Author: Jenya Stashkov, art critic
There is a popular opinion that contemporary art is fundamentally non-literary-centric. I mean fiction. We know many examples of the influence of psychoanalysis, continental philosophy, and left-wing activist works on artists. It looks as if reality (synonymous with non-fiction) seems more valuable than fantasy (fiction). However, interacting with someone else“s work of fiction is a serious challenge for any artist. How not to slip into vulgar illustrativeness? How do I connect with someone else”s aesthetic statement? How not to lose your artistic voice in someone else’s work? These are all serious questions, to which it is difficult to give an unambiguous answer right away.
Anna Vasilieva is an excellent example of a contemporary artist pushing the boundaries of possible interaction between gallery art and the classic XX century big novel. Her art project “Gatsby” is an ambitious and virtuoso idea combining digital and social networks, artistic and literary analysis of characters, criticism of personal representation in the modern era, and much more. The artist works with the plot of the book The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Key. She places various characters in a different medium. She changes the space of linear unfolding of personal stories (as it is present on paper in the novel) to a discrete intermittent narrative through Instagram posts. For each character in The Great Gatsby, Anna created a personal Instagram account. On behalf of each of the heroes, plot-important posts continuing the story are periodically published. The publication date of each post corresponds to the date of the event in the novel 100 years later (for more realism).
Through her project, Anna explores several fundamentally important issues. 1. The fate of a great novel in the era of quick and concise information; 2. The representation of characters from a century ago. Which of these characters meets modern ethical standards? Are they acceptable personalities for the public field? 3. Social functions of the artist’s work with classical literature. For popularisation? For research? For self-interest? What for?
In the light of these problems, Anna’s project seems to be an activist conciliatory statement that removes the meaningless conflict between text-centricity and non-text-centricity. After all, says Anna, what is the difference between text and non-text? What is the difference between a classic novel and an unarticulated wordless everyday life? We can put these things in each other, in polar contexts. The artist performs an action similar to that performed by Alain Rob-Grillet in relation to the world of routine objects. She puts Gatsby in the context of a web service specialising in fixing and broadcasting everyday life. This is a transgressive act that removes many oppositions and asks new questions.
If you want to go on a journey through the intertextual complex interrelations between text, social media and the poetic view of a socially responsible artist, then I strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with the art practise of Anna Vasilieva.