Покрас Лампас: Не быть инструментом пропаганды | Украина, ветераны войны и русофобия

Покрас Лампас: Не быть инструментом пропаганды | Украина, ветераны войны и русофобия

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It seems to me that now is not the best time to come to Russia, because why should I do that? A lot of people wrote to me, "Pokras, are you mad? You took the word 'unity', it stands for United Russia." There is an amazing or even a crazy number of intelligent, talented, cool people in power. There is no situation where an artist who has his own stance, opinion, philosophy will just be cut off, strangled, cancelled and so on. it is not shameful to be Russian, but it is a shame to be a person who lies to themselves and lies to people around them. — Friends, the guest of my new interview is the artist, Pokras Lampas.

We met in Bali and talked about the situation in Ukraine, the possibility of returning to Russia, the propagandists and cancelling Russian artists. I wanted to remind you that this is my second channel and almost 90% of you are watching it without subscribing. Don't do that! Subscribe to this channel, there will be a lot of cool interviews very soon! — Hi everyone! Today my guest is Pokras Lampas, a famous Russian artist... well, not just Russian anymore but, an international one. An explorer... What else would you describe yourself as? A creative person... [Pokras Lampas, artist-calligrapher] — Yes, a creator.

— Yes, a creator. By the way, Pokras Lampas is indeed one of Russia's most famous young contemporary artists today. His work is sold in fashionable British galleries and he is invited to grand various events around the world. What are the most interesting works of art in the world that you have painted? — Well, the Square Colosseum... To put it simply, in Rome, it’s the roof of the Fendi headquarters, Dover Street Market, in London. We did a remote installation. There were projects in Dubai projects in Hong Kong...

When I start to look back and think of all the places, it feels like I’ve been everywhere. — When the time the war started, on February 24, you weren’t in Russia, right? — Not I wasn’t... — And you decided not to come back to Russia for some time? — I decided not to come back for a while, yes.

— How come? — Well, for objective reasons. It seems to me now is not the best time to come to Russia, because why should I do that if I can now be abroad, in a cool place, growing, creating my own art projects and so on, being independent in everything. Why should I rush back now? — Have you had any government projects in Russia? — Well, probably street art festivals, in principle almost all of them relate to the state. — Well, the state is the organiser.

— Yeah. — And some kind of state contracts? I mean, what do people imagine by a ‘state contract’? So there's a state order and some artists who get their money from the budget. Actors, singers and musicians... And so, they are fed from the budget, and they owe something to the public. Have you been fed from the budget? — I’m being fed from nowhere, not from a state budget, not from anything else. I work. If my work costs money, then I get paid for my work. But I've never had one

where I was like, "Oh, it's the state project, I'll give them a price of x5." On the contrary, almost all the projects that are done for the city are not profitable for the artists. Because you give it a lot of resources, effort, time, emotion, but for objective reasons the price... well, for example, if you're top 1 in the market and there's more of this average price, then you always lower your price to the average, because it's not very right to come in and say, "pay me the same amount as my work in the gallery costs." And the second important point, when you do artwork on the street, you give it a lot of yourself, because there are now people who live with your work. It's not an exhibition in a gallery that you can

open and close and people choose to come to the gallery to see your work or to pass by. This is where people live with it. Because they walk past that work every day. Plus, there's the added challenge of choosing the right materials and technique to apply, thinking about how to film it right and thinking about how to describe this project. That is, the resource for these tasks is

very complex and to do it well means that you really must work very hard. — Deputy of the State Duma Khinshtein, spoke out about your work the other day, vouchsafed to you, and noticed you himself! Apparently, he has no other business, he's finished his ‘to-do list’ and decided to focus on you. He said that since you have taken an anti-war stance, the government should not work with you anymore, and apparently now in Samara, your work, which in my opinion is absolutely stunning, will have to be painted over... Sorry, guys, we have construction works going on outside the window and unfortunately, it cannot be stopped, so please forgive us for the background, incomprehensible noise, but we will not dwell on it, so... It's an absolutely stunning work that has made the city richer, more interesting, but now it will probably be painted over so that nothing in the city reminds of you.

Can you tell us, for example, how much have you got for this work? — Let me first tell you about this deputy's statement. Firstly, I have been coming to Samara for several years, and when I have, we have always met with both representatives of the city and the administration, with local residents, and with the art community. So, there are always many points of intersection with the city. For example, Elena Lapushkina, who is the mayor of the city, Azarov and so on. These are not just names, these are people with whom I greeted, with whom I discussed projects, in front of whom we defended our concepts, and I do not believe that one statement of a deputy should really take and destroy the piece because a lot of work has been done to create it. That is important. And secondly, if we still think of it in terms of the will of the people, and the Deputy of a State Duma is still a man of the people, he must manifest their will and not disguise his personal initiative as it. I am sure one should ask people in Samara if they think that this art object is appropriate and deserving of attention, and indeed it has become a landmark of the city, including for tourists, then the destruction of the art object, in my opinion, is wrong, to say the least.

Secondly, the quote that was written on that art object, if I recall correctly, is an Order no. 2 to the Armies of the Arts from Mayakovsky, and this is a Mayakovsky Descent. And I think Mayakovsky also said a lot of different things in terms of his art. But we are not banning him, we are not destroying him, we are not persecuting anybody, we are not fighting anybody. It seems to me that in principle it is wrong to ban culture, at the very least. Now, let me touch on my stance.

