Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animations

An intellectual is an individual who primarily relies upon their intellect in such a way as to produce works that rely upon their learning, erudition, and critical thinking skills. Most intellectuals are patient, relying upon an internal endurance under which large volumes of information is digested and then exhibited in the form of works (books and papers, public discourse, artworks). While most intellectuals tend toward written or verbal discourse to convey the information they have digested, some intellectuals, with an aesthetic bent, tend toward artworks to convey deeper sentiments. 

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animation is one such example of an intellectual artistically conveying a profound message, one that reduces her audience to tears. Simonova appeals to and engages her audience with a thematic treatment of history and the emergence of a modern malaise shared by a culture. Her artwork tests the patience of the audience insomuch as throughout the performance they must remain focused on the message she is conveying as the scenes change and morph into entirely new ones, perfectly choreographed with the music. 

Her work causes the audience to engage in a new quest for intellectual, emotional, and, perhaps, spiritual understanding as to why certain events come to pass. While she does not offer answers or insights in her sand creations, she does present the very images pressed upon the subconscious of a people in a way that they can find the answers for themselves. This is the artistic component of her intellectual work, the part in which art is interpreted subjectively by the viewer. 

Creating sand art is Simonova's way of dealing with the profundity of sentiments pulsing through her mind. Sharing this artistic expression publicly is what inspires others to find their own intellectual or artistic way of expressing what can often times not be expressed with words alone.  

Simonova's performance piece begins with the lighting of a candle, a symbolic invitation to engage in a personal experience. She starts by first crafting a building, the central foundation of her message: "This is what life was like" before... 

As the performance unfolds, the invitation transitions from an implicitly romantic identification of an evening of romance and rendezvous. Two lovers sit on a bench, embracing under a clear night sky, but then abruptly the music and image fades. The image of the evening being disturbed by military planes bombing the city invokes tears from the central figure, which Simonova crafts out of what was just moments before two lovers embracing. 

The performance piece's relation with realism emerges and the opening lines of symmetry explode into images that cause her viewers to question that which cannot be answered. Nevertheless, the performance piece also illuminates a modernist irony on an aesthetic basis when it violently interrupts the sublime implications of metaphor as a carefully structured aesthetic trope. 

The refusal of the artist to respond to her own questions, however, does not necessarily imply that metaphysical issues are either unanswerable or hopelessly confused. A falsely heroic musical gesture (2:25-3:05) transports us to a French café where life is romanticized and woes are integrated with a history that speaks to us through the façades of a landscape forever memorialized. 

Then... suddenly, bombs explode and sand is thrown about invoking a Baudelairean sense of evil. 

An intensity ensues, and out of this movement appears an unnatural aspect of an apparently natural image, a beautiful face amidst the chaos (3:40-4:15), but she does not remain beautiful. 

The impermanence of her beauty, like the impermanence of peace, takes us deeper into our subconscious, reminding us of that which always lies ahead of society (so long as we take to war and acts of aggression as an answer to conflict). 

Simonova reminds us of our inability to surpass our own mundane condition and to substantiate our capacity for heroism and authentic creativity. The second reference to the image morphing from one of beauty to one of failing ideals adds further irony to the artist's representation of time and history. What begins to emerge is an icon of possibilities, of our ability to achieve an understanding of time that may be "metaphysical" and profoundly unsettling at the same time. 

It is at this juncture (5:00) that Simonova embarks on a series of reflections that demonstrate her culture's kinship with the tragic events that have marked and shaped their homeland; images and sentiments that remind fixed in the subconscious imagination as poignant expressions of indecision and self-consciousness. Simonova's images are clearly indebted to the series of violent events in the capital of Kiev, just the latest in a series of events in which Poland, Hungry, and Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s realized the harsh cold and sleet of triumph in a seismic shift Westward in the geopolitics of the region. 

"Razom nas bahato! Nas ne podolaty!" ("Together, we are many! We cannot be defeated!") The powerful civic movements ignited by popular fire resulted in a tightly connected sub-culture that links the many peoples of the region by their emotional reactions to turmoil. Irrespective of which side of the conflicts one may find themselves, the entire region is held in a domestic carousel, spinning around and around until the steady torrent of negative emotions come to a halt. 

(6:08) What emerges out of all of this remains fixed in the hopes and dreams of the people. Rather than present us with an image of how things could or should be, Simonova looks out of a metaphorical window, as much an inward invitation to seek out the answers to conflicts from within oneself as it is an invitation to engage outward. To see in others what we see in ourselves and work toward solutions that acknowledge the diversity of the region seems to be the underlining message. 

The soldier looking in, the child and his mother looking out, offer us a direct expression of how moral conflict can enhance subjective experience. Simonova simply provides the loose granular substance, a sediment of sentiment, if you will, sprinkling, smoothing, and polishing images overlaid with symbolism and deeply personal feelings of attachments and falsely identified notions associated with the active pursuit of consciously-posited goals. 

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animation is a kind of tragic heroism in reverse, revealing the pathos of a culture's romantic predecessor and calling attention to a metaphysical horizon which foregrounds deeply profound questions and the promise that these questions conceal. Lost in the sand as one image transmutes into another, the images which came before are lost to our visual experience, but what remains is the sentiment, a new purpose despite the erosion of tranquility. 

This performance piece alludes to a discourse on time that plays a central role in the geopolitical structure of eastern Europe, an aspect of unification and division that cannot begin to reduce the distance that separates individual aspirations from an assumed experience of personal meaning. 

Finally, the possibility that Simonova presents simply says what she means and leads the viewers to invoke the fantastic figures associated with the shaping of their culture, but does not provide them with a satisfactory equivalent to a return from modernity more than it allows her to fuse meaning and intention in a single moment of cultural oneness. At the same time, this very powerful and evoking performance piece has a richly comic side, which also depends on the very same metaphysical horizon that adds poignancy to mundane concerns. In the end, viewers, despite being taken on a deeply evocative historical and highly charged emotional journey, arrive to a place where the absurdity of conflict is recognized, a release of tension in the form of a laugh occurs, and the result..? 

A powerful confession of cultural inadequacy that becomes a symbol of a people's power of imagination to relight the candle of the past. This aesthetic narrative confirms society's inability to communicate in ways that do not involve violence. Simonova provides a compelling example of an intellectual artist who transforms cultural concerns into highly motivated achievements. 

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