Some dudes will say: "I don’t understand this art" and leave
Collabex curators about their concept and goals of the project and how to assemble a team to implement their ideas and not burn out
Collabex appeared a few months ago - a networking platform for artists and creative people. Their description on Instagram says “we make Belarusian art visible”, they have already carried out two successful projects and regularly post small interviews with artists in the form of posts on Instagram. Of course, we got interested and invited them for an interview.
- As I understand it, Collabex is not your main job. What do you do?
Nastya: It’s worth starting with the fact that I’m a mother, my kid is now 3.5 years old. I’ve been working as a fashion stylist, and I still do but in a smaller scale. Plus, I teach fashion photography at Image Pro. In general, I have a lot of work, but now, when I started to engage in the project, it began to crowd out all these activities and take more and more time. Not with “swoops”, but more like it requires a deep attention to help it grow and develop. And if you pay so much attention to your project, then everything is gonna be fine with it, I treat my project as a child.
Natasha: I think I need to talk not only about myself, but about 3 people. How we got into the team for Nastya - me and other two Collabex members - Polina and Arina, we had our own project, it is called BACKGROUND. We organized photo exhibitions, something similar to Collabex, but we’ve been concentrated only on the photography. We made three successful exhibitions, then Nastya came to us, and we thought that it would be a good chance to get some experience, get new knowledge and also help Nastya with our existing knowledge. So iit turns out that now Collabex is our main focus is. We will revive BACKGROUND after the Collabex is stabilized.
We have only 7 people in the team now - Sasha is also working with us - she is a video maker and photographer, Alesya is a model and «creator» and Marina is a photographer and a lawyer. Everyone has a major job besides Collabex.
- How do you manage to combine a child care, work and the project?
Nastya: I have timing. On weekends and in the evenings, I spend enough time with my kid. A day is a big piece of time - you have a couple of hours on one thing, a couple of hours on another, it’s hard, but possible.
- How do you distribute work in Collabex?
Natasha: Everyone does his own thing, Nastya can't do everything at once. We meet every week, discuss who will do what, and assign tasks to ongoing projects.
Nastya: We don't have a person who is engaged in only one thing. Although I now want to find someone who will take over the financial channel. I realized that in my life there is no kind of money focus, I constantly forget about it. My values are generally in a different place, and this is a problem for the project, because they are needed for the development and implementation of ideas.
- You said Collabex is a non-commercial project which is smoothly becoming the main job.
Nastya: For me, it is definitely the main occupation, it requires a lot of time, at least from me. I just realize that at the moment I don’t have to think about making money, while other girls have a main job, so basically we try to distribute the tasks according to everyone’s capabilities.
The project for “Siyanie” (a large collaboration of artists, Bicekstylis performance) at the party on 02.29 - we basically curated together with Arina and Sasha - just 3 of us, having lived for four days on OK16 in fact. The rest of the people were working on the party at Post Bar on 02.28. During this period and a few weeks before Collabex took an absolute 100% of our time and thoughts. In March, we are recovering, returning to longer, long-conceived projects.
- What is the concept of Collabex?
Nastya: In short, Collabex is an interdisciplinary networking platform for artists. For me, this is such a story when a person enters a new environment. Some children are dealing with art from their childhood, then they go to the art academies, they have connections and feel comfortable. We are increasingly confronted with guys who at one point decide: I want to do this. It is very hard to get into this airless space, without understanding who to get in touch with. I felt this on myself when I got out of fashion a little, and the medium of art is a much more complicated environment, it's not so easy to get into it. And at first it was very difficult for me - completely different goals appear, the focus of attention. The lack of live communication on exciting topics, vital information from people who are being presented in this field - it is difficult.
- Is the networking environment just for artists?
Nastya: Photographers, sculptors are artists in the broad sense of the word.
Yes, the English word artist is beautiful, but in our language it sounds like pop. We often have questions: “Is he the one who paints with a brush?” No.
- How did you come up with the idea to create a project, and how did you implement it?
