Another storm arose in social networks: media vied for news with headlines like "a Moscow artist gave guests wine with her menstrual blood." We are talking about the action of the 20-year-old Polina Muzyka, who put out glasses of wine mixed (or not mixed, as the artist herself now says) with genital secretions at the exhibition "UK 148. Art as a crime." Ignoring the warning text, visitors drank all the wine in just 15 minutes.
About how safe and ethical it is to mix menstrual blood into drinks for the sake of art, we decided to ask the artist herself, and at the same time talk to her about talking with an unprepared audience, feminism and Pavlensky.
- How long have you been doing contemporary art?
- Actively, I became interested in contemporary art when I was at school, somewhere in the 10th grade. I started with photography - I’ve been shooting since I was 12. Mostly, they were some kind of conformal pictures of girls and teenagers in the forest ... Gradually, I became known in the feminist community. Recently, I want to move away from photography (for me it is rather a hobby) and do other media. My first work at the exhibition was a performance in the Electrozavod gallery. I nailed my passport to the wall while the girl filmed me on the Polaroid. Then I took polaroid pictures and also drove them with a nail into the wall, the girl continued to shoot, and so on ad infinitum - until the frames were over. Then I drank a bottle of wine, lit a cigarette and disappeared. The performance was called "18 to me already." He covered the theme of growing up and gaining artistic responsibility. The main goal was to consolidate myself in the art community, to show that I am an artist, I am with you and I am already 18. In other words, 18 years is the age when we get civic responsibility. And the first exhibition meant that I also gain artistic responsibility.
- Speaking of the responsibility of art - do you think that something can be unethical in art?
- For me this is an important question, and in the light of the latest work, I ask them more and more often. I definitely can’t say, but I see here a very fertile ground for all sorts of experiments. When I think about this, I recall the performance from the series Black Mirror, when the artist stole a relative of the prime minister and, in exchange for his release, demanded that the politician have sex with the pig live. How ethical was that? In this case, do we regard this prime minister as a person or as an instrument of the political machine?
- Specifically, the last performance with wine and menstrual blood does not go beyond ethics?
- I don’t know how to answer this question, because I don’t know from the position of whom I should answer: from the position of the people who were there, from the position of commentators or from my position.
- From my position, from the position of the author.
- I associate myself with the people around me and dissolve greatly in public, so it is difficult to give a personal assessment of this situation. I want to say that while I am young, hot and active, you can do whatever you want and then think about the consequences. But in fact, I do not think that the viewer was in any kind of danger. I confirmed on Facebook that my menstrual blood was in those glasses, but now I say that I am not saying this. That's what I want to do now - to say that the blood may have been, and perhaps it was not. But if she was there, then it was completely safe to drink it, because I passed the tests and processed the blood. Plus she was very few, if she was there at all. Today I read a doctor’s comment that in the case of my action it’s hard to say whether the blood is safe or not safe. There were no cases of infection in this way, and in order to get infected, say, HIV, a lot of conditions must coincide. That is, the likelihood that someone could become infected, if there was blood at all, is very small.
- You expected such a result that everyone will drink in 15 minutes?
- Actually no, I did not expect, because I did not think about it at all. Firstly, initially I wanted the work to merge in the general mass with the exhibition space and, ideally, would not be recognized as art at all. But I was not able to fully realize this - I did not know what this space would look like, where I would have to put my work, how I would hand out flyers, and, in fact, I had to do everything literally on the go. The exhibition has already begun, I was a bit late, I began to unfold it all ... But this is not bad - I like it when unexpected things happen. I consider this work a situation, not a performance - here, as in life, everything changes, and we can not predict anything. It was important for me to make this situation very concise and clean. Someone says that it went, but I myself did not fully understand if this is so. Realizing that people sorted the wine so quickly, I was naturally upset because I wanted my work to last longer. And then I realized that it should have been so, and now it suits me.
- What about the name of this situation - why is "The Best Feminist Art"?
- This is a working title, but I left it because there was no other in my head. Tell why I chose him?