I believe that people who don't quote my stance can misunderstand and misinterpret it because there are a million different interpretations now. We are living in an age of information, which cannot be true unless you quote the source. I did not see a statement from Deputy Khinshtein quoting my post to say that this particular phrase is so-and-so, for example. So, what are we talking about here? About the fact that people have heard my phrase or found out my phrase from somewhere... I have specific posts, I have a specific

stance, but this stance, I think, should not be seen as a desire to roll Russian culture back into the Stone Age. On the contrary, we are developing it and it is normal if you live in Russia you have freedom of speech, right? I don't call, if we’re going for something completely crazy here, to massacre the Russian military, because it would be really scary. I cannot do that, and I think it is ethically wrong. But I can speak out for peace and speak against military action in Ukraine because people are dying there and unfortunately, civilians are dying and suffering too. And if it concerns me, if I even have part of my relatives in Ukraine, I have a lot of friends in Ukraine, I don't think I have the ethical-moral right to be silent on this issue. Yes, it is sad if someone considers this stance to be anti-Russian.

But I believe it is not. This stance is that of an adult sensible person who wants issues to be resolved peacefully, at the negotiating table, trying to save human lives. But if a military operation is already taking place on the territory of another country, I have no right not to say that I am hiding from some kind of pressure. So, I calmly say that I will go back to Russia and will continue doing art projects.

I don't think there should be any political repression for this. For the fact that you can just express your opinion and support people who have been affected by disasters. Help someone with advice, maybe collect medicine, food, and other things. Or tell about some cool artists. This stance is absolutely not anti-Russian because time will pass, and our generation will be judged as people who have now taken certain actions. If my actions were honest and sincere,

and I understand the responsibility of having done them, I do not believe that my art project has become worse from this. my art project has become worse from this. — Going back to this art project, how much did you get for it? How much did the state spend on it? — Look, in terms of estimates, it always goes like this: there's the area of the work, in our case it's a huge space...

— Yes, it's a waterfront descent, a slope of an embankment... — Yes, yes. So, it's more than 3200 square feet of the work area, just the basic calligraphy itself. This whole embankment, for those who don't know, is made up of small bricks, it's paved. Each one of these bricks was painted with this tiny brush lettering. So, it was just thousands of letters that you wrote every day from the scaffolding, from the ground, the sun is shining, fire or rain, something else... Whatever happens,

you write anyway. There was a wasp's nest hidden on top. Wasps fly, you set them on fire somehow, try to scare them away with a lighter, and yet you continue to write. You've got a wobbly crane. So, it's not glamorous, it's not fun and it's not easy. And you have a responsibility to make it as good as it is here, and here,

and here, and here. And at the same time, you're writing, you're quoting, you can't write another word for yourself. It's quite a complicated process. It took me more than two weeks, just the painting process itself. Every day people came to the embankment and watched me work, so I think the people of Samara will keep me honest, it was a huge volume of work. So, if we look at the estimates, we have to imagine that all that time I had assistants with me and it includes the equipment that lifted me up and down, the clearcole because it's an embankment, there's water and so increased humidity, a special gold paint that really holds up properly.

It still looks beautiful on the embankment, it's very important. It's a special waterproof varnish. I can't tell you how much money was spent for one simple reason - I'm not a contractor and thank God because I don't want to make any money from the difference in the amount. Not at all. I say honestly, “guys, I need this technical assignment to be fulfilled and a big thank you to those who did it.”

— Okay, how much have you personally... have you personally earned anything? I'm not counting expenses. — Look, this is public information, because as far as I know it was a request through an NGO, it was around $3500.

— You personally earned $3500? — Yeah, well, imagine, for two weeks straight I was... — Yes, of course, I see. It’s just that for someone who doesn't understand, for example, Pokras sold his work for $50,000 at an auction yesterday. I mean, the $3500 that technically the city paid for the artwork is just ridiculous money for this level of work, for something of this sort being created.

I’m asking because people don't really understand when Deputy Khinshtein says that for an anti-Russian stance you have to be cut off from the budget, all those who don’t really know how it works can think that you are just sitting there all nice in a Balenciaga cap because you spend Russian taxpayers' money on luxury, eat oysters and lobsters and still dare to express an anti-Russian viewpoint. I just wanted you to explain how that works, and that when you’re making money, it’s not on these city-state projects. — I’ve got a small remark. If we are talking just about taxes, again it is open information, you can find it yourself, that is, every year I pay more than $8000-$9500 for sure, just on taxes, not counting other deductions. These are taxes. Sometimes I have to pay $5500 per quarter. And if I work in Russia, I pay all taxes, all my projects are official, and I don't happen to have money brought to me in envelopes that aren’t being declared. I have a tough lawyer.

I have all my contracts done so that there are copyrights, licences, license transfers, whatever. I pay taxes in Russia, I really do art projects in Russia, I talk about Russian culture in Russia and abroad, I share my knowledge, I spread a lot of information about how to learn the things I do, I give lectures and it's always free because I try to bring something good to people. When we do a project and we take $3500, I pay for the production, so people come, take photos and so on. I also use this money

to buy other necessary resources and live or something else. That is, people should understand that artists in Russia do not make money from street projects. Artist in Russia earns money only through their own work. If you work very hard, really know the value of your work and really develop your style, your name, your brand, then you will earn something. But earning money from the state through government contracts is always, in my opinion, well, probably the most unprofitable option. It's just cool for people, honestly. I mean, I sometimes come to a town, the festival

writes to me, “Pokras, we have no budget, could you come?” I tell them, “Honestly, guys, I don't need the budget myself. I need a budget for good production, good materials, assistants, speed of work and for everything to be done exactly the way I want.” And lastly, it's the most important thing, that the artist is responsible for their work from start to finish. No one influenced the meaning

they put into the work, no one influenced the form of the statement and has not influenced the author’s message and misinterpreted it. This is why I am so scrupulous about these aspects. — After what happened and the way the world changed, would you be able to work with the government further if you were invited to join some state events or festivals? — Look, it's an ethical question and working with the state in Russia is a very broad definition I would say. I've thought about it a lot, it's interesting that you brought it up. For example, we all like to watch some cool stuff on YouTube.

