interesting locations that could become a worthy backdrop for a good portrait. But this time I changed my method and focus. For this, I turned to flanery as a kind of meditation, the desire to explore and contemplate the most unobvious places and views.

What’s the most important thing for you when shooting a series? How do you bring out the idea?

“Pretty Ghetto” and “Absentee’Attendee” series weren’t planned in advance, it’s result of my constant long-term explorings. In “Pretty Ghetto” the human was always the main hero, happening on some surrealistic but local background. In “Absentee” I’m changing my focus to native landscape as a main character and theme for observing. In other series, such as “38” I appeal to the theme of relationships between me and my best friend and model Yaroslava, because I always was obsessed by such themes as similarity in relationships between best friends, models and photographers, etc. In the near future I’ll present my new series called “Childhood Ballad” where I was looking for children like me in my early 2000’s childhood, and then photographing them in my old clothes with old toys from that time.

Which artists have inspired you?

There are my contemporaries: Michal Pudelka, Lukasz Wierzbowski, Nazar Furyk, and of course, Synchrodogs.

Which work are you most proud of?

I appreciate all of my work.

What is next for you?

First photo book 🙂

Aleksandra Gritsenko „kukla“

By /ART/


Fashion stylist: Yuliana Popova @yulianappv
Model: Arina Sanzhizhapova @ BST Models Agency @arinaa___s
Makeup Artist: Vasilisa Nikolaeva @nikol_vasillisa
Photographer: Aleksandra Gritsenko @ask_me_to_shoot

Bodysuit Cheremushno

Suit – Argan Project, Shoes – Dasha Uragan; Bodysuit Cheremushno

Shirt – Tex man, accessories stylist own;

Suit – Argan Project, Shoes – Dasha Uragan

Dress Argan Project, Shoes vintage

Kimono – Embra and more; Shoes – Dasha Uragan

Digital Dreams, Uncanny Feeling: Interview with Curators of Ars Electronica Project Helena Nikonole and Oxana Chvyakina

By /ART/

From left to right_ curators Helena Nikonole and Oxana Chvyakina at the opening of ‘Uncanny Dream’. Electromuseum in Rostokino, Moscow (03.09.2021). Photo_ Kseniya Yablonskaya

J u l i a  K r y s h e v i c h
K s e n i y a  Y a b l o n s k a y a

Digital Dreams, Uncanny Feeling: Interview with Curators of Ars Electronica Project Helena Nikonole and Oxana Chvyakina

The recently opened Ars Electronica festival puzzles us with this year’s theme A New Digital Deal. And it’s not that we haven’t shaken the idea of the omnipresent digitalization, which has reached its apogee during the global series of lockdowns, but just the very thought occupying our minds, how can we deal with that? May the new order of things change our lives for better or worse? And eventually, is that such a new thing? 

While the current edition of Ars Electronica is running in a hybrid format, which both implies on-site events in different countries around the globe and online projects, I was lucky enough to personally meet Helena Nikonole and Oxana Chvyakina, the curators of the Moscow-based ‘Kepler’s Garden’ this year (the 2020 concept of ‘Kepler’s Gardens’ has successfully assimilated in the ground of the festival, so that this time the system of ‘gardens’ has spread itself internationally). Oxana and Helena have in detail told about their project Uncanny Dream: the way it matches the spirit of the time, correlates with the general idea of the edition, and seamlessly rests upon personal links.

‚The Becoming‘ by Pavel Seldemirov. Courtesy of the Artist

Helena, Oxana, I am really glad to be speaking with you today, a week away from the opening of Ars Electronica, one of the biggest digital art festivals in the world and probably the most famous one.  

Just before we get down right to the topic of your exhibition, I would like to focus particularly on the Ars Electronica festival. What are your impressions of this season? Is it the first time you take part in the event? 

Helena Nikonole: Personally, I have visited the festival many times. Before the pandemic, I took part in Ars Electronica both as an artist and as a curator. Just last year, together with my colleague and the other curator Olga Vad, we intended to exhibit in Linz, but as the pandemic spoiled our plans, we had to transfer the show to Moscow, to the Electromuseum. Parallel to it, we created an online part. So, yes, this is the second time. 

This year I have invited Oxana to join me: I chose Oxana because of her incredible experience in curating the Wrong Biennale (an art biennial for digital culture hosted online since 2013). I just thought we would make a perfect duo 🙂 

Oxana Chvyakina: As for me, it was my first Ars Electronica experience. I have curated online projects before, but the thing with the Ars Electronica festival this year was to create a hybrid event. The exhibition Uncanny Dream will take place both on-site, in the Moscow-based Electromuseum and digitally. The theme for this year sounds like A New Digital Deal. The festival’s system is conceived as a network of gardens spread over the world. So we decided to create one in Moscow. I am happy to be doing it together with Helena. 

‚Stopping Light‘ by Ivan Netkachev. Courtesy of the Artist

That was exactly my next question. The currently unfolded age of ‘Coronacene’ has affected Ars Electronica — as you have already mentioned, today it hosts both online and offline projects on par. To your mind, what influence did this ‘going digital’ step have on the entire concept of the festival, if any? 