Nastya: It's funny, because at first it was an idea of an exhibition, just one small exhibition. I came to BACKGROUND with this idea and they said: “Well, we will help you, let's do it in February 2020.”
Then I was still studying with Anna Radchenko, I realized that I don't want to do fashion in the form in which I did it, I don't want to sell clothes anymore - what fashion implies. In my work, the most interesting for me was to work in a team and create teams for new creative shootings. I thought that I wanted an exhibition in which all the work was done in a collaboration of artists. so not a painting of a particular artis, but a painting plus video art, or sound art plus sculpture.
Everyone decided that the idea is really cool, and it’s still developing. We are doing this exhibition next fall, it’s gonna be at #ZAL 2, now we are discussing the final concept with our curator.
In October 2019, when we started developing our idea and looking for a funding, I thought it would be fun to make some kind of website for artists, just this networking story. A site where the minimum portfolios of all the guys will be collected, and ideally - a chat room, a social network, something on the principle of “I want to do a project with someone, I don’t know anyone, but now I’ll come and find”. And we have many authors that no one knows about, and they don’t know about each other.
- But these kind of websites already exist, for example, behance.
Natasha: I’m also an artist, and behance has been dying lately. These things like an online portfolio - are not suitable for the development of live interaction. The website is really wide geographically.
Nastya: As far as I know, behance functions well abroad: in Europe, America. Perhaps it is not so focused on the West-European countries. Anyway, I took its form as a reference.
We are distinguished by the selected vector - a narrower geographic area. And work on the creation of an artistic space for communication, collaboration of artists with each other. The goal is not only to put the author on display for the widest audience, but primarily active interaction and communication.
- What, in your opinion, is the mistake of behance - why is it obtained there, but not with us?
Natasha: Perhaps due to people in our country - they are more closed, quiet, they don’t promote themselves.
Nastya: Like VK and Facebook: there have completely different audiences. On behance, perhaps our artists simply don’t fit into the format. And, again, this is an international platform. Not everyone is ready to go and work in Canada.
- Perhaps the point is the mentality - we are not used to say “I’m cool!”, in US it is the other way around. The question is how to make a website for shy introvert artists to communicate with each other?
Nastya: Firstly, the narrow specialization of the website still decides a lot - it is primarily for the creative audience. There will be different kinds of artist, but at the same time there will not be such an environment in which some dudes come and say, “I don’t understand this art”.
It will not be a closed platform, it is not intended as an online gallery - when we beat off our ideas, people told us: “You have to sell paintings for the kitchen”. Paintings for every kitchen - sounds nice, but actually it is a useful mission in terms of promoting art, but we focus on the interaction of “artist-artist” and “artist + expert”.
In my head it should be quite simple, intuitive, not a complicated scheme, as it is on behance, where there are a lot of pitfalls. In our case, this is a small portfolio, an artist’s bio, description about who he is looking for to collaborate with, what ideas he has, preferences and that’s all. And when he wants to make a project, he just finds a team, and that’s it.
Plus - an offline traffic support. Producing collaborations, creating platforms for the young artists.
- How did you choose the project name?
Natasha: “Collaboration” + “exhibition” or “experience”. It was a long process of inventing a name, but the -ex part means a lot.
- And what were the options?
Nastya: We had an idea of just a “collab”, but it’s already taken - the website collab.by already exists. There was a whole piece of paper with the names. Some of them were just awful. Marina said that the final name sounds like a pill, but it’s fine.
- How do you see your project in one year?
Nastya: It is a difficult question. We would like to launch the website in the near future, but in a test format, there will be only a portfolio of guys. But in a year we would like to have a more holistic website - with a blog, lectures, because we would like to go into the educational field. These lectures for artists about an interaction with galleries, art managers, promoting yourself.
During the year, I want to continue to actively do projects - this is actually not so difficult ideologically, because of the cultural environment - our artists collaborate with a great pleasure. Here the question of resources arises more, if we can deal withit or not. Now we are preparing the presentation of the festival movie of one beautiful girl - we will soon announce it. Helping artists to promote themselves, give young authors an opportunity to speak out, and create a platform like ARTISTBAZA PARTY is an important mission for Collabex.