And we realise that the production costs tens of thousands of dollars for some shows. That's super expensive. Big shows can cost a huge amount of money. They are filmed, for example, through some production company that is affiliated with some big Russian company. For example, an oil and gas producer or something else. Can we consider this money state money because it goes through state resources, settles in smaller companies and then spreads out in the creative industries, or not? Should I ethically stop watching cool shows on YouTube just because they've been paid for by the state through these ten follow-up layers? — No, I'm not talking about someone out there paying you money right now.. — Well, then I've got another question.

— I'm talking about specific national events... For example, tomorrow you'll be asked to do something... Let me give you a specific example. Tomorrow, they'll call you to paint Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow... Moscow mayor's office, Sobyanin...

— Look, I think that you shouldn’t go out with torches and fight everybody but try to explain things as rationally and reasonably as possible. That's all. I always do that, that’s all I can share. For example, if we want to do something in a city no matter Singapore, Dubai, Bali, Moscow or St. Petersburg... — Yes, you can't do it outside of contact with the authorities — Yes, you just can't — I understand that — Look, who am I? Am I a street artist? — Yes — Tell me honestly, does the fact that I am from Russia or not from Russia affect my stance? Or have I just been doing my calligrafuturism, my projects in Russia and abroad, and still continue to do it, nothing has changed? I keep speaking out the same way. If any authority tells me, "Pokras, you should write this, to our tune... we'll pay you, we'll offer you anything, we'll do anything..." - I'll refuse.

But in Moscow, for example, I did a mural about missing children with Liza Alert. That's a project that can't be done without the support of the prefecture, the Central Administrative District if I’m right... — By the way, it's good that you brought that up, I'm sorry to interrupt you. The founder of Liza Alert was running as a candite in the elections when you did this mural. And he was running on the so-called “Sobyanin’s list” in not very fair and not very competitive elections, and a lot of people felt that this mural that you made was blatant campaigning. Did you know that? Did you know that

this person was running in the election? — I'm going to tell you about my thoughts on this too, by the way, but before I do, I'm going to finish the previous important point. If we want to do something in Russia, what concerns not us personally, our canvases, our recordings on YouTube, our stories, digital projects, the metaverse, but if we want something that appears in the environment, urban or any other, in architecture, we work with the city in one way or another. The city is, in our case, a manifestation of power. I live in St. Petersburg. Do you think that when I come to Petersburg, I'm going

to be afraid to talk to people? No, I'll keep saying, "Look, I have this stance, I have these views, I have this philosophy, and I have these projects. If you think they should exist, then let's do it this way, this way and that way." But I should not naturally make money from it. So now if I do something in Russia, in terms of such projects, it will not be a thing that I will do, even for a fee of $3500. I’ll just remove it. That is, ethically, whatever I'm going to do will be absolutely unprofitable for me in Russia, it will never be controlled by anybody in terms of meanings, and it will never be done in a way I would be ashamed of.

That's all. Then I will do projects. I'm sure that a lot of people in Russia understand this, they will support it because it is much easier to understand people with a certain stance than people who cannot express their opinion. I expressed mine this way. Those who are in favour of this, I am sure they will understand it. Now, let’s talk about the Liza Alert mural. Firstly, the initiative to create

the mural was not from Oleg Leonov, but from other people in the squad. This is important. I met Oleg only once we created this mural and he came to support it and tell about it. But at the same time, a lot of really good words were said about Oleg by people in the squad who had been working with him for a long time, talked with him and so on. So, when this campaign story started, I received several messages from our media; from the editors of Dozhd, Meduza and so on, asking me to comment on the following.

On Oleg Leonov's personal website there was a snippet of my interview with him, which was roughly speaking part of his campaign, although I did not do any projects with him for his campaign. I wrote to my colleagues at Liza Alert and said, "Guys, I think this is unacceptable and that it should be removed." Colleagues at Liza Alert told me, "Pokras, we didn't know about it..." I tend to trust everyone because there is no reason not to. Right now, it's like this. "...We'll delete it. It's good that you told us about it. This site was Oleg’s personal blog before and at the time of his campaign he turned it into his, roughly speaking, campaign resource, but since this stuff was posted there before, it stayed there." That was their stance.

And then a very strange situation began. It so happened that someone wanted to paint over this mural in terms of its condition and the building itself in general. And it's true that the building was in an emergency state or something else, so they gave it to us in Yakimanka District to paint over. Not all facades in Moscow can be painted over. So, it was cool that we were given such a great facade in such an important place (it is a real cultural centre of Moscow, after all). And I'm really grateful for this support. And I realised the following. If I'm now going to be

hyping up a conflict on my social networks about painting over this work, it doesn't matter what my stance is, I will be helping the campaign, because I will be quoting sources that will lead to Oleg, and that will give him extra traffic, so to say. And I've had two weeks of complete silence where I haven't reposted a single post, haven't made comments to any media and generally completely ignored the story as best I could. Because I think there was a very sneaky game here. He would have won one way or another, I have no doubt about that. But I didn't want my stance and my art project to influence how people would vote for him. That's all. That's my ethical position. — You said an interesting phrase, "he would have won anyway." Why do you think that?

