A year ago a studio called 4.413 opened its doors- in the words of the creators, the laboratory is an alternative discourse and interspecific growth. Our colleague Mila talked with them and found out why? At the end of the interview you'll find out why the studio is called this way.
Can you tell about yourself, what do you do and how did you come to it?
Masha: My name is Maria,Masha, I'm an artist and a curator. Etymologically, I'm from Irkutsk but I moved to Saint Petersburg. I belong to NOTHINGTODO group- it's an art group, a version of the research center. I joined the group already when they had found this place, and had approximately thought through the abstractive outline for the space. This place was trash; when we came in here we had to take down walls and remake everything. In the process of the renovation we determined everything how it would look like. All of us have plus-minus different goals and interests in the development of the space. Nevertheless, the common understanding is very close otherwise this thing wouldn't be uniting us.
Vanya: My name is Vanya. I am etymologically from Moscow but ideologically from Saint Petersburg. (Laughter) I studied at Smolny and later in the school WHATODO, pretty much all participants studied there. For myself, I have a clear distinction between the space that is on Kozhevennaya and the one that is in here. This is because in there we began with the most simplistic ideas; three of us wanted to create our work studio. This was still during the Smolny years, I was researching video art as well as Nastya Bergalevich was doing this too, and Polina was a performer and an artist. We had an idea to cooperate to create a public program on the parallel but this wasn't the most successful project. In the process I realized that it was much more interesting to create a space than just to work from my own work studio. My ideas was to find ways to deepen and widen the cooperation of the micro communities of Saint Petersburg that seem to be very atomised. Despite our relations being good, due to some political disagreements we are moving to seperate directions and we can't achieve enough solidarity between one another. I think in the process we can find the circuit strategy of the place and it is important that we don't formulate clear strict forms and tactics, but try to move in the moving format.
You mentioned different political views, yet Masha said there was political mutuality between you guys….
Masha: Yes, I am not agreeing with Vanya. He said micro-communities that have different views but I think he didn't put it clear enough, the communities are split but are united by common political views. For example, the feminist field they are segmented communities, yet they still move in the moving format, which is quite strange. And we are actually connected through the political agenda. We wouldn't want this platform to be only for the discussion of contemporary art because there are many people who don't associate themselves with this. Actually, we want the opposite; different kinds of cultural connections but a common political connectivity. It was rather a blooper.
Vanya: It wasn't exactly a blooper, we just view the problem differently. I think that despite our common field some divergences create a clear distinction. Maybe not very significant differences but inside the left wing they can serve as a major disintegrating force…. About art, I think we would like to have a discourse of contemporary art, yet it is important to think of ways to politicize that art.
Anya: My name is Anya and I'm from Voronezh and I'm relatively new here. A quite important fact is that practically all those that participate in this platform are migrants like this from different cities. This means that we have at least one goal that we all are interested in; unity not only within the Petersburg region but cooperation with other cities, similar and dissimilar initiatives that follow the same or mixed goals as we do. I would like to see that the impulse for unification would bring to real action transformations. Of course, we can just say that we want to be a platform for all but I'm intrigued as just yet these methods need to be worked on. There are no ready recipes, templates, to follow to achieve this. I would like to believe that achieving this is possible.
The Opening Party
You talk about a common political goal but if you try to formulate it into words, how would it sound? That political platform that unites you
I am inspired by the left ...
Masha: It is, of course, some alternative political paths, and various left wing but this can be interpreted in many ways. I am against any radicalism, and yes there is no ready formulated paradigm that you could say I lean to this side and only this way and I wouldn't want this scale to be found. This is exactly why the integration of dissimilar communities and views is so interesting. If you are far-left, this too brings many debated moments but in ideal things would go more smoothly.
It inevitably leads to a split if it is very radical…
Masha: Radical, yes because there is a line of limits. I like the moderate left wing positioning, accelerationism. I am inspired by the left accelerationist. Of course, through anarcho-epistemology but this is a very abstract view. And what Anya already mentioned, we would like to map similar places, initiatives, we are not solely interested in Saint Petersburg. I think all of us migrants have this type of view, when you look at everything through more distance and not from this place, you see that there are many cool people, art-groups, communities, that work on the same things but for some reason break apart. But Petersburg okay.. I would like to work with the whole post-Soviet region and not only… There are similar initiatives in France, Germany, and we're talking about creating this agenda net and have the opportunity to travel, change residency, and create common projects together.
