Wavepool – Your bodies of work 5000 Head and Landscape Sublime share a similar aesthetic, but the conceptual motivation behind each project seems to be radically different. How did each project begin?
Anastasia Samoylova – Both projects are about the existing representations of specific environments. Landscape Sublime explores the natural environment and its depiction in contemporary popular photography, and 5000 Head references the agricultural land as it’s shown in food industry advertising. The concept behind each body of work is similar: it’s the analysis of images, a metaphor of the world seen/experienced through pictures. When I moved to Central Illinois, I found myself surrounded by grain fields and farms and all the imagery associated with those on billboards and in direct mail catalogs. The ads present the food industry as clean, safe, and ethical. But, the industry has many serious drawbacks that the consumer is not informed of. I looked at the historical images produced by the early food companies when the industry was at its roots: these were not just ads but basically propaganda of food corporations. I was interested in the aesthetic of those ad campaigns: the bright colors, dynamic lines, flatness of space and the inclusion of photographs. I wanted to recreate some visual elements of those agricultural posters, but the cutouts of photographic prints in my compositions show the darker sides of the industry. These are the public domain photographs sourced from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website and other archives. I continued working with photographs sourced from the online image archive in Landscape Sublime. I wanted to understand the semiotics of the most popular images that are meant to make the viewer experience the beautiful and the sublime through photographs of nature.
Wavepool – You construct complex sculptural installations to be photographed in a studio setting for Landscape Sublime. Have you ever considered constructing something similar to be shown in an exhibition space? What makes a still photograph the best end result for your work?
Anastasia Samoylova – The process of documentation is integral to the project. My subject is not the actual constructed environment, but its visual records. The photographs that I print out and use in my assemblages present the landscape in an altered, digitally enhanced visual form. Such an aesthetic is dictated by the necessity to stand out from the flood of other nature-themed images on the web, a category that is incredibly popular. Try googling ‘beautiful photography’ and see how many landscape images come up. These photographs are not meant to act as straight records of reality. Due to post-processing that most images undergo before surfacing on the web, the pictured natural environment starts to resemble a fantasy world. My project is based on the idea of transformation through photography: from reality to an intensely picturesque image, from image to a constructed environment. My installations are meant to carry on the further elapse of the pictured landscape into a fantastical ‘perfect’ world. It wouldn’t be the same concept if I were to exhibit the actual constructed environments. The perceived distance that the final photograph provides is necessary for the concept of transformation I’m trying to allude to.
Wavepool – Between a physical exhibition space or an online gallery, what do you think is the best setting for viewers to experience the images?
Anastasia Samoylova – I like the idea of these photographs documenting paper and then being presented as paper again. The visual language of my images is meant to seduce the viewer, as was the case with the photographs that I appropriated. I think physical prints communicate that idea more effectively than images on screen.
Wavepool – What other artists are you looking at right now? What are some of your influences outside of the art world?
Anastasia Samoylova – Kate Steciw, Michele Abeles, Lucas Blalock, Christopher Williams, Thomas Demand, and Penelope Umbrico, to name a few. The Internet and social media, and all the imagery employed to communicate the abstract ideas online fascinate me. I think Instagram is important for understanding the future of media. I’m currently reading W.J.T. Mitchell’s What Do Pictures Want? This book is giving me insight on the concept of my future work.
Wavepool – If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
Anastasia Samoylova – I don’t think there could be an alternative. I’d be profoundly dissatisfied!
Wavepool – What are you currently working on?
Anastasia Samoylova – I am exploring two new directions in my work right now. The first one investigates the process of orchestrating a tableaux photograph. I’ve been recording the stages of setting up my still lives for Landscape Sublime. I think the timelapse videos that come out of this documentation take on a new aesthetic quality and meaning that is complementary yet independent from the series of still images that I produce for the project. The other idea I’m interested in is the process of images becoming objects intended for some form of consumption. The online archive of public domain pictures is expanding, and the possibilities are endless. Usually intended for commerce, these images are meant to be used, rather than just looked at. Public domain even contains contemporary photographs of people, which means that the persons pictured in these images signed a release enabling anyone to freely use their portraits. I’m really interested in this portrait of ourselves that we are imprinting on the web.
To see more, please visit Anastasia’s website.