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Interview

Masha Svyatogor: I create multi-layered narratives through photography

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
February 9, 2021
“I create multi-layered narratives through photography, and in particular through collage, both digital and analog.” In this interview, meet Masha Svyatogor, nominated for Futures by Fotofestiwal Lodz in 2020.⁠

⁠Masha Svyatogor (b. 1989) is a Belarusian visual artist based in Minsk. She debuted in 2017 with the solo exhibition 'Kurasoushchyna, My Love' in Minsk, Belarus.⁠ She works on personal long-term art projects relating to contemporary issues, post-soviet history, society, identity.

In her latest projects, the artist creates works, using official photos from magazines published in the USSR and her own photographs. Newly created images, based on communist symbols and typical forms of propaganda messages, show the Soviet culture in a surrealistic mirror.⁠

Below, she told us more about her practice and inspirations:

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From the series "Kurasoushchyna, my love", 2016
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Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations? Which themes do you often work with?  

I find inspiration in daily routine, in unattractive and weird things. Things that do not lend themselves to linear, unambiguous interpretations. My daily observations, my impressions and my imagination feed me a lot. I am also interested in things that are on the border between logic, order and absurdity, aesthetics and ugliness. In my work I seek to find the line where the rational, logical and reasonable transitions into the irrational and insane.

My works mainly refer to the Soviet and post-soviet history, society and identity. Although I deal mostly with everyday life in my practice, the result of my works sometimes look like fantastic and fictional worlds.

How do you see your relationship with the medium? How do you use photography to express your art?

My thesis at the university, for instance, was devoted to the study of the literary game in one of a modern novel. I think as an artist I also play with images, contexts, different historical and aesthetic traditions. I create multi-layered narratives through photography, and in particular through collage, both digital and analog. I believe that the possibilities of photography are enormous and so far I am interested in using this medium in my practice.

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From the series "Everybody strike!", hand-cut collage, 2020
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Do you have any ongoing (or more recent) project that you would like to share with us?

My recent work refers to the events taking place in my home country – Belarus. As in my previous project, I continue working with archives from the Soviet era.

For this work I collect the images of Soviet workers. The original pictures look very inspired and joyful, people on these portraits are full of enthusiasm and energy, they are ready for the hard work and production. So, I put these groups of people and individuals in the opposite context – strike, resistance and struggle, related to the situation in Belarus after the presidential elections. We exist now in a tough political and humanitarian crisis. Six months of the protests demanding new and fair elections and stopping state violence.

Unfortunately, the general strike of workers did not happen, largely due to harsh repression against people by the state. Nevertheless, Belarusians do not stop protesting, they take to the streets in different parts of our country even in severe weather conditions and show their position. Through this work I wanted to support Belarusian workers on strike.

We have been facing a lot of challenges this year. How do you see this moment for art? Is it changing your practice?

For me now, it’s quite difficult to assess and articulate the impact of the ongoing changes on art and our life. Certainly, this negatively influenced the financial situation of artists. Their position is more precarious than ever, and they really need support. At the same time these challenges can set new tasks and open up unpredictable opportunities and prospects. The current changes are so rapid, that I just do not have time for reflections.

As I mentioned, the pandemic coincided with the political crisis in Belarus, so Belarusians are really affected due to the state terror and violence in my country. Apart from the fact that because of the pandemic it seems like you are stuck in one endless day, you have to overcome and deal with the daily stress and anxiety. Therefore, the most important thing for me now is to take care of my mental health in order to find energy for making art and producing new work.

From the series "Everybody strike!", hand-cut collage, 2020
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Can you share with us some of your plans for the future? Do you have any new project in mind?  

To be honest, I do not have any ambitious plans at the moment. I'm going to make a zin with my work "Everybody dance!" and most likely I'll produce a new work for the next edition of Fotofestiwal Lodz. I was invited to Lodz for a 1-month residency, but due to the Covid situation I will stay and work at home.  

What do you expect from this experience as a Futures talent?

I really expect new possibilities and propositions, collaborations, experiments. It also would be great to increase my visibility, to showcase my work to a wider audience, to get support and establish networking with institutions.

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