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Limitless, Comprehensive, and Very Interesting

Anna Malik-Korolenkova on contemporary art
11.10.2021
Limitless, Comprehensive, and Very Interesting

Contemporary art is limitless. We can encounter it not only in museums and galleries but also in streets, parks, abandoned industrial buildings, and many other unexpected places. Such vividness, comprehensiveness, and omnipresence are what fascinated Anna Malik-Korolenkova. Today, together with a team of like-minders, the expert is developing an exhibition space in Zaryadye Park.

Анна-Малик-Короленкова_0T.jpg Anna Malik-Korolenkova
curator, producer of exhibition projects, Leading Manager of the Exhibition Department in Zaryadye Park

When speaking with Anna Malik-Korolenkova, one can understand clearly that she knows almost everything about contemporary art. She can literally ‘juggle’ professional terms and find answers to complicated and ambiguous questions. According to Anna Malik-Korolenkova, the more she learns, the larger field of study opens up to her. Art is an endless fascinating journey making it possible to understand a lot about the world around us, the past, the present, the future, and ourselves.

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– How did your love of art begin?

– Surprisingly, I never thought that I would devote my life to contemporary art. In my youth, I really enjoyed writing articles and scripts. After graduating from the Faculty of Journalism of the Moscow State University, I started working in my field of training. I was engaged in the news coverage of social, criminal, and legal subjects on TV. In terms of psychology, that was a very hard job for me. I did not cope with that emotionally and decided to change the area of my work soon. I went into science journalism. That area has always been interesting and close to me because of my mother’s field of activity. What happened next was a series of coincidences. One day I came across an advertisement inviting to work at the LABORATORIA Art&Science Space. The topic was ‘Quantum Entanglement’. I was very curious about the opportunity to combine science and art intelligently. In general, science art was an interesting trend for me. I submitted my CV and was accepted. Of course, it was rather difficult to combine my main job at a scientific institute with my new occupation. However, my curiosity won. I was lucky enough to meet and collaborate with Daria Parkhomenko, the gallery’s founder. Her infinite passion for contemporary art also contributed to my interest in that field.

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Another story became a new impetus for me. When I was a student, my groupmate and I liked going to the opening of various exhibitions in Moscow almost every day. We knew nothing about contemporary art but we loved the buffets and the atmosphere. However, people are the main ‘treasure’ of such events. Thanks to them, I had a number of contacts with artists, curators, and art critics. I still keep in touch with them. New doors opened up before me and I wanted to walk through them. I decided to do so and that attracted me to that area.

As a result, I abandoned science journalism and immersed myself in art. I was lucky enough to get into the Contemporary Arts Development Fund (CADF). As an organiser, manager, and curator, I managed a number of projects there and acquired new experience simultaneously. I have attended many programs, courses, and lectures and communicated with leading experts and artists. I am still learning. I believe that the educational process is endless. I do love to learn. I think I will at least defend a thesis in the future.

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– What was most interesting in your work in Zaryadye Park?

– My colleagues and I do a lot of work together with Ivan Demidov, the park’s chief artist in the broadest sense of the word. He is an amazing person whose original view of many things provokes admiration in everybody around him. Ivan Demidov is very fond of contemporary art. That is why he actively involves artists and thinkers in the development of the space. His ability to look at the park as an integral artwork amazes me. In his concept of the park, all elements and details from the plants and benches to the large sculptures and panoramas really matter.

That’s why I am always thinking about the projects that could not just be implemented there but also complement Zaryadye Park harmoniously. After all, on the one hand, that is a park with interesting landscape designs and tourist attractions. On the other hand, Zaryadye is a research centre called ‘Reserve Embassy’ and exhibition spaces making it possible to explore and understand deeply such phenomena as contemporary art.

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As far as there are no clear answers to the questions, there are no strict requirements. Our style is just emerging. We are very curious when watching how the art objects reveal the potential of the genius of the place.

