Lidi Kunitsa is an artist and a craftswoman from Minsk. We talked about ecology, feminism, human design and about art.
"The Cat's Mask" / Photo: hohler_fleck
– When did your creative path start?
– I started in the classes of arts and crafts in kindergarten, when we were laying out circles, drawing hands and octopuses.
– Some people start in childhood, some just find their paths when everything comes at once. How was it with you?
– I used to draw on the wallpaper at the place where I lived and I think it was before kindergarten. I drew, it was encouraged, so I continued. My mother told me the story of how little me, who couldn’t walk and only knew how to crawl, drew a lot of squiggles on a sheet with a pen she left next to me. Later as a teenager I took long breaks from art when I practically didn’t draw, although I started making dolls. I read a fantasy book which was about a girl who had a doll named Ludwig, and I began making Ludwigs myself. First I sewed them, then I made them out of a newspaper. I didn’t finish it and, it seems, he was lost when moving to another place.
“The first mask from “The Shaman Wheel” unfinished series, made as a commission in 2016".
– You work in different techniques: graphics, decorative art, sometimes performative art and you also make masks. Is something more of a priority to you, or is everything that you do equally important?
– I do have a priority. In fact, I should start making money commercialising my art. I settled on the fact that I have masks that I have been doing for quite some time. I decided to collect all my art pieces and work purposefully for a long time using one technique in order to learn how to talk about myself, my artworks, and to sell them. I can’t say that I’m doing it really well at the moment, but I’m getting better. I have one more priority, but I'm just getting to it. It’s meditation and it's been a long time since I came to a realisation that I need it. I have a new project related to it, which combines several techniques, including a photography technique that’s completely new to me. At the moment, the project has one mask made from papier-mâché, which I am currently working on, and also a photo project that I am not ready to talk about at the moment.
– It can be noted that one of your favorite techniques is papier-mâché. Is it a conscious choice? Is it related to ecology or is this material just convenient for you? How do you choose material for your artwork?
– It is a convenient and environmentally friendly material. I am a pretty adaptive person and I can work with whatever is available. This is not always good because sometimes it interferes with realising large ambitions, but sometimes it’s not bad. For example, it’s environmentally friendly. I think about ecology and try to make environmentally friendly choices. Papier-mâché is such a good material and it’s secondary, which is also good. This paper is pretty cool and from a shamanic point of view it carried some kind of information which is now being transformed. Once it used to be a tree, then it reached me in a secondary state when it is still good and clean. The next step for it is to be recycled at a factory, but most likely it goes to a landfill. When paper gets into containers for mixed garbage, that's it — it’s doomed. It gets wet, smeared, and it’s impossible to recycle it. This is an adaptive choice, I can’t say that it is absolutely conscious.
“These masks are for dancing all night long in neon lights. They are super light and breathe freely".
– Tell us about your thoughts regarding ecology.
– There is a joke that ecology is a science, and the ecological situation, the situation with pollution and climate change are two different things. There are no problems with science itself, there are problems with the influence of mankind on the planet. I didn’t study the science of ecology. I’m interested in permanent agriculture as a movement aimed at finding the most stable and harmonious ways of human interaction with the world. I am very upset about the landfill situation. People just dump materials and products of their activity into heaps, and then these heaps pollute our water and air. Or they burn it all and it's all very upsetting. I believe that it’s very important to solve these problems and I try to do what I can and find out how I can help. I separate garbage and share experiences with my friends and relatives. When I buy something that is necessary, I try to make a choice in favor of more environmentally friendly analogues. I’m doing some simple, everyday things, for example, I carry water in a glass bottle or use reusable bags. I’m ashamed to admit it, but many of my environmental habits are also connected to poverty because it’s cheaper to carry your own water than to buy it all the time. Although now I understand that if I even had more money, I would still prefer to go to a cafe and have some water in a glass than buy it in plastic.
“The prototype of this mask is Tengu, creature from the myths of Japan".
