“We need to create the mentality of the metropolitans” - Serik Buksikov

A famous Kazakh artist and designer will work on the brand book of the capital city.

A famous Kazakh artist and designer Serik Buksikov will work on the brand book of the capital city. He has an experience in the similar field, last year he worked on the creation of the brand in South Kazakhstan region. In an exclusive interview with El.kz, Serik Buksikov told that the capital is going to have not only visual, but also internal changes.

- Tell us a little about the brand book, which you proposed to the mayor to create. What is it going to be like?

- That discipline, which we are now speaking, needs a special language to express. This language has not been integrated in our society yet, and I am trying to pick up the terminology directly in the process. In particular, when a year ago I started to work on branding of South Kazakhstan, it was the same situation. In fact, a territorial branding has become clear only now. And when you are an innovator in this business, it is important to reflect over what is given, what the environment is where we work, and how to communicate with the elements in a complex system such as society. It is not a secret for anyone that the society of Kazakhstan is dispersed. We have different images of northerners, southerners, metropolitans, residents of Almaty, etc. Behind all this, there are some complex historical and cultural reasons. In fact, the art, that I have been doing before and after graduating the Art Academy, aims to erase mental boundaries and to make society less dispersed. The purpose of culture is to carry out cementing an ideological function in developed societies. Unfortunately, throughout the history of independent Kazakhstan, culture, in my subjective opinion, has not been given due attention. Culture was engaged in the service of the elites from the point of view of archaic forms of entertainment. Completing the entertainment feature of certain emptiness when the person is not working, it is, of course, the culture, too. But the global function of culture within the whole of humanity is much more serious. Throughout its history, 95% of humanity was immersed in the Paleolithic.

- If I have understood you correctly, you believe that external changes should lead to changes in the internal?

- On the contrary. The internal background has led to the fact that the need of creating such work is relevant.

- Do you have a specific vision of visual changes of the capital city? As far as we know, you criticized the appearance of city streets, which cannot be attributed to the center.

- Not only. For example, Saryarka Street refers to the main streets, and in the meantime, let us look at what is going on here. It looks like the periphery of Almaty. I can assure you that in the center of Almaty there is no such a situation. For example, the window is designed to transmit the light, but it is used in order to place there some kind of communications. What I am going to do is called the design code of the city.

- What do you want to change in the appearance of the capital?

- I am not going to change. I just want to give advice of a man who knows a bit about composition and colors. After all, I am a person who learned to draw pictures and to create beauty. I have already made a mistake once when working on branding of South Kazakhstan. When it was announced that I was going to create a territorial branding, people took it as if I was going to change the emblem. Nevertheless, the emblem is an archaic structure. It is a historical, geographical and climatic element; it is immutable and carries a heraldic function. The same territorial branding and design relate to contemporary visual communication means and tools of formation of image of the city, its image and face. Speaking about Astana, I want to note that there is no culture of the capital. In Astana the mentality of metropolitan does not exist, it needs to be created. And the most powerful tool in the creation of the capital image is architecture and visual space. In my work on the image of the city I will work closely with the Department of urban planning of Akimat of Astana, we will give a joint recommendation. The images of the right and left banks of the capital are different, but this should not exist. We need to remove this difference, or make it cultural. For this, first and foremost, we should identify the pros and cons of both and work carefully with them. Take for example, Istanbul, it is also divided into two parts of the city – old and new Istanbul. Old Istanbul is not shabby and old, but rich in history. And new Istanbul is stylish, modern and smart, where there are skyscrapers and modern high-tech components. Now the right bank of our capital city is perceived an echo of the Soviet past. I am still not sure how exactly we will work on its image, but we will solve it.

- When are you going to present your recommendations to a wide audience?

- At the regular meeting of the Council for sustainable development. The Council consists of active citizens of Kazakhstan, who are experts in a particular field. We charge each other with energy in a particular activity, and are responsible for certain types of development. Speaking about sustainable development, we can talk about the design pattern as well as about safety on the roads. Also, we can talk about the culture of cooperation between parents and schools. The capital image is not only a city sign; it is the culture and interaction between people. Despite a similar flow of people coming from the provinces to Almaty, there is no problem with the image of the city. The society of Almaty has the level of culture in order to absorb new residents and make them townspeople. The energy of this city is so strong that it allows to “remake” a huge number of people. The same processes occur also in Europe.

- Speaking about Europe, which design of the world’s cities, in your opinion, is perfect?

- London and Vienna. London impresses with its modernity, where the new “landmarks” seamlessly interact with the old one. Such as Big Ben, for example. Moreover, I worked on brands associated with the UK, exposing the inventory of English images; all this is close and clear to me. As for Vienna, this is the Imperial city, preserving the traditionally starchy energy of Europe and archaism. Austria is very different from Germany. Germany is very active and dynamically evolving, letting in a lot of new things, and Austria tries to preserve their authenticity and identity.

