Moniсa Dubinkaite is an artist and commercial photographer. She graduated FotoDepartament, St. Petersburg, and is currently a tutor in the School of Modern Photography Photoplay, Moscow. Monica’s latest project “Code map” expands the limits of photography to include Internet and the processes of modern communication. The project focuses on the distorted perception of reality affected by search engines. It offers a visual exploration of 16 megacities and explores the map-creation process from the still-life-metaphors. Monica told RA+C more about the new project, her previous artworks and inspirational techniques for each day.
– Monica, you are photographer, educator and artist. What is closer to you and why? What would you answer if a complete stranger stops you on a street and asks “What do you do”?
– I am an artist working with photography.
– How long have you been photographing? What was your first successful experience?
Not so long. It’s all started as a hobby and craving for the camera as an artistic tool, then turned into an education and profession. Not all my projects were successful, especially at the beginning. Only now, after several years of practice, I can be sure in their high quality.
– Photography is also a way of making profit for you. How long have you been doing commercials?
– I have been engaged in commercial photography for 5 years. After I moved to Moscow from Saint Petersburg I quit the event management where I worked before in order to pursue my own projects and make photography my main occupation.
– Today you are a successful still life photographer, working with agencies and magazines. What interests you in this genre?
-I tried many things – reportage, portrait, interiors, fashion and beauty photography. I thought that I wanted to shoot still lives, but I did not understand where to start. While I lived in St. Petersburg, we made my very first still life with Anya Prilutskaya artist and at that time director of photography agency Crispy Point. I just walked down the street and saw their signboard, I wrote to Anya, let’s get acquainted and do something together. Then we shot a small series together for the Bulthaup design gallery. It was the very first experience and it was incredible. Afterwards we began the project for the St. Petersburg metro. Anya had the idea to update the light boxes there. It so happened that our project coincided with the preparation for their anniversary and the idea came in hand, so the management of the metro accepted it. Then I moved to Moscow last summer (2018), and Anya finished the project.
-What is your inspiration?
– Now I am very inspired by dance, theater, architecture. I am very interested in design which probably explains my interest in different material objects. I like combining textures, shapes and colours. Because of my big city experience, there are many geometrical patterns and objects referring to urban studies in my works.
-You like to shoot flowers. What is the reason? It is because you like flowers or lack something natural, alive?
– I sometimes lack the colour and therefore I began to combine something organic with synthetic, artificially produced. I constantly experiment with the shapes and combination of materials, and I believe I become much more comfortable with doing it.
– What do you do to overcome the lack of inspiration or “artist’s block”?
– For instance, I go to the museum or watch a documentary film about the history of architecture. And of course I travel, go out of the usual visual circle. This is super important to me. But this probably very common tricks as so many people do the same.
– Do you have a favorite artist?
– I am a huge fan of Paul Klee. I was in Milan some times ago and went to his exhibition. Seeing so many his works in one space really impressed me. I realized how different and powerful his artistic language was. Seeing his works make me want to find such a distinctive and strong style myself.
– Do you enjoy teaching? What do you want to pass on to your students?
– I teach them to look at things differently, be openminded and transform their individual experiences into photography. Do not be focused only on photography, expand your horizons.
– Is the «Code map” your first art project? Tell us about your experience as an artist: exhibitions, collaborations
-There were several projects. One project was at the grocery store in Moscow. It was associated with the post-Soviet space and contemporary art integration in there. Two artists participated in the project – me and Ivan Zema. We worked with goods that were sold in this store. I made still lives, and Ivan created an art objects and installations. The exposition took place in the refrigerators, in the windows and shop displays.
Another project was related to the algorithm. It was about memory, how we remember people, what sank into our minds – features, gestures, phrases. The project was implemented as a one-day exhibition in St. Petersburg, in FotoDeportament. For this work I played with the Photoshop technique of “clipping”. You click on a person and the program selects the individual parts, and the rest does not seem to exist.
In another work I experimented with video art. The project was an investigation of what makes people introverts and extroverts and how some people can be either of these depending on their life circumstances
I created this work with the friend of mine, who featured in the video. He went into the frame with bubble warp in his hands and began to wrap himself. He wrapped and wrapped himself, and then he fell down to the floor, he could not stand anymore, and due to the material he was safe. Then he began to get up, and after all he began to unwrap. We created this video in the framework of the project “Experience of Dutch Photography” in collaboration with the Dutch photographer Jaap Scheeren.
– Returning to your project “Code map”. What issues does it raise? Tell us more about it
– The project considers 16 major cities of the world. I study the results of the influence of the algorithm on perception of visual information on the example of global visual representation based on the images and stories offered by search engines. The visuals that I have selected serve as a core for still-life photographs. By means of texture and color, I recreate the atmosphere of places, produce new emotional reality for the existing environment — all that, I believe, is what machine data collection lacks. I study the city and reflect its essence in a minimalist still-life photographs. I place the ready „marrow“ into the environment I started with, thereby creating some kind of a cycle. The system that provided me with data acquires the same data in a reworked form.
Next, I broaden the search limits by involving local citizens. I become a trigger for them to translate their experience of life in the city into a physical object for a new composition. Having reworked the received collection (map) of individual perceptions (objects), I can create still-life photographs reflecting Zeitgeist and compare the result.
Initially, it makes people think about what the city means to them. Starting this project, I realized that very few people think about it. I invite them to think about the city in a special key. This is a good and illustrative cultural cut, I cover the whole world. These are completely different cultural codes, completely different levels of people’s lives. It turns out a kind of collective image of the world, I connect the remote corners with each other. This project is also about the nowadays. The objects that I use are produced now, they are used now. Even if it is an object from the past, it is still there now. Perhaps in the future these objects will disappear from everyday life and this project will keep them in people’s memory.
– Is the “Code map” a project more about human communication or is it about cooperation with the system, the machine, the algorithm? How is it intertwined? Or maybe you use the Internet as a modern way of communication?
– Yes, of course. First, it is a media. Today we are very depend on the Internet. The internet is the main way to communicate with the world for me. Being in Moscow and sitting in my own chair (laughs) I can get to know what is happening somewhere in Africa, how people live there. This is a very multifaceted story, at all. The project also is about how the algorithm affects the perception of something you do not have an access to, how the information bubble is formed.
– How do you plan to present it – exhibition, book?
– First of all, it is an online platform. This allows people who took part in the project to see that the object has reached, that it is in work process. It is important because they feel themselves as part of the project. It also allows people who have not taken part to see how it develops. Uploading works to Google images allows you to stumble upon it completely accidentally, even without knowing about this project.
Secondly, it is the hanging of posters around the city, still life integrated into the urban context. Since this is a story about the city, it is an ideal way of communication, a real way to show people what this story is about, without even naming the city. I think the city space works much better than the gallery sometimes. Although we are planning a gallery exhibition too.
There will be a book, but not quite a book – a world map format, a collective image.
-What is the role of the viewer in this presentation of the images? How do you suppose they will stop and look at still lives?
– They may overlook it. That is the point. If it does not attract their attention, it means that it does not resonate with their experience. In a sense, this is the natural selection of the today’s viewer. At the same time, I give everyone the opportunity to contact with the art – no need to pay for entry or specially plan a visit to the street. This may be an old woman who goes to the drugstore and indignant that the youth spoils the walls again. The reaction may be different. This is an art, which is available for everyone by its format. Because it touches upon everyone. We all live in the city, we walk, we breathe, and we are exist in it.