– What does feminism mean to you? How important is it in your life and is it manifested in your art?
– Feminism for me is a liberating movement because I am a woman. Before I understood and adopted feminism, I couldn't even understand what was wrong with my life. When there are no suitable words to describe something, then the phenomenon ceases to exist. A similar thing happens with a taboo and all kinds of shameful things that are not to be named - people come up with euphemisms for them. Such things don’t seem to disappear from consciousness, but are covered by a shadow, as if you didn’t notice them anymore. Before feminism, I couldn't understand what was wrong with the society I live in. Although in my teens I used to say that I wanted to be a boy and sometimes I talked about myself using masculine pronouns. Now I know that there is sexism, abusive relationships, Stockholm syndrome, learned helplessness and adaptive practices.
At some point, feminism even shocked me when I was introduced to a radical wave. It was pretty tough for me, I realized that there is no way out and no solution. My personality is the fruit of this very culture in which a woman is always on the sidelines, an “attendant class”. And I can’t just realise that I’m in a disadvantageous position and just fix it — I continue to put myself in this position. And all my relationships with other people — they also bear the imprint of gender roles. At some point this awareness scared me a lot.
Does feminism find a place in my work? Of course, it does. I think that all the images are changing. If an artist is asked to sketch a man and a woman, they are likely to exaggerate some masculine and feminine features. Or if a cartoonist draws an unfamiliar man in a park, it’s very likely they will draw some muscles, a beautiful woman under his arm or a car next to him. And when he draws a woman, it’s very likely that they will add hairpins, makeup, a short skirt, all these attributes. I understand that I will not be able to put all this into my work. Even if I don’t set myself an end in itself, this is no longer a thing for me. About six years ago I worked as an aqua-make-up artist in a children's center and I needed to compile a catalog with examples of my work. I divided it into two parts — for boys and for girls. The children themselves, when they approached, asked what was for boys and what was for girls. Their choice was almost always very predictable. I didn’t immediately understand what was wrong with it. In fact, I watched with my own eyes how children from an early age get used to these gender roles. When making a choice, children are always faced with pressure. They see other children making the “right” choice and when they make an unusual one, they will be asked “why did you choose this?” ten times. They will also be looked at with surprise and be offered something that matches their gender.
– I know that you're learning Human Design. Is it important for life and making decisions? Is it manifested in your work, and if so, how?
– Human Design is my biggest hobby. For me, this is similar to feminism - when it appeared in my life, I couldn’t help but study it. I was drawn into it like in a funnel. This information turned out to be so exciting for me! Human Design appeared as a mystical revelation. The man who took the name Ra Uru Hu had this revelation and one day he heard a voice that told him about the whole system. This is a very large and structured knowledge that tells about people in great detail. In order to find out more about yourself, you need to know accurate time, date and place of birth. A chart is built based on the time of birth and the position of the planets at that time. It’s called a “BodyGraph”. Quite a lot of information is available for free and there are analysts who can read your chart. Basically, the information I know is what I studied on my own. I used the services of an analyst, and it was a rather mystical event for me. I learned a lot about myself from Human Design. This is practical knowledge and it can be checked. It offers a correct way for a person to make decisions which will only work for them. I have been trying to make decisions according to my charts for two and a half years now. Human Design says that a decision must be made “from the body”, not with the help of the mind, without calculating pros and cons. If I tell the whole thing in detail, it will take a very long time. Human Design helps me to accept myself and when I do something that may seem irrational to me, the knowledge of my design helps to see that it’s right for me. It removes the moment of mental stress. This is such a subtle thing, because I have a strategic mind, which at the same time is never sure of anything. I constantly go through probabilities in my mind, and I’m never completely sure of my conclusions. And it is very valuable for me to have a decision-making method in which I’m confident, because it is based on feelings, not on thoughts. For me, Human Design turned out to be an interesting thing, and I still work on understanding it better. I told many people about how cool it is, but if someone listens to me, then most of them lose the interest as soon as we part and move away from each other. I stopped telling other people about it, I don’t specifically advocate anymore and tell only when asked. Maybe it’s all for nothing? Is it manifested in my work? I don’t have it there on purpose, but it leaves a mark on everything I do.