H.N: Actually, it is the second time the Ars Electronica festival hosts its projects in a hybrid form. I guess this year the organizers of Ars Electronica have learnt some lessons from 2020, so they could incorporate the experience. 

You know, the huge part of the festival, which is networking — when you just enter the show and meet new people — is missing this time. That’s why they came up with those special platforms and Swapcard that represent a virtual space for connecting with others. You just visit the platform, see the profile pics of those who have joined the conversation, and dive right in! I think it helps. The point is, we would still like to go to Linz with the artists to attend Ars Electronica physically, but in the circumstances, at least, we have some digital opportunities.   

The one that I particularly cherish is coming ahead. On September 11 there will be a 24-hour multimedia performance in the Moscow-based Cube art space, with a live stream running parallely on the project website. The participants will construct a disturbing image of an everyday global catastrophe, elements of which surround us during the third decade of the 21st century. Different toolsets like electronic musical instruments, game engines, DIY synthesizers, the artists’ voices and many others will be involved. The performance promises to be a great event, which might open up the topic of Uncanny Dream even more. I’m glad that it will be available digitally, which means globally. 

‘Charon AR’ by Vladimir Sheshak. Courtesy of the Artist

‘Charon AR’ by Vladimir Sheshak. Courtesy of the Artist

The artistic co-director of Ars Electronica, Gerfried Stocker once shared his opinion on the way the festival functions: Ars Electronica is all about the maximum flexibility and improvising. Can you agree with the statement? What features and characteristics have you noticed in the work of the festival? Which of them would you perhaps like to see on the local arts scene or even implement in your own curating practice? 

H.N. Of course, Ars Electronica is about improvising. Gerfried Stocker is at the head, and he is the one who carries the vision. The festival organizers do it from one edition to another, but 2020 and 2021 have been a special case, because of the difficult conditions everyone has to face now. The organizers have just realized, they could not make it the way they used to over the past 30 years. As a result, Ars Electronica has become even more international. I also think they are stimulating the growth of the local communities by proposing changes and taking new initiatives.

O.C. On my part, I would also point out professional networking as a big advantage of taking part in Ars Electronica. The organizers seek to create a network of artists, curators, critics, and all those who have to do with the new media arts. As an emerging curator, I appreciate it a lot. 

‘Aeternum illud’ by Xenia Obukhovskaya. Courtesy of the Artist

Now let’s talk about your project. The festival has a rather labyrinthine structure, which perfectly rhymes with the concept of ‘Kepler’s Gardens’. Uncanny Dream takes place in the Moscow-based Electromuseum in Rostokino, which is a member of the Moscow Exhibition Venues Union. How would you define the location of your exhibition towards the entire system of the festival, complex and intertwined? 

O.C. For some reasons we didn’t face any kind of selection when applying. At least, we heard nothing of that. Once the organizers received our proposal, they were very excited about it, so we had really positive reviews about the project idea. I think Helena and I have just put one bullet in the bullseye. You know, the topic A New Digital Deal sounds vast and speaks for itself, so the exhibition Uncanny Dream has perfectly fitted in the entire concept of the festival. 

Uncanny Dream tackles the issues of the ‘Coronacene’ epoch, which is relevant for people around the globe today. Actually, we are going to have an introductory online meeting with all the curators of ‘Kepler’s Gardens’ in a few days — the situation is different everywhere, and it changes! How should we deal with it? What kind of future awaits us? So I would say, our show mostly focuses on the mediums that answer those how-questions. 

H.N. I think the other reason for including Uncanny Dream in the program was the interest of the organizers towards the Russian community of new media artists. That is what Martin Honzik, the festival’s director and curator told me in person: You have an amazing community of artists in Russia, but it feels like you are underrepresented globally. 

What is also striking, this year we engaged young artists only a.k.a. ‘digital natives’, whereas in the previous editions there were participants from different generations and different post-Soviet countries. It is just Moscow and Saint Petersburg this time. As curators, we focus on the ways ‘digital natives’ explore the digital space in times of the pandemic. The organizers appreciated our concern for video games within the exhibition, while it is certainly the format that needs to be displayed online. Uncanny Dream has a true hybrid spirit — viewers can enjoy it both digitally and physically. 

‘Aeternum illud’ by Xenia Obukhovskaya. Courtesy of the Artist

‘Aeternum illud’ by Xenia Obukhovskaya. Courtesy of the Artist

Uncanny Dream features works by 14 artists and 1 art collective. All of the participants reside in Russia and do digital art; apart from that, they have very distinctive backgrounds: e.g. in game development, architecture, and music. What selection criteria did you use while inviting the artists to become a part of the project? Were the personal links also in play? 