Today, the park starts having an increasing number of new meanings and literally ‘blossoms’. We engage a variety of artists in that work. Authors are rethinking spaces and implementing the ideas they consider compatible with this particular place. Thus, the unique look of Zaryadye is formed. That’s a long and in some sense infinite process. I am incredibly pleased by being able to take part in it.

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– What other professional projects are the brightest and most significant for you today?

– The Moscow Art Prize became one of the most interesting projects. Although it presupposes not quite a curatorial job, it is inspiring for me in terms of its complexity. There are so many artists taking part in the exhibitions. The whole park turns into the space for their presentation. This year, the exhibition spaces became smaller and that was a big challenge. The main task was to avoid ‘conflicts’, to make the most accurate representation, and to establish harmonious dialogues between the artworks. From my point of view, we have succeeded in that.

I also like the exhibition of monumental art that took place a few years ago in the ArtKombinat space. We collaborated with a small group of monumental artists, members of the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists of Russia. A former boiler-room building constructed in 1957 became the event’s venue. It was given to the Union to create the Republican Combine of Monumental and Decorative Art. Over the years, thousands of projects have been carried out there. Today, this place is not just a production base for Moscow artists but also an exhibition space where I was lucky enough to work.

Probably, there is another important project outside of my current professional life. I wrote a script for a documentary film on a topic that may seem unusual: the history of motorbike construction. I still rewatch it with pleasure.

I still want to believe that the main exhibition projects are awaiting me in the future. At least, I feel the strength and potential to fulfil them.

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– What is your vision of the peculiarity and uniqueness of contemporary art?

– The main value of contemporary art lies in the fact that it is living art. It paints a picture of the present and explores what is happening here and now.

I like to observe the process of the decentralization of culture. Today, there are large-scale and unique events happening outside of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. We can go to the Urals or Komi Biennale, visit Dima Rebus's solo exhibition in Kazan, have a tour to the Sokol settlement where Pavel Otdelnov’s exhibition takes place, find plywood sculptures by Aleksandr Shishkin-Hokusai in the Kaliningrad Oblast, or enjoy art objects by a dozen artists in the vineyards of the Golubitskoye Estate on the Azov Sea. Today, the phrase that you visited some remote cities sounds really cool. That has become possible largely thanks to contemporary art.

Many of the listed projects reveal the local context, explore the national, cultural, and historical peculiarities of the regions, and translate them into an artistic language. It turns out that art is a special way of cognition. It extends our boundaries and helps us look at familiar things from a different perspective. In today’s rapid life rhythm, the opportunity to stop, look at a thing, focus your attention, think, and try to understand is extremely valuable.

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– Many people are skeptical about contemporary art and consider it incomprehensible. Do you think it needs explaining or decoding? Does its value lies in the fact that everyone can see something individual in contemporary artworks?

– I don’t think there is a single answer to this question. On the one hand, there are artistic movements making it possible to see something clearly without words or the artist's intention is to make the viewer see something individual. On the other hand, there are cases where the viewer simply cannot find the right reference points without an explanation. Sometimes one has to try not to understand but to feel.

I love the works of Yan Ginzburg. That artist explores and in many ways continues the tradition of Moscow Conceptualism. He is often called the ‘leader of the second wave’. I almost can’t perceive his works without an author’s commentary. For example, for the exhibition devoted to the 65th anniversary of Sovremennik, seven artists created works where they recalled seven iconic performances of the theatre. Yan Ginzburg chose Oleg Efremov’s production based on Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull. He presented four large-scale panels in accordance with the four acts of the play. In them, he encoded topics and associations related not only to the work itself but also to the entire history staging it in Soviet theatre and cinema. The author also touched upon the influence that the Moscow Art Theatre has had on world culture and particularly on American culture. Thus, knowing the original literary work would not be enough to fully decode the artist’s work would clearly. That’s what personally attracts me to the Yan Ginzburg’s works.