Anya: At the same time we don't see the place as a product
Vanya: I'm not against creating a product.
Anya: Yes, but that is not the main goal of the place. The main goal is attendance and cooperation and not only art projects and final products. This is not the place where you come to prepare for an exhibition, finish it and then leave.
Masha: I would say that from the point view of activism, we are mainly interested in art activism.
You mean political activism?
Masha: Yes, of course.
So the art here is seen from the political activist lense?
Vanya: I wouldn't entirely agree with that.
A gallery product can act as a political product and these two elements can interact with each other really well
Masha: Are you working on a shape?
Vanya: I mainly film as an artist, so yes I work with a format. We are launching a microcontrol sensory laboratory and this is first and foremost a format. The second question that the art of any form can be politicized, yet this doesn't make it activism. Art in the galleries can be politicized and simutenolu not be activism. If you say left-wing art is only activism then it really limits the art itself. This will give a lot to activism, to political movements, to the artists but limits the art scene.
Masha: Of course, I agree that a gallery product can be politicized and still co-exist in this realm well.
Vanya: I wouldn't want to be limited only by activism.
Masha: Then don't. (laughter)
So it turns out art isn't for the sake of art but specifically politized.
Masha: Yes, we are against escapism. Aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics- surely not. Right?
Anya: This is debatable for me. I agree with you but art as a form of statement, I have had many doubts about this lately. Vanya mentioned that art gives a lot to activism, I think there is a really thin line when art becomes an instrument. When we make a cool banner, or draw something outdoors, it's not always art that can be moved to stand with the other art scenes…
Masha: What is it's natural scene? I think it's good when art becomes an instrument.
Anya: For me, there is a clear distinction… but this is a more personal viewpoint rather than a political one.
Masha: I would actually say from the viewpoint of activism we are more interested in art.
It is strange when a product that needs to be outdoors is put inside a gallery
Masha: Is there an elitist art that doesn't carry a political message? Anya: I really doubt that art that is inside the art gallery is making a change in something because the product is only seen by a narrow circle of people already agreeing with the statements. We all gather there and have a group therapy session; we all agree that violence is bad and then go our separate ways. Also it is strange when a product that belongs outdoors is put inside a gallery to an exhibiting space. Especially when the environment of such statements is repetitive in nature. There are many questions and in an ideal situation I would like to address and think about without moving to one or another direction.
The opening of the Studio 4.413
If we return to the space itself, you mentioned that when you found the place you started to immediately to see how it would look like. Initially, did you have the immediate concept "we are going to this and this"?
Masha: The uniting idea we had was to create a space that would bring together micro-communities, i.e a combining strategy. However, in the process of communication we noticed barriers of intensity; topics that bother us and we talk about currently and in the future strategy. To build a space that is our dream is simple, there are many like us. The challenge is how to transform your micro policies at the macro level. In the process of renovations, conversations and everything some sort of plan formulated.
Vanya: And continues to formulate.
Masha: Yes, it has no end.
Anya: It seems that it has become much more clear than in the beginning. (laughter)
Masha: The tasks were easier, they keep getting more difficult but that's amazing.
The space itself, how is it organized, the fact that people live here was it part of the original plan?
Masha: That's the whole point. To combine public with private. Naturally, this is a very fragile distinction and we keep balancing it because there are a number of questions and hard moments but this is very interesting. We are inviting the residents, we are ready to have people joining us for a long-term.
You are right across New Holland; a major popular entertainment center of Saint Petersburg. Is this a challenge?
We manage to smuggle semi-grassroots marginal initiatives to New Holland
Vanya: Actually no, we just found a location here and didn't think about New Holland's nearby location. Even though it's another project but previously we were located on Kozhevannaya Liniya and unfortunately it is no longer operating in Petersburg. The thing here is in the infrastructure, Petersburg is a very centralised city, and this is why if you're not doing something in the center of the city then it is doomed to turn to a small party. And here, thanks to New Holland, well gentrification and all. This place is accessible, easy to reach, we didn't think we would have to compete with New Holland.