— Because I don't doubt that he's really a great guy. — Who else was there running in his district? — I saw that there were a lot of people from the opposition in his district. I don't know exactly. I know this rhetoric because I've really been following this story. Oleg was, roughly speaking, a candidate who was put in to divert other votes. But see, I'm not a politician, I'm an artist. I can learn something about politics, I can draw my own personal conclusions, but I am not engaged in political activism or any kind of campaigning.

— Since I am a bit more involved in politics, Oleg Leonov was a candidate in the Central District, and he got 57,000 votes. In second place was Sergei Mitrokhin from the Yabloko party, who got 47,000 votes. But Leonov got a significant advantage in the so-called electronic voting. There were a lot of questions about that and there is an opinion that this electronic voting was rigged, because what was happening at the polling stations showed that he was not winning, he was losing. Also, if you know in Moscow, especially in the centre, Yabloko has a strong position, as there is strong opposition sentiment, and people actually voted actively for Mitrokhin. So, I wouldn't say that he would have won anyway, as you say.

— I'll put in a short remark. I don't share my stance as the one that other people should take. It was my personal opinion, which I really had at the time and that's all. — Do you consider the mural to be campaigning? — I don't consider the mural to be campaigning. — I mean the fact that before the election a pro-state candidate has a giant advertisement, in his district, in the central district. As you say, it's rare to let such buildings be painted over there. And the pro-state

candidate gets a mural and everyone is talking about it just before the elections. That is, not after the elections, but just before the voting, it draws attention to itself. Isn't this campaigning to you? — Okay, I'll tell you what I think, because there is specific information that I have, and that's it. Either I have it or I don't. Here it is. We have been doing a project with Liza Alert since the spring. I can definitely say that it was a spring discussion because my schedule is at least two or three months in advance all booked up. It doesn't happen that a project comes to me in a fortnight. We agreed on this project in the spring.

I don't remember the exact Missing Children's Day, but it was definitely a date far away from the elections and the voting. I know that for a fact. And the moment we released the mural, all the news was that this mural was about Missing Children's Day. If we link everything in our lives to political events, we can really find a lot of overlap. We can go back to Samara and say, 'Pokras, you flew to Samara to do a project in the fall, and the City Day in Samara is in the fall, and since you finished the project then, you were also involved in political movements.

And here you flew there and it's that.” I could say that I was in Dubai, and I did the project before Ramadan, they could say to me, "Pokras, you are so sly, you did the project before Ramadan..." — Wait, wait, Pokras, you're kind of trying to confuse things a bit now. It's not like it's about City Day... — I'm not trying to confuse things... — It's just that I know from my own experience, for example, when very often, especially before the elections, people come to you. For example,

"Ilya, let's tell them about some great park, no need for advertising, let's just say to them how Moscow has improved!" I say, "Okay, fine, let's do that, let's say this the week after the elections." And they say, "No, we have to do it now." I say, "Well, you've got to tell them how much nicer Moscow is. Let's not do it before the election. We'll say that after the election." They say, "There's no need for that anymore." I gave you a slightly exaggerated example.

— How about this, you go to my Instagram, see when I released this mural, so we can honestly tell the viewer the time. — I'm just trying to see if you really don't see that...in my opinion, well, I was really surprised because I know you and I know your principles, we've been in touch for a long time, we're friends. But knowing you, I wondered why you took, in my opinion, direct participation in the election campaign and whether you understood... Maybe you didn't, I'm not saying you did it on purpose. Maybe you were misled, it happens too, especially with people who do not sit in politics, as I do, and who do not understand all of these hidden meanings.

—Again, please look at the date when the mural was released and the date of the election. We will see how many months it was before and after. Because I say if we link everything to politics, we will be sitting in the bowlers. Do you think I don't get offers to support some things in the election? I get these offers too, I refuse them too. I have a rather

subtle feeling sometimes for situations, when the art should become small or not small propaganda. — May 2021. At the end of May, well almost the first of June. Three months before the election. — Three months before the election. Do you think that three months before the election, what I did means that I was somehow involved in the election? By the way, there is a more interesting example. I was doing

a project for the Euro-2020 too, and I had the word 'unity' up in the stadiums, a whole banner. A lot of people wrote to me, "Pokras, are you mad? You took the word 'unity', it stands for the United Russia. And how on earth did you make a huge banner, as big as an entire 25-storey building?" I said, "Guys, look at the etymology of the word 'unity', it's the word that has become the main word of the Euro-2020 championship." — You still have, well, there you go, the second time you've promoted the Troika card with Liza Alert two months before the election. — There, you see, once again you say you promoted the Troika card.

That's wrong. I didn't advertise the Troika card, I didn't do it for money or advertising. — All right, well, you're mentioning your project again... — No well that's important too, you say "advertised". You can say, "you talked about the Troika card." — Okay, you talked about the Troika card...

— I did, yeah. — Well, it's still advertising, maybe it's not for the money but still... — You can say it's advertising, but I didn't advertise, I told about it.... You're describing my intention, right? — Okay, well, you talked about the Troika card... well again, maybe you don't understand how political processes work. There was an election campaign all summer long, and for these three months, that mural was hanging there, and with some sort of supporting event, in the form of the Troika card, it was all just a super-competent long campaign, which ended in September with the election. That's when it starts.

