« Consciously chosen education can build one’s ontological map and background which further may help to determine the scope of interests for a person as an artist. »
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MARIA KOKUNOVA. ‘THE CAVE’, an interview by Kandice Chavous
- Maria, you were recently shortlisted with the project ‘The Cave’ for the Urbanautica Institute’s call ‘Sacred. The Experience of Beyond’. Firstly, tell us about your approach to photography. How did it start and how has your work evolved?
Maria Kokunova (MK): I first turned to photography in 2013, with a philological education already in my background. I studied academic drawing and painting for five years. It was when I was taking my composition classes that my interest in photography started. After studying the form for some time, I realised that it is meanings that I want to work with. And the medium of photography matched my tasks perfectly. Photography is a curious phenomenon that has many characteristics that affect ontological issues. I was interested in the history, theory and “philosophy of photography”, in the words of V. Flusser. The image is generally embedded in our everyday life and in many ways defines and constructs it.
Having immersed in the process of learning I realised that the general method that I used in my work – self-reflexivity – is inseparable from the study of the media development history and the logics of media functioning, photography, in particular, because these phenomena in many ways constitute and determine me (being a subject or the absence of a subject). In other words, in my case, the nature of the medium is closely related to my sphere of interests (the mechanism of subject construction).
At the present moment I am working with project photography and I use a variety of methods, like collage, appropriation, and photographic representations of performance.
- About your work ‘The Cave’: how has your self-realization work been influenced by your choice to remove yourself from the digital age?
MK: When I intentionally cut myself off from active social life, it gave me the opportunity to focus on my art education and my projects. Of course, the inadequate connection with the outer world, isolation, and frequent violation of personal boundaries by the children have a traumatic effect. However, the same circumstances gave an impulse to the project. And that is what I am speculating about in ‘The Cave project’. My new “lifestyle” has literally made the plot for the project, only it was converted into a personal myth. Thus, social distancing continues to trigger my imagination and memories, making the necessary condition for the major method of my practice – self-reflexivity.