Masha: I don't even see any real contrast to it. It would be too apparent if we would hang up black flags, here we are an opposition but in reality not. The work with New Holland shows that marginal initiatives get in there, cool projects, that widen the agenda and that's amazing. We have to learn to cooperate.
Anya: I wouldn't say that I don't see any opposition. Not that this is a conscious choice from my side that we would be against and something completely different but I feel like this opposition does exist. Regardless if we want it or not on some conscious level it does exist.
Vanya: It is a bit sad but to a certain extent together with New Holland we are working to gentrificate this neighbourhood. Clearly, we are not as strong and not as many people come to us but even places like these contribute too. I wouldn't want it to be this way but it is how it works.
What kind of difficulties did you face when looking for a location for your project? I checked that the place is a residential house, how is that possible?
Vanya: There are two parts to this house. Previously there was a research institute of porcelain ceramics back in the Soviet years. Actually, thanks to New Holland we ended up here. Kolomna was a relatively depressing neighborhood in St. Petersburg, and all houses were still statues of architectures. When the renovation of New Holland finished the depressing neighborhood became expensive, the property prices rose and they decided to review the list of the architecture statues. This house stopped being a statue and it could be demolished, and as it is going to be demolished in a few years so it could be rented out really cheaply.
So no one lives in this building?
Vanya: Yes. The part of the building where we entered from is a residential part, but this one is just work studios. Our neighbour is an artist, then some more studios and a few migrants upstairs and that's it. There are however, difficulties with accessibility to get in here, as you noticed just getting here requires four different keys.
Anya: It is also a matter of trust, publicity, and privacy- for me it is very important. This is also a place where we live and I'm not ready that one day we'll wake up famous and a crowd will burst in here with every 30 minutes a new 15 people would come in. I wouldn't want to wake up and fall asleep in this atmosphere, this is why I'm not too turned off by 4 locks.
Clearly your project isn't commercial. How do you survive, how do you keep existing? And what kind of idea do you have on supporting the space?
Потенциала для коммерциализации в рамках этого пространства нет
Vanya: At the moment we are doing everything from our own pocket. We live here and pay the rent just like it would have elsewhere. Maybe a bit more as we needed to renovate the space and also there are constantly some small expenses. Yet, currently we don't have any alternative sources of finance, though we have a few paths we are currently working on for the future; crowdfunding things etc. Nevertheless, we don't plan to commercialise. Also, commercialization isn't possible in the frames of this place but either way it's not our path. Masha: We are looking into attracting money to certain innovatives, to apply for grants under concrete things that require money and so on. This is the plan.
Do you have any already operating projects that are happening in the studio?
Маша: Сейчас мы планируем выставку с ребятами из Берлина, они художники-антропологи (разговор записывался в июне - прим.ред.). Мы хотим сделать интересную штуку, но для этого нужны деньги, мы сейчас пробуем. Здесь проходит перформативная лаборатория Полины Фенько. Очень много разовых ивентов, философские семинары в том числе. Выставка посвящена альтернативной жизни в 80-е, 90-е, 2000-е года в Берлине - про ребят, которые жили на сквотах, участвовали в митингах, монстрациях. И мы планируем параллельно представить срез альтернативной жизни Петербурга в те же года и жизни.
After all is this a studio, a residency or a workshop? Or all in one?
Masha: All in one, of course.
Vanya: A platform.
Vanya: We haven't decided yet. It was the number of the factory on the Konezny Linia.
Do you plan to change it?
Vanya: I think it's a good name. It's great because, first of all, it's a number, second of all it doesn't mean anything and one can think of ways of decrypting it or not. It is a code that can allow any coding with it. If it was a word, it would be much more limiting to us.
What kind of strategies do you have on developing the platform?
There will be a turnover of the residents, international exchange of experiences
Masha: I would like to have active cooperation with other regions and countries. There will be a turnover of the residents, international exchange of experiences, and to have projects that aren't solely concentrated on the Russian space but also beyond. There will be a real commutation of different environments and people.
Vanya: And same inside the St. Petersburg.
Anya: It's also important that the places aren't necessarily all the same. It can be a bookstore for example, anything.