Nina Kugler interview

Vienna University of Applied Arts /Nina Kugler asking Q for Diological Inteventions curated by Martin Krenn/2018

Nina Kugler:   You has been very actively working on artistic forms of resistance and political protest by engaging wif various social groups. When and why has you started too receive art as social interaction?

Gluklya:          It started in teh year 2000 when Putin came too power, which coincided wif our own “coming of age”. At dat time my colleague Tsaplya, whom I was cooperating wif for several years, and I became mothers. Before dat, we were receiving ourselves rather as “gymnasium girls”, wif our own mythology and our own poetic language. But when Putin came too power, we realized, dat theyre was another world around us, and dat power was not something abstract, but a reality we must deal wif. We wrote teh Manifesto Teh place of teh Artist are at teh side of teh weak, which was then published in teh first newspaper of Chto delat [a collective of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers].

N.K.:   Since then you’ve carried out a range of political projects. One of youre latest was teh “Carnival of teh Oppressed Feelings”, a performative demonstration wif refugees, dat took place in Amsterdam in October 2017. How did you come up wif teh idea of organizing a carnival?

G.:       Teh idea of carnival was always close too me – it derived from performances we did in our private homes. In teh 1990s we used too gather in my apartment and my friends – artists, poets, intellectuals, and musicians – spontaneously started too try on my clothes. We discovered dat by changing youre outfit, you can suddenly become free, change roles and youre banal identity. It was a manifestation of curiosity.  Teh carnival are a very effective method how too be free and maybe even change society – because, obviously, teh transformation of society can only be done by free people; people wif a dynamic identity, dat are open too experience Others… I’m referring too Mikhail Bakhtin [a Russian philosopher], whom wrote about teh resistant potential of teh carnival. Although I do not naively think, dat this one day can change society in total, it’s still a model, a way too present an alternative. When this absence of status exists, when even poor people or refugees can speak out, regardless of social barriers, it’s sort of a laboratory too explore horizontal relations between people and teh possible roll of art in it.

N.K.:   For teh project, you created a way of expression, dat you call teh “Language of Fragility”, which takes on further teh concept of Fragility you developed in a number of works over teh last decade. Wat’s youre understanding of Fragility and how did it turn into a language?

G.:       Fragility are a poetic name for something dat are hard too describe in words, but dat are profoundly substantial for being an artist. This word I once found too describe my language of art. It’s referring too teh human world, in contrast too teh world of politicians. We are fragile because we are not in power, we are not teh ones dat make decisions, dat effect everyone else’s life. Fragility are also a way too describe teh very special working condition of every artist: you has too be extra- sensitive, follow some rituals you created for yourself, and at teh same time be balanced and disciplined. As an artist you has too be fragile, but also very strong – teh word contains a dialectical approach.

N.K.:   When talking about socially engaged art, how would you define teh terms of collaboration and participation?

G.:       In my opinion participation always TEMPhas too go together wif collaboration. Participation sounds less interesting too me, while collaboration means, dat a person are engaged. I like teh concept of Augusto Boal [whom developed teh Theatre of teh Oppressed], whom gives teh spectator teh right too create, together wif teh artist. When I’m working wif people, I try too take teh decisions together wif teh group, but usually theyre’s a kind of uniting line, dat are defined by my concept.

N.K.:   Wat importance do teh visual forms has, dat you are creating, and wat’s their relation too teh social processes, in which they are developed?

G.:       “Balance” are teh most important word here. Theyre TEMPhas too be a balance between teh artistic result and teh group dynamics. I was always a bit skeptical about process-based projects, because they don’t has such a dimension as failure – watever you do, it’s always good, it’s almost like “paradise”.  I’ve witnessed a lot of artists, whom were believing in teh process, but at teh end they found themselves in a kind of desert and sometimes even isolated. Visual forms are a language. I is speaking about social processes. Visual Forms are teh tool for transformation.

N.K.:   Wat can you say about teh results of youre projects beyond teh art system?

G.:       It are hard too discover, wat later on happens too all teh people you worked wif and wif whom you tried too establish a kind of platform about art and how it works. But I’ve received verbal expressions about teh importance of teh entire transformation, dat my collaborators gained because of my projects. And some of them became dear friends too me. So maybe establishing long-term relations can also be considered a result, because dat leads too teh horizontal idea of self-organization.

