In the text for the project ‘We’re already dead, we just don’t know it yet’
you have mentioned choice and awakening. ‘What if he [Neo] had taken both pills?’ But what if there is nothing to wake up to? Perhaps, you may remember ‘Futurological Congress’, a novel by Stanislav Lem, in which the main protagonist, having taken an anti-hallucinogenic drug, woke up in the world in which he would have been better off not waking up at all. Multiple references to memes in your works make me think that the texture of today’s reality resembles one of papier-mâché. It is a reality in which memes in particular act as a paper shell, a barrier hiding a dummy which is something that it is better not to look at all, some sort of gloomy otherworldly from which different well known personalities, like Putin, Trump, Erdoğan, or Beyonce, burst through from time to time. What do you think of that? Does it scare you? What do you think of this ‘better not to’ concept? Artists always act on the edge…
I mostly use memes in aesthetic ways, but I agree that they form a sort of layering. Both because of their visual and documental principles and because of the way they spread out in duplicated copies via re-blogging. I really liked the idea that the world is a kind of papier-mâché, or at least our perception of it might be. The way we experience life in a linear form through time… And the constantly fluctuating culture, containing everything we know, being born out of all this commotion since the beginning of time. If the otherworldly being in the center is there within these systems, I rather not look at it until I am ready to face it. Time provides a certain linear sequencing of events and we build our characters, based on all these systems and on culture accordingly. However, if we are not prepared to deal with this hidden dummy in the center, maybe this means that time has not come for us yet and we’d better not look at it.Natalya Serkova:
The point is that today the concept of time is a big problem. We can no longer be sure that life after death remains actually after
. The same problem arises in the expectation of an afterlife encounter with God, because if the linear structure is broken, this may mean that our meeting with God can occur right here and right now, and we just have to grasp the very moment of this interaction. Whether this God is alive or dead is not as important as the idea that there is no special way out there to access him any more. There is a hole drilled in the exit door, so to say, and the otherworldly oozes at us from there, spreading over our laptops and tables. In this sense, the title of your show, ‘We’re already dead, we just do not know it yet’
, as well as the title of Ultrastudio’s
exhibition series within which your project is made—From Light to Dust
—speak not so much of the fact that death (as well as afterlife) is in the very texture of our existence, but rather of the fact that death itself is deeply intravital at its core. In Russia, death is traditionally closely linked to everyday life, people have a certain familiarity with it. What do you think of that vital component of death today? Do you personally feel it? And where, eventually, can this feeling lead us all?
Bora Akinciturk: It is interesting to try and fathom what would everything be like if the linear structure of time is broken. Death might be a way to actually break out of that and re-exist on another plane, maybe become that oozing otherworldly being. Or it might be that everything is already perpetually happening everywhere and God is both dead and alive…
I think Turkish culture is similar to the Russian one in the sense that we have both dealt with death in our everyday life long enough, so long that it has become more integral to our basic. I do not particularly enjoy thinking about death but I can easily say that it is a motivating force when coupled with time. It is the big finale considering there is nothing afterwards. It marks the end of this huge experience and therefore we expect it to bring a divine understanding but as we all know it is largely possible that this celestial message does not exist and that there is just that meaningless void out there.
Vitaly Bezpalov: Personally, I find it intriguing that you choose a kind of a carpet or a rug as a medium for your work. These carpets in your show depict layered elements, in which one can easily discern certain well-known memes. Both in Turkish and Russian cultural traditions, there are various kinds of self-propelled vehicles, like an Old Russian wood-fired oven or a magic carpet. The Flying Carpet is propelled by some magical powers, yet you, depicting memes on your carpets, seem to determine those forces that propel this vehicle. You have probably already observed that since the show was published online, your carpet pieces have been widely posted and reposted. I had no problem locating about a hundred Tumblrs with the photos of them. Do you think that meme is becoming a sort of a unit of this magic power that enables visuality to circulate today with such a frantic power?
I think memes can also be treated like postmodern folklore. All these collective contents and images are manufactured through productions like photoshopped images and texts, remixed or copied anonymously and then distributed. I totally agree that it is a fuel of sorts, but not only for artistic economy. I think memes fuel our advancement in the general concept of communication, enable communication to be faster, better and to reach further afield. They allow humans to explore and understand themselves and the universe better, they enable intelligence to thrive. I know that it feels more like they cloud the way we communicate and obscure truth in general, but I think it could be the beginning of a bigger transformation of communication.NS:
It seems to me that today’s curse and anathema may fall on our heads more likely for what we do not
do rather then for the sins we commit. In order to successfully function in this world, you must become a meme yourself, move quickly, multiply your images (both of yourself and of whatever you produce), flicker everywhere and be remembered as a reflex. To fail this integration-into-the-world exam, suffice it to just delete your accounts from social networks or not to update your Instagram account every day. Ages ago prophets came to the world to explain to us what would happen next, while today we ourselves, constantly multiplying the images of ourselves, grab those ‘future zones’ on which memes are the first to appear, followed by a McDonald’s later on. In one of your pieces in the show you use the word ‘prophets’ (‘пророки’), written in Russian for some reason. Who is this modern prophet to you personally and what mission should they carry out today on Earth?
BA: The show vaguely deals with the systems of life and death, perceptions of expectation and reality. People who observe and believe in a hero want him/her to triumph but if the hero fails or turns out to be a fake, then this is the biggest letdown. So big that it creates a rare moment or psychological habitat that allows people to take a look behind the curtain for a short while.
I think we are at a boiling point of bursting information and accelerating speed in technology, a boiling point of an understanding of human nature and existence. We are more interconnected than ever, our imagined identities shape our online personalities. We expect to become superior humans, to have better lives, we want fully automated hedonism but the reality is that things are mostly the same as they have always been if not worse. Racism is now an ideological right to express where social sensitivity has turned into a fascist dicta of hardcore political correctness while capitalism is rotting like a corpse of a fat banker and all the kings of earth are still fighting and trying to find ways to profit, while we are busy constantly updating our profile pictures. So I doubt a modern prophet could actually achieve anything. A utopian scenario would be the arrival of a super AI who has all the answers to all the questions leading us to a fully automated luxury communism. However, it is rather more likely that we will be battling climate change to the death instead.