The newest exhibition decimating our digital facades: here are 10 questions with Kuzma Vostrikov and Ajuan Song

What do you get when you place a pregnant Theresa May on a beach in Rio swallowed by a python, plastic penis's and Robin hood syndrome? 8 1/2 Anti-Social Masks for Instagram. This exhibition goes toe to toe with our delusional digital identities and sensationalizes them... and us.

1.   Tell me a little about yourself and your journies to Art.

Ajuan: I started with abstract photography, chemigrams and photograms. When I met Kuzma in 2014, I got interested and involved more and more in portraits, and we went for a long term collaboration that’s been underway ever since. My family is very rooted in classic tradition. I was a well behaved girl but always want to be a bad girl. Eventually I escaped. I spent a lot of time on the road traveling to look for the meaning of existence. I never really thought about the journey to art, but I think altogether, pursuing and longing for liberty and my constant curiosity led me to art.

Kuzma: My whole life, I wasn’t moving towards art, I was running away from it. Because my parents said, “Son, don’t do it.” When I was a year and a half I fell into a washing machine full of hot water. Maybe that had an effect. Behind the door to art there is nothing but distress. Creators, smudging up their canvases, are eternally dissatisfied with something.

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2.  How did that inform your practice?

A: It’s a kind of destiny thing. In a certain way you challenge your life by doing the no-no thing; and in another way you are meant to do what you are doing.  I am a believer of karma. The river you swim in, the boy with curly hair and thick glasses you meet, and the bird shit that lands on your head will go into your subconsciousness and inform your vision.

K: While philosophers know what they are looking for, people of science usually are blinded by intermediate goals. Combining physics, philosophy, literature and photography yields synergy, and I always wanted to do art by conjoining it with the naivety and progress of science.

3. Both Artists have a strong artistic identity. What compelled the two of you to collaborate on this particular project?

A: Imagine you’re on the moon. And you have no oxygen. And you have no house. And you have no rocket ship to fly home on. And somebody is waving to you from the foot of that mountain over there.

K: I have a different approach. I’m old, I’m starting to decay, do you hear that weird smell? I don’t remember what I said five minutes ago. I’m summing things up, probably starting from first grade.

The secret of cooperation: harmony and disharmony. An idiot and Snow White.

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4. You explain that your practice incorporates “surrealistic motifs while evading any use of digital manipulation”- why was that important to emphasise in your practice?

Today, manipulation is prestigious. We just want to “manipulate” other attributes. Absolutely augmented reality does not rely on the terminology of surrealism in interpreting what is subconscious. But we really are searching for form and symbol. We’re putting together painting and photography, constructing a new language, delineating space as a system of symbols, on the basis of some humanistic idea.

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5.     Why “8 1/2 Antisocial masks for Instagram”?

What should be put on Instagram?The mask in and of itself is a social thing. It defends the true interests of the individual.Jessica or Sara spend their whole paycheck to buy the Dolce, then get a loan to finish buying the Gabbana. Now they are all ready for Instagram.

Our protagonists have their fears, fantasies, memories, life experience. All that is reflected on their faces, their portraits. We show our protagonists’ facial expressions without makeup, their real wrinkles and faces, on which their lives are reflected.

We end up with masks with no masks, something real, the intimate experiences of the protagonist, which by definition cannot be “social”. “8 1/2 Antisocial Masks for Instagram” is a seasonal vaccination for those who have gotten lost in the matrix.

6.  What are your thoughts on the future of communication as digital identities are rising to prominence more and more by the day?

Social regulation transforms completely into protocol, people get convinced that that is good and necessary, that otherwise some sort of danger threatens society. We learned long ago to get pregnant according to a schedule, so what do you want?

What kind of humanity can we talk about? Our artistic days are numbered. Maybe a century remains. But our works will be placed in museums, like the work of cavemen. Valuable artifacts of the rise and fall of “culture,” which is already losing, and will completely lose, its meaning.

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7. Could you explain in a little more depth the technology used to collate dreams. How do you go about that?

AAR conjoins lyricality and complete subjectivity with the freedom to make decisions, both artistic and story-telling decisions.  The psychoanalysis of urban life, the fear of death, wrapped up in civilizational bravado about technological progress.

The desire to set records and be present everywhere: at MacDonald’s, in the parking lot, at the White House, in a coal mine, on the set, and in bed with Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Madonna.

8.     How much of your work straddles illusion and how much of it is realism?

You’ll probably be bored reading this. You know better than I do what realism is. Rent payments, insurance, implants.

A wedding. A wedding reception long ago became realer than life. Remember: 100, 200, 500, 100,000 guests. And then there’s Instagram. Such real guys and girls there! Access is denied to us old people.

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9.  What should we take from the works?


Imagine a pure kiss. The warm sea.

«The peanuts sisters»

Sei Shōnagon’s daybreak in spring.

We pose questions in our symbols, without the immediate goal of answering them. Everyone might interpret them differently. Time changes the form of the statement. In the future, living with these questions, the viewer will sense possible answers to them.

10. Any final words?

What do you write on a gravestone? Chinese women live for a long time. For me, it’s hard to say.

I would write something sad, but that’s a matter of taste.

Stephen Hawking suggested that we should lift our heads to look at the starry sky more often. He wasn’t advertising fitness centers or selling telescopes.

You know, when I lift my head, I’m surprised every time at how many years it’s been since I last did it.

8 1/2 Anti-Social Masks for Instagram” is available at 208 East 73rd Street, New York, NY 10021 USA. June 25, 2019 to July 01, 2019

wordsConnie Mangumbu