Dialogue with the Artist: Valentin Korzhov about art online, philosophy and the meaning of creativity

Text: Ekaterina Salnikova
Translation: Ekaterina Salnikova
Posted on: March 9, 2021
Valentin Korzhov, 2020 Photo: Dmitry Kilpio

In the fall of 2020, your exhibition ANIZOTROPIA was presented on the Art Catch online gallery. The purpose of this platform is to represent Russian art in the international arena. How is our art seen in the West? What do they know about it?

Art Catch is not only an online gallery, but also a cultural hub. And besides the exhibition itself ANIZOTROPIA became a platform for discussions among opinion leaders and those who are interested in contemporary art issues… And most importantly, Art Catch is one of the first platforms that, at the mission level, began to represent and popularize our artists in the West, whose artworks deserve to be a full-fledged part of the international context.

Speaking about how Russian art is seen in the West seems to me that we are in the “nano-position”, and the result does not lie. There is a rating score, and our personal knowledge of how many Russian artists are exhibited abroad, there is sales statistics. Why this happens is a good question. It seems to me on the one hand, we still lack content. Where is it? More than once entering into a thematic talk with gallery owners, I hear the same question: “What’s a joke?” By “a joke”, I now mean what Osmolovsky calls a “joke of consciousness,” a kind of penetrating cut. “What do artworks offered by you give: sharpness, a new sharp artistic method, or, perhaps, circle of problems?” After all, the circle of problems is not only questions of attitudes towards categories such as love, life, death or racial inequality, it is also the shades of the current states of society. And how could one get into American market if you have never held The New York Times in your hands?

And where we have content, more institutional leverage is needed to establish and advance outside of Russia.

Valentin Korzhov, Being & Time
Photo: Dmitry Kilpio

Thanks to digitalization, especially accelerated due to the conditions of self-isolation, many museums and galleries have begun to supply new online content. Do you think that in the future we will move completely into the Internet exhibition space?

It is like talking about sex: will it go completely online in the future?

Sales are definitely moving and will continue to move online, but the Internet is unlikely to become the main space for the audience to meet with art. What is your answer?

I think no, it will not.

I want to share my experience: now I am making a model for one of the projects (with my own hands), and in the future it will need to be increased to 3-4 meters, I will make it on RobotKuka. And so I look at the 3D model on the screen and I think that Heidegger would say here: “This is the place where the gods fled from”. First I sculpted a model, cast it from plaster and now I look at it, then at the scanned 3D version and I don’t recognize my artwork. Suddenly I understood why: in the real world every second something happens, something changes. It is outside the window cloudy and the model darkened, when a bright light appeared, shadows clearly appeared, and then a sunset, and then a sunrise, that is, this plaster model lives, because it is a reflection and part of how the world appears to us, how Uranus falls on Gaia. In the 3D version, nothing happens and nothing changes, it is dead, not reflexive, has nothing to do with nature and is separated from it. And one more thing: I was not immediately able to understand why, rotating the model, I could not see the recognizable foreshortening and the very shape that I sculpted. And then I realized that when I move away from the real object, the perspective line changes, but this does not happen with the 3D model, nothing changes there, it is mathematically recalculated in each phase of its rotation. And so, you ask whether it will pass or not … Of course, it will not. There is, of course, a tribe that will be ready to abandon the sensual beginning in the perception of the artwork, but can we assume that art will go online? No, but there will be just a certain population that will refuse the ability to touch it.

Do you mean art needs a viewer?

Yes, there is no art without a spectator. It is a question of the accomplishment and completeness of art: whether it remained a seed, became a sprout, or grew and gave a harvest, and thus the circle, the great cycle, is complete. But here it is necessary to clarify that there are types of art that are already generated by technologies for reproduction by the same technologies, in particular, media art, but this is about something else…

Valentin Korzhov, ANIZOTROPIA
Photo: Dmitry Kilpio

Has ANIZOTROPIA given a boost to your creativity? And can we say that the sculptures presented on it were also dead?

Of course, it did, in fact there is an understanding of the difference between an online exhibition and an offline one. Although we tried very hard to “bring the zombies to life”, succeeding with fairly advanced ways of submitting work, it was not an end in itself. Most importantly, Art Catch has served as a platform for attracting a wide variety of art leaders at the intersection of current cross-disciplinary fields, providing a platform for discussion such as philosophy and art, which has been popularized by writer Arie Amaya-Akkermans and Paul Rosero Contreras, Professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Artists such as Recycle Group, Denis Semyonov, Aristarkh Chernyshev and others took part in the development of digital art. Of course, an important topic was the conversation about immersive technologies for showing art online and offline. This topic was moderated by Natalie Reyes, Director of Innovation & Strategic Partnership at Cappasity, who are also the technical partner of our project. In total, about 5 panels were held, in which it was felt that we had put one’s finger on an erogenous zone of today: challenges and problems that arise in connection with active attempts to say: “That’s it, digital is ours”. On the other hand, we continued the discussion about the problems of art, and since ANIZOTROPIA is a project filled with a philosophical (Heidegger’s) context, it caused a revival of the public that exceeded our expectations. To date, the exhibition has been attended by more than 14 thousand people, and the hub itself is located in the Netherlands. Imagine, that I would have an offline exposure in another country in a pandemic month … Probably, there would be hundreds of times less visitors.

