a Ukrainian art critic, curator of contemporary art, and publicist
Interview: Anastasia Gorbunova
Photo: Mykhailo Krupiievsky
What’s it like to be you?
Being me is something where no one can be more successful than me. I don’t think in terms of competition, I always try to make life decisions that only concern me. It’s fascinating. And being interested in all matters is my key emotional process.
What does courage mean to you?
It’s not about acting out of habit or stereotypes. It’s about being able to listen to yourself every time and act accordingly. Growing up, we develop many automatic reactions: liking one thing and disliking the other, feeling comfortable or uncomfortable. You should strictly monitor it, and suppress mechanical manifestations. Only then do you open up new discoveries, development, movement. Courage is about being open and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
What values has society lost?
With the advancement of civilization, human ethics also change. Certain values turn out to be outdated – they interfere with new realities and pull you back. They start to be perceived as bigotry. Clinging on to them is stupid. With the arrival of the digital age, many of the values that we are used to are gradually disappearing: loyalty to one place of work or a corporation, the privacy of one’s life, the institution of marriage, etc. New values that are significant for the growth of mankind are being put into place – tolerance, the ability to endlessly learn, individual rights, the plasticity of thought.
What’s your favorite life observation?
It’s interesting to observe your own change, how your character changes over the years while gaining new experiences and new information. Your taste expands, and the feeling of happiness becomes greater. I love to see similar changes in others.
What makes you feel a childish delight?
Human spontaneity, authenticity, and being natural.
What do you think will truly matter at the end of life?
The beauty and an all-embracing joy of terrestrial light, with which my soul will merge.
What does beauty mean to you and how does it manifest itself?
Natural things are beautiful, there is a lot of grace in that and we hardly notice it.
Things of beauty are those that carry a thought, not just an idea, but an understanding of its embodiment.
But beauty is not a criterion when talking about art, especially contemporary art.
Is fuss possible in art?
Everything is possible. A hectic craft will simply require more strength and resources.
Curatorial project by Konstantin Doroshenko “Fatal Strategies”.
Participants: Olga Gromova, Georgy Senchenko.
Kyiv, Pavilion of Mechanical Engineering and Instrumentation VDNKh, 2011
“I am an artist and this is how I see my art” – is it a justification or a sign of professionalism?
It’s a cliche.
What knowledge was most useful to you in your work?
The ability to work with sources of information, perceive them critically, compare and verify them. The ability to seek information. This skill was given to me by the Faculty of History at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. I think every good higher education course teaches this.
How constrained are you by the desire to control everything?
The temperament and life circumstances have shaped me into having a controlling personality. At some stages, it was more effective, but in fact, it is a neurosis fueled by distrust of the world and an overestimation of the boundaries of one’s own responsibility. Fortunately, I gradually almost rid myself of it thanks to the experience of my own achievements, losses, and the wisdom and consideration of my friends.
What are the problems and privileges of contemporary art?
I don’t see any problems with contemporary art.
Art is the most humanistic activity by its nature since only humans of all living creatures on the planet produce art. Only humans feel the urge to create something absolutely non-utilitarian. As long as humanity exists, art will grow, change, and reproduce.
The global trend of the democratization of the world is leading to the democratization of art. It’s very fascinating to see where it leads. So far, no one will seriously envision a probable future.
Are you born an artist or do you become an artist?
You become an artist. Everyone can engage with art, but not everyone needs it based on their strength. Not everyone is able to devote themselves to art. Art is a pretty exhausting territory.
What piece of art influenced you the most?
These are different pieces of work that corresponded with my worldview through different stages of my life. But the first time I was charmed by “Infanta Margarita” of the Velasquez school in the National Museum of Art named after Varvara and Bogdan Khanenko. It’s one of the most mesmerizing portraits of the future empress of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, who only lived 22 years. And it’s one of the main artistic treasures of Kyiv – it’s our Gioconda.
Which instrument do you like the most and why? How exactly does this sound reflect your personality?
The human voice. A lot is said by the individuality, personality, and manner of a performer. I am deeply moved by Pope Benedict XVI singing in his album Alma Mater. Or I am moved by the transformation of Ukrainian songs performed by Maria Maksakova. But I prefer to listen to music at concerts. Outside of that music abducts our life, it throws emotions at us that distract us from our actual experiences. Sometimes I listen to music while writing my essays. It began with my university thesis, which I wrote while listening to “Don Giovanni” by Mozart and “Prophet” by Meyerbeer.
What new and interesting things have you uncovered recently?
I saw an impressive relief of Medusa the Gorgon at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu. In and of itself it’s worth visiting Kerkyra. The Gorgon is carved in the center of the pediment of the Temple of Artemis. The German Emperor Wilhelm II took part in the excavation. The image differs from the one we are familiar with in ancient iconography, it symbolizes the change of eras, similar to the one that we are experiencing today. Back then it was a transition of the world to a patriarchal reality and order that overcame the primordial chaos, the embodiment of which was a powerful female titan being. Already beheaded, in agony, Medusa looks directly at the spectator and overshadows the actions of all the heroes standing nearby. She is a chthonic horror that civilization is still unable to forget, in a victory over which we are just starting to believe in.
Is being a producer any different from being an art curator?
These are different professions. A curator offers the world some sort of research, a statement, he poses a question or a proposal for a two-way reflection through an exhibition or any other project. A producer is engaged in promoting an artist or a project. A producer is focused on the success of the implementation of a given project.
Are you proud of yourself?
Pride, just like hatred, is a medieval feeling.
I don’t understand both. My feelings are about joy, sadness, pleasure, inspiration. And I had to endure grief and sorrow. I am satisfied with myself, it’s fascinating to observe myself, to enjoy all the new opportunities of inspiration, and uncover new discoveries about how the surrounding world operates.