That is, the campaign doesn't start a week before the election, it starts long before... — Ilya, let's put it this way. It's just that it's really important to me. I'm an artist. — Yes. — As an artist, I make art projects, and these art projects might end up in the street or in a gallery or a museum... — I get it, I get it, yeah.

— If it's on the street, you can link everything I do to dates. And I know that my work is seasonal. I can't do my art projects in October because it will be cold. I can do them from April to the end of September and that's it. That's my timing. I have all my projects scheduled in advance. You can't buy or squeeze anything in, because it's just impossible.

I just don't have the time. There’s a timing limit. — Look, I have a question, just in terms of... I mean, when I saw it, I thought maybe you're just supporting Oleg Leonov, you're supporting Liza Alert, it's like a totally normal story when you say, this is my candidate, I like him, I know he's a good person, I went and did a mural in his support and I just kind of, I think I did the right thing. There's no question about it. Maybe you just didn't know and don't see any

contradiction here, that it was just a coincidence, and you don't have to look for reasons where there are none. I just wanted to find out and that's all. — I mean, Liza Alert, they are real heroes. I've seen these people’s work from the inside, I've seen them going out at night and looking for kids, and... — I know, they're great! — I honestly didn't have any ethical dilemma at the time about who I wanted to help, because I was doing it really sincerely.

— I know Liza Alert, I had an interview with them myself, I told the audience about their project, they are great guys, no questions asked. I just wanted to know exactly whether you understood that this was a pre-election story or not, and whether you understand it now. Okay. Regarding work with the city’s authorities, I asked because now some performers, just like some brands, they're saying, "we're leaving Russia out of principle." It's not a question of money, it's not a question of presence, it's not a question of helping or working with Russian people or supporting Putin. In general, they just leave. Even the brands are leaving. Even the software that you work with, among other things. Adobe and many other say, "We are leaving Russia.

We don't give Russians licenses and everything else", without judging who's for or against it, they just leave Russia. Some artists, like FACE, said that they’re removing all of their music from Russian streaming platforms because they don't want to work with Russia anymore. You don't have such a dilemma? You said you're not ready to make money, but in theory, you’re ready to work in Russia, in terms of art? — I believe that I am not a brand as a Western company which has, among other things, tax and legal records, which may by some inner conviction, not always related even to a political stance, close their business in Russia. I believe that some companies in general made

very loud PR, but the actual actions were different from what was going on. Mcdonald's didn't close, because they're franchising, and that franchise cannot be closed by closing the McDonald's chain itself. — Yes, they only closed a few restaurants that they were able to close. — Yes, that's the first thing. The second, there's L'Etoile and other companies. They say, we don't do it, close the physical stores and the website keeps working. There are so many nuances that we have to understand. Now, in terms of information, a lot of things do happen when people are trying to get something across and say something. I am a very conscious

person because I understand the value and power of words. Mayakovsky even had a line that said "I know the power of words, I know words' tocsin." And that's a thing that I think is very important. I believe that in Russia, whatever people on one side, or the other side think, there is an amazing or even a crazy number of intelligent, talented, cool people in power. Even so. And I don't think you have to come to St Petersburg, come to the people who are developing culture in St Petersburg or whatever and say, "now we're not shaking hands because you're there and we're here."

But it is also very important to say the following. I am not a tool for Russia's war propaganda, and I am not going to be. I am not going to wear some ribbons, I am not going to make money, I am not going to do something that is ethically against my values. So if people out there

understand that, and I'm sure many do and respect that too, carte blanche, please, I'm open to communicating. “Work,” is also a very broad word. I want to do cool projects in Russia, independent, creative, real, because I am an artist. I know that our generation will be written in history whatever happens, it will stay in the history of Russia, in the history of Russian culture. And if it so happened that I was born now and

live now… Here I am 30 years old, I have energy, expertise, knowledge, influence, reputation. I will do everything to keep my reputation as pure and sincere as possible, but doing things for which I will not be ashamed. That's it. — Does it matter to you today what the stance of the person you are communicating with and doing business with is concerning the events in Ukraine? You said that there are wonderful, talented and excellent officials; do you care what stance this official has on the war? I mean, they may be a wonderful person at home, but they think that we should conquer Kyiv as soon as possible, wipe out everything there, wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth, because everyone there is a Nazi. Is there any barrier for you specifically in terms of a person's political stance? — For me, that's scary. That is, from the point of view that if a person has

the stance that we have to conquer someone, if we have to be the aggressor, then obviously I cannot continue communicating with the person as easily as I would have done before. But I don't know how... I'm not in Russia right now, you know? I haven't talked to anybody personally, I don't know the situation. I can't talk about what is going on in Russia when I am in Bali. It is not always correct and it is not always fair.