- This work has a lot of layers. And gradually these layers should be opened. Rather, I see this action as an experiment that is still ongoing. And even now, at the moment when I am giving an interview or reading news about myself and my work, it continues. I chose the title “Best Feminist Art” to troll those who connect menstrual blood with feminist art. This is such a direct, seemingly obvious connection, but there is nothing feminist in my work, and some feminists claim that it is, on the contrary, inhumane, because I did some violent action. Personally, I do not think that it was violence. In any case, feminism does not need people who think that menstrual blood is some kind of ******.
Before I wrote about this work on the Internet, it did not exist at all. Few noticed her, few understood. Later, this work migrated to the Internet field and became a meme, which is especially interesting to me. Someone advised me in an interview to put pressure on the fact that the action humiliates party-goers who come to exhibitions, do not read texts and just drink vinyl, but I don’t regard this work as such. Here I want to add something, because it is important for me to justify myself a little. If I really wanted to humiliate the party-goers, I could add not blood to the wine, but urine or snowstorm. And that would bring a lot more inconvenience. And the question of why I added blood, should not be answered by me, but by the viewer. From the text that was next to the glasses, it became clear that the blood in one form or another was supposedly present there. Some people understood this and put the glasses back in place. Besides, as I said, it’s not a fact that she was there at all. Now I deny to some extent that there was blood - not because I'm afraid of any sanctions or public disapproval, but I just want to mystify this process and see what happens next.
- It so happened that your work is now actively discussed in social networks - in other words, you have reached a level where you openly encounter an unprepared viewer. How would you explain your work to a person who does not understand contemporary art? Many, for example, will ask: why do you have so much nudity?
- I come across this unprepared viewer every day. My main work of art I consider my Instagram and social networks that I lead. I would not like to explain something to such a viewer, because I don’t like to give accurate interpretations to my works and I am not interested in the artist’s thoughts about his works. Do not get it wrong, it’s interesting to me, but only from the perspective of an artist - a person who hones his skills and builds an artistic career. In this vein, I like to analyze various practices, tactics and other shit, because I wonder how artists work, the creative process. Well, from the viewer's perspective, it never bothered me - why should I know the meaning of some kind of work if it can disappoint me? For example, someone considers my work a provocation - this is his right, there is nothing wrong with that.
“You wrote that you hate working.” What does a Russian artist live on today?
- Yes, it was a post about shit that I deleted (laughs). (It was about the fact that the artist was selling her feces, finding those who wished through the free classified ads service. - Ed.) I live off the sale of my work and things, at the expense of donation, but I get the main income from my husband, and this does not soar me at all. Plus, my parents help me financially, because they have such an opportunity. It’s a little awkward for me to talk about this, but they don’t think that I’m sitting on their neck, and that suits me. And my husband just likes what I do. He is a creative guy himself.
- How is the pricing of your work? Why, for example, is a ceramic trap sold for 10 thousand rubles, and a painting with a defecating pig - for 5 thousand?
- It all depends on how many good reviews I received from professionals - naturally, I discuss a lot with people what price tag to put for this or that job, or just put out some kind of minimum price. If I feel that the work is funny, interesting - for example, this is a picture with a meme - then I will put up a larger price tag, because I know that this is more in demand. Specifically, I asked for 10 thousand for a trap, because everyone told me that it costs a lot, but for me 10 thousand is a lot. I didn’t want to sell the picture with the pig’s head, because my husband really likes it. Therefore, when they wrote to me that they wanted to buy it, I deliberately put a price tag of 5 thousand rubles so that they would refuse it. But then the dude decided that the amount suits him, and I thought: why not sell it?
- The exhibition where you arranged the situation with wine was devoted to the article of Criminal Code 148 (“Insulting the feelings of believers”). How do you feel about this article? Do you think that power limits an artist in Russia?
- It’s hard for me to talk about this, because I’m not very good at politics, and it seems to me that I don’t know enough to have an opinion on this. But there are restrictions on the part of the authorities, and this is undoubtedly bad. We all know why, it makes no sense to repeat the same thing. This is interesting from the point of view that the more restrictions the artist has, the more interesting the art project becomes, because the struggle with the regime begins. This gives inspiration and a resource for work, new creative themes appear.
