With pop tabs hanging from safety pins in our self-pierced ears, we first met eleven years ago. We were wearing tights stolen from a high street store, decorated with holes that we burned underneath our school desks. Wildly drunk on cheap beer, we were kissing boys with mohawks and we never even imagined that these moments of youth would stay so embedded within us. This wild time of hunger for anarchy and for fitting into a subculture that was so strange to us and yet felt so familiar inspired Anastasia’s artistry in years to come. Most of her artwork is doused in those flavours of youth.
“I am the girl who cries at least once a day.”
In Anastasia not only resides a rebel but also a certain noble and mysterious melancholy which I can only draw back to her Russian roots or rather to the childhood that she spent backstage at the biggest opera houses in Europe. Born in the German city of Bremen into a Russian family with Polish, Ukrainian and Tatar roots, Anastasia’s artistic soul gradually started to shape while she was on the road with her father, a professional opera singer.
“My father taught me how to listen and how to sing. I decided to become a singer until I realised that my voice will never be like my father’s.”
From dance and performance art to photography and painting, Anastasia has explored many different art forms while continuously linking them to her writing. After finishing high school in Luxembourg, she secretly enrolled at the KABK Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, Netherlands.
“My parents have always been into art, but they never wanted me to become an artist. They wanted me to have a normal job. To please them I also enrolled in a course in Communication Management with the intention of fully dedicating myself to my creative work at the academy.”
During her studies in Netherlands, Anastasia was slowly starting to explore her artistic identity while constantly seeking her individual identity as a post-Soviet woman. At first fully immersed in performance art, the young woman learned how to get out of her shell and explore her body, her melancholy and the dynamics of her relationships. She graduated from the academy with an art installation called “I wish I was a punk rocker” and a written piece called “Sadness in Me”. Her graduation freed her from the restraints of classical art that was predominant in her home.
“I needed to find my own private possession and my studies in art have helped me to find it in performance and in writing. At that point my parents learned how to accept my own world. I was unfettered.”
The installation “I wish I was a punk rocker”, like all of Anastasia’s art, is honest to the point of being transparent. Inspired by her teenage years that she spent being part of the punk subculture, the installation deals with her first heartbreaks and rebellions. The youth that Anastasia portrays is a lost generation, a literal “NO FUTURE” generation withering in a country where status and money are the only things which define one’s existence.
While her installation deals with her teenage years that were filled with anxiety, obsession and rebellion, her thesis “Sadness in Me” is an autobiographical piece filled with childhood memories, a reworking of trauma juxtaposed with multi-cultural art references. Highly nostalgic and analytical, Anastasia’s piece leads her readers through her journey of self-discovery as an artist and as a self-therapist. A 21st century, feminist version of Joyce’s A Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man, “Sadness in Me” also looks at the notion of suffering, torment and, as the title implies, of sadness across different disciplines such as philosophy, psychology and obviously art. While going through the most significant art works in literature, musical composition and painting, Anastasia’s work is not merely an academic thesis but a psychoanalytical, creative manuscript.
”I picture sadness as something which exists perpetually.”
Her journey through “Sadness in Me” marked the beginning of a turning point in her artistic and academic career.
“To be honest with you, art is tricky. We all have that one phase where we want to be a cliché, bohemian artist, something like, Oh let me be intoxicated and late all the time, let me put paint on myself. You can achieve many things with this attitude, however this is not all it takes. This doesn’t make you an artist. Nowadays you need to be realistic, organised and strategic. Get your shit together if you want to be an artist! It’s not all about chaos and torture. You need to listen to the critics and learn. The cliché lifestyle doesn’t work anymore.”
With all the different expertise, Anastasia doesn’t only work in the artistic milieu but also contributes to curation and to academic research. Her recent contribution dates back to October 2017, in Venice she co-authored the 7th publication of the series The Contemporary Condition (editors: Geoff Cox, Jacob Lund) which will be published by Sternberg Press the upcoming spring.
Constantly torn between spaces and different countries, Anastasia’s sense of identity is a very peculiar one. “I want to explore the notion of space and non-space and how it influences the subject in an artistic and cultural manner. I have noticed that all of my travelling, my breakdowns, my relationships and my past experiences continuously go into my work. It’s more than a full-time job.”
The young woman is currently doing a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the Institut Kunst in Basel, Switzerland with the aim of completing a research work on the different aspects of spatiality. At this moment, Anastasia is more interested in finding her voice in the form of writing, especially amongst the madness of all the languages that she is fluent in.
“Our culture needs more artists who are honest, who break taboos, are transparent and subjective. The more subjective an art piece, the more universal it becomes! I also believe in non-linear writing, screw the plot! It’s all part of the patriarchal conditioning. If we look back at the ancient tribes, there was no structure in story-telling. We don’t think in a linear way! Memories intrude our thoughts, the subconscious mind is constantly running in the background.”
The young woman is about to sail off into a new territory as a cultural mediator at The Vitra Design Museum.
“After my recent experience with Documeta 14, I know that another job as a cultural mediator will benefit my future projects and will strengthen my skills as a story-teller, no matter the challenges that might arise.”
In the near future Anastasia wants to engage in post-Soviet studies on the female subject and write about what she knows.
“It’s funny how in Russia I am seen as European and in Europe I am called a Russian. I am in a space in-between, which can be very painful and yet will always provide me with a different, non-defined perspective. Russian culture is fascinating nowadays and I am highly interested in collaborating with contemporary, young and controversial Russian designers.”
Raised in backstage rooms of opera houses, she was shaped, learned how to embrace sadness and fell in love with nostalgia while reading Pushkin and perhaps learning a thing or two from Bulgakov’s character Margarita.