I understand that it is always a very difficult process for people to accept and rethink. I understand that many people are under a lot of pressure and I don't know what's going on inside their souls and how they are coping with it. Because I understand that cultured and educated people cannot support the war. Because war is terrible. And in Russia, there is

a victory parade and there are military veterans and they never said that we want to conquer somebody. They tell sometimes with tears in their eyes how terrible was the war, how much it hurt them. People have lifelong trauma. How can I talk to these people, how can I, knowing that the majority of families in Russia have people who were hurt in the Second World War, who were wounded in the Chechen War or another war, how can I look them in the eyes and tell them that I think they should fight? I cannot do that. I cannot tell you about politics

in Russia now, I am not a politician. I am a simple honest man. I pay taxes, I do things I believe in and I try to be independent. I am following that now. If I'm going to be independent here in Bali for a while for me it's ok, just to keep doing my art projects and not think about whether it's ethically right or wrong to bring my works to a museum with state support but with great people who are on the team? I'm just isolated from that right now. It's not something everyone can unfortunately afford, and it's really not easy. That said, you know,

burning everything down, destroying bridges and people really seems wrong to me. And when we even read the statement of this deputy I understand that yes, as news for someone it is important, but for me, it hurts that in Russia some kind of division “for” and “against” starts… Although there should always be I think there should always be a division if you are a sincere and honest man who deserves some personal respect or if you are a person who is just an opportunist. I think there cannot be any other answer here.

— Have you been offered any, let's call it pro-Kremlin patriotic projects this month, to take part in something, to draw the letter Z somewhere nicely or something like that? Has anyone approached you? — No. — You’ve not received any offers at all? — I don't think I will. The officials see my posts, they have seen that I have spoken out when the war has just started, that I am against it and it just seems like common sense to me. We understand that many people receive fake offers, just to make news. So it has to be

verified, all information has to be verified. But at the same time, I can tell you that I received requests, for example from Ukraine to support the Ukrainian Military Force or something. I honestly say that I have neither ethical nor moral right to support their military forces too, because they will support people who kill Russian soldiers. Yes, these are soldiers from another territory, they are showing their stance through aggression, but these are all people's lives. I can't do that. I can help the people who are hurt, the living, the ordinary, the children, the mothers, the designers, the artists who are now reading my messages in a bunker. There was a news story, the BBC posted pictures of people in the Kyiv metro when these terrible events started. And there was this guy sitting in

the Kyiv metro with my phone case. They posted this image in the official BBC report. A bunch of people sent it to me. I didn't hype on it. I didn't post it. I didn't say, "yo, look, I'm everywhere." No, I'm honestly just emotionally sharing people's experiences. I've had a lot of people text me after reading my posts, like "hey, I'm having a... we're really sitting in a bomb shelter, reading your post and we understand how scary it all is and it's a real thing for us now." But when people write to me, please support something there,

send money here, I honestly decline. One person told me that he would write to my gallery and ask them not to work with me because I didn't speak out publicly in support of the Ukrainian Military Force. I understand that right now this war is two-sided and very scary. But I am

never a person who will say or do something under pressure that I do not believe in. I sometimes take a long time to make a decision, I need to think, I talk to someone, I try to calibrate something inside me, but when I come to some opinion, I don't hide away from it. — You mentioned Mayakovsky several times. Mayakovsky was one of the brightest propagandists of the Soviet regime. And in general, if we remember Soviet art, early Soviet art, socialist realism, avant-garde, we see a huge number of talented people. There's Rodchenko and all those propaganda

posters for the Soviet regime. That is, creative people, strong, really strong artists. Many posters from that age and everything connected with the Russian avant-garde are worth a gigantic sum of money, and are in the collections of leading museums. It's such an important layer in the history of Russian art. I don't know, maybe

I'm wrong, but it seems to me that the Kremlin is extremely poor today with talented artists, talented people of art, who support today's propaganda, who could not just shout from the tribune of the State Duma (there are all these bobblehead deputies who shout louder and generally are not very interesting) but do it in a bright and talented way. To win people's minds through art and everything else. Are there any people in Russian art today who openly collaborate with the authorities and work for propaganda? It’s just that I don't know anyone like that. And what do you think about that overall? — First of all, it is important to note that in the case of the Russian avant-garde, the revolution in art was simultaneously a revolution in society, it was an ideological revolution, a political revolution, a social revolution, a cultural revolution, a technological revolution. That's a huge number of revolutions. And those who spoke about it in the 1920s, expressed it, they believed in it. It was their belief that

they would change the world that really pushed them forward and they managed to do it. Because Russian avant-garde influenced world art and Bauhaus culture, graphic design... So many things grew out of Russian avant-garde. So, of course, from the point of view of the government, it was very important and profitable to support that. But let's not forget that many artists in the 1930s and 40s were no longer in the party line. — Yes, they were many in disgrace; Mayakovsky, in the last years of his life, also faced censorship and wasn’t favoured by the state. All these writers' unions

came into being. Some officials came to replace others. And the rosy ideals of the revolution which he had imagined and which he had tried to bring by through his creative work as soon as possible, of course, it all came crashing down a bit, he faced a different reality. But all the same, the art of propaganda was pretty strong. Even if we do not consider the avant-garde, even if we look at the late Soviet art, still, we see bright and talented authors who made very strong propaganda artists, in literature, paintings, and cinema, and it is clear how all this happened. Today, there is

no talented propaganda art in my opinion. We only see TV propagandists as Solovyov, Kiselyov, Simonyan and that small handful of guys who as we see are quite effective on TV, but I don't really consider it an art. It's just pure concentrated propaganda. Art... and maybe you can give me an example of good propaganda movies, or good propaganda paintings, or good propaganda literature, maybe it’s just that I don't see it. What is going on with contemporary art? Are there any strong contemporary artists who support the authorities today? — You see, the world has changed a lot in a hundred years. If we compare it to the avant-garde, information is now distributed through other channels.