- In the next work, you are going to use the flag of the Russian Federation. Will it be something political?
- I always say that my works are apolitical, but people often interpret them differently and give them a political color. Specifically, this work with the Russian flag is rather provocative, and I’m interested in understanding what can happen to me if I implement my plan. I repeat: it is very important for me how people react to my work.
- I watched the video that you posted, called "Arthouse-humiliation of Pauline Music." Judging by this video and many other comments, you often come across baiting on the Internet.
- Yes, every day. Therefore, if I hated people, as I was told after this situation with blood, I would have reasons for that. Bullying is one of the topics I work with. Now I am collecting material - making screenshots, keeping correspondence - and trying to understand how to express and show all this. My freak image on the Internet is an art project, and bullying is part of it.
- But on an emotional level are you hurt by such comments?
- The first time I came across this when I got out of depression and I regained a healthy perception of my body. Then I started to post funny photos of myself - when I looked ridiculous, ugly, when I was funny. I laid out these pictures mixed with those where I turned out really beautifully. At some point, they began to force them in one small public, laughing at me. I was very painful, I cried reading these comments - for me it turned out to be a real trauma. But then I got used to it and realized that you can work with it. In general, I react especially sharply to other, more verbal forms of abuse - for example, when they send me audio messages or record videos. But specifically that video with the "arthouse-humiliation" did not seem offensive to me, because it is very funny. I really love this video, and it gives me joy.
- For you, virality and, as you say, memorial are the main guidelines. That is, the image of an Internet freak - is it on purpose?
- I dont know. I don’t understand where this border passes and whether this border exists at all. I can say for sure that what I post on Instagram is how I live. I wonder how life can be integrated into art and show that life is art. And virality, memorial and all such things are just the methods through which I work, part of the tools.
- It turns out that trying to create a viral work, are you initially prepared for the fact that it will be discussed at such a public level?
- Yes, they are already discussing, it remains only to come to Channel One. This makes my work even more vulgar, because we are all used to the fact that art exists for the elites, and contemporary art is in some kind of narrow circle. It frightens some people, and it frightens me, that sometimes it reaches the masses who are not familiar with it or are quite superficial, but already have their own opinion on this matter.
- It seems that the last time an art event became a major news story almost in 2015, when Pavlensky set fire to the doors of the FSB building in Lubyanka. How do you feel about him?
- I respect him very much as an artist. But an interesting point is that Pavlensky and, for example, Pussy Riot cannot be criticized, because even if you criticize them from a position of artistic significance, you automatically enter the field of those who hate liberal discourse. It was in Pavlensky that I was attracted by a certain sacrifice. On the other hand, even this factor can be relative - for example, there are rumors that (during the action on Red Square. - Approx. ed.) he had a scrotum piercing.
- I read that you are doing zine "Stink", but they do not want to publish it. What is this zin and what happened to him?
- This is a pornographic magazine that we do with Alisa Bulochkina. It seems disgusting to people, but we just consider it ultrafine. Alice uses the aesthetics of the 2000s; I use the aesthetics of home pornography and eroticism. This has no direct subtext, we just like to do it, it's cool and fun. We tried to print this zine, but the printing company refused us because of a "breach of ethical standards." We are now in search of a place to print it.
- Do you think that in our rather patriarchal society, the action would have received such a loud publicity if it had been done by a man who mixed sperm in wine?
- Interest Ask. I think that the discussion would undoubtedly have followed, but my sperm is associated with more aggressive things at the expense of patriarchal and porno culture, because from a social point of view, the seed is about men and power. By the way, this is how my action has another connotation: menstrual blood is, like sperm, excretion from the genitals.Using it, I take power over a man (although this is a slippery moment, because women also drank the drink), and if I added blood from my finger to the wine, then such a sensation probably would not have arisen. This suggests, first of all, that menstrual blood in Russia is a taboo topic.