"Russia is back on its cannibalistic rails."
Alexander Gorynin is an artist from St. Petersburg. He is 47 years old. His creative specialty is light and kinetic installations. Alexander is also a civic activist. He tells us that all the good news of St. Petersburg last summer was from the Kolomna neighborhood, and it was related to the good neighbor community. In the spring, a team of caring people, which Alexander joined, created a volunteer network to help refugees from Ukraine leave Russia. After the Ministry of Culture did not allow Alexander Gorynin's work to be placed in the Tretyakov Gallery, the artist emigrated to Israel.
- On the eve of the war, I had a long-awaited big foreign project coming up. With a grandiose installation. We were to put an installation on a wall in Spain. In essence it was a large concrete disc with optical elements mounted on it. It was supposed to tell the story of three amazing days through light images. As it turned out later, the last happy days of my former life. On February 12, I returned from the object back to St. Petersburg, after having inspected, groped and imagined everything in Spain.
Of course, everyone was nervous in those days, but war seemed impossible. Beyond. And when it happened... I have a picture from February 24. I have a lot of dust at work. It's everywhere, including on my computer keyboard. So I sat there and pressed CTRL+Z on the keyboard endlessly. Polished those two keys against the rest of the dirty keyboard.
The first month was literally catatonic. I am an artist. Not a soldier. At first I was tempted to volunteer in Ukraine. Not to fight, but at least to clear away the rubble, because I work with metal and can be useful. Then I started organizing anti-war art actions.
On May 9, for example, I had a Victory Parade: while equipment with military personnel was going through the center of the city, 60 coffins with the letters Z and numbers were going in parallel across the center of the Neva. Back then, those numbers still ended at 21,000.
In the spring we set out to build an aid network for Ukrainian refugees. It turned out to be gigantic. People behind the front lines had only two options: stay in the ruins or go wherever they could. That's how they ended up in Russia. Not everyone, understandably, wanted to stay there. They needed help with everything: someone with vaccination for a cat, someone with an operation, someone to collect clothes, someone to help with tickets. Mostly they were taken from Russia to Europe. And that's tens of thousands of people.
I have always been indifferent to the community in which I lived. For example, we tried to form a decent urban environment. As much as we could, of course: litterbins, benches... We organized our neighbors to pitch in and pay for an extra janitor every month. We cleaned the river, because the communal workers didn't have enough energy, and there was a constant garbage dump. Did "public art" uncomplicated in Buccaneer - a modern house for ducks with a terrace, a garden, with light in the windows.
It always seemed to me that our main problem is the atomization of society: people don't see others around them. So I created some kind of communicators for people, occasions to socialize. Here they were standing on the bridge in front of the duck house, getting to know each other, talking about what they saw.
During the election, our neighbors came up with the "Eaten Observer" campaign. The neighborhood community launched a flash mob to have voters carry food to the polling station during voting for the observers who were on duty. Those "on the side of the world" had to live at the polling station for three days to watch out for stuffing. Someone baked a quiche for them, and someone boiled some potatoes. In my presence, one policewoman cried when she realized that they, too, could be treated, that we weren't just feeding "our own.
The specifics of my St. Petersburg interior metal workshop were that we made very expensive things for mansions. There were all kinds of customers. Both gangsters and just rich people. Including the offices that furnish the palaces of the criminal group that is in power.
At some point I realized that I couldn't take any more orders. First the thieves turned into killers, and serial killers at that. And then it immediately became clear that there was no one left on the market but them. So I made the decision to wind up the business and leave.
But it was important for me to put a point in my Russian history, so I accepted the invitation to participate in the Biennale of Contemporary Art at the Tretyakov Gallery. I started an installation for the whole hall. It was about the bitterness of the unfulfilled. About those things that we will never see again. About the fact that the world was divided into something that could still happen, and something that would never happen.
When everything was mounted, the curator of the exhibition said: "Alexander, I have 28 more authors, I need to save the project. The Ministry of Culture doesn't allow your name to be put in the Tretyakov Gallery. Is it possible to arrange for the work to remain and not have your surname under it?"
I said, "It's even a bit of an honor. Let it be written simply Artist. I say nothing of the fact that many of the works at the Biennale were, if not provocative, then frankly on the other pole. And I saw no reason not to show people my art. But nevertheless, the Biennale did not happen at all. Maybe it was for the best, since the bitterness of the unfulfilled situation covered the whole project. We ended up with such "meta-meta" art.
My plan, after opening the Biennale, was to get on a plane and leave. But I had to leave my homeland without that.
For all the sacrifices that Ukraine has made in this war, it will greatly benefit from it: both in terms of unity of the people, patriotism, and in terms of its place in the international political arena. Russia, on the other hand, will return to its comfortable medieval state.
It was not on the 24th that something strange happened, it was Russia that went back to normal. Strange something happened in August 1991. And we all witnessed a little piece of history, when the country was not itself. When people had a future. And now it's back on its cannibalistic rails and will be riding them for decades to come.
They say to me, "When Putin dies, won't you come back?" No, guys. I'll only come back in one case, and that's not certain - when I see these p******s being tried live for weeks on prime time television. If I feel that I will be useful to Russia and can do some good, then maybe I will come back. But, unfortunately, it looks like things are about to get a long, hard gloomy period.