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ArticlesMasha Semenskaya

In the works of Masha Semenskaya is reflected the collision of two streams of speech: one is the direct speech of the artist, the other – a great stream or myriad streams of speech that makes the entire space of her surrounding reality. This is, in fact, the collision of two streams of reality.

External reality is reflected in the perception of the artist; it requires reaction, presence, and involvement, it draws you in and reaches the boundary at which each person either personally identifies with the models of existence put forth by outside texts or stops before it at a loss.

And so, the artist is aware that these very reactions of hers, the forms of her presence and involvement – are also the reality of her life, are her very self, the place where her lone consciousness encounters the existence of the wide world; this consciousness is her life, unknown to the world, but which is becoming a unique story of the refraction and understanding of the universe, of the birth of a self-contemplating world within her mind, her memory and her body.

Here she remembers herself, begins to search for herself and does not immediately find herself. Here, the modern man is faced with the recognition of the gap between his own life and how modern, mass culture suggests that he live. Here begins the existence of the individual and the world, for which no one but that same individual is responsible.

Tell me what you want, and I will tell you who you are. I am my desires. In the modern world there is an entire industry engaged in the production of desires – not the objects of desire, but our desires themselves: the clichés, according to which our desires take shape. Could it be that they are what shapes a human being? Is it possible that modern man is merely a program for the fulfillment of expectations that were implanted in him and of others’ ideas about what he is and what he lives for?

“Do I know myself well enough to recognize myself in my thoughts, decisions and desires? To what extent can I distinguish them from those that are simply imposed on me? How honest and open can I be, in order to admit them to myself? What are my dreams – childhood’s, adult, past and present? To what extent does my attitude regarding dreams, fancies and desires determine my identity? They always made me ask: who am I and what is this personality of mine, what is this “me” in my head? The multitudes of “I”s, the streams of images in which I used to recognize and continue to recognize myself, the multitudes of “I”s that live thanks to other “I”s – this is what the prints are, what the images are on the surface of the paintings. “- this is how Masha Semenskaya speaks of her works.

The artist listens to her recollections, peering into the images in which they are rendered and frozen, in which she is able to hold them on the surface of her memory and contemplate how she appears in them today; how she relives her past self in the present day, how she understands, remembers, feels and sees her states of being, fears, fantasies, what she was / what she remembers herself to have been / what she understood herself to be at that time/ the way that in those recollections of the past, she remembers herself in an even earlier time … These memories are not necessarily directed – they come in dreams, spontaneously, uncontrollably and can cause paradoxical reactions. They are constant or instantaneously random, they return, they can become obsessive, but where do they come from?

This is what the artist’s heroines think about – they are women, young ladies, teenage girls or little girls who are both she herself, and at the same time someone else – completely different girls and women. She smashes through the roles assigned to a woman by family, environment, upbringing, age, body, social status and so on, and so on – to how she sees herself, to how they understand themselves and how they can understand themselves, to how they regard their femininity; what it means to be a woman, to be born a woman, how she perceives that she is a woman at different times and in different situations. She strives to be herself, and is not sure that she knows what it means to be yourself.

The acute experience of femininity and demand for it was and still is the main content of all Masha Semenskaya’s works. Sometimes it is the femininity of a little girl, sometimes it’s the femininity of the world and of culture or femininity as a very important characteristic of  time and of humanity.

Masha Semenskaya’s works are very explicit, almost intimate, but this intimacy is barely audible, because, first of all, it’s drowned out by the powerful voices of the outside world and feels its impertinence; if it were to ring out in a loud voice, it would be an exhibitionistic gesture; as such, it is quiet, it is not active, it experiences the moment of its existence; and since these works are directed at the outside world, intimacy becomes cool, it is almost frozen. It sounds more clearly in the space of dreams.

The logic behind the majority of Masha Semenskaya’s paintings is the logic of sleep, their optics are dream optics, children’s optical toys and hallucinations.

“Dreams are meaningful for me as a state of reality that I know so little about, and the significance of which, for me, is so great. And then I remember my dreams; I think about the fact that my understanding of the real world around me is permeated with others’ suggestions. Who am I today? Could it be that I live in a world of desires that are imposed on me? Could “I” in the spaces of social roles – be a self-deception, a hook that anyone who wants to keep his voice in the real world gets hung up on? Every modern artist knows that his individuality is the mutilated result of a compromise with the world of art.” – Explains the artist.

These works combine images that come from different times and various areas of cultural experience – personal memories and impressions are placed alongside those interpretations which she is offered by the external environment; these are traumatic junctures, the boundaries of self-understanding and existence in the understanding of others; of speculation, of suspicion and of the reconstruction of external images of reality and others’ definitions of reality, aimed at forming a single scale of values ​​among all consumers of contemporary culture. Understanding that modern society has learned to evaluate people according to consumption of goods is the most painful thing an artistic person can experience. The very existence of an industry of stars results from a solution to the task of generating ideal images and consumer models.

With blatant irony, almost sarcasm, the artist utilizes the images, cliches and techniques of the luxury industry.

Repeatedly questioning the veracity of concepts that are generally accepted, which are controlled by Russia’s corporate culture of contemporary art, puts Masha Semenskaya in a peculiar position, forcing her to go her own, independent way.

Semenskaya says, “There are likely others who do know the answers to my questions, but there are no others in this world, the other opinions are parts of some other languages ​​and worlds. I do not always hear them, and was I even really there? “.

Very often in her artistic work she moves almost by touch through adaptation to lack of adaptation, from clarity to incomprehension, trying to look at herself through other people’s understandings, formulae for identity and structures of reality. This art truly poses the question of its own necessity.


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