“I wish people talk about artists more”
– Nadzey Makeeva talks about her life in San Francisco, Social Weekend and self-isolation.
Nadzey Makeeva – Minsk illustrator and curator of Chrysalis Mag. In an interview with dadalog she talks about how it feels to live in two time zones and be "a socially active introvert". How to curate an art-magazine in a way that it doesn't have to be closed (spoiler: there is no answer).
Anastasia: You now live in San Francisco. Tell me more about your moving there.
Nadzeya: I've been in California since December 2019, but it's not like moving. I don't have a plan to stay here forever, I just got an opportunity and I decided to try something new, get out of my comfort zone. Before moving, I had already been to the US several times, trying to understand whether I liked it or not - but I haven't found a definite answer so far. I would like to go to Belarus, but the borders are closed right now.
San Francisco is a city of eternal spring. There is absolutely insane and beautiful nature, but the prices are super high in the region. If you're not a busness or startup owner then moving to the Bay Area is perhaps pointless. The level of salaries here is much higher, but you also spend proportionally more on rents etc.
Actually, there is an opinion that even if you are a buisness owner, this is no longer the optimal place for living, in therms of the quarantine and remote job, you can go to a cheaper state to live, still getting your San Francisco salary.
A: Are you a freelancer now or you work for a kind of agency?
N: I have a regular client so it's not a freelance.
A: You have activities in Belarus, but you live in a different time zone. How do you manage this?
N: It's complicated of course. My time difference with Belarus now is 10 hours. When I wake up, there are a large number of unread messages and emails on my phone. Answers and comversations can take several hours a day. And there is a feeling that some important part of life passes while I sleep. I haven't yet been able to learn how to live only around what is happening in the USA. I think I'm not able to do so. But, moreover, I don't consider this necessary. All my activities in Belarus as an illustrator and curator of Chrysalis Mag are extremely important to me. I think for now my geographical location doesn't affect my statuses in any way: I'm still a Belarusian artist and an activist.
"There is a feeling that some important part of life is passing while I sleep".
A: How is your day arranged?
N: I get up at 7 in the morning. I love morning, because I just evaluate the amount of work, I’m not in a hurry and can relax a bit. Next is a classic working day with correspondence, drawing, statements and corrections. In the evening I go out for a walk, there are beautiful city parks, and there is a big rooftop in the house where I live.
California was one of the first to be quarantined in the United States, so there are good statistics here, plus parks and some stores are already starting to open. We have been quarantined from the very beginning of March. And it was a real quarantine: you cannot see friends and acquaintances, leave the house — only for a groseries. The first two months were tough. Of course, no one fined you for going out, but there was not a single person outside. Now everything is slowly changing.
A: It doesn’t work for Belarus, most people stand where they want to stand, even there are markings.
N: Here, from the first day, markups and delimiters appeared in stores, and everyone uses them. Now there are markings even in the parks on lawns. It is forbidden to enter the store without a mask, touch products at the checkout, or pack them in your bags. Cash is practically not accepted, only contactless payment.
A: How did the pandemic change your plans?
N: I planned to visit my parents in the summer, and together with the Chrysalis Mag team we were going to organize an exhibition of young artists in the Y Gallery. But the flights are postponed time after time, borders are closed and even airlines don't really know what will happen next. What they can do at the moment is once again to postpone the departure dates. And the exhibition is now not worth it, we will postpone it.
I sincerely believed that since I was an introvert, I could sit at home for days and draw. I thought, ha now all the party tipe of people will appreciate how difficult it is to be locked up, but I'm gonna be fine. But it turned out that this is not the case. The possibility itself of going somewhere was a key link in my inner balance. I can work for a long time without stopping, but just as everybody I simply need a variety of activities. Now, for example, I’m participating in the Social Weekend, the contest for a social projects. Due to the difference in time zones, it turns out that all courses for me take place at night. Therefore, it's quite intense for me.
"That the business will have a tool for finding first-class employees in the field of fine art in Belarus"
A: I just wanted to talk about the participation of Chrysalis Mag in the competition. For what purposes did you apply and did you manage to realize them?
N: The realization of our goals is a long process. But we are acting steadily. By the way, a couple of days ago the project turned one year old. When I submitted for participation, I thought that it was just a contest. It turned out that SW is a first-class courses in management, production and launching projects from scratch. For courses of this level, people normally pay a lot of money. Thanks to the SW training tracks, we were able to get exactly the knowledge that we were in need of.
One of the goals is to seek funding or assistance from partners to expand the functionality of the site and for several other internal projects within the framework of Chrysalis Mag. If suddenly someone of their potential investors who is ready to support a project in the field of art is reading me now, I would be happy happy to tell you more about us, answer all questions and send an investment presentation.
In general, the mission of the project is to develop a creative economy and make Belarus an art country. More specifically, we want to instill in the nation a culture of an art acceptance and increase the prestige of Belarusian artists. Even more locally - I wish people talk about artists more, to give an opportunity for the artidts to express themselves, to make it easier for them to find a job, so that the business will have a tool for finding first-class employees in the field of fine art in Belarus.
We are already at a new stage of development, different from the one that was before my application for participation in the competition. I’m a little scared when I realize that I couldn’t do this, because in two months we did as much for the project as I did the whole year before. Moreover, now I see where we can move further.
