New East Digital Archive

On alienation: 7 Russian artists explore the relationship between our bodies and technology

17 December 2020
Top image: Voice Cooling Tests, Alice Kern 2017. Courtesy of Nova Art Contest

Earlier this year, St Petersburg’s Anna Nova Gallery and the Alexander Foundation for Culture, Art, and Education launched an open call for the 8th Nova Art Contest. Open to Russian artists under 40 years of age, the yearly contest awards artworks that use innovative art practices to reflect on the changing relationship between our physical and digital worlds. Exploring concepts from the volatility of written language to the taboos around chemical body modifications, these artists’ works were selected for previous iterations of the contest.

Ilya Grishaev

Winner of the 5th Nova Art Contest

Hailing from Perm, Russia, Ilya Grishaev lives and works in Saint Petersburg. In his practice, Grishaev explores the norms around our shared visual languages and creates his own symbolic system using plastic bodies.

Ilya Grishaev won the 2015 Nova Art contest with his project Not Everything/Pas Tout, which explores the process of creation of a new visual language. The symbols created by Grishaev are placed horizontally on a surface, as they are in most writing traditions, and are often repeated. It seems that the “text” is waiting to be deciphered, but without a clue to the cipher, we are left to question the arbitrariness of the symbolic nature of written language and its limitations.

Alice Kern
Winner of the 6th Nova Art Contest

Alice Kern is a Moscow-based artist, researcher, and educator working across a range of media and techniques, including sculpture, performance, installation, and sound.

In 2017, Kern won the Nova Art contest with her artistic research project Voice Cooling Tests, where she designed devices that can record voice and extract it, “cool” it, through alienating it from the body of the speaker and manipulating it. Through Voice Cooling Tests, Kern invites viewers to reflect on how vocal communication has long dominated human interaction, yet we keep reinventing it to this day, and in the world of voice messages, podcasts, and virtual assistants, the idea and critique of the voice is underexplored yet timely.

Nikita Seleznev
Finalist of the 7th Nova Art Contest

Perm-born, St Petersburg-based Nikita Seleznev is a multidisciplinary artist who works with mixed media, from concrete and wood to video and sound. Predominantly through installations, Seleznev uses art to question relationships between subject and object, as well as changes in linguistic structures and social phenomena in the contemporary world.

Seleznev’s installation Suburbia, which was shortlisted for the Nova Art exhibition in 2019, explores the estrangement of urban dwellers towards their habitat. The installation featured several disjointed objects along with sound recordings, that allude to the complexity of the man-made spaces we inhabit, and recreate the sense of alienation we might feel towards our natural environment.

Yan Posadsky and Misha Gudwin
Finalists of the 7th Nova Art Contest

Artists Yan Posadsky and Misha Gudwin are the founders of the Dai Pyat space in Voronezh: a cultural hub that serves as a gallery, a film club, a zine library, and even a tattoo studio. Tied to their community-oriented focus, Posadsky and Gudwin’s artistic work focuses on street art, a practice they try to expand to its boundless possibilities.

Shortlisted for the Nova Art exhibition in 2019, their project Reversion is exactly this — a symbiosis of street art and new technologies. Posadsky and Gudwin created copies of public objects that are likely to become obsolete and replaced by digital alternatives, such as phone booths and mailboxes. They depersonalised these copies through making them monochromatic, placed them in the street, and invited passersby to look at the original texture of these objects with the help of an augmented reality app, thus challenging ideas of materiality and obsolescence.

Anastasia Alekhina and Irina Tsykhanskaya
Finalists of the 7th Nova Art Contest

Anastasia Alekhina, transdisciplinary artist and researcher, and Irina Tsykhanskaya, artist and educator, are both based in Moscow. Interested in the future of wearable devices and corporeality, Alekhina creates experimental sound works with computer algorithms and self-made instruments, while Tsykhanskaya works with a range of media from video to sculpture.

Together, Alekhina and Tsykhanskaya were shortlisted for the 2019 Nova Art exhibition with their project Pearl. Based on scientific facts, this interdisciplinary study imagines a future where we might be able to change physical features from our hairstyle to the colour of bodily fluids through the use of an aragonite-based pearl dye. Asking if fashion could go this far, Pearl tests both our perception of the human body and our taboo around certain alterations of it.

You can take a virtual tour of last year’s exhibition here. Submissions for the 8th Nova Art contest are open until 10 January 2021. You can find more details and apply here (in Russian).

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