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Text: Valeria Goncharova
Photo: Denis Belokopytov

Having buried quite some brands at his recent Dead Brand exhibition, Peter Aksenov is getting ready to intimidate dolce vita lovers yet again. In an interview to DE I he speaks about permanent residents of Moscow railway terminals, subjects of his current artistic research.

DÅ I:   We used to see each other at high life events or at fashionable restaurants. Today we meet at Yaroslavsky Railway Station. Are you leaving commercialism for targeting social issues?

  I am not leaving anything. I am not a marketing strategist, I am an artist. In art, I stick to my own impressions and feelings. Today I am most concerned with tough social paradigms, and I would like to reflect one of them with my art. My new project is based on artistic associations. When people see ads of luxury items, glossies, or expensive cars, they get a direct association with dolce vita. What I want to make is some sharp contrast, when along the run of this beautiful, luxurious life, quite the other world is protruding. The world we try to avoid by all means, social lowest of the low where poverty and despair reign. These seemingly polar worlds always cross each other’s way. And this crossing, however grotesque, is the main idea of my project. Imagine a hobo reading Vogue, or a homeless woman with a number of plastic bags and her pack of stray dogs with a huge Cartier poster for a background. My project is going to be merciless towards the values of upper class visitors, as it is very photorealistic. It is not going to be just paintings; I am going to do something about photography too.

DÅ I:   Would you like to overthrow some views by your project?

  I just suggest that people might think twice about the images they observe in the streets about every day but try to erase from their mind. Once these images become art objects, people will have to face them and probably this will change their minds a little bit. To put it short, I would like to give social incompatibility the legacy of art.

DÅ I:   Your latest works focused on high life but crossed far beyond usual boundaries, as fashionable brands represented as funeral tombs.

  The Dead Brand Project was a step in saying goodbye to high life. I showed then that high life is just one facet of life where I had chanced to find myself. I have never been your typical artist in dirty jeans and formless sweater. I grew up in a family where it was a must to look neat and show taste in what you wear. However, a person is not only what he or she wears or who he or she meets. Every social circle has people who can think, suffer, or feel concerned. The so-called artistic boheme is always trying to border out those who are not a part of it. I, on the contrary, try to love everyone. In case a person does not do any harm on purpose, he or she is good, however naive it might sound. My today’s project is as well about the fact that many people have fallen on a hard time, regardless whose fault it was. Their goals in life have diminished to as much as maybe a slice of bread or a glass of vodka, and everything else has lost its meaning. I feel sorry for these people. I am not the one to help them, but I want to express my concern.

DÅ I:   Why are you not the one to help?

  I want to help, and I do help. But is there any sense? To give some food, to give some money is something I do. My friends are always wondering, as a hobo will spend this money for alcohol anyway. But we cannot know exactly, maybe this is something to save him. However, my personal help is a drop in an ocean. Using my position I can do better than that, to raise public concern about those who need some compassion. The values modern society lives by are only directed to superficial things. It does not even rank the homeless or alcohol addicts or just those who lost their goals in life: all those people are polar to top-end consumers. But there is a paradox, because the top end has also lost its goals. And this is what in a mystical way connects these seemingly incompatible worlds. They say, “We are but two sides of the same coin.” This is what you can understand once you see my works.


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