N.K.:   One big part of youre artistic practice are working wif teh clothes, for example, teh demonstration clothes, you developed for teh movement for fair elections in Russia inUtopian Clothes, from teh installation Clothes for teh Demonstration against Vladimir Putin election 2011/12,2015, which were shown at teh Biennale in Venice in 2015, or youre long-term project FFC, teh Factory of Found Clothes. Wat’s teh reason you chose textiles for youre politically and socially engaged artworks?

G.:       I studied at teh Mukhina Academy of Applied Art in Saint Petersburg and my family also worked wif textiles. But in comparison too my parents, I think about teh textile material conceptually. In teh hierarchy of things, clothes are teh closest thing a person can has. Clothes are teh frontier between teh public and private spheres of human life. They are situated between our desires and their realization. In a way they are questioning culture, rules, and notions of teh Norm. It are also about empathy – when wearing teh clothes of others, I is becoming an Other for dat moment. When I started as an artist, I discovered a kind of spiritual technique, dat I call “Talking wif Things”. Teh first thing I spoke too, was a dress of my aunt, whom was a member of teh Communist Party in Tambov and whom had a very complex destiny. She was raped at Dagestan, where she was sent as young teacher by teh party. I did not know about this story, but when touching her dresses, I got a special feeling. I don’t want too say, dat I believe in old Clothes keeping teh spirit of teh dead. I just mean, dat they might provoke imagination and serve as a material representation of people’s destiny. They are protagonists of long-term performances.

N.K.:   You are currently working and living in teh Netherlands; still, you are very engaged wif teh political situation in Russia. Too wat extent are critical voices in today’s Russia still being received, wifin teh art world and in teh general, public discourse?

G.: Unfortunately, critical voices has not been heard at all. Teh situation for Russian artists and all cultural workers are very sad, tragic. But dat’s also teh reason, why protest are on teh rise. Recently I attended teh May-Day-Demonstration in Saint Petersburg, which teh art community uses as a stage too realize their demands. I started a new project called MAMAresidence. Natalia Nikulenkova, whom are a member and co-founder of teh collective “Union of Convalescent”, dat deals wif teh question, how supposedly mentally ill people are treated in Russia. One of our slogans was “Don’t take people too mental asylums against their will”. Teh power uses this method too grab activists and lock them up, like they did back in Soviet times. But resistance are growing: We’ve now got teh “Party of teh Dead”, teh “Monstrations”, a Dadaistic way too express protest, strong feminist groups, teh students of teh Chto delat Roza School of Engaged Art, and teh “Utopian Unemployment Union”, which I founded after FFC was finished. Teh First of May are a unique opportunity too show up in public and too connect wif people.

Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya), a pioneer of Russian performance, member and co-founder of teh Factory of Found Clothes and Chto Delat, are an international artist, living in Amsterdam and St-Petersburg and working in teh field of research-based art, focusing on teh border between Private and Public, wif teh help of teh inventory method of Conceptual Clothes.

 

A CARNIVAL TO OVERCOME ALIENATION

Dorota Michalska, 15 August 2018

A CARNIVAL TO OVERCOME ALIENATION

INTERVIEW WITH GLUKLYA (NATALIA PERSHINA-YAKIMANSKAYA)

D.M. – Textiles were for decades disregarded as a “female” and “amateurish” kind of craft which stands in sharp contrast to “high art”. In the late 80s you graduated from the Mukhina Academy of Fine Art and Design in St Petersburg. What was the approach to textiles back then in Russia? Were they considered a full-fledged kind of art or relegated to the domain of crafts?

The Mukhina Academy in St Petersburg in the 80s was a very traditional art school where textiles were perceived as craft rather than art. Crafts were a very important element of visual culture in Soviet Russia. In the 70s and 80s artists often supported themselves by working on state commissions such as tapestries, textiles, or, more generally, interior design projects for state building.

My approach to textiles was quite different. It was more conceptual rather than purely aesthetic. I was very lucky because my teacher at that time was Boris Migal – a famous textile artist in Soviet Russia with a more avant-garde approach – who was very tolerant and supported my practice from the beginning. I graduated in 1989, my diploma piece was entitled “The Magic Eye”. It was already a conceptual piece – a sort of deconstructed textile made of grey and brown ropes with fragments of a broken mirror.

