Author: Jenya Stashkov, art critic, artist
Sometimes things in everyday life stop behaving the way we expect them to. What are the consequences of this? This can be a starting point for horror (killer tomatoes), for a new religion (some extravagant island cargo cult around a fallen aircraft), or, for example, for an exhibition. What happens if an ordinary traffic light changes its green glow to blue?
From January 4 to January 30, 2022, the “The Traffic Light Turns Blue” exhibition, by artist Anastasia Kayneanung and curator Anastasia Vasilyeva was opened in Moscow at the “Na Peschanoy” gallery. This solo exhibition is a striking example of the symbiosis between the hermetic and fragile artistic world of the artist and the brilliant and delicate work of the curator. “The traffic light turns blue” is an elusive and paradoxical statement about the feat of inventing, groping, or reinventing a personal non-confessional (meta-?) spirituality or religiosity in a world of constant loss. The main nerve of the conceptual tension of the exhibition is the conflict between duality and non-duality. The exhibition is both very integral and very fragmentary. On the one hand, it is possible to describe this exhibition as a collection of graphic works, collages, and art objects. On the other hand, it is possible to describe this exhibition as a set of invitations to meet with different types of unarticulated inner experiences. On the one hand, we can see the apparent lightness, vitality, humour, and irony of the constructed artistic world. On the other hand, anyone with at least a little bit of true spiritual experience can see the courage of intentions and the seriousness of Anastasia Kayneanung’s discoveries as a spiritual seeker.
We see the absolute freedom of the artist in mixing various mythological image systems and creating various empty and quasi-interactive environments.The greatest interest is caused by Anastasia Kayneanung“s conscious construction of her personal image of the goddess Athena and the use of religious symbols close to Egyptian and late antique mythology. This approach is absolutely not accidental and fits perfectly into the auto-documentary part of the exhibition concept. Anastasia Kayneanung was born in 1992 on the peninsula of Crimea (Ukraine), and for her, these images are literally from childhood. She could invent an image of some universal unidentified goddess or turn to more popular media images of a female multidimensional deity (Kali, Virgin Mary, Amaterasu, and so on), but she honestly declares that the territorial binding of the chosen deity to her childhood is important for her. The artist enthusiastically and passionately invents and thinks over various aspects of the goddess Athena, taking us far away from the Greek primary source. She supplies this female deity with her own identities, splits herself and Athena, and reassembles. He puts between himself and Athena an equality sign, then an inequality sign, then a question mark. Anastasia often uses the image of the eye. The eye is a more universal image, referring to a greater number of cultures and genders. The Kayneanung”s eye is an unstable substance that changes colour, shape, and even bifurcates and crumbles. This eye is parallel to the viewer’s view of this exhibition.
Anastasia Kayneanung is a visionary artist, a mystery artist, and a humanist artist. There is not a lot of information about her on the Internet, and this enhances the atmosphere of mystery and authenticity around the exhibition’s message. The artist seems to tell us all his losses: childhood, homeland, simplicity, naivety, and carelessness. But after that, she gives us working ways to overcome these losses. Yes, these methods are similar to the good old spiritualist exercises, but they are devoid of snobbery, unjustified regulation, and repression. The main thing is an invitation to invent your own personal spirituality, which would really help you live and function in a difficult and unpredictable reality. This can be silly, funny, or weird. And this is normal! The image of a traffic light that will turn blue at the right moment contains a huge psychotherapeutic potential of hope and makes us remember the best examples of such visual images from popular culture. The appearance of a Doctor Who phone booth, an owl with a letter from Hogwarts, an east wind from Merry Poppins, and so on.
The curator“s work played a huge role in the fact that the exhibition ‘The Traffic Light Turns Blue” turned out to be so integral, multi-layered, and at the same time clear and empathetic. Anastasia Vasilyeva is a bright and highly professional representative of the newest generation of contemporary art curators who have revolutionised the reinterpretation of the artist-curator-gallery relationship triangle. Anastasia Vasilyeva, first of all, prioritises the non-brand and non-market intention of the artist, and this is always a challenge and a step into the unknown. We know many examples of how curators cut artists to the conventions and expectations of the environment, do not work with artists with an active civic position, or work with superintroverted artists. It is especially valuable that Anastasia Vasilyeva certainly trusts Anastasia Kayneanung. According to Vasilyeva”s practise, the curator is not only the main organiser of the exhibition and the first critic of the artist; it is also an accomplice, an adept, and someone who believes in spite of the desire to tell the artist “This is bad; we are redoing’. It is this curatorial belief in the marginalia of the artist that allowed the exhibition “The Traffic Light Turns Blue” to become one of the best and most unusual exhibition projects of the beginning of 2022 in Russia. Anastasia Vasilyeva expands the boundaries of the curatorial profession through the active introduction of the practises of care, trust, soft connivance, and horizontal interaction.
Sometimes things in everyday life stop behaving the way we expect them to. Artists and curators exploring this phenomenon are currently the most relevant part of modern visual art. I warmly recommend that you follow the future collaborations of Anastasia Kayneanung and Anastasia Vasilyeva, as well as the personal projects of each of them. One day the traffic light will shine blue especially for you, all the strange rituals will take on an unexpected meaning, and Athena (or someone else) will prompt tectonic and spiritual changes in your life.