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Art isn’t always clear. That makes it even more interesting. The question is whether the viewers are ready to go deeper into the topic and look for references to grasp the sense of the artwork.

If we recall the history of the late 19th - early 20th centuries, it becomes clear that not only our time can me characterised by misunderstanding of experiments and rejection of contemporary artists by their contemporaries. The palette of Claude Monet, the ‘lively’ landscapes of Camille Pissarro, and the intricate style of Vincent van Gogh seemed unacceptable to the viewer of that era. Today, these works are recognised as international masterpieces and sold for huge sums of money. However, those artists often ended their lives in poverty.

Now it is difficult for us to say what pieces of contemporary art will be included in historical legacy and what artworks will lose their value. However, that doesn’t mean we the absence of need to go to exhibitions and museums of contemporary art. There are so many artistic trends today that all people can find something interesting for themselves: Sergei Filatov’s sonic art, technological art by Dmitry Morozov ::VTOL::, Egor Plotnikov’s figurative painting, Dmitry Kavarga’s biomorphic radicalism, Aristarkh Chernyshev’s media art, and Nikolay Polissky’s land art. So many different variations...

Unfortunately, the popularisation of art and science is not yet as strong as I would like it to be. I dream of living in a world where artists and scientists are known to people like musicians, film stars, and bloggers are known today. In any case, I am ready to do my best for that.

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– The development of technology based on artificial intelligence is widely discussed today. There are examples when works created by neural networks were sold at auctions for big money. Do you think that an artificial intelligence will replace artists one day?

– I believe that the sale of AI-created works for a great deal of money is mostly the result of a good PR strategy. Nevertheless, these works are interesting and may well be appreciated by the public. I think a new term should be developed for this phenomenon. I consider art as a product of human creativity. An artwork in this case is unique.

Can an artificial intelligence replace artists? The answer depends on our understanding of artists and creativity.

Let’s go deeper into science fiction. At the interface between neurobiology and medicine, there is such a thing as brain mapping. Scientists are trying to make an anatomical and biochemical scheme of this organ, to understand the connections between the brain regions and trace the path of electrical impulses between neurons. Several brain regions are responsible for shaping our memory and experience. If they are damaged or neurotransmitters are lacking, our memories may suffer. If we add emotions and feelings in the prefrontal cortex with its complex connections to this complex system with a huge number of variables, we will end up with a unique experience and unique results. Artificial intelligence will be able to create something new by ‘shuffling’ the elements that it already knows with one another. Based on the word’s definition, that can never become unique. However, people may argue that.

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– According to you, a lot depends on what meanings we put into artistic activity. What is your vision of art? Can it change the world?

– Art is a human creative activity, which produces a conditional result in the form of a unique artwork. An artwork is any result of the creative work of a person who calls him- or herself an artist.

If considering the topic of changing the world, it seems to me that art can be at least a powerful tool. For instance, it can work very well in cultural diplomacy.

Recently, a solo exhibition of the Recycle Group took place in Saint Petersburg. That’s a project of reflection on new technologies, on the development of virtual reality, and on the place of the human being within it. It is a wonderful example of how art ‘speaks’ a universal language. Viewers do not need to know the Russian language, the context, and characteristics of our history and culture to perceive those works. The artists’ works were highly appreciated at the 56th Venice Biennale with their installation ‘Conversation’ on the topic of life in an epoch of new technologies.

Art based on universal values and experience can build bridges and set up communication. The next step lies in strengthening socio-cultural cooperation and building relationships. That is more characteristic for art with distinctive features, including national ones. For example, the work of Evgeny Antufiev or Taus Makhacheva. To understand the meaning of the authors, you need to know the context. For those viewers who will want to go deeper the works, such art will reveal previously unknown things and probably explain something.

I would say that art can change the world and save it. It exists, which means that people have the resources to create, not just to destroy.

Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov



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