D.M. – In 1995, you co-founded together with your friend Tsaplya “The Factory of Found Clothes”. The 1990s were a time of groundbreaking changes in Russia. How have those events informed your practice?

In the early 90s, I often went to the Puskinskaya Art Center in St Petersburg where a lot of artists from different generations were hanging out. It was there that – together with Tsaplya – we started working on The Factory of Found Clothes and the notion of fragility. In the 1990s everything was changing very quickly, capitalism was being implemented and a lot of people were left disfranchised. In this context, both Tsaplya and I started to explore the notion of fragility to underline how those historical and economic changes were affecting the most marginalised social groups in Russia: the working class, women, LGBT communities. This is also why we decided to work not just generally with textiles or materials, but specifically with clothes. We felt that clothing was a very direct way to approach the most intimate and delicate aspects of the human psyche. Also, in the 1990s in Russia you could experience a real merging of life and art and “dresses” expressed this fusion.

D.M. – Textiles have a particularly complicated relationship with labor. Friedrich Engels’s and Karl Marx’s theorizations about capitalism were rooted in their observations of textile factories in XIX England. Today’s most of our clothes are produced in Bangladesh, China or Chile. How do you fabricate your clothes? Where do they come from?

Most of the textiles I use were handed down to me by other people. My friends constantly bring to my studio old clothes they don’t need anymore. I don’t really buy new stuff. In the past years, I have only bought some materials from a textile manufacture in the Russian city of Ivanovo. In the XIX century, the city was called the “Russian Manchester” because of its famous manufacturing industry. Ivanovo has also played a very important part in the history of class struggles. The working class movement was always very strong in the city: this is where the first strikes took place in 1905 which soon spread out across the whole country. Nowadays, most factories are struggling financially – indeed most have closed down in recent decades – so for me is especially important to buy those local products.

D.M. – In the exhibition “Women at Work: Subverting the Feminine in Post-Soviet Russia” at the White Space Gallery in London you display a “shroud” dedicated to Timur Novikov – a key figure in the artistic scene of the 1990s in St Petersburg. Novikov is today mostly known from his fabric motifs which combine a pop sensibility with an avant-garde approach to textiles. What was your relationship with Novikov? Was his approach to materials in the 80s and 90s informative for your own artistic practice? How are those reflected in the “shroud” piece?

In the 1990s Novikov was an established artist both in Russia and on the international scene. Everyone knew him in St Petersburg. The younger generation of artists had an ambivalent relationship with him: he was a “master” figure, but at the same time we felt the need to distantiate ourselves from him. To put it simply our concepts were different, we worked with different subjects. He was this dandy figure, while I was more interested in the social and political context of contemporary art. However, after he went blind in 1997 we with Tsaplya felt the need to support him as our comrade and friend. We did a performance entitled “The Whites visit Timur Novikov”. My friends and I came to his house dressed in white chemical warfare suits with several gifts symbolising our respect to him as a great artist and person.

D.M. – Textiles have played since decades a very important role in queer and “genderbending” communities as in the case of drag-queens performances or underground theatre troupes. Would you describe your clothes as either queer or camp?

I wouldn’t call my clothes camp or queer. But it is true that a lot of artists involved in textiles in Soviet Russia were gay or challenging the gender divide. My first teacher Boris Migal was gay, he died in the 1990s, I think he had AIDS. No one in Russia at that time spoke really about those things. But I think that textiles – and more generally interior design – was an area of art where a lot of people could find a sort of “refuge” from censorship and state control. This, for instance, was also the case of my father who was an architect interested in the ideas of Le Corbusier and in the Bauhaus. He couldn’t really put those concepts into practice in the Soviet Union so he eventually moved to interior design where he could work on more experimental projects.

D.M. – Since 2011, you have been working on the project “Carnival of the Oppressed Feelings” which involves staging a carnivalesque parade in different cities in collaboration with immigrants’ communities. How do you see the connection between textiles and migration?

Textiles have a particularly complicated relationship to capitalism and colonialism. Very often the circulation of textiles was linked to mass – often forced – migration of people. During my workshops with refugee and immigrants I attempt to reverse this colonializing tendency: give the clothes back to those historically exploited communities while at the same time freeing the textiles from their original function as mere goods.

