15 Oct Lada Nakonechna: “Conceptual art is the easiest one to understand”

Somehow Lada manages to exhibit abroad much more than in Ukraine, though the artist sincerely wishes to put on more expositions in her motherland and hopes for the best.

The first and, probably, the most popular question: is it hard to be a female artist?

As for me – no, it’s not. I come from the family of artists and I’ve always been free to choose a profession. In addition art is often confused with creation – and creative wives are respected, aren’t they? But an artist is a free person in the first place. So this is where the problems begin. And not only for females – nobody likes free people because they are unpredictable.

How do your parents feel about your art? You’re doing conceptual art, aren’t you? And conceptual art is difficult to understand, even for artists.

Actually conceptual art is the easiest to understand form of art. It’s strange only for those who don’t want to think, and for those who see no difference between art and painting, objecting to its other forms. While my art is postconceptual, since conceptual art is a phenomenon defined by certain period of time. I am old enough to choose what to do. My mother gives lectures in “Ya Gallery” in Dnipropetrovs’k. Sometimes we have disputes and discussions, but this never results in rejection. My mother is an open-minded person, though she was brought up by the Soviet school of art history and art criticism. I went through the Ukrainian classical art education system too: art school and art college, the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture and pedagogical traineeship in this university. At some point I realized that I was not happy with what I was taught, so I started looking for new tools, methods and knowledge. The R.E.P. group gave me an impulse and inspired to self-education. Frankly speaking, I regret the time I spent in the Academy, since its liberal arts program was too poor.

Is there an alternative art education in Ukraine?

For me there was no alternative. Thoughts about education abroad didn’t cross my mind. The National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture still is the best art university in Ukraine. I studied graphic art and developed excellent technical skills. In the Academy they teach you to become a craftsman capable of fulfilling any order in high-quality – and capable of copying, reproducing already existing formulas, but not of experimenting and thinking. Any minimal deviation from rules was perceived as a revolution. When I graduated from the Academy, I felt lack of knowledge in modern philosophy, in history of XX century’s art, in foreign languages. This is not what a higher education should be. For the time being the only alternative is self-education.

You are the member of two groups of artists – R.E.P. and “Hudrada”. Tell us about them.

Actually I am engaged in more groups, but these two are the most important. My participation in the R.E.P. group – it’s more than ten years of consistent practice, realization of long-term projects. And membership in “Hudrada” – a curatorial initiative – intends situational work with certain projects. But for now curatorship at the Course of Contemporary Art, mainly its conceptualization, is the most important thing for me. This Course brings me a lot of joy. Together with my colleagues we try to work according to our method that is in the constant process of development and improvement. At the same time we use already existing methods, for example, those of several Polish teachers. When we first started, we realized that for a reason we won’t be able to teach contemporary art in Ukraine. There are no institutions and system of contemporary art, that is why participants of the Course take a risk, knowing that their profession won’t necessarily bring them fulfillment. On the other hand, a teacher (in this case it’s me) can’t retranslate his/her own understanding of processes and events, since it’s only his/her private vision that was, in addition, experienced empirically. That is why we try to avoid the teaching structure when one passes his knowledge to another. The main thing is to create environment for discussion, exchange of ideas, analysis of events, reactions and behavior, as well as to be directly involved in the process.

The R.E.P. group turned 10 this year. What do you think of its future?

You know, we don’t consider putting an end to it, just like 10 years ago we didn’t think of creating the group. We enjoyed working together, and this is the reason why the group emerged in the first place. For the time being we still have projects that have not been implemented. Our personal exhibition was opened in the Labyrinth gallery in Lublin, and later we displayed it in two more exhibition halls in Georgia – in Batumi and Tbilisi. A month ago together with the “Green box” (Berlin) publishing house we issued a catalogue that covers all our main projects. It took us a lot of time, as we never really archived anything, and now, after so many years, it’s very hard to understand, for example, who exactly was the author of this or that photo. We will present the catalogue in Ukraine too. Also we would like to put on an exhibition-comprehension in Ukraine. But to do so we must see, at least, willingness of the receiving party. And for now, in October we participate in two museum exhibitions – in the Finnish National Gallery KIASMA in Helsinki and in the Museum of Art in Łódź.

People engaged in art often disagree with me when I say that there are no institutions and galleries – in the Western sense of this word – in Ukraine. Maybe you will agree with me?

Yes, you are right. Ukrainian galleries don’t work as they should, functioning only as exhibition halls. Some large art centers often contribute mainly to their owners’ image, including the state (!) Modern Art Research Institute. There are no institutions with clear, consistent program. When the R.E.P. group first started, we felt powerful enough to trigger changes, at least by filling the environment with art groups. But it turned out that our demands were inconvenient to the local field, so we found ourselves in the international art community.

You are a successful, mature artist. Would you like to work as a curator with some of your projects?

I work as a curator in “Hudrada”. Together with participants of the Course of Contemporary Art we prepared exhibitions, where I acted as a co-curator. But I can’t devote myself to curatorial work, because a curator bears great responsibility as a mediator between an artist and an institution, while I am not ready for such a responsibility. I chose to be an artist.

Does your work feel gratifying to you?

Yes, totally! Still this feeling always goes in conjunction with self-criticism. But I like it.

Do you often turn to your old projects in attempt to reconsider them?

Yes, of course. Sometimes works displayed long time ago now seem much more interesting to me –interesting, but lost at the same time. You see, after presentation our works become easily forgotten, since no discourse is being generated. So it’s only us who has to talk and write about our works. But this is not enough, and our projects soon vanish from current cultural field and discussion. Maybe this is the reason why many artists tend to be constantly present in the public space, for example, by putting on a personal exhibition each year. This helps them maintain semblance of an active art process, at least in Kyiv. But each single work remains insignificant, just a background for another event.

Are you planning any personal exhibitions anytime soon?

Yes, I am – in winter in a Berlin gallery. I guess that many artists told you that it’s much easier to work abroad than in Ukraine, since there is everything you need [in Europe] – institutions, the system of criticism and curatorship, technical conditions and… fees for participation in exhibitions. But I don’t want to leave Ukraine. I like Kyiv, this is where my interlocutors are and my own small art community. But we have to put much effort into it to exist, as art community can’t create itself. In Europe we see a clear system almost unreceptive to influence: everything is logical, everything functions properly. But here, in Ukraine, we have to start everything from the beginning, sometimes even from point zero – and it’s fascinating. It’s hard, but it’s interesting. European system frightens me as it often doesn’t notice itself. I sincerely believe that our country still has a chance for experiment and creating something new.

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