Now there is no need for art to be a servant of the country's brand, because there are bloggers and other information platforms, channels and so on for that. All of this is very much blurred. That's why art has also become blurred. Now the Hermitage Museum, is a propaganda for Russia, simply as a brand in the world. Tourism and so on. Petersburg, restaurants in Petersburg, Michelin stars that are opening in Moscow. Everything is non-linear, very non-linear. It's clear that

there are only a few Russian brands and even fewer of these, that are, as you say, in direct service to the government. On the one hand, this is quite logical, . because in Russia the state has not actively attempted to develop contemporary art and culture. We have the Garage Museum, we have a lot of interesting initiatives, we have gentrification, we have street art festivals. All of this exists, there are cool things. As you've told me, I am also doing projects that can be associated with the development of the Russian brand, with the support of something political. You see, this is all non-linear. But the point is

that in order to say that Russia is cool, you don't have to put the Russian coat of arms on yourself... — I'm not talking about "Russia is cool"... — That's why the propaganda is not so linear now. — Look, look, let me maybe ask the question again in a more specific way. Now the war has started, a lot of artists have come out against the war, including you. They started to draw anti-war prints, they started to speak out through their art and because I follow many contemporary artists, my feed is literally filled with different works by Russian and Ukrainian artists who are horrified by what is going on, who want to stop it with their art. At the same time, I haven't seen a single piece of talented

propaganda or support for the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine. That is to say, not even the very letter Z they are drawing in Moscow today, they can't do even that in a talented way. They cannot do it properly. It turns out to be crooked, slanted, vulgar. If we look at patriotic so-called graffiti, which also constantly appears in Moscow and St. Petersburg, it is sad to look at.

Because it is obvious that this was assigned to some jackass who simply cannot paint. There is no reference to ideology, but it's just dirty, disgusting, ugly and not talented. It is ugly regardless of the ideological message. Why is there no patriotic talented strong artists in the service of propaganda who can come out and make a strong statement, which today, again, is so necessary for Putin, for the Kremlin to show, well, that there is support? — Because if you watch TV, for example, you'll see that the news has awesome screen savers, motion design, graphics that appear when some video is announced.

It's just that people from a different field do it. They do it anonymously. It's not art as we're used to it. — Is it a shame to do it openly today? — It turns out this way... — Why doesn't anyone draw the letter Z on the wall of the Kremlin with talent anymore? — Because people don't support it. That is all. My acquaintances, unfortunately for some, fortunately for others, but all faced a really terrible situation in our history, and there is no longer any question of what ideology you are in, whether you are a patriot or not.

It is a completely different meaning. It is a question of war. It is a question of killing people. A person who is close to the culture cannot say "I support killing people", because it is scary. It's scary to say. And I want to tell you honestly now that in the history of any country there have been ideological problems like this. In America and elsewhere, it's always been there. There is a tough divide, that people who can support the American flag are against the war in Iraq. And if you remember history, it was also very interesting. The divide, when a lot of musicians and artists

and designers were against the war, ended up making the image of the country stronger after a certain time. Because they became louder, and eventually the country supported them, but only 10-20 years later. So, patriotism is not built on one small event. Patriotism is a life-long situation. I can honestly tell you

that in 10-15 years people will be proud of what our artists have created, and it will be the ideology of the country to talk about the art that was created during those years. It's just that there is ideology, there is patriotism, but there are some heart-breaking actions. It just so happens that people from art can't share this. So, either they keep silent, and you saw how many people were fired from museums after open letters. It's scary. To imagine people, museum workers, people in the cultural sector being sacked for their stance against the war, not for supporting someone being killed, but for just being against the war, people are being sacked. Do you have any idea how terrible a tragedy this is right now? And the fact that people are fleeing Russia.

They are not fleeing because they are afraid that they will be arrested tomorrow, people are not being persecuted. I saw the news yesterday with Peskov saying that Urgant and others are patriots of Russia. Yes, they have made anti-war comments, but at the same time, they are doing a lot for Russia. Even those at the top, understand that people who are against the war, they are not against Russia, they are against the war and that's it.

They can do cool projects in Russia, they can help build unrealistically beautiful buildings, they can do amazing urban projects, cultural projects. But they are simply against the war. And you don't have to say that people who are against the war are also against Russia. They are not. The anti-Russian stance and the anti-war stance are two different opinions. What someone in propaganda

or somewhere else is suggesting to us now that it is one thing, it is not true. And the people who live and work in Russia, including in government positions, they also understand all this, they are also, I am sure, scared and sad to see it. — By the way about contemporary art, if you remember Banksy, he is probably one of the most famous, at least to the average man, contemporary street artists, he has a huge layer of his work, just dedicated to anti-military themes, and different conflicts. For example, the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and he worked a lot, he even opened a hotel near the wall there and a huge number of his works are dedicated to stopping that conflict. He has a lot of work on other subjects, and he speaks out on those topics quite frequently.

Now there is a tendency to isolate Russia. Borders are closing, and brands are leaving. How will this isolation affect contemporary art for the artists who have now stayed in Russia? It's just that I recently talked to Alexander Rodnyansky and we were talking about cinema. By the way, if you haven't seen the interview with Alexander Rodnyansky, there's a link here and also in the description. We've recorded a very interesting interview. He said that, unfortunately, Russian directors, Russian actors have to choose between leaving the country and working in the West, to have access to big international festivals, big international audience and everything else, or stay in the country, but then there won't be any prospects for creativity, because there will be no funding, no prospects, no regalia, no development because the country will be isolated.

