There is such art!
On December 1, 2020, the winner of the famous international competition „Luxembourg Art Prize“. Usually, the winners of the competition are interviewed, but we decided to change this rule and talk to one of 423 participants in this competition. First of all, because, as it turned out, he uses, probably, the most unusual materials for creativity that you can imagine. We are talking about our compatriot Sergei MUNCH.
─ Sergey, we have not seen you for a whole year. What’s new with the only artist in the world who works with alcohol and water, and whose works, at times, resemble the most famous Russian alcoholic drink – vodka?
─ A lot of new things, of course. A whole year has passed. And for a creative person, this is a long time. For example, as you already know, I took part with my works in the international competition “Luxembourg Art Prize”. It is such an annual award that is designed to identify new unknown artists and help them to advance on the international stage. That is, people like me.
─ And how are you doing?
─ If it’s about winning, then no, I didn’t. But the main thing, after all, is not victory, the main thing, as they say, is participation! Moreover, in all honesty, it was difficult to count on victory with completely new materials and techniques that artists had never used in their work before. But the groundwork has been made. Now, I hope, artists, as well as art critics, know that water and alcohol are also the most creative materials for creativity.
So, I even got a certificate. It states that it was issued in recognition of my efforts to participate in the international selection for the Luxembourg Art Prize 2020. Moreover, the members of the art commission express their support to me and urge me to “continue working in this direction”. Well, I’ll continue.
– What work did you participate with?
─ One of the works that I submitted for the competition is called: “My creation of the world. The first day”. The material is Aqua and Spiritus, of course. This is such a conceptual thing, with sacred overtones, with which, in fact, my work began. In the process of work, I started from the biblical: “et spiritus ferebatur super aquas” (Book of Genesis, 1: 2). I took Spiritus, then added Aqua, and closed the bottle. And the spirit began to hover over the water … It remains only to give light! Do you think it looks like vodka?
─ Of course not, although the ingredients are basically the same.
─ Here I am about the same thing. In Russia, without knowing it, a very unusual drink has been created, which, on the one hand, is an ordinary alcohol, without any visible delights, often of low quality, for which, in fact, the main complaints from consumers are against it. But, on the other hand, it is worth adding a little content, as it, as if by magic, may well change – become a work of art, or even acquire a sacred meaning. Such a reincarnation, most likely, is possible only with vodka, and with no other drinks.
─ Why then, in your opinion, vodka, being previously a part of Russian feasts and an object of national pride, has turned into a product denoting a synonym for disease?
─ I think that vodka as such is the least connected here. It all depends, after all, on what a person takes with him when he is going on any journey. Tourists and travelers, packing vodka in their backpacks, do not become alcoholics during the journey, because they go in the right direction, and take what can really help them on the road.
An alcoholic, however, does not care what to drink, moving downward. He chooses what is available to him. If the industry offers him a cheap alcoholic beverage, similar to vodka, then he prefers it. If I had my way, I would remove the name vodka from most bottles altogether, replacing it with a vodka drink, so as not to harm the image of vodka. After all, vodka, no matter what they say, continues to be one of the unofficial symbols of Russia. And the symbols of Russia, even if they are unofficial, should not look cheap and be of poor quality!
─ Can you give an example of your works, when on the one hand it may look like Russian vodka, and on the other hand it may look like a work of art, including with sacred overtones?
─ I have many such jobs. In general, I like the sacred overtones. Apparently the fact that my great-grandfather was a priest affects. Therefore, the surname, by the way, is.
For example, there is an old legend: on the threshold of Paradise, Adam and Eve took a handful of earth. And from the ground, which Adam sprinkled with tears, wheat sprinted, and which Eve sprinkled – hemp sprang up. I really like this legend. I took wheat, hemp, water as clear as a tear and bonded them to spiritus. Having laid, thereby, a sacred meaning.