We talked a lot with our audience and with specialists, received a huge amount of information and feedback. One of the best parts: it turned out that our activities really start to bring the expected results. Thanks to our online exhibition Lockdown, several works of the participants were bought, and thanks to the connection of our colleagues Artonist #артнакарантине initiative, the works were sold through the magazine’s Instagram story. For us, this is already a small victory, because in Belarus people don’t spend much money on art. But I understand why this happens, this is a natural and explicable phenomenon.
A: SW often takes several culture&art oriented projects per season, but as a rule they don't reach the final. Why do you think this happens?
N: I think this is because one of the conditions for helping or financing projects participating in the competition is the existence of a strategy for the sustainable development of the project in the future. And projects in the field of art is quite difficult to propose such a strategy. Social significance is high, and the number of ways in which such a media can earn is limited. Even the media whith a much wider sphere are closing now, therefore, there are more opportunities for earning. And we are a resource specializing in the fine contemporary Belarusian art. This greatly reduces the number of our business opportunities, but this is exactly what we love and what we want to work hard for.
In addition, completely different initiatives are submitted to SW, and if you have to choose between an art magazine and a project that helps children in need, for example, I will choose children myself. A rather difficult task is to compare projects with such different problems within the framework of the competition.
One of the points of our problem is that society and the government have lost interest in art. In the framework of SW, we were taught to convey our idea to the audience so that we would be understood. During the training, many colleagues wrote that they didn't understand what we were doing, why this is needed. And I’m a little afraid that they don’t understand us, not because we don't explain it well (because if so, then we will learn, and the problem will be solved). Namely, because "the society and the state have lost interest in art." And we get a vicious circle.
"The publication about the artist will not collect as many views as a new manicure of the Belarusian celebrity or a review of the new bar".
A: How did you come up with the idea of creating a magazine and how much time passed before its implementation?
N: In fact, we are still in the process of the implementing. The current view of the site can be described as our minimum value product (a product that has the minimum, but sufficient to satisfy the first consumers functions. - dadalog). As the idea of creation came up, it is rather difficult to answer, this desire existed for several years in the form of emotions that were difficult to formulate the concept. For the fact that I managed it - special thanks to the Social Weekend.
I remember that at the start of my career I really needed the support of the media. It is not a matter of narcissism or an overestimated ego: it is a very important for artists to get a response to their work. In addition, I was sure that the publication would help me find clients. But at that time all the city magazines told me that it wouldn't be interesting to their audience. And they are right, the material about the artist will not collect as many views as the manicure of the Belarusian celebrity or a review of the new bar. Well, except that the artist will undress, for example.
At that moment, the first thoughts appeared about the need for a platform on the territory of Belarus, aeven a small one, which would illuminate what is happening in our art community. And it would write not only about contemporary art by its definition, but also about our contemporary illustrators, graphics, sculptors, monumental art, concept art, murals, tattoos - it would unite all directions of fine art.
A: For quite some time you had an exhibition in Y Gallery, which is also called Chrysalis. Is there any connection between that and the magazine?
N: Yes there is. In general, it’s funny because I got used to this unusual word for a long time, I didn’t think about how other people would perceive it. Therefore, now we are faced with the fact that a lot of people cannot pronounce it. I really love science fiction, and Bradbury has a book Chrysalis, and I decided to make an exhibition based on this work. And when it came time to think about the name for the draft magazine, this one came up.
In general, chrysalis is a stage of development of a cocoon from which a butterfly appears. In our opinion, contemporary Belarusian art can be characterized by this stage of awakening, spreading wings and integration into the international art community.
I had several options for the title, by the way. For example, there was an option of “Калянуля”, but the name seemed too pessimistic.
A: Many Belarusian art magazines, for example, ArtAktivist, existed for not that logn, and then closed in the end. What do you think about it?
N: I think that any project that grows out of your favorite hobby over time can begin to develop in such a way that it will take more and more time and effort. And if by this moment it cannot become at least self-sustaining, it will have to make a difficult decision on how to proceed. And there are not many options left.
A: How to keep an art magazine alive?
N: Good question, we are just working on it. If one day I find out how, I will definitely share it with everyone.
A: What kind of media are we missing? And what cultural media are you following?
N: I think we have enough. But you can always do more. There is an absolutely wonderful 34mag resource, I love it very much. I also follow KYKY, CityDog, Marketing.by. From foreign I follow Beautiful Bizarre and Hi-Fructose. These are magazines on modern trendy art.
A: You are an introvert, but if you google your name, you can find quite a few mentions and interviews, and you also lead the magazine team. How is it to be a socially active introvert?
N: I guess I just go to less events than I could. For example, my last public appearance last year was at Creative Mornings. I gave a lecture, and it seemed to me that everything was going well. And when I looked at the record, I saw that I was sitting hunched over and clutching into a chair, beating my teeth against the microphone while speaking. That was weird, and I thought it was probably worth taking a break from public speaking. But at Behance Review Minsk, for example, I would be happy to once again act as an expert if I were invited.
A: Recent news, which appeared immediately in all chat rooms that discuss culture in Minsk: Babariko is going to the elections. I have to ask what you think about it.
N: I don't know much about him, unfortunately, to give an objective comment. But I respect him and Belgazprombank for supporting Belarusian art. I read several interviews with him recently, it was interesting. If I find the opportunity to vote, I will vote for him.