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A talk with Dasha Kurguzova
Dear Dasha, many thanks for coming! Could you please start with a short introduction? Where have you come from?

Lena, I am very pleased for the opportunity to let me talk about myself and my art practice.
I was born in Moscow, in the USSR. Perhaps I was lucky to be born at this time and experience the change of eras. I was able to be a pioneer in school and to see the positive sides of the socialist system: the Soviet Union had an entire system of free development for children with random talents at an extremely high level. I had the chance to visit various clubs and learn numerous techniques. As a result, my childhood helped me obtain creative views.

My ancestors have resided in Moscow for many generations, I know the history of my family well. Since childhood, I was surrounded by very beautiful ancient things like books, furniture, dishes, paintings, heirlooms (various letters, diaries and photo archives). Although cramped in an apartment, we lived as a friendly family made up of several generations. My grandmother and great-grandfather influenced me the most. My great-grandfather was a self-taught inventor in the field of metallurgy and rock processing, he was an activist who supported communism. My grandmother worked in the textile industry. In the beginning as a fabric designer and later in the Ministry of consumer goods.

When the USSR ceased to exist, our family like many others faced tough times. I started working at an early age of thirteen in an attempt to help my family. I chose to study liberal arts, a promising education that suited my interests. I eventually completed graduate school with a degree in "Modern history of Europe and America". My education led me to the field of communications where I ended up working in Public Relations for over 15 years, as a result I made a great career and always stood firmly on my own. But eventually I came to realise that I no longer wanted to pursue this career and chose another path. I remembered myself as a child when I loved to draw, write poetry and dream of being an artist. During my professional career I managed to somehow find time to study new techniques and "create" works as a hobby. Eventually I chose to go study at the British Higher School of Art and Design to pursue my childhood dream. I was amazed at contemporary art while being inspired by my teachers and fellow students. I had an incredible time full of new discoveries where I expanded my horizons and made new friends. I finally found myself and realised my true purpose. Today I am overwhelmed with happiness that I decided to switch careers because now I am doing something in life that to me has real value.


Wow, that means a really long way to the art, you have so extensive experience in the past. What parts of your background are mostly reflected in your artistic practice now?

The biggest themes in my art practice now are historical events and family ties. My relatives greatly respected labour and valued history of their kind. Environmental issues are very important to me as well. This year I moved upstate away from Moscow with my children to live in an eco-village. A space I actively created since 2007. The theme of ecology is dear in my art practice.

Restoration and conservation of biodiversity in my country with respect to nature is a big part of my life. Several of my projects have already been devoted to the concept of the noosphere developed by the outstanding and well known worldwide Soviet scientist Vladimir Vernadskiy. I see a great future in its development and implementation in reality.

All of my work is definitely full of love toward science fiction, magic and fairy tales. Faith in other worlds constantly forces me to search for hidden meanings, codes, patterns and parallel realities. The visible world has never been enough for me. Since childhood I have always imagined and felt that it is much wider and deeper than it seems.
In your artworks, you often refer to the family issues. What role does your family play in your artistic career? Do they support or rather oppose your creative routine?

When I first changed directions in my development and abandoned the rather traditional scenario of a professional career, at first my relatives did not understand or support me for two reasons. They were afraid that I would be left without means of support and they didn't really understand contemporary art. However, after seeing my determination and primary success, I received their full support and now I see that my loved ones are proud of me.

My Children are also a great inspiration to me. They have a flexible mind, a lot of interest to learn and possess a unique view of everything around them. I often ask their opinion while they closely monitor my projects. I believe that my new path has given them a huge boost for development and now together we share common views while exploring the world in its infinite diversity.

To summarise, my life can be divided into two phases. The first being a child having the desire to quickly escape from a large family to find full independence. The second is finding my own family, an experience of motherhood while having three children. The subsequent and already conscious return home once again to a large family. I mean the formation of a deep close friendship full of trust between us only on a more conscious level. Besides my life itself and art, the most valuable thing in life to me is my very large and friendly family.

I am very grateful that such a chain of events full of acquaintances and decisions led me to where I am today. My family accepts the changes in my life and supports what I do because I am truly happy, as I am always full of ideas and inspiration to others.

