In March, President Trump’s 2018 federal budget was presented and in it he proposed the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. Should this budget be approved, the arts will see a cut in all funding for communities through the United States. Since 1965, the NEA has independently funded and supported Americans in all sectors, celebrating the creative potential here in this nation.
This potential stifling of artistic creativity is just one of the latest hammers to bash down on free thought (and free will) here in the US. Art is not some extracurricular hobby in this country. As a matter of fact, free expression—be it painting, sculpting, filmmaking, acting, dance, singing or playing an instrument, reciting poetry, dance and more—offers an escape from the current states of anger, frustration and instability of our nation today. Artists are not just free spirits, they are peacemakers, or should be.
As an artist myself, I take it as my personal mission through my work—both aural and visual—to continue to express the comfortable and the uncomfortable so that others may be inspired to bring forth their own beliefs and vision. I also want everyone to distract themselves with what I offer. I’m certain that my drive to express myself artistically comes from the fact that I grew up in Russia, where real constitutional “freedom” does not exist.
So what does freedom look like in these days? There’s that old philosophy: “Think globally, act locally.” First, in my personal creative sphere, I feel compelled to make music and videos, takephotographs, and to dance in order to expel the various messages and thoughts I have inside me every day. But most importantly, my personal protest movement is in the form of the Aylauntes, my mummy-wrapped band members. They are my freedom, and my attempt to test it. Look, it is a dichotomy, for sure, that a covered entity could express personal freedom. Yet, being hidden like they are allows me to essentially “cover my face,” and takes away the potential for judgment. I can boldly go further than if I was alone, and exposed.
There is a saying in Russia that says that people judge you by your clothing before listening. As a result, I find that covering or changing your face, whether it’s mine or my minions, the Alyauntes, allows us to become better versions of ourselves, and in many cases that we’ve been able to demonstrate in our Instagram photos, pretend to be someone different either in a recreation of a familiar image, or to express ourselves in another context. Being covered, or wrapped, allows people the freedom not to expect anything in particular from us. We are faceless, free, and in essence, mirrors of those who glance upon us.
For years, in my former life as a journalist, I reported on the world’s ills objectively. All the while, my true self was exploring my music, and I yearned for the ability to shed the skin that others saw everyday with that other profession. That was not freedom.
To break it down even simpler, think of how we wrap ourselves in our daily lives, with fabric of our clothingand our jobs. I was learning that creativity from the soul is the purist form of communication.
Finally, I left that old life behind and started to nurture the creative seed I had planted with music.
Obviously, I follow my own muse with my art. Trends are a reflection of others, a convenient and sustainable way of living, and the easy way to move forward. I challenge myself to be an individual, manifest my dream life in photos, videos, dance and music, both live and recorded. It’s only in doing this that the work can touch others and hopefully, be remembered.
It is human nature to yearn for personal acceptance. But applying that desire to creativity is a sure path to mediocrity. That’s not freedom. I reject the concept of creating art to fit in, and be safe. I believe in myself, and I want to move away from the safety net, touch on the wonderment of something that feels new and exciting, a design that is out of my comfort zone.
In essence, I understand that contemporary art and pop culture need to be a synergy of expressing myself. I can push the envelope, maintain a loose connection with reality, but also cooperate with topics of the current times, like the fact that arts in this country are in jeopardy. Only by be being free in our own lives, will we be able to fight the forces that threatened to silence our creativity.