Artist from Novosibirsk, who believes that Russian art no longer exists

"Russia is a zombie country. It continues to move by inertia, but it no longer exists. On February 24, everything that is still habitually called "Russian" is over. Accordingly,there is no Russian art either," said Yulia Levykina, an artist from Novosibirsk. She left the country after Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Tell us about yourself

- I used to be a small business owner, an artist. I hope I can stay that way. I came to Tbilisi from Novosibirsk, where I was born and lived all my life.

Why did you leave Russia?

 Because the war began, and very quickly we ran out of air to breathe. At some point it became obvious that there were no other options anyway. 

Your first thoughts and feelings on February 24?

- In fact, I did not believe it. That is, I read it, but since by then there had been some constant information background on the endless exercises near the Ukrainian border for days, I just dismissed it as impossible and went about my business. Then, a few hours later, when the news caught up with me and I realized that no, it was true, I, like most of my friends and most of the people I talked to about this topic in general, just had a complete inability to understand or comprehend what was happening, some kind of endless stupor and freezing. It went on for a long time.

In fact, now I have the feeling that it lasted a month, but when we start to remember what was going on in those days, it turns out that in reality, a few days later, we were already busy planning how we were going to leave. So I don't know how long it lasted, maybe a few hours, a few days, or maybe we're still in that state. 

How does war affect Russian art?

- You can't talk about Russian art anymore. I don't think it's about art, I don't think it's about Russian art. I think that you cannot talk about Russian art at all. It all died on February 24, and what is happening now is not Russian, and in fact, it's some kind of imitation of activity. In reality, it is already such a zombie country, which continues to move by inertia, but no longer exists.

What should the new Russian culture be like if the old one is abolished?

- I cannot and do not want to speak in terms of "Russian" or "Russian," in my mind it has disintegrated. There is art, which some people do and somewhere, in some places. And there is culture. Or maybe there is no culture: in fact, it died along with Russia on February 24. 

How do you define yourself as an artist?

- I think I will have to do without national identity for the rest of my life. I have always felt that I was somewhere from planet Earth rather than from a particular country, and, in fact, national identity has never been important to me at all. Actually, it became more important after the war, because I realized that I had to take responsibility for this national identity one way or another. I started trying to get along with it somehow. In general, I tried to try on this very national identity. To say that I feel natural when I call myself a Russian or a Russian artist, I cannot. 

What is an artist to do in time of war?

- I don't know what to do in times of war. I don't know what an abstract painter should do in a time of war. I don't know what to do a locksmith in time of war. I don't even know what a soldier should do in time of war. 

What anti-war work have you seen?

- Of course I've seen it, I've done it myself. 

However, I don't know if I can talk about it, because I was doing it on territory where it's illegal to do so, and I was using the artistic tools I had. But first of all, I wasn't doing it alone, and I don't know how safe it is for other people. And at some point I may have a need to go into that area, so let's leave the dark past in the past. There has been quite a bit of graffiti that has clawed at me, but I can't name names right now. Because, naturally, I was looking very carefully from the beginning, I was looking all over, and I liked a lot of things. Anyway, it's hard for me to name examples without preparation, just off the top of my head.

What are you most afraid of?

- The nuclear bomb. 

How do you see the future of Russia?

- I think that Russia has no future. Second, I don't really want to look into the future of Russia. 

How do you see the present of Russia?

- A walking corpse. It is no longer a state, it is some kind of system, maybe not even a system anymore, but a cluster of elements that keep moving, moving some gears, but it all just rolls toward disintegration. I'm afraid to think about it.

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