What constitutes contemporary art for you personally? 

Lev Evzovich (LE): Contemporary art simply refers to art that is related to modern life. This art has its current narrative and its modern language. Usually, contemporary art refers to artworks created in the last 20-40 years. Moreover, there is no guarantee that your contemporaries will be known as contemporary artists. It is possible that they do not reflect modern times but are merely repeating past work. A certain element of novelty must be present. On the other hand, it also happens that artworks that are in no way contemporary, such as masterpieces by Caravaggio, become very much in demand, even fashionable, and are presented in a modern context, not only in classic museums.

Tatiana Arzamasova (TA): Pieces by old masters sometimes revel quite spectacular mysteries. We learned quite recently just how much the art of Jan Vermeer van Delft anticipated and exceeded the possibilities of digital photography. Thus, we can treat him as a contemporary artist.

What is your role in today’s art scene? 

LE: I think of us as the creators of a particular “sweet poison.” Many people like what we do, they even think of it as something beautiful. Many viewers discover deep meaning in our works: criticism, skepticism, that “poison.” Our hallmark is the balance between the “sweetness” and the “poison.” 
Evgeny Svyatsky (ES): Как кто-то удачно сказал, guilty pleasure.

TA: Ira Kulik reminded us of this phrase. Guilty pleasure implies that you feel guilty while you are looking at something but cannot bring yourself to look away.

ES: But this has more to do with the audience; we do not feel guilty in any way. We only experience joy. We present what we want to display.

What connects new and old art? 

ES: They are inextricably connected.

LE: We do not separate new and old art. We imagine the world of art as a collection of a very subjective collector for whom videos can be compared to 18th-century engravings. His tastes and logic unite all artworks in this collection.

TA: We even know that such collections exist in reality. In Tasmania, there is the MONA Museum. Its collection includes Egyptian mummies, videos, VR, etc. All these exhibits are linked only through the collector’s tastes.

ES: The full name of this museum is literally the Museum of Old and New Art.

LE: In the 20th century it was thought that there is a specific process, that new is better than old and renounces the old. We don’t entertain this idea nowadays. The whole antithesis has lost all meaning.

Vladimir Fridkes (VF): To be concise, new and old art are connected by the very word “art”. It’s as simple as that.

What was the turning point in your career? 

LE: There were two turning points in our career. Firstly, the 1996 Islamic Project. Secondly, The Last Revolt video that was presented at the Russian pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. The former made us well-known as “prophets,” as we later were to be known. It turned out that we anticipated 9/11 on an intuitive level, as well as the problems of cultural confrontation, migration, terrorism, etc. In 1996 it was not readily expected that all this would happen. As for the latter, it turned out later that we prophesied the so-called Post-Internet Art which focuses on social media, video games, etc. It was a pioneering project of our time.

TA: The Last Revolt was, in fact, relating to the connection between old and new art, between comics, video games, and Baroque art.

LE: We even discovered similarities between images from video games and, for example, battle scenes by Velázquez.

Who influenced your art at different points in your life? 

LE: Influences are inevitable at the start of one’s artistic career. This is not exactly limited to individual artists. This influence has more to do with watching what other artists from your generation are doing. It is interesting to follow the new generation; that way both sides can influence one another. We are a part of the generation which began its work and formulated its main ideas in the 1990s; thus, we paid attention to the most notable figures on the international art stage who were also taking their first steps as artists. This resulted in a sort of double influence.

ES: Afterwards one is more influenced by such artists as Caravaggio or by such things as the journals of Leonardo da Vinci.

TA: To be honest, an artist is not only influenced by other artists. Just as in the case of a criminal, one must consider childhood experiences. I am talking about something one saw at some point in one’s childhood, something that had a great impression, not just positive, a strong impact. Only as in psychology or American movies, one must go back to childhood traumas. That is the primary influence the artist deals with.

LE: The films of Pasolini, Fellini, Eisenstein that I saw when I was a teenager. These experiences are more important than visual arts. That is why we work in video. VF: One must not forget about the way we influence each other.

TA: To be sure, a bad company is bound to do that. We sometimes influence each other in the worst ways.

What subject matter in the outer world inspires you, fascinates you and unleashes your creativity? 

LE: We were always fascinated by hot topics. As they say, “in the newspaper in the morning, in the poem in the evening”. Sometimes we were even able to foresee what the next newspaper would be about and make right the expression mentioned above. For example, such hot mass media problems, as the #MeToo movement, the new wave of feminism, post-post-feminism. We are affected by these discussions, and our works reflect that. And it’s not the question of finding a hot topic but of the interest and importance representing social paranoia.