In addition, my appeal to the values in which I was raised cannot fail to please everyone around me. Especially my grandmother, who at the age of 84 can still give a head start to the young in terms of mind clarity and level of intelligence. She helps me a lot with her advice and wisdom.


As far as I know, you have developed a unique methodology to transform digital records of key family occasions into visual interpretation. Could you describe your approach? How does the method work?

Indeed, I invented my own method of creating numerological matrixes. They include family, chronological, event and genealogical aspects. While using my method I create a unique digital code based on numbers and/or dates for a specific topic, object or event. Then based on this code I create a pattern around the principle of textile production. The base and weft form a "fabric" and its weaving is unique for each specific depicted case or event.

In the ancient world, the Pythagorean philosophers considered numbers to be the "cause and beginning" of things. Numbers to be the basis of all relations in the world. They believed that numbers gave the world order and made it space. Today huge amounts of information are converted to a digital format because the Internet along with all computer programs consist of Prime numbers. Creating my own "matrixes", I seem to isolate a unique imprint from the General data array while creating an individual digital portrait. No wonder my works during the matrix development stage are similar to QR codes.

The goal of my first project was to create a generic fabric based on important family dates like births, deaths and weddings between the years 1888 and 2018. I was inspired by my grandmother's old sketchbooks with drawing patterns of different fabrics. As a result, I created my own technique. Now this project has truly developed and I have come to realise that these matrixes can be made based on any topic. My unique method combines numerology and coding, as well as traditional women's craft in the form of hand weaving.


Does the «chronological matrix» produce new knowledge about your family history?

I can say for sure that I learned a lot of interesting things while sorting through the family archives. It is a completely different view of history events when it is presented in the simple language of life through the fate of kinsman people. I am very grateful of my ancestors and very proud of them. They were very persistent hardworking people with ideals and a great strength of spirit. What they endured and how they found opportunities to enjoy and help others was very inspiring to me making my current "problems" seem rather small and insignificant. I saw a great personal purpose and value in preserving and transmitting my family memory, so I promised myself to keep a diary for my descendants.

Great, it looks like the family itself and a patrimonial history are an additional prop, or extra chair, for you. Why have you changed your focus from private stories to public biographies?

Family in the broadest sense of the word is the most important thing to me. A huge resource and inspiration for creativity, my own evolution and social activity. Personal stories were always interesting but I was more attracted by the idea of possible global world connections which I perceived as a whole. As a result, this topic has grown tremendously. Perhaps this was strongly influenced by my passion for the topic of the noosphere. I believe that our planet and we are all a single organism and influence each other, the same way it happens within the family. I can say that I have moved from the deep study of personal experiences to more philosophical and wider aspects of life.


You started a new series that is called «Red teraphimes» with a controversial personality - Vladimir Lenin. As we both were born and spent first years in the USSR, you may remember pioneers and Komsomol, pathetic rhetoric and heroic myths related to Lenin. But the official state position still tries to hide his crimes. I perceive him as odious and at the same time a key figure in Russian history. Who is Lenin for you? Why have you chosen him as the starting point for the new series?

Going back to family history, my great-grandfather, as I mentioned earlier, was a very loyal supporter of communism even though my ancestors greatly suffered from dispossession while much was lost. I think he believed in justice along with the idea of a bright future for all. He greatly respected Lenin and even participated in the construction of his mausoleum. He was able to invent a unique method to process marble to build this structure. When I was sorting through the family archives, I came across my grandfather's letters and many photos where he depicted the construction of the mausoleum and various difficulties he encountered. It always seemed strange to me that such an essentially occult object was created in an "atheistic" society.