“A plaster mold is one of the stages of creating a mask”.
– Where do you get stories for creativity? It can be noticed that there are both life itself and mythological plots. Do you feel the line between real and unreal?
– What a question! But where is my creativity? I don’t know what my creativity is. When there is a desire to do something, these are just some scattered ideas. If this desire coincides with free energy, then everything is wonderful and something is being realised. Now I’m learning to make my projects global and profitable at the same time. I want these to not be scattered drawings, but some big projects, so that other people would be interested in my art and give money for it. Also, of course, I want to learn how to talk about my art. Where do I get the stories from? I don’t know. If you talk about a particular thing that I did, then I would tell you where the plot for it came from, and when I need to talk globally about my work, I can’t separate it from the rest of my life. For example, the clothes that I now wear are also a kind of creativity.
For example, six months ago I decided to create a capsule wardrobe for myself. These are several pieces of clothing that fit perfectly together. I have the minimum amount of clothing and wear it constantly. Some clothes were bought in a second-hand store, some were changed. I wanted to do a photoshoot, but it started getting colder. For that photoshoot, I wanted to wallow on the ground and now I'm afraid that when it gets warmer, this capsule of clothes will already be worn out.
This is very real. With the help of these clothes, I reassured my neurosis about the fact that "there is nothing to wear". And I made the most environmentally friendly choices possible because the clothes are from second-hand stores and made from natural materials.
Adaptation is my work. I create from what is available. I'm just learning to talk about what I do. My mood is changing rapidly. When I’m in a good mood, I think “I’m so talented, I make amazing things, I see how they are interconnected with the world and other people, I see how they affect the world, I see where other people have influenced me, so that I create something”. And it's all so beautiful to watch. But when I'm in a dark mood, everything loses its meaning, everything turns into a pile of garbage. I can’t say if Human Design is real or unreal as well as ideas that I’m only going to make happen.
“This is a Stalker mask from "The Shaman Wheel" series". / Photo: Ruslan Garmel
– Have other artists influenced you? Whose creativity are you inspired by? How much of this influence is, if it exists, conscious or unconscious?
– This is a tricky question, because it seems to me that I have never had any kind of fanaticism in relation to famous people. Sometimes I’m fond of the work of my friends and acquaintances. Especially when it’s like falling in love — when I meet someone, I recognise the work of this person particularly through personal contact. However, when time passes, I can cool down towards the creativity of these people just as quickly. It's actually really great that people can create. And to destroy, it’s great that people know how to destroy. I think everyone is needed and everyone is equal.
– How do you feel about collaboration in art? Do you participate in it?
– Oh, I love it. I would only be doing collaborations in art, this is what it is worth living for, but I’m not good at it. I do it, but I don’t know how and I want to learn it. There were problems and there were mistakes. For example, when I tried to collaborate with men, it turned into romance. Moreover, I have such a vague feeling that I agreed to these romances. And in the end I was adjusting, expressing my female gender socialisation, spending more time on everyday life and creation an atmosphere, maintaining my mood, listening to a person instead of asking them to do their part of the work. Because of misogyny I denied the creative abilities of other girls, I was afraid of strong and confident women. Some of my collaborations have died due to spoiling relationships. I can’t be the only one to take responsibility for failures, this is wrong. I believe that I need to learn how to draw up contracts, I need to negotiate and write it on paper. Agreements can be changed, but when you have at least a draft of it, it is wonderful.
– Do you have any valuable advice from your experience that could help other creative people?
– I do not want to give advice to others. I want to advise myself and follow my advice: follow yourself. There is no authority except you. I don’t care about people and don’t want to advise others. I don’t care how others live.
“This is a special mask for meditation. And it was made from the mold of my face".
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