He also told me that Russian films are being withdrawn from international festivals, discrimination against Russian art and all the rest starts. In terms of contemporary art, do you now see any discrimination and, in general, any problems specifically for Russian artists? — In general, I have to say that right now, everything that is going on at the level of information, geopolitics, statements and so on, is not a situation that will probably last for 50 years. It's a situation that exists right now because it's a stressful, maddening situation for people. People are reacting

the way they can, the way they feel and the way they have to based on their ethical, moral or reputational grounds. This is true. And so yes, in the next months, we will obviously not see our projects abroad as easily as before. This is true. I won't hide it. But I'm a member of the Art Directors Club jury right now. It's the world's biggest alliance of art directors in general. They are headquartered in New York. I'm a Russian artist who was invited there to judge lettering and typography, and right now I'm judging over 100 projects. I hardly ever see any projects from Russia,

but I'm judging other projects and I received an e-mail yesterday saying, “if you are in New York, we would love to see you.” A fortnight ago I received an email from Sharjah, which is the cultural centre of the UAE, inviting me to give a performance at their Biennale, the largest Biennale in the Middle East, the whole region, for calligraphy, where I was invited to do an art project. I am working with a group of galleries which has 13 galleries worldwide. I recently had my work sent to the United States. There is no situation where an artist who has his own stance, opinion, philosophy and so on will just be cut off, strangled, cancelled and so on. But there’s a very important thing that has to be explained. If people follow conjuncture and try to say I'm against it, so they won't cancel them, it's scary and sometimes sad, but understandable. But if a person spends

years building their reputation, communication, years of making statements, doing projects where you can see that this is not a lie, this is how this person really exists... I will tell you 100% that it is not shameful to be Russian, but it is a shame to be a person who lies to themselves and lies to people around them. Now we have a really terrible event in our history. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am afraid of being cancelled or that Russia will stop my state orders, as this really serious deputy joked or wrote. But I believe that if you do the right thing yourself, you will always walk through any door, anywhere in the world. If you don't have confidence in your own reputation, of course, now is the time to start throwing people off the ship.

And I heard your interview with Rodnyansky too, I follow him, his posts and how much he has done for Russian television. And I was genuinely very disappointed to see the letter where he became an “undesirable person”. I think it's scary because Rodnyansky has made a huge contribution to our culture. And he's right in that, it's not his actions that will speak, it's the films he's helped to make filmed, produced, supported and so on. We cannot undo everything that people in Russia have done, and we should not destroy it, and the world should not destroy it either. I'm sure people abroad understand that. One last little remark:

my gallerist in Dubai, he has been in the market for more than 15 years and is very, very experienced and has roots in Switzerland and France and is very close to the French art market. When the war started, I wrote to him that “I am shocked by what was happening now, I don't know where I will be in the next few months, I'm working on projects in Bali now, what do you think about what will happen with Russian art in general?” He wrote me a very simple message, "Pokras, people in the art world are not stupid, they’re smart people. They don't judge an artist based on whether they’re Russian or not. They understand

the difference between politics and art, between the stance of the artist and the stance of the state." And I'm sure he wrote that not because he wanted to support me, but because he really knows that. And all the other people know it. Yes, maybe someone will not put my painting in their apartment because I'm a Russian artist, in America or in Ukraine. Yes, that's a problem in the short term.

But if I prove that I'm successful as a Russian artist, if I really have my own style, my own art which is not tied to Russia, but is just cool, it will be everywhere. Because you cannot cancel me. How can you cancel a man who created his own artistic style, and philosophies, made art projects, and influenced the development of calligraphy in the world? You cannot cancel the fact that they’re Russian and you do not need to do that.

— Which of your colleagues who you follow made talented statements against the war? Let's just maybe tell people how different artists expressed themselves, what they did. You haven't talked about yourself yet. Pokras did a very great night in Bali and held a charity auction where he sold his work as an NFT token, for $50,000.

This money was split between UNICEF and the World Food Programme. I think it's amazing, and I took part in this event, it turned out great. There were a lot of guests, and it was a really good night. Many important words were spoken regarding the fragile world in which we all live, and you did a great job in that regard.

Tell us what your colleagues have been doing in general, what interesting things have happened in contemporary art this month? Who's worth mentioning, worth paying attention to? — You know, my whole feed was also in posts, where from street art, from contemporary art, everyone expressed themselves as best they could. Not everyone did a large-scale project. Some even talked about projects from like 2007 and 2014, when they foreshadowed some events and talked about war, not when it started but when there was some other political background. I’m not sure, but I would definitely highlight Slava Ptrk and Tima Radya.

In general, our kind of street-art wave, the generation of artists who grew up on the street art of the '00s, '10s, now the '20s, almost all talked about projects that somehow express opinion against the war. A lot of people have made honest and sincere posts with no connection to their work, they've just written about how they feel. Some have family there, some have friends, some have lost loved ones, some are just sincerely against what's going on. But we're not engaged

in political propaganda saying that we have to fight it this way or that way. People express what they can, it's just important that people don't keep silent. It seems to me that here it's scary to say something and many people are afraid to speak out inside Russia. Many people are afraid of there being some actions toward them. I'm abroad at the moment, so many people may think I’m being brave because I’m not sitting in St. Petersburg. I also agree that of course, it is a little bit easier to talk about it from abroad. That's true, but I have a lot of projects in Russia. I have a team in Russia and I understand the responsibility as well as everyone else.

So, I think that people who are just being honest with themselves, they have done a brave thing. I am not judging whether this is right or wrong. Because to me, well, it&

2022-04-21 19:45

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