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Shimmering Land, interview with Natalia Grezina

Step into a realm where art becomes a poignant reflection of conflict, heritage, and the ethereal threads that connect them. The "Shimmering Land" exhibition, curated by Marth von Loeben, invites you to traverse the intricate tapestry of emotions and perspectives born from the Scythian Gold Collection's legal turmoil. This captivating display is more than a collection of artifacts; it's an immersive experience that bridges the gap between opposing worlds.

At its heart, "Shimmering Land" embodies Natalia Grezina and Anton Yermolov desire to shed light on the profound interplay between heritage and discord. The exhibition's inception was fueled by a range of emotions - from agreement with the Dutch court's decision to a lament for the inaccessible Crimean heritage. Through meticulous curation, artists bring these emotions to life, crafting a narrative that delves into ethical dilemmas, the inner lives of artifacts, and the ways in which lost heritage can continue to thrive. As you journey through the exhibition, you'll find yourself contemplating the enigmatic status of occupied territories, the whispers of history, and the enduring dialogue between art and conflict. "Shimmering Land" is an invitation to explore, empathize, and engage - a testament to the timeless power of art to illuminate the complexities of our world and spark conversations that resonate far beyond its walls.


What motivates you to create this exhibition?

Natalia Grezina: The conflict over the Scythian Gold Collection is a complex and time-consuming legal process that has only recently come to an end. This story became for me a reflection of my feelings and thoughts about being between two conflicting worlds. I agree with the decision of the Dutch court, but on the other hand I am sad that the Crimean heritage is out of study for indefinite time and is not available for visitors of Crimean museums. Therefore, in our project “Shimmering Land” we decided to speculate about what would be the most ethical solution, what are the feelings of the artifacts themselves and their worldview, and in what mediums and forms the lost heritage can continue its presence. Our project on Scythian gold is the beginning of a conversation about the 'phantom' status of Crimea, other occupied territories and the loss of heritage through hostilities and political turbulence. I believe that through the language of art, it is possible to illuminate aspects and nuances of the conflict that are constantly elusive when told in conventional ways.

What was your favorite part of creating the exhibition?

Natalia Grezina: The different stages of creating and preparing an exhibition are interesting in their own way. Of course, what I love most is the time when I can lock myself away in my studio and go headlong into the creative process. But in the end, I most often remember the building of the exhibition, because it is at this stage that it becomes clear whether or not I have achieved the expected result. It is the moment of truth. Building is always about communicating with the team and finding a solution to some unexpected problem. I love the day before the opening, when everything is in place and I can add some magic dust or a couple of shells to complete the image. But after the opening, the exhibition continues to live on in the eyes of the visitors. Me and Anton Yermolov didn’t want to keep the project as it is, so we continue to add objects to the exhibition. For example, Anton has recently written music and created a video with the help of artificial intelligence, and it was inspired by the project. So it will be a somewhat different exhibition at the closing.

How is this exhibition different from your previous work?

Natalia Grezina: This is my first project where I involved several people in a production process that lasted several months. I have been working with the curator of the exhibition, Marth von Loeben, and the Chrysalid gallery team for several years, but this was the first time we faced some of the challenges. With designer Arjen Witteveen, this is our first collaboration and he did a great job with his part, capturing my vision. It's also my first project where digital and sound are involved. I worked on this part with digital artist Anton Yermolov, my partner in both family and creative life. It was a very interesting and strange feeling not to make something with my own hands directly, but to pass my idea to another artist, who transformed it and realized it in another medium that I’m not familiar with. Also now, as part of the public program, we are preparing, together with artist and game designer Jana Romanova, a role-playing game that will take place in the exhibition space. It will be an unusual and immersive experience of working with the objects and the concept of the exhibition.

In what ways do you think art plays a role in society and politics?

Natalia Grezina: I cannot imagine a society without art and vice versa. Creating something is a natural human need that helps to reflect and cognize the world around us. For me, the question of the importance of the role of art in society and politics is not even a question. I am more interested in the relationship and connections between them. Art has always reflected political changes, either serving the interests of society or protesting against them. Even in political systems where art is not seen as something serious and vital to society - it still describes that society itself and, perhaps not explicitly, but it provides important information about communication within those systems. Our project "Shimmering Land" is also about this relationship between art and politics. Objects created thousands of years ago find themselves in the midst of a contemporary conflict between warring countries. The whole situation shows how people interact with each other to find a solution, and our artistic task is also to give a voice to groups of people whose interests lie outside the legal case.

Do you believe that art should always be political?

Natalia Grezina: For a very long time I perceived art and politics as something opposite and occasionally overlapping. But the illusion quickly vanished when political reality invaded my life space to the point when it was impossible to ignore it. My head is filled with thoughts about what's going on around me, and it very much impacts my art. From my own experience, I think that any art is political, no matter whether it reveals some problems and processes or denies or silences them. The language of art is sometimes more accurate than the news headlines.

What do you want people to take from the exhibition?

Natalia Grezina: I think that when people come to the exhibition, spend their time in its space, read our booklet - it is already an opportunity to try on someone else's experience, to learn a story that will expand the boundaries of the familiar world. Some people like the concept, some like the technical aspect or unnoticeable details - I can't control it and I certainly can't demand that they accept this project in a special way. But I am always happy to have those conversations that arise in the exhibition space or outside it - about the current situation, perception of heritage and the past, personal history. I myself am a frequent visitor to exhibitions and therefore realize that not everything we see can be discussed for various reasons, so if at least one visitor empathizes with our project and finds it understandable, it means that we have not tried in vain.

In one sentence, what message do you want to convey through your art?

Natalia Grezina: Remain sincere and attentive.


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