Are these 14 thousand people all over the world or from Russia?

In a 60/40 ratio: 60% are Europe and the USA, and 30-40% are Russia.

Of course, this also required additional competencies in the field of content formation and involvement of a wide audience in our events, and here the TAtchers’ ART Management team helped us a lot.

So, we are talking about the gravitational field, which was formed around the event, which became the exhibition ANIZOTROPIA.

Valentin Korzhov, 2020
Photo: Dmitry Kilpio

In your interviews you often note that you have not yet formulated a concept that would fully characterize your creative activity. Be that as it may, you work a lot with sculpture; therefore, you work with your hands. Do you delegate craft tasks to someone sometimes?

Yes, I have never worked in a pure genre and was not focused on correlating myself with one direction or another. I always have some idea or some kind of insider ahead of me, which in the process of searching for its implementation becomes denser, starting to attract shape, color, material and size to itself. Different media intersect in my projects: sound, video, 3D, new technologies and traditional sculpting, which, in turn, can be complemented by robotic milling, whatever. And it seems that this is very typical of modern creativity. Of course, I try to draw everything in detail, I often model for the accuracy of conveying forms and materials, and then … there are things that I can delegate and which I cannot.  This is a very delicate moment, and there were different periods of one degree or another of my involvement in direct performance. Now I rather focus on two arguments: when a work requires spontaneity and everything can be solved by some kind of splash of paint or a wave of a torch of an aerosol can, or, for example, the search for the final sculptural form occurs right during sculpting. In other words, when the work becomes in the moment of the work itself, and I try to delegate the rest to the robots.

Valentin Korzhov, 2020
Photo: Dmitry Kilpio

At the Moscow Art Prize in Zaryadye, you presented a series of sculptures Being & Time. It had already been exhibited earlier, and you had given an interview about it, but my question will be from the field of philosophy, therefore it needs a preamble. You are referring to Heidegger’s philosophy and his concept of “being”. Martin Heidegger argued that before him the question of being, in fact, was not raised or was raised incorrectly. In this regard, he separates being from essence, saying that essence is “What is existence,” and being – “What does it mean that there is existence”. We return to your project. Talking about Being & Time in an interview with The Art Newspaper Russia, you say the following: “… the method was to trace with a pencil photographs of star clusters and galaxies of the Hubble telescope and then use the resulting contour drawing to extract a three-dimensional figure from it.” You literally materialized the Cosmos, which, in my opinion, is the essence (“What is existence”), not being.

Yes, Heidegger is tossing and turning… The very concept of “being” scorches and the question of the ontological basis of works of art is also exorbitant.

The project Being & Time is based on a phenomenological approach to ontological search and study of form in its causality.

To do this, I turned to the theme of the starry sky as the most famous source of harmonious revelations: such as music, mathematics, proportion, golden ratio and other intelligible constructions on which our material world is based. My interest was the simple idea of ​​finding and understanding the formative regularity and legality.

To do this, I traced the star clusters according to the principle of drawing a line in places of light seals, until at some point I began to see figures and select volumetric forms from them.

Speaking about this gazing into the starry sky, I mean a kind of transcendence, a kind of ascent into the space of ideas, where the moment of understanding is the border of our material world, in which time rules. Through this border we are able to see glister reflections of being through phenomena, as Heidegger wrote: “Beauty is one way in which truth – Aletheia – essentially occurs as unconcealment”.

Another interesting point: after reviewing many images of the starry sky, I was able to identify only three forms that lie at the base. There are, of course, more sculptures, but all of them can be summarized up to three forms. And this is already the topic of the next project, which is now in production.

If a person is not aware of the philosophical meaning of time and being and this “level” of your work will not open to them, what will remain? Just contemplation of harmonious sculptural forms?

You know, this is the challenge of art: we look at the same Rothko, and it either “pins” us or doesn’t. But the artist is not responsible for the viewer, just as the church is not responsible for the parishioner. But I would answer even shorter: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Valentin Korzhov, ANIZOTROPIA
Photo: Dmitry Kilpio

From the same interview with The Art Newspaper Russia: “The irony of the situation lies in the fact that the questions of whether I am really an artist and whether what I create is art remain open to me”. Even if you, an artist, doubt the above questions, why then do we need art?

There is no answer … If we return to purified Platonism, our corporeal: hair, choler, fat, our psyche and all our want, – struggles with the identical as part of the good. Bodily needs bodily, spiritual needs spiritual. In order to make the ascents of our life, one way or another, we need mediators. If we are closed in our body, just as the Minotaur was entrusted to Minos, then art is the thread of Ariadne, the medium that is able to lead us to the light, prevent us from being captured by hair, choler, fat, acids, by those that pull us into the bodily.

Original publication on the ART Uzel portal: