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‘Over the Past Four Years, the Students Matured into Full-fledged Artists’

Eight graduates of the 2021 Bachelor's programme in Design and Contemporary Art at the HSE Art and Design School presented their projects at the Diploma21 exhibition, which recently opened at the HSE ART GALLERY. Each installation is the culmination of a whole year of work by the artists, who reflect on different themes, explore, criticise, and construct a specific language of communication.

Everything presented in the Diploma21 exhibition—photos, videos, graphics, and paintings—are works by graduates of the HSE Art and Design School, and each project has its own story to tell.

Katya Mordvinkina has worked on the theme of ‘power gesture’. Her three-act play ‘Not a Single Gesture’ tells a story about the relationship between the government and the individual. ‘It is basically a series of performance plays,’ she says. ‘It consists of three parts, each one dealing with the interaction between the government and the individual and told through sign language. I used not only the internationally accepted sign language, but also the gesture as a kind of sign. I had to translate it into movements, because the intermediary stages in the transition from one gesture to another were also quite important.’

Katya Mordvinkina
© Andrey Filyaev / HSE University

Katya explained that the performers did not portray any particular government leaders—they wanted to focus on the images of ordinary people. ‘Using different gestures, I created a movement score for the performers, and there was no moment of recognition in the performance. That's why the masks we made were blurred, based on the performers' passport photos.’

Sonia Kiseleva
© Andrey Filyaev / HSE University

Sonia Kiseleva has spent her graduation year completing the Scorcher Gallery project. She says that ‘the idea was to collect works by artists who are not very popular, but who have their own audience on Instagram and the internet. Sonia and her team have staged various group and solo exhibitions and attended art festivals. ‘We went to the Swab Art Fair in Barcelona. As for our exhibit at Diploma21, it's our NFT collection (Editor’s note: Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital databases of unique copyrighted assets). Some of the work can be bought on Mintable (Editor’s note: a platform that allows users to create, sell, and buy digital items for cryptocurrency).’

Alexandra Kuznetsova, curator of Diploma21, Head of the Master's programme in Contemporary Art Practice at the HSE Art and Design School

© Andrey Filyaev / HSE University

‘We wanted to make the exhibition accessible to a wide range of people. Each project has a detailed description explaining what it is about and what its background and history is. The eight projects can be viewed and studied in detail. In addition, each project is accompanied by a book—a visual study that is part of the thesis project. Students write a book about their research. As this is a Design and Contemporary Art programme, students acquire design skills and can make a full-fledged publication.’

Michael Arutyunyan, Diploma21 Assistant Curator, third-year student in Contemporary Art: Artist and Curator at the HSE Art and Design School

© Andrey Filyaev / HSE University

‘We worked hard to arrange this exhibition. We selected artists carefully and we looked into how this space could be transformed into different discourses and optics, how it can “come to life”. The exhibition will be of interest to applicants who will be joining our university very soon. That's why it is a kind of retrospective, it is a story about what the students of the Design and Contemporary Art programme are doing, what we teach, and how we show others that contemporary art is not scary. It's cool.’

The Diploma21 exhibition has been planned for quite some time. ‘We had to postpone the opening, but now we have decided to do it because new students will be joining the university soon and we want to showcase the projects. This exhibition is for graduates—it has been a year since they set sail on their own. And, of course, this exhibition is intended to show applicants what they will be doing during their four years of study. The artists currently on display came to us after school, with a rather general and superficial idea of contemporary art. Over the past four years, they have matured into full-fledged artists, each of whom has completed a major project,’ says Alexandra Kuznetsova

Visitors say the exhibition has inspired them with new ideas and given them food for thought on important topics.

Lily Farhan, first-year student in Environment and Interior Design

‘Everything here is so unusual and interesting. There's no one-size-fits-all vision or understanding. You look and think about what the author wanted to say.’

Anastasia Prisyazhnyuk, first-year student in Environment and Interior Design

‘I like the exhibition, particularly the geometric figure in the centre of the hall, as you can interact with it. I think people should interact with art. Each person changes the space and creates their own art.’

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