“If you treat Rem Koolhaas as a monument, who’s going to ask him questions?”

20.04.2012, 16:16
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Anastasia’s research project was on the reasons for the advent of creative and art clusters emerging in Moscow, with the Red October as an example. Anastasia is currently a curator in residence at the Node Center for Curatorial Studies, a residency project in Berlin.

“I was writing my master’s thesis in design in Samara in 2010, all the while discovering the inadequacy of it all — my methods were inadequate, as were the resources available at my graduate school and the prevailing perception of master’s programmes in Russia. When I got my master’s degree with excellent grades, I didn’t know if I should be happy or start crying. I wanted to do more; I wanted to prove to myself that I was academically accomplished.

And so I decided to continue my education. It was hard to just get up and go to Europe — this is a very important decision, and I did not want to rush to the first university with the word “design” in its name. While in graduate school, I tried my hand as a curator, an artist and an educator, as well as a designer. I felt sad to leave any part of what I was doing behind, and so I could not decide on an academic area that would keep me busy in all the aspects of my former work.

And then Strelka Institute came along. It was a perfect choice for me for two reasons:

— It was in Moscow. Moving from Samara to Moscow is far less scary than a move to, say, Copenhagen would be. I saw Strelka as my testing ground, a chance to see if I could survive in a different city, a way to see if my professional vision would still be relevant elsewhere, outside of Samara?

— Interdisciplinary approach. Strelka gave me an opportunity to remain flexible within my chosen profession, and I was intrigued by what new skills would be required of me there. In the end, I needed a full set of new skills: research as well as writing skills, designer, curatorial, reporting and even acting skills.

The most important thing I learned at Strelka had nothing to do with research methods or even with the discoveries I made through my research. The most important skill I acquired there was the ability to communicate with people. When you’re rubbing shoulders on a daily basis with Russian and international professionals, people working at a level you might reach some 15-20 years down the road, you can develop a fear of them, or not. I learned to use these encounters, these opportunities, and it was through them that I got into very different, but equally important conversations. On the other hand, if you treat Rem Koolhaas as a monument, who’s going to ask him questions? Who’s going to ask him to re-confirm his theories or formulate new ones?

I did not get a lot of clarity about the professional path I wanted to take after Strelka. Instead, I added one more type of experience to the set of four I’d had before — experience in research. My quality standards became more demanding. It was nothing but trouble. I guess this is my main objective going forward: to formulate who I am and how I can make myself useful, step by step, experience after experience.

I was part of the Design studio. My research project was included, in a re-worked format, in Project Russia No. 6220 Years Later, and this is something I’m really proud of.

I faced certain challenges while doing my research: it was hard to find a research method that suited me personally best, and I spent a lot of time simply treading water. After I graduated from Strelka, I wanted to spend another year there — there was so much that seemed unfinished. I had a strong impression that what I had done so far was only a beginning.

And yet, I remember very well the turning point, after which my work became productive. First, it A range of sceptical, optimistic opinions made my earlier dry observations come to life and demonstrated real prospects of the cluster movement.

Second, it was my collaboration with TsEKH theatre and Teatr.doc. I think I may have found my element: to process and transmit energy, to search for better ways to communicate history, to make a local event resonate with universal human values and generate relevant issues to explore and analyze.

I am currently a resident curator at the Node Center for Curatorial Studies in Berlin. Nine people from around the world were picked for curatorial residency in the project, although most of them — seven — ended up being from Europe, one from the Philippines and one — myself — from Russia. The curatorial programme is half educational and half practical: we both acquire the lacking knowledge and skills essential for curators: event planning and budgeting, writing curatorial descriptions, and looking for knowledge partners and financial partners, as well as getting a real insight into the artistic life of Berlin — we visit artist studios, formal and informal galleries and institutions. As the final outcome of my residency, there will be an art show that I am now busy planning. It will take place in a former natural gas tank and a former bunker — a perfect venue for the show. In fact, the venue was a strong inspiration for the show’s theme.

Future plans still remain pretty fuzzy at this point. After eight years of studies, time has clearly come to find productive channels for my future efforts. However, I have no idea which way, or at which continent, to look for my ideal employment. The only thing I know for certain is that my new job should become my horizon, forcing me to keep raising the bar, rather than recycling my available resources.”