Artists’ web talk session with General director KITAGAWA Fram vol.1 ‘Hope artists have in the midst of the coronavirus disease outbreak’
Due to the effect of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Japanese government declared a nationwide state of emergency, calling for people to refrain from various activities.
Some other countries are, however, experiencing greater damage and have imposed stricter restrictions than those of Japan.
How do artists feel about the current situation? What do they think? What are they trying to do? General director of Ichihara Art×Mix, KITAGAWA Fram, will have online talk sessions with the artists from 17 countries and regions.
This time, we interviewed four artists from Russia. What they shared with us was the deep reflection and words from the artists who have gone through the restricted life in the era of the former Soviet Union.
We greatly hope that this interview will encourage all of us staying at home, agonizing, to make the best of the current situation.
Director KITAGAWA Fram (Hereafter Director):
First of all, what are the restrictions in Moscow or Russia? And how is social distancing managed there?
Leonid Tishkov (Hereafter Leonid):
In Moscow, there are quite a lot of cases of infection found, and I would say the situation is pretty tough. After my surgery, even I was asked to leave the hospital earlier than usual, in order to make spaces for infected patients.
Whole of Russia has counted a large number of cases so far (114 thousand people, as of 1st May), but it is expected to continue increasing. Although the government restricts all kinds of activities, including people’s outing, I don’t think everyone is responsible enough to follow the rules. Many of the patients are young people, while older ones quietly accept the rules and stay home. This is because older people know the life in the era of the former Soviet Union, when we had far less free in activities.
Vladimir Nasedkin (Hereafter Vladimir):
Not only in Moscow but also in the rest of Russia all the facilities are closed including schools, and restaurants.
All over the country the virus outbreak hit hard the economy, and especially in Ural and Siberia people are in a very difficult situation.
The government promised to issue a loan, but I don’t think it will help those in need. They will be required to make a repayment sooner or later.
Alexander Ponomarev (Hereafter Alexander):
I live in Moscow, where my studio is also located, and I have never seen this city as empty as it is now. All I can see in the city is gigantic posters warning people about the COVID-19. When it is cloudy, the city looks so gloomy and shallow that it reminds me of Dostoevsky’s works.
Considering the economic situation, this is very challenging for artists. However, it meant a lot to me to receive artist fee from the Ichihara Art×Mix for my works.
When compared to Russia, restriction in Japan is not as strict. The problem here in Japan is that people still go in and out.
Except for shops selling “essential items”, the rest of the retail and service industries have to stop the business and it still is quite difficult to host events and exhibitions.
In Japan, there also are many non-regular workers who are especially vulnerable under these circumstances.
And my next question is: what are your thoughts on the current situation?
Right now we cannot see each other because of restriction on travel, but it will never ruin our friendship. It is essential for everyone to believe that ‘This situation does not last forever, and cannot spoil what is important for us.
I think, for artists this situation is not only a barrier, but also a chance to reconsider their production to go forward. Peaceful time has not always been granted for the artists.
Any context could be an opportunity to create a new harmony and overcome difficulties.
Even if the process of production work poses for a while, our idea, reflection and creativity rather keep getting sharpened under these circumstances, without stopping.
I always have a miniature of a Kominato train by my side, which tells me that your journey in Ichihara is not over yet.
Tania Badanina :
While many of us live in solitude, I think for artists this is rather a good time to dive into our inner world, released from outer restrains. We can immerse ourselves in reading, planning, and drawing etc.
At the same time, I often think of the future after the situation is settled down. How should the new exhibition look like? What should I produce? How is the Ichihara Art×Mix going to be? I’m very much looking forward to all of these.
Personally, I affirmed that family and home is indispensable to all of us, and also myself as artist. From global perspectives, I think this situation provides us with the opportunity to reconsider and learn from relations between humans, family members, and humans and nature. We are facing a global tragedy, but it is artists’ task to overcome. I am conscious of it and have hope.
In a long run, I don’t think this would change anything about artist’s way of living.
My atelier is submarine-shaped space in the basement. I have been using this space alone to reflect some ideas, draw paintings, and write poems alone. And it never changes even under the current situation.
However, I would say that for artists who are specialized in installation works it will be more and more difficult as the time goes on. Technicians and workers in manufacturing factories have stopped working.
What is crucial right now is that, if the world cannot find a solution to the pandemic, we need to reconsider the ways of our being.
All kinds of people would need to construct new relations with each other as a mere individual regardless of their nationalities and other factors. It is in a way symbolic that there is no case of infection in Antarctica that does not belong to any state and has been seeing new forms of human interactions.
We must look back on relations between individuals in the fields of both arts and science but not in the ways like fighting a war over resources.
Through this struggle, all of us learned that “human is powerless”. But artists must change. It is our role to present solid vision of how we can build new inter-human-relations in order to cope with a new world after the pandemic.
When I joined the exhibition in Vladikavkaz at the end of April, the set-up was conducted by limited numbers of staff, and the opening ceremony and the excursion was held online. I think this kind of trial encourages both artists and art fans. There are two things which enable museums to keep their activities at this difficult time. First thing is an excellent leader, and second thing is a good team of museum staff.
Meanwhile, out of this virus outbreak I witnessed a surprising change in the art world. Through an online community on Facebook, some artists and art collectors started to help each other. In the community, which is now expanded to a group of five thousand people, they buy and sell artworks at reasonable prices for mutual aid.
I find it meaningful that the new community of artists and art-fans have come out of the pandemic.
As the current situation will eventually be gone at some point in the future, we can then start something new. The future awaits us. In any case, it is important to look after ourselves for the time being. So, Fram-san might as well cut a hole in his mask to smoke with his mask on? It could be an interesting piece.〔laughter〕
I am greatly encouraged and inspired by the fact that Ichihara Art Mix and many of you keep involved in art at this difficult time. I truly appreciate it.
After getting through this, I would like all of you to come to Russia. While Ichihara Art×Mix has been postponed, I will keep working on my works until next year. Please also pass my regards to good people from Kominato Railway Company.
All of us human beings share the same submarine. We all need to help each other along the way.