H.N. Many of the artists selected are either from the Rodchenko Art School or the School of Contemporary Art Free Workshops
(Moscow Museum of Modern Art). Some of them are my students (Editor’s note: Neural Networks in Arts and Art & Science are Helena’s author’s courses). Together with Oxana we discussed which of the artistic projects could or better not be shown online. Oxana also suggested inviting some people from the Independent Video Games Community. Besides, the list of participants for Uncanny Dream includes artists like Yuliya Kozhemyako (Supr) and Fedor Balashov (WASDSWAG), who have already gained some international recognition. For instance, Yuliya has exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale this year.

O.C. Ideally, there should be an educational platform for the emerging media artists, so that they could later integrate into the global digital arts community. You know, it is hard to be a self-taught artist in the field of technological arts now. I guess educational and exhibit opportunities interlink here a lot.
Originally, we thought of organizing an open-call, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for it. There were only three months to prepare the entire project. That is why we decided to use personal links. After all, many things work like that in the contemporary art world. 

H.N. I agree. As a lecturer and an independent curator, I often include the works of my alumni in some bigger art projects. It is like a short path from the classroom to the big art world, so to speak. 

‘Neurofrodite’ by Nika Peshekhonova. Courtesy of the Artist

The press-release of your exhibition explains the title Uncanny Dream as an uneasy feeling one gets because of the ever-changing reality. The text says, the exhibition tackles such acute issues as AI bias, different forms of biopolitics, social isolation, and loneliness during the pandemic, which does not sound bright at all. Yet did any of the artists from those whose works have been selected for the Uncanny Dream dare to bring a more positive perspective on the topics listed above? 

O.C. I don’t think anybody would describe this feeling as a depressive one, because of the emotional distance implied. As for me, the exhibition focuses on the common experience we all have gone through, it doesn’t have to do much with one’s personal feelings or state. 

H.N. Yet I guess many of the artists intended to display that uncanny feeling. For example, Pavel Seldemirov’s project is exactly about that kind of sensation one has probably experienced during the pandemic. You know, the exhibition also suggests a metaphorical way of seeing things: a fairytale forest, which makes you feel… well, uncanny. 

The following question I would like to be answered by each of you. Please choose one of the works featured at Uncanny Dream that, in your opinion, is essential for understanding the idea of the entire display. In other words, which work should the viewer pay special attention to?

O.C. I would definitely mention video games. There are like six of them, the works of Yuliya Kozhemyako, Katya Gallitskaya, Xenia Obukhovskaya, Anastasia Koroleva, Alexey Ryabov, and Pavel Seldemirov.

H.N. Yes, all of them discuss the pandemic experience, the major topic of the show. Given that the viewer is into video games, (s)he would easily grasp the idea. 

‘Generotic art’ by Fedor Balashov aka WASDSWAG. Courtesy of the Artist

‘Generotic art’ by Fedor Balashov aka WASDSWAG. Courtesy of the Artist

Helena, Oxana, I wonder how you came together as a curatorial duo for the current exhibition. Your backgrounds in new media arts seem to overlap, and, most probably, being based in Moscow, you knew each other before. How did you share the duties within the project? Was it easy and fast to reach agreement on the concept? And what is the best part of curating the show together? 

H.N. I really enjoy working with Oxana and I like the very idea of collaboration. You know, while collaborating with someone, you can better see the other person’s perspective, which contributes to making the project multidimensional. 

O.C. Yes, me too. I think we have made a very good team with Helena. By working together we can share our duties and discuss everything. We just have a gut’s feeling of what needs to be done (laughing). Perhaps, this is an indicator of us having grown up to high professional standards. 

I wonder to whom of you the idea of the project belongs…

O.C. Helena came up with the title and the main idea for the exhibition, I would say. Afterwards, we have just got down to elaborating the concept. Personally I find it complicated to name things, whereas for Helena it might be easier.

H.N. Oh no, I am usually bad at names.

O.C. Really? 

H.N. Honestly! However, this time it was very natural, I just had a picture in my mind, so I decided to follow it.  

‚In Between‘ by Katya Galitskaya. Courtesy of the Artist

My last question, art curators just like artists usually appreciate all the projects they had in their creative career or, at least, the ones they decided to include in their portfolio. However, some exhibitions/initiatives are particularly appreciated. Can you say that Uncanny Dream as a form of your participation in the Ars Electronica festival was exactly the kind of experience you value so much? If so, how do you think it has shaped or will shape your curating practice? 

H.N. Of course, it’s special. No idea how it is going to shape my future experience (laughing). It’s hard to say. 

O.C. Well, taking part in Ars Electronica is definitely important for my career as a curator. I wasn’t sure of that when we just began working on the project, but now I am, absolutely. 

H.N. I still hope we will be able to bring our project to Linz next year. 

O.C. Hopefully. 

2021 Ars Electronica Festival takes place from September 8—12 in its headquarters in Linz (Austria), locally, and online.

‚The Becoming‘ by Pavel Seldemirov. Courtesy of the Artist

You can learn more about the project ‘Uncanny Dream’ and follow the news here:
And don’t forget to visit the festival website:

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By /ART/


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