But, on the other hand, if we consider cannabis as a component of vodka, then, in fact, it is also very Russian. Indeed, back in the 19th century, the smell of hemp was associated with Russia by many. Take, for example, Ivan Turgenev’s story “Asya”. There are such heartbreaking lines: “Suddenly I was struck by a strong, familiar, but rare smell in Germany. I stopped and saw a small patch of hemp near the road. Her steppe smell instantly reminded me of my homeland and aroused in my soul a passionate longing for it. I wanted to breathe Russian air, walk on Russian soil. “
So the combination of wheat and hemp in the same vodka is definitely in Russian. And I am very glad that with my work I was able to draw attention to this amazing combination. By the way, I tried it. I love. And pickled cucumber is completely out of topic here.
─ It turns out that legends and literature push you into images? Do you use it often?
─ Constantly! Moreover, I often make vodka based on literary works. Vodka, after all, has a powerful image – both positive and, incidentally, negative. But I like to work more in a positive way, when the result adds positive emotions. Brodsky recently pleased himself. I stumbled upon a small poem that I had never heard before:
“Winter. What should we do in New York?
It is colder than the moon.
Let’s get ourselves some caviar
and vodka on a fragrant crust … “
How could you pass by such an image, especially in winter? I made “vodka on a fragrant crust”, took “a little bit of caviar” and once again reread the wonderful Joseph Brodsky. A completely different effect from his poetry, I can tell you.
You see, this is not just some kind of whim of the artist. With my work, I try to show that a consumer product, the same vodka, can be created on the basis of works of art, using symbols and images, and not just mixing water with alcohol.
─ What then, from your point of view, is the most suitable theme for creativity, using water and alcohol?
─ Definitely a love theme. Agree, there is so much love in alcohol: it intoxicates, burns, warms, it ignites; he can both destroy and revive to life. Everything, straight, like love.
─ Yes, such images are quite organic. Then what new was created on the theme of love, using water and alcohol?
─ Do you know, I kept thinking about how to make people feel like they are connected to love and to the wedding in one gulp? I then took: artesian water, from the same depths from which love appears; spring water, as pure as the relationship of two loving people; wheat and rye, as chosen as the happy days of life together; apple as a symbol of love and beauty; rice, as a sign of wealth and fertility; rose petals as a reminder of the wedding bouquet. Then he brought it into harmonious proportion, i.e. to a strength of 38%. As a result, a piece was born, for which I even came up with a new neologism from two words: Love and Wedding. It turned out – “Lovedding”. By the way, I dedicated this work to my wife Irina. We have been married for almost 25 years.
─ Very romantic. What else are you doing?
─ Many things. For example, I make aqua bouquets.
─ Aquabouquets? What is it like?
─ You see, water has become so common and familiar in our life that in the heat of everyday life we do not even think that it can be not only drinkable or used to produce vodka, but also simply beautiful. And she is beautiful. She is beautiful. She can still surprise us. Therefore, I take and make bouquets from the most beautiful mineral waters from different regions. Aquabouquets. And then I fasten them with alcohol. Here is another example of beauty and content that can be incorporated in the production of the same vodka. But, in fact, in vodka the percentage of water is ideally 60%, just like in a person. Can you imagine how important this is ?!
─ Yes, with such a pace it is high time for you to organize a solo exhibition.
─ Exactly! But at such an exhibition one cannot do without a so-called “tasting” hall. It is necessary that the visitor to the exhibition has the opportunity not only to contemplate, but also to taste my works. Having tried it, he will be able to carry away a piece of my art within him. And it will stay in it, affect it from the inside, for at least two weeks, until it completely comes out naturally. By launching, thereby, the physiological process, which I call “the circulation of art in nature.” So you can turn a visit to an exhibition into a kind of performance.
─ Sounds intriguing. Besides the exhibition, what are your creative plans?
─ The minimum program is to make people feel drunk from my art.
– What about the maximum program?
─ Maximum program … I want Russians to be proud of their national product – vodka. Just like the French, quite deservedly, are proud of cognac, the Scots – whiskey, the Germans – beer, Georgians – chacha, and Greeks – ouzo.
I want people, when they take a sip of vodka, to understand that it was not created in order to get drunk, but that it can contain content and beauty. And if there is beauty and content, then such a product can and should be proud.
The unusual works of the artist can be found on the website: www.strongandheady.art
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