There is a story from the field of esotericism that a mausoleum with a mummy inside is a very powerful magical object, also known as a teraphim. A teraphim is a magical "talisman" that affects the world and its surroundings, programming it to a certain "frequency". I wanted to compare the matrixes of different communist leaders in an attempt to find some patterns. By the way, none of the "red leaders" wanted to have such a fate: Lenin wanted to be buried next to his mother but the Asian leaders were forced to be cremated. Seems interesting as to why their will was not respected even though they were so profound and had such reverence from society. This suggests an analogy with the Christian practice of relics or shamanism where one ceases to belong to himself turning into another form.
Responsibility can't be placed on any one individual when it comes to such global historical changes. Everyone involved in the system makes their own decisions at their own level. Decisions such as to inform, to kill or to accept the system or not as a whole. It can't be denied that Communist ideas and the figure of Lenin inspired millions of people for many decades and even to this day. Personally, I do not judge this period of history or the personality of Lenin as an individual. Each historical period has both creative and destructive phases. I believe that it is mostly important to learn from the lessons of history and to not repeat the same mistakes so that our generations to come won't be affected.


I would agree, but in Russia there are still taboos on a public discourse regarding Soviet past. However, it is a crucial condition to be able to reconsider and re-estimate, as you said, to learn the last lessons and to avoid the same mistakes in the future. Who will be the next hero?

The "Red teraphims" project is dedicated to the leaders of communism from around the world. Next will be the leaders of Vietnam, China, and North Korea. I will be contacting numerous museums in these locations for help to acquire the information needed to create authentic works about these objects. Since these are fairly closed countries, it will be a task to find the necessary data through open sources. I would like for each matrix to be created as accurately as possible and to be based on the same set of authentic source data. I hope that these museums will be willing to help. Regardless, a significant part of preparation is already completed and now I know exactly what works will this series include.

Have you thought already how you would show and mediate your project?

A lot of thought has been put in already but much will depend on the amount space that will be provided. There are several ideas how to make the project interesting and versatile with elements of interactivity. I don't want to reveal any details but one idea is to experiment with music based on my matrixes. I also want to play with the audience. One can find very different images in each matrix and it is important feedback to find out what the audience will see and intuitively feel. As an example, in the Lenin matrix people could see crosses and machine guns. The matrix of Ho Chi Minh could portray tanks, spikes and mazes. These imaginary tangible objects will be created by the audience themselves from special blanks and with the help of technology. I personally love it when one can interact with and create at an exhibition. In other words, play with the author's theme. As a result, the project will be felt by the viewer on another level.


Do you have in mind any certain institution? Can you imagine the show «Red Teraphimes» in Moscow?

I would like to initially present this project in Moscow. Ideally it will be at the Historical Museum or at a Jewish museum and Tolerance Centre due to the origin of the topic about teraphim. I would very much also like to get into one of the projects of the Garage Museum of contemporary art. Maybe a Museum related to history as well, a place like the V. I. Lenin Museum.
Could you name yourself as a social engagement artist? Do you believe that art can change a public agenda?

Absolutely, it is the reason why I changed my life. I believe that artists have a great responsibility upon them, through creativity one can raise very complex, even taboo topics. Besides enjoying the process of creation, the most valuable thing to me is the opportunity to share my ideas with others in an attempt to inspire the viewer to think outside the box and maybe even explore new topics. I hope that through art it will be possible to discuss even the most traumatic experiences of people, countries and civilisations. Even tiny changes and small expansions of new horizons please me. Sometimes I get very emotional responses for my works and that feeling is priceless. It is difficult to imagine anything more than this joy in the life of an artist.


Being a mom of three and emergency artist at the same time, what ambitions do you have? Can you please briefly share with us your prospects?

While my children are still young, they tend to give me little personal space. But I'm not in a hurry. Serious projects can take years to create. I just hope that mine will be evaluated in the same manner. Personally, I take my art very seriously. In my works every detail is thoroughly justified in an artistic statement.

For now, I am looking to focus on developing the topic of matrixes. I hope that it will arouse the interest of Museum institutions. By the way this is a completely non-commercial project. If we were to discuss immediate goals, I would like the "Red Teraphims" project to travel around the world. It would be incredibly interesting if I could later develop an algorithm to allow the research for patterns from different matrices.

After completing the Red teraphim series, I planned to do a series related to the genealogy of the British Royal house. I have already done a series of sketches and research work in this area and it seems to be a very interesting topic. Especially if you consider the number of mysteries around Britain, the history of this location and the formation of the state on this territory.


It sounds intriguing, thank you, Dasha! Good luck at all your projects! Hopefully next time we will meet offline soon.