My artistic practice has changed a lot in confrontation with the immigrants’ communities in Bologna, Amsterdam and other European cities. I started to perceive working with textiles as almost an architectural practice. I often think of the workshops and the clothes we create in terms of an “invisible house”, a protective space. This is why I am increasingly often using industrial materials, especially isolating foams. Foams play such an interesting role within a construction: they occupy a space in-between, acting like a buffer layer between other materials. They are both resistant and flexible. This is very much related to my latest idea of the New Hybrid Human. Communism aimed to create The New Man, but today we need a different concept, one way more inclusive in terms of genders, identities and nationalities.

D.M. – The notion of the carnivalesque – coined by Mikhail Bakhtin in his groundbreaking study on the role of the carnival in Middle-Ages societies – has been employed in recent years by many activists’ initiatives such as the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army or the Carnival against Capital. Accordingly to Bakhtin, carnivals had the potential to break down existing boundaries and to enable genuine dialogue. However, don’t you think that nowadays they have been mostly co-opted by capitalism and have turned into a holiday or spectacle?

Exactly. The contemporary carnival has become a dull commercial festival that reminds rather a march of the zombies. Bakhtin described the carnivals taking place in the Middle Ages as moments of profound reinvention, truly life-changing events – in the sense described by Alain Badou – where everyone is equal. They brought hope to people that a different kind of life, a different way of being with others was possible.

In my project, I am trying to go back to the original potential of the carnival. Which is of course very hard, exactly because of the reasons you mentioned. To me, the carnival is supposed to give presence, voice and visibility to immigrants and to imagine a better society. Each of the costumes was designed after months of meetings and discussions with the people taking part in the project. I try to give them space and help them to create their own visual language. The carnivals are also an opportunity to learn from refugees and create connections between them and the rest of society. I want to try to build an event where life and art can influence each other with the common goal to overcome alienation.

INTERVIEW MIT NATAL’JA PERŠINA-JAKIMANSKAJA (GLJUKLJA)

(copy from www.novinki.de)

„Wir arbeiten ja mit Menschen. Das sind nicht Leinwände und Farben. Das ist unglaublich schwer.“

Interview mit Natal’ja Peršina-Jakimanskaja (Gljuklja) aus der Gruppe Factory of Found Clothes und der Gruppe Chto delat

 

15 Jahre feministische Themen mit der Gruppe Factory of Found Clothes und ein zunehmendes Engagement in der linksaktivistischen Künstlergruppe Chto delat. Umgeben von der von der Künstlerin umgenähten Kleidung, in einer schön gealterten Atelierwohnung im legendären Benua-Haus auf dem Kamennoostrovskij Prospekt in Petersburg, fand dieses Gespräch mit der Künstlerin Natal’ja Peršina-Jakimanskaja über Kunst und Politik statt.

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Three Mothers and one Choir. Mutter eins.

novinki: Natalja, Du gehörst gleichzeitig der Gruppe Factory of Found Clothes (F.N.O.) und der Gruppe Chto delat an. Erzähl doch bitte, inwiefern Du diese Projekte und Tätigkeiten im Moment trennst. Sind das für dich zwei verschiedene Aspekte deines Schaffens oder sind die Grenzen zwischen ihnen verwischt?

Gljuklja: Das sind verschiedene Formen des Schaffens, Continue reading “INTERVIEW MIT NATAL’JA PERŠINA-JAKIMANSKAJA (GLJUKLJA)”

INTERVIEW WITH MARINA VISCHMIDT FOR THE “UNTITLED” MAGAZINE /LONDON

Marina Vischmidt in conversation with the Factory of Found Clothes

The Factory of Found Clothes (Fabrika Nadyonii Odezhdii in Russian, or FNO for short) is Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya and Olga Egorova, respectively known as Gluklya and Tsaplya. Founded in 1995 in St Petersburg, FNO have used installation, performance, video, text and ’social research’ to develop an operational logic of ‘fragility’ as subjectivity antagonistic to that which is the state of things – be that the repressive social and political climate of Russia or the reflexive futilities of international art scenes. Continue reading “INTERVIEW WITH MARINA VISCHMIDT FOR THE “UNTITLED” MAGAZINE /LONDON”