A blistering summer day, an unexpected call, an invitation to partake in an art residency, and the air was thick with the scent of adventure. I forgot to send the list of materials needed for work. Far from the city, near a river, the air saturated with coolness and the scents of coniferous forests. A large building of an ancient manufactory, a blend of sensations of comfort and mysticism. Something changed for the organizers, and instead of the standard room, the artist's workshop became my home for these days. The largest altar I’ve ever seen, probably for all gods, adorned with statuettes and icons, a large sacrificial bowl beneath, and a carpet with ayahuasca patterns, transformed the space around. Opposite was a place for my slumber.
Reminiscent of a computer game where trivial relocations of objects, changes in sounds and lighting colors, altered the narrative of the vast halls. Dark, labyrinthine corridors with infinite mirrors and red lights alternated with Indian tantric sculptures, highlighting the surrealism of the ongoing, and beyond the warehouse, local theater decorations lurked, posing a question: which role am I playing now?
The space pulsed with déjà vu and incredible coincidences, diving deeper into the rabbit hole where immediate manifestation of thoughts into form reminded of the precision required in words. The interaction with the inhabitants of this world unveiled new transitions to subsequent parts of the plot, teaching careful treatment of everything in the journey where I was mostly an observer. And of course, I captured this magic on camera.
In the depths of dreams, a squeak is heard. I follow it, finding myself back in my body, in this world. The squeak remains—it's a mouse. I wanted to shoo it away, expecting a need to clean afterward. I didn’t want to get out of the sleeping bag. I opened my eyes, emerged, a tiny lovely mouse just warming itself by my electric fireplace. Okay, let it be. I’m leaving tomorrow; I thought at that moment: if it stays, I’ll feed it, but not sooner in case it brings friends. Throughout the day, periodically, I check on the little one. Turns out, it’s cute and amusing. Every time I enter, I see it sleeping in a new place, as if leading a dance around the fireplace. In the evening, I saw it lying in the sacrificial bowl of the altar. Apparently, it got too hot and chose a cooler spot, looking amusng.
It’s not amusing anymore. It’s dead. Maybe I should have fed it? Did I let this happen? Not understanding why it's so intense (after all, it’s just a mouse), my mind was torn by a barrage of thoughts pelting my head, like stones thrown in a medieval square, from feelings of compassion, guilt, and pain that clenched my heart and didn’t let go. Breathing was heavy, my head spun, and I wanted to run—but from whom and where to? I was inclined to sleep and was already heading to my sleeping bag when the idea struck to unleash this energy onto a canvas, here and now. I couldn’t wait for materials; there was only a roll of canvas, meaning everything else had to be found. This would surely distract and center me, redirecting the energy, and I felt that this was exactly what was necessary.
Here began a new quest. The first task was easy: I obtained white paint from the builders. On the next level, I had to find artistic paint, any type. It turns out there was a storeroom with supplies, but first, I had to locate the keeper of the storeroom. After sharing his story, he posed some questions and only after receiving the correct answers did he grant access to his wares, where I found only black paint, a little brown, and a hint of copper, matching the color of the altar tray.
Why did it have to leave the warmth of the fireplace before its demise and rest on the cold metal? Thoughts continued to assault me.
The next challenge was vague: I had to find something to stretch the canvas on. A construction pallet seemed perfect. It had to be sneaked from the site and transported to the studio. A friend who happened to walk by at the right moment assisted me. The last task seemed the easiest: stretch the canvas, nail it in place, and get started. But the builders took their hammers and nails with them at night.
References to the mouse began to appear everywhere, and scenarios of its life played out in my mind. Why was its impact so profound? This energy needed an outlet.
One of the residents had a stapler, but he adamantly refused to lend it until we smoked shamanic tobacco together. After the ritual, the veil of sorrow lifted, events fell into place, and everything proceeded as if ordained. As clear as everything became in my mind, my body became equally uncooperative. Not knowing up from down, confusing brush from hand, I began to work. It was a cocktail of awareness and pain, periodically brought on by a clenching heart causing physical anguish.
The mouse's act inspired me. Ideally, it should have passed away by the fireplace, but something urged it to the cold copper tray beneath the altar. In its final moments, it made a butterfly's flap, setting off a chain of events.
Once I was asked: if nuclear missiles were headed for my country, and I was the commander-in-chief, would I retaliate? For me, the answer was clear - of course not. If half of all life on Earth had already perished, how could I allow the destruction of the remaining half? Even if it all started from there, even if I'd perish in a minute. That evening, at that large table, I felt alone in my conviction.
Imagine, if this was your last minute. What would you do now?
“In a world where death is hunting for everyone, there can be no small or big decisions.
Here there are only decisions that we make in the face of our imminent death.”
210x100cm | acrylic and wall paint | dust from the altar
Also, I shot a documentary arthouse short film in this space
Thanks for watching