Defining paths and borders
MISO and String Light
To me, borders have very much a two-fold meaning. They can be immensely prohibitive but incredibly creative at the same time. For me, in terms of my work and personally as an immigrant, borders can be tremendously cruel and horrific, but at the same time, as a creative person, borders can be very interesting because, creatively speaking, limitation can actually have great value. Sometimes creative constraint can provide a reference point for you to go up against and to rebel against
Human of Light Stanislava Pinchuk (aka MISO)
Art Director Enrico Magistro
Photography Luca Caizzi
Text and interview Alessandro De Agostini
Artwork and sketches MISO
What do borders mean to you both as a person and an artist?
That’s a good question, let me think about it.
To me, borders have very much a two-fold meaning. They can be immensely prohibitive butincredibly creative at the same time. For me, in a political sense, in terms of my work and personally as an immigrant, borders can be tremendously cruel and horrific, especially what my country has gone through in the sense of borders. It’s not something that I have ever experienced or thought I would ever experience or see but at the same time, as a creative person, borders can be very interesting because, creatively speaking, limitation can actually have great value. Sometimes creative constraint can provide a reference point for you to go up against and to rebel against. When you realize the constraints and limitations of something, you can get to the next stage in your thinking. Sometimes you might reach the end of what you can say with a certain medium and in that sense borders can be a tremendous gift as well.
Creatively, constraints can be an excellent medium that allows you to bloom, in a way. Some of your artworks are simple from a practical point of view, that is, just tons of connecting dots, but behind them is a deep meaning. I’d like to ask you how many cities you have lived in, the ones that are most important to you. And I’d like to talk a little bit about Paris as well because from what I can understand, it is a very important city to you.
Yes, at the moment I live between quite a few cities. I’m on the road pretty much permanently, which is my happy place to be honest. I don’t think I could really live any other way. My publisher is here in Paris. I think it is such an incredible place, in its energy and in its profound respect for artists which very few places around the world can compete with. Yet it is tremendously conservative at the same time. I think Paris is a really wonderful mess of contradictions but that is okay. I think that contradictions are necessary for an artist, after all people in society embody contradictions. And I guess apart from Paris, I live in Sarajevo.
How do you stay connected to the people you know while travelling so much and for such long periods of time? Not so much the keeping in touch but staying connected to the affection you feel for people?
I think about this a lot actually. I think the thing to say about artists is that we live on generosity, we live on people’s generosity and we are at the mercy of other people all the time. That’s what it’s like when you don’t have a continuous stream of income or a job or a salary: you are completely and utterly at the mercy of people’s generosity. While it can be incredibly beautiful and truly life affirming, it can also be exhausting. But because of this, I think artists are really good at braiding ideas and people and places, thanks to our curiosity. Then there’s the goodwill that people bring to it – I think we’re really good at connecting with people. It comes quite naturally with the territory. Also, I just love my iPhone (laughs). I text everybody all the time.
Why do you think artists are better at connecting than other people?
My theory is that artists are a floating class. I think that artists and musicians and perhaps sometimes journalists see more of the world than anybody else. Artists are in this tremendous floating class where we are very good at being poor and very much a part of the real world. Yet we also have to assimilate into this very wealthy world of institutions and collectors and biennales, so we often have to traverse class boundaries. At the same time, people are so welcoming to us and they connect so freely with artists and share so much and have such extraordinary conversations and I feel as though they really invite artists into their lives, because we are not journalists. We don’t want to take their story or their image and sell it somewhere so doors are often genuinely open to us. I think we transcend a lot of places and society very naturally.
How do people generally react when you meet them and they ask you what you do?
They ask if I do landscape or portraits (laughs). People are always so receptive and open-minded. I think the best thing about my job is that I really don’t meet bad people, I genuinely just meet the most wonderful people on the planet. My job means that I get to meet cool, intelligent, switched-on receptive and kind people, all the time.
It sounds like an interesting job
Yes, it’s really rare. This is it for me as an artist: we operate in a world that is really open to us.
Why do you think you focus so much on paths, lines and maps? Sometimes there is a clear temporal dimension in your work, related to history and the study of history. At other times, it is a little more conceptual. But I think we can say that time is important in your practice. Where did this idea or the need to map come from?
I think I make the work that I make because my brain in its equal paths visceral and cerebral so I think that the way that I see the world is equally logical and emotional. So, I’m interested in the data but I’m also interested in the poetry or the emotion of that data. This tension is really interesting to me and it’s an interesting space to occupy. I think that mapping and land and time have such a tremendous capacity for absorbing memory and emotion. You know, land has such an incredible physicality and it absorbs memory and that’s a very very hard thing to communicate without some surveying. Do you know what I mean?
We tend to think that the ground beneath our feet is solid and flat and we perhaps forget that it’s very sensitive. It absorbs a lot and is testament to a lot. I’m very interested in things like ruins and contemporary archaeology and conflict. Because these are the things that make it very very difficult to deny something happening. You know, with conflict and borders and culture erasure, and the violence of many areas that I work in, it’s very very hard to deny these things when the scars are there in the ground.
How can a human being, an artist, manage the depth and sorrow you come across in your practice and yet be so pleasant and full of joy and energy? You are not the isolated, sorrowful artist type. How does this contradiction exist within you?
I have my days. I think the question of sorrow and sublimation in artists is really interesting and I think we could discuss it endlessly. First of all, I’m a very Slavic soul and for us this idea of happiness and unhappiness is a constant presence. We are fine but unhappiness is a constant part of life. The tragic story of the Ukrainians means that we have a tremendous black humour to help us deal with the darkness we have as a people. But I guess when you think about the history of art and the foundation of Greek theatre, it’s the understanding that the only thing to do with such overwhelming tragedy is to sublimate it into art and creation and theatre. That’s the basis for these Dionysian feasts that became performing arts as we know it. And I think there really is something in that, it’s what you see in delta blues and things like that. There’s so much tragedy that all you can do is push it through a funnel and deliver it. And I think that is what artists do so well.
Can you name five things you love about Paris?
Five things about Paris that keep me coming back and make the city feel really infinite for me? It would be the combination of the eclecticism, immense respect for artists and openness with the conservatism and very established way of doing things. This tension and complication and contradiction is so richly embodied in the city. Then, the light in Paris is like nowhere else. I think there’s something so magical about the light and the way it falls. On a good day I just don’t think there is anywhere else quite like it. That’s two. I love the noise of the metro; I love the quiet of the green spaces. And I love every market, every corner shop, every old bookshop. I feel tremendously at home here.