ES: We want to check whether this paranoia holds ground, we want to present it in its most extreme incarnations.

TA: Each hot issue always shows us the archetypical features and pathologies of human nature which can be discovered in the depths of history... Even in the #MeToo movement, one can see hints of the revenge of the Amazons, Medea, matriarchy which is standing its ground.

How would you describe the contemporary art of Russia within the wider context of international art? 

LE: There is nothing to describe. There is no such thing, as Russian contemporary art movement in today’s world. Of course, there are such movements as Chinese and Indian art. Still, we do know of successful and notable works by certain people who are essential as Russian artists. These are fine achievements. Still, it is their art itself that hold interest, not the fact that it is from Russia.

Tell us a few words about the piece on the cover of Boscomagazine. 

TA: It was the continuation of the Inverso Mundus project which included chimeras. A chimera symbolizes an impossible dream. We present it more as a pet. It was only natural that we would introduce a family where every person has his or her chimera.

What does the word “family” mean to you? 

LE: For us, a family is something vital. Our art group is a family in notable ways. AES+F is a family with its own set of relations.

TA: We have our children and generations.

ES: The younger generation of our family is already present in our work. The grandson of Tanya and Lev served as a model for the cover.

LE: We work with our son and Evgeny’s son. It was all very natural; we are an extended family in the literal sense.

How did your family impact your life? 

VF: Each of us has his or her own story.

TA: Perhaps, it did impact our life, if we are together now. It is possible that there was something in common between our families, even if our parents and grandparents were such different people.

ES: It is evident that they were a part of the Moscow intelligentsia; they were educated people who were interested in culture. Tanya’s and my parents were directly linked to art.

VF: In my case, it was the other way around – my parents had no connection to art whatsoever.

LE: As you age, you come to realize just how much your parents have influenced you. In the past, I didn’t understand this at all and saw everything as a negative. The life of my parents was something uninteresting for me, so I chose another life. But today I understand that they were the people who impacted my choice.

ES: My father and grandfather were artists, and I decided in childhood that I would become an artist. Everyone was aware of that. Nobody presented me with any other options or professions. I became an artist through the natural course of things.

Why do people create communities? 

VF: It’s obvious – so that work is simpler and more effective.

ES: Communities are interesting and imply a particular resonance. Our constant communicating remains a source of interesting ideas, a platform for the exchange of ideas. What we make together also reflects our joint efforts. It’s possible that if we're working interdependently, we would be creating different pieces.

VF: For me, a community implies the opportunity to go beyond the boundaries of myself. A lot of time has passed since we joined forces; we did go through certain changes. However, each new joint work presents me with a chance to go beyond myself. I even think in a different way when we are together. And that is significant. Moreover, I like talking with my friends.

How should a neophyte approach contemporary art? 

LE: I would advise looking for both contemporary and any other style of art; one should not be limited by contemporary art. Moreover, one should not be ashamed of one’s experiences, emotions, and ideas. It is essential to recognize your views, afterwards, you can learn more about what you like. It shouldn’t be the other way around.

Why and how should one buy contemporary artworks? 

TA: First of all, this is a wonderful and old tradition. Collections can be created after the art was able to leave the confines of a cave, a palace, or a temple. First, the most sophisticated people and then pure lovers of art can see artworks with their own eyes. Art has become available to the maximum of people. One wants to possess, view, and return constantly to favorite pieces.

ES: I would like to continue Tanya’s idea: you should buy the pieces that touch your heart. There is no sense in buying for the sake of investing one’s money, for speculative purposes, to sell it afterward at a higher price. All these ideas reflect the mindset of professional strategic collectors. People who merely want to have artworks in their possession are better off by looking for what resonates with their soul and worldview. Art is not a simple decoration; it is a dialogue you have with yourself. It is a reflection on yourself, life, time. It happens that people change their ways. One day one likes this, and a few years later one becomes enamored of that. That is how collections are formed. They can tell us much of the person who assembled them.

TA: Art can be beautiful and have a significant aesthetic impact on people. But art has yet to lose its original magic properties.

LE: I would say that for those people who are just beginning to get into collecting: they are delving into a special area. One either is surrounded by art or lives without it. When one begins to live with paintings, sculptures, etc., one’s living space extends; life ceases to be plain. One starts communicating with other worlds just by inhabiting such an area.

ES: When one begins collecting, one discovers new horizons of communication with people with whom one had no contact before. There are many stories about how the lives of collectors have been transformed. They can tell you much about the new opportunities and experiences they’ve had.

LE: When you visit a collector and see the artworks he has placed on the walls, you understand a great deal about him. Perhaps, the collector himself learns much about himself.