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Russia's Audiovisual Art Scene Is On The Rise

It all started with a simple idea: Vlad Severtsev wanted to create a web portal that would become a creative hub for the “indies,” the up-and-coming new media talent from Russia and former USSR territories. With a landscape so vast and sparse, many of these artists live in isolation from one another, and Severtsev wanted to connect them somehow to foster a sense of community in the fledgling Russian audiovisual art scene.

“I know what it feels like to live in a provincial shithole, and this is what 90% of the Russian territory is,” says Severtsev, a former DJ and music critic whose love affair with media art began while organizing the first multimedia festivals in Russia in the early 2000s. “If you’re, say, a 3D artist, the best job you’d probably land in your hometown would be drawing beer cans for local stores, and then you do your own thing at home at night. But as years pass by, you lose hope and start doing drugs and drinking vodka [because you know you’ll] spend the rest of your life doing things you hate. You have to kill your creativity ‘cause no one wants you. They only want you to draw more beer cans. I’ve seen too many talented young people losing hope.”

What emerged is Cyberbrothers, a creative community geared towards artists working in interactive media, motion graphics, VJ works, projection mapping and other audiovisual work. In just about 2 years, more than 1200 visual artists, motion designers, independent filmmakers and musicians have joined the Cyberbrothers network, which isn’t bad for a homegrown community of niche artists and designers.


Selfburning (aka Nikolai Luchkiv) is one of the leading Russian motion graphics wizards.

“I thought it could serve as a showcase of what’s really happening in this country in terms of ‘independent’ arts and new media,” says Severtsev. “Russia still seems pretty much obscure to the ‘outer world,’ although it’s now been more than 20 years since the Iron Curtain fell.”

A year after he got Cyberbrothers off the ground, Severtsev realized that simply supporting and promoting Russia’s existing audiovisual artists wasn’t enough. With major gaps in the education system in terms of teaching digital literacy skills and making available courses in creative digital media practices, Severtsev took it upon himself to build an online educational website called Audiovisual Academy where people could learn these types of skillsets. This new venture grew even more rapidly—in less than six months, the site has amassed over 5000 registered students with zero marketing budget. They’re currently working on building a full service online educational center where students will be able to connect with tutors directly, work in groups, buy legal software and books with a “student discount," find internships and so forth.

“Russia is unique in many ways and its developing fast, technology has become affordable. Ten years ago you wouldn’t see a lot of teenagers with laptops. Today, they are all loaded and hungry for something new. They don’t care about TV—they’ve got internet,” explains Severtsev."


Taras Gesh is a self-taught visual artist living in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic in the far north of Russia.

Severtsev has since started to expand the Audiovisual Academy into the real world, setting up an AV:lab that brings together leading international groups to conduct classes and presentations on subjects relating to audiovisual art, culture and technology. The unique program includes presentations and talks with visual entities like United Visual Artists, onedotzero and lightrhythm visuals, who explain their techniques and tell their success stories, illustrating that it is possible to develop a career around visual arts. Most recently, the program has partnered with La Gaite lyrique in Paris to become the only Russian educational organization on AV arts and new media to land a residency at the prestigious European digital media venue.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some really cool events happening in Moscow and St. Petersburg—I mean, really top level. So it seems like Russia is not only catching up with the trend, but may well become one of the top players in this sector in Eastern Europe," says Severtsev. “But what’s most important is to develop and support local talent. Otherwise, all this would be some sort of a travelling circus—you get to see all these top international artists with their amazing works, but tomorrow they’re gone and you ask yourself—what’s next?”

Severtsev On Russian Audiovisual Artists To Look Out For

Selfburning

Selfburning (aka Nikolai Luchkiv) is one of the leading Russian motion graphics wizards, and one of the probably most well-known. His works have been selected for screening programs by onedotzero, Stash and CyberBrothers. Currently Nikolai is the leading motion graphics designer at CyberBrothers involved in various projects—both commercial and artistic—the latest one being a set design for the Bolshoi theater’s latest premiere, a contemporary take on The Golden Cockerel opera. He’s extremely instrumental with difficult textures such as fire, smoke or water.

Taras Gesh

Taras Gesh is a self-taught visual artist living in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic in the far north of Russia.
Despite his young years, Taras is one of the up-and-coming motion graphic designers and VJs. His recent audiovisual affair is generative music visualizations. Taras works for a local TV station, and also heads his own production studio. He is also a founder of the first Russian VJ loops and footage resource.

Andrey Nepomnyaschev

Andrey Nepomnyaschev is yet another up-and-coming Russian broadcast and motion graphics designer. While Andrey prefers to keep his profile low, his animations can be seen both on digital art festivals and major TV channels, such as MTV.

Russian Visual Artists

I’ve known these guys for a while and really liked their work. They used to do mostly theatrical productions—unusual ones, using 3D mapping techniques, etc.—they were a unique bunch of people in that sense. Last October, we all got together and agreed we need to take it to another level. So today they are probably the first “professional” Russian audiovisual arts collective working on interdisciplinary projects in the sphere of new media. They are now working on video mapping, tracking, installations, augmented reality, kinematic models, production of specialized software for controlling objects, music, etc. The above video is from a project they did recently for The Golden Cockerel opera, which premiered at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in June 2011.

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