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Interviewer: Elena Markocheva
Irina Korina’s first London solo exhibition Destined to be Happy is currently running at GRAD. The site-specific installation invites the viewer to find their own meanings in the environment. Some people say its reminds them of a dystopian Christmas, others notice that the exhibition shows that “there is nothing more permanent in the world then the temporary things”. GRAD interviewed Irina Korina right after the installation process and asked about some more hidden meanings in the exhibition concept.
GRAD: Irina, why does the exhibition have the title “Destined to be Happy”? What does it mean for you?
Irina Korina: The title initially draws the viewer to the characters that are lying on the floor. There are 6 characters who can be associated with so-called “people-sandwiches”, those ones who are walking on the streets with the advertisement banners on them. They are usually poor people who could only manage to get a job like that. There is also the topic which interests me a lot- the relationships between appearance and the internal things. The fact that you don’t see the characters faces inside their funny costumes creates the dramatic effect and provokes a sick feeling of horror. So “Destined to be Happy” means that there is an attractive and fake appearance which doesn’t show the reality or truth. The title of course pertains first to the characters, yet thinking globally it signifies the mismatch between the expectations and the reality.
G.: Many of your exhibitions that took place in Russia and around the world were about your attitude to the 1990s. Does “Destined to be Happy” have a connection with this period of time too?
I.K.: In this particular project I didn’t think too much about the 1990s. But the reference to 90s probably happens subconsciously. The exhibition is all about the ambiguity and confusion which I feel in nowadays Russia. This project shows the confusion about where everything is moving. For me it somehow resembles to the mythological feeling of a time when you move somewhere with an aim, but then you lose your way and become uncertain about your destination. There is terra incognita in front of you and you stay still in doubt. For me it was important to create the area of uncertainty and suspense where the viewer doesn’t have the orientating points and support; nothing to rely on to feel stability.
G.: These years Moscow itself is being reconstructed all the time. During the summer, for example, all the central streets were under construction again. Did it somehow influence the concept of the exhibition, too?
I.K.: Yes, it partly influenced the concept as it showed that architecture is a slipping reality. Everything has changed since my childhood. Before there was stability and you knew your way from home to the school by heart. You used to know that in 20 steps there will be a shop and in 3 km you expected to see the bus stop. And suddenly everything has changed - the reality changed to be like a river, with water driving you somewhere you don’t know. You don’t see the architectural orientating points around you. What was a restaurant yesterday will be a sports club tomorrow, for example. And the process of reconstruction seems to be never ending and the function of this process becomes unclear.
G.: The exhibition is in black and white colour palette. What was the thought process behind this choice?
I.K.: It is connected with the filters which people use on social media like Instagram and Facebook. They make their beautiful photos even more beautiful and the reality even more real. This exhibition is as if it went through black and white filter; it is achieved beforehand, having already passed as history.
G.: So that means that the theme of social media was also crucial for you?
I.K.: Sure, I wanted to show the social media kind of communication as well. Emojis interested me the most -children and adults use them as hieroglyphs nowadays. This is the new language with a fixed amount of pictures which can explain many things. Emoji language seems to be incredible for me. Look attentively to the characters on the floor- their costumes look exactly like emojis.
G.: Irina, could you also give a clue to the visitors as to the significance of the trees?
I.K.: Christmas trees are one of my favourite elements of the visual dictionary. Spruce trees bring a big amount of different emotions, as these are the trees which are being grown for one evening only and then they are thrown away. I would like to recall this idea to people at Christmas time and to make them feel sad that the party that is going to be over.
G.: Yes, the party seems to be already over in the exhibition venue with the confetti strewn across the floor.
I.K. : Exactly. I wanted to create the feeling that everything is too sweet and too funny to the point where it is not sweet and funny anymore. The middle point of a party which brings huge sadness and you don’t understand what are you doing there. The party which is somehow frozen without culmination and development.
G.: Does the soundtrack of the exhibition help to create this feeling?
I.K.: Sure. With the music myself and the composer Sergey Kasich wanted to let the visitor know that the exhibition venue is somehow a cinematic adventure and the space you are in has some kind of plot. I am very happy to work with Sergey as it was him who created this atmosphere too. The sounds which might be thought to be unimportant in fact play a huge role. I like it very much.
G.: Was the process of bringing your ideas into reality different due to the English reality? For example, did you need to use different materials?
I.K.: We were lucky to find nearly the same materials here as the world seems to be very international nowadays. However the perception of them can be different here in London. I have no idea how English people will react to the materials which I used.
G.: And the final question. Did London inspire you for more artworks in the future?
I.K. (laughing): I probably will understand it later. But up to now I nearly didn’t see the city as I was busy working on the exhibition installation.
To discover the hidden meanings which Irina described come to the Destined to Be Happy exhibition at GRAD which runs until February, 23.