There are two small dreams: a curatorial school and a constant portfolio review based on Collabex. To do this, we need the support of experts. In general, Collabex exists for the sake of cooperation,this is the goal, we are always looking for someone to work with.
It was very lucky to connect with Gleb, because of this first party in Postbar (02.02 POST BAR × Collabex ARTISTBAZA PARTY - approx. Ed.) - thanks to him.
- What are the differences between Collabex and KarmaCrew? I think you have a very similar direction.
Nastya: Karma is just a story for helping artists in commercialization, the project is very focused on producing, they select artists, work with them, they work to promote specific names, planned and cool promotion. And we are more a community of psychological support. And with us it is like creating a friendly environment where everyone can feel comfortable.
- Why is Collabex important for society?
Nastya: We have many good authors, and they are not very well known even in the artistic environment. “We make Belarusian visible” is not just a loud remark. Not everyone can express themselves, I mean look at the instagram profiles of the talented guys - it is often just empty there. We are creating a platform that provides such an opportunity.
As for the creation of collaborations - teamwork always brings much greater results, a person can show himself much more widely. Performance at Radiance is our first experience of “producing” great teamwork, and it was beautiful both visually and in terms of the response of the participating artists. Even our conceived exhibition is like stimulating people to try themselves. This may not lead to someone - he prefers to work alone, and this is normal. But there are guys who are interested in what we offer. A girl with a similar idea recently wrote to us: “Could you help me?” And it was awesome - you see a person’s response to what you‘re doing, what you have in mind.
Natasha: I want society to know how many really talented artists we have.
- Recently, there are a lot of websites appeared whose goal is to disseminate such an information. dadalog, in fact, such a platforms well. What do you think is it connected with?
Nastya: I don’t know, but I also noticed an increased attention. It seems to me that there is no competition between us, because everyone has a common goal, and until it is achieved, there is no reason to compete.
Natasha: The more opportunities for unlocking potential - the better.
- And how not to face burnout?
Nastya: Oh, I have a lecture on this topic. We had a whole club of anonymous burned out people. It is almost impossible to avoid, the main thing is not to bring yourself to the point. If you burn out one hundred percent - you will not be able to return. Some people think that you can first work hard for six months, and then take break if everything that has accumulated, but it won’t work out that way. I also try not to take toxic projects. Resources must be given and replenished - in terms of emotional and material. The balance is violated - burnout accumulates.
- How to assemble a team for the implementation of the project?
Nastya: First you need a cool idea, just because no one will work without it. Then you look for people who can suit you. It is difficult to work in a team when someone falls out of temperament, for example. The effectiveness of everyone just decreases. It is also important in the beginning to give everyone a role so he understands why he is here.
Natasha: You tell everyone about the project, and in the end some people show a desire to join. A person estimates how much time it requires and whether he is ready to spend so much effort on it.
- The cultural life in Minsk is developing, but the government is still rather reluctant and doesn’t sponsor it enough. Will the situation ever change? And if not, then what should we do?
Nastya: Somehow it turns out that our initiatives are not supported neither from highest levels neither from the lowest levels of society, it is only supported by ourselves. Help each other, collaborate, share experiences. Our government simply doesn’t see this as a prospect. The army - yes, sports - yes, but art - not really. Private and interested individuals are those who invest in the cultural sphere.
- Who are you following from the cultural field of Belarus?
Nastya: Chrysalis Mag, Artonist, respectively, the mission of the project is constantly trying to find new young artists, and follow the famous guys.
Natasha: 6b Mastatskaya Maisterna, we follow the cultural life of Brest - I want to go and finally look at Canned food.
- Who would you advise to subscribe for those who are interested in culture and art?
Natasha: NCCA, Ў Gallery.
Nastya: ZAL #2, Cult. Korpus, OK16. And you can subscribe to us.