The Root of the New, Gina Cunningham (Translation)
Art Uzel, September 26, 2016

From 10 September to 10 October, as part of the annual festival of colors "Colors of Autumn", in the Botanical Gardens of Moscow State University "Apothecary Garden" will hold a Festival of Contemporary Art "The Root of the New" dedicated to the 310-year anniversary of the garden. The project involves more than 30 well-known artists of different genres and styles from the UK, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, France, Ukraine, Sweden, USA, Martinique, India and Russia.

The curator of Gina Cunningham's installation and performance piece "boat" is Anya Dorofeeva.

In her work, the artist Gina Cunningham first of all, raises social and moral issues. Gina has taught visual arts and cinema in the United States, India and Haiti. She has directed 18 short documentaries on the themes of social justice, in which she defended immigrants and the poor.

Gina herself is an example of fortitude and perseverance in the face of difficulties. At age 28, she got into a severe accident: hit by a truck on her bicycle,. Gina has gone through many operations and long-term treatment, however, she did not stop creating. Despite the fact that this injury has forever changed her life and future plans, she never perceived herself as a victim and would not let her condition determine her way of life. She has worked with a variety of schools, non-profit arts and social justice organizations and as an artist.

 Alexander Ryazanov: How did you come to the idea of reating a "boat" project?

Gina Cunningham: With my husband Peter, I witnessed an immigration crisis in the 1990s. Many people from Cuba and Haiti were forced to leave their homes and flee to the United States. We could not remain indifferent, so we sheltered about eleven people in our home and helped them find work. We are still in contact with most of the families As a direct result of this experience, we opened the famous Tap Tap restaurant in Miami Beach, where we also showcased the art of Haiti.

Recently, as I witnessed this current wave of people forced to leave their homelands, I knew I had to dedicate some of my art to all of them. To me "boat “is a beautiful and charming piece, but at the same time, it symbolizes the pain and bitterness of exodus".

AR .: As far as I know, you have a whole series of video works featuring boats and dedicated to the spiritual path of man.

DK .: I have created these works several times - in Iceland, in different parts of the Americas, and now in Russia. Every time, I produce "boat", the piece manifests itself in a different way, but each time my boats symbolize the same unimaginable fears.

AR .: In a video you shot in Iceland you burn a small boat floating on the water. The video was made in Iceland, but it has something to do with Indian culture, you spent time in India?

DK .: I was heavily influenced by my last trip to India, especially when I was in the area by he Ganges river. Hindus believe that if a person dies close to this sacred river, then he is a lucky man or woman, because this is a sure way to achieve moksha, to be free of the painful cycle of life.  Of course, the sight of burning bodies so close by often scares some visitors from the West, but it fascinated me.

AR .: What are the nuances, due to the venue of the festival (Botanical Garden), you take into account when creating this work?

DK .: The festival takes place at the start of a month of great change in the weather, so we used water-resistant materials for the installation to survive the autumn rains. Everything has to be large and in great quantity, as the site is very grand. Despite the fact that my work is about a very serious topic, it is colorful and bright, and at first glance, very pleasant.

AR .: And did you take into account the peculiarities of Russian culture while creating this work? What did you consider?

DK .: Russia is  a vast country, so I tried to emphasize the immensity here by the large size of my installation.

AR .: The key task of the artists participating in this festival is to  reveal the relationship between their work and nature, paying tribute to the natural beauty of the Apothecary Gardens. How do you cope with this task?

DK .: I have tried to create an interaction with nature by the color palette I chose. I have used bright, metallic colors like silver and purple in my installation to contrast as much as possible with the natural color of the autumn leaves.

AR .: What is the effect of this work? In your opinion, what thoughts should it provoke in the viewer?

DK .: I would say that my work has a lot of meaning to mebut everyone should understand it in his own way, isn't this the beauty of art? I try to talk about serious things, but aesthetically, the installation is a fun piece, it was designed elicit joy. But, I also hope that while people will enjoy the entertaining part, but they might also feel the loneliness, sadness, uncertainty and death, that it also symbolizes.

AR .: What is more important to you to be understood or to express?

DK .: Oh, I'm more than sixty years, and I've never been understood very much. I think expression is more important, because expression informs every artist.

AR .: What do you like most about Russia?

DK .: I am in Russia for the second time. This time, I was absolutely delighted to be invited here by the curator of the festival, Anna Dorofeeva. Thanks to her invitation, I was also able to visit St. Petersburg and we were amazed by the grandeur of the Hermitage .  I really like Russia, and I hope to come here many more times.


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