- What ideas would you borrow from these cities?

- I will consult with my good colleague from Vienna, Christina Steinbrecher, now we are keeping in touch, and I hope she will have time to give some advice to me. In the framework of my exhibition in Vienna last year, we talked about this topic, and I would like to put our conversation into practice. I remember her words: “Vienna is proud that disabled people can easily overcome any distance without discomfort”. In our Council for sustainable development this issue is also being considered very seriously. At the first meeting, Asset Orentayevich emphasized the importance of this issue. We understand the language of bureaucrats and interact well with them at the level of institutional tools. As an artist, I am ready to interact with cultural institutions; however, I am still bearing in mind these bureaucratic conflicts. We need to find alternative ways to resolve the issue in communications with the state, avoiding excessive formalism. Today’s reality demands this from us.

- Can you tell us, how things are going with the brand “South”. Will the brand book “Astana” be something similar to it?

- I may briefly answer that everything is good. I totally worked it out in four areas (tourism, investment, administration, industry), there is nothing to damage. I left behind my apprentice, and now I observe the life of the brand through social networking sites. I want to thank my colleagues for continuing my work and developing it further. They are consulting with me on all positions, how to implement some new things. Regarding the similarity of the two brands, no way. In my vision, I adhere to several aspects. First, there is no need to create a logo for the city of Almaty, because Almaty is the coolest brand in Kazakhstan, which does not need rebranding. Why do we need a brand? It is necessary to develop new directions. But if they have been already developed, then nothing needs to be changed. As for Astana, it is necessary to expose the inventory of certain images, that is, remove the items, showing the town on the negative side, and create a system of symbols and images of the capital, as well as the language of interaction of the city with a population. Currently Astana is not engaged in dialogue with the entire population, but only with the experts. This language has to be deciphered, making it accessible to the public, and I will try to do it.

- Let us talk now about more abstract things. In my view, the artist is more a vocation than a profession. When did you realize that you are an artist?

- At the age of 4. When I was 3 years old, I had a passion for cars. I loved drawing them and called it “vum-vum-cha” (smiling). But after a while the love for drawing was overpowered with the passion for cars. I am still extrapolating this principle, dividing the process into an object itself and work on it. And when you begin to turn your attention from the object to work on it, it turns out the art. At this age, I discovered some laws, and then when I confronted with them in the Art Academy, I found it easier to understand them. In particular, in my 4, I discovered the law of perspective. And the law of successful work, then I extrapolated to all encountered. That was: if you draw one picture for a long time, it will turn out to be good. When I was four years old I realized that I needed to devote time and effort to drawing, and then it would be good. A topographic map with symbols of larch and spruce was hung in our house. I drew two arcs, to which I began to draw a lot of spruces of different sizes, and after some time I got a graphic image of the forest. I liked it. If I dedicated three minutes to this picture, it would be bad. But if I dedicated an hour, it would be of a high quality. To be able to draw very simple, you just have to draw longer. All matters are concentration, focus, and energy. This law was come up by a four-year-old boy, but, of course, it cannot become the basis of a modern art. It gave me the impetus for my further work, and in my first year at school, I was drawing quite tolerable landscapes, winning in various competitions.

- Did you already know who you would become?

- Then I thought that drawing pictures was my hobby. But fate had a little different way for me, I entered Art Academy. After finishing Art Academy I was not drawing for 10 years doing advertising, public relations, concepts, strategies and etc.

- Are there, today, any fundamental differences between the concepts of an “artist” and a “designer”?

- It is now gone. They faded with the time. It was not only erased in the minds of some archaic people.

- So, in both cases, there is the same creative approach, only in slightly different planes...

- You are absolutely right. The exit from the plane into space in the 20th century or the installation happened a hundred years ago, figuratively speaking. Many artists are afraid to break the border between the outer and inner world. Perhaps they will break it, but I went through it a long time ago. The world is changing and you should never be afraid of change. We have to make advances. People have only two ways – to open or to close, there is no third option. I am for the first. Even if you get killed, in the context of historical globalism, nothing much will happen. Art, in fact, is a very serious thing. It is as profound thing as a war, a doctor... In Soviet times it was a bit distorted, there were an ideology and a profession. And there were artists who were engaged either in ideology or in “fun”. Those days the ideology was paid very generously. In any educational institution, schools or kindergartens, any public buildings were required to have the Lenin room. Artists were few; they visited different regions and earned a lot of money. They just had to make a stamped image of Lenin, present with the right words, and demanded goods are ready. Therefore, our artists were, in some sense, slaves. “Not slaves” were expelled out of the Union in the early twentieth century. They moved their works to another ground in the States or in Europe. There is a word “Bauhaus”, which is translated from German literally as the shop of building materials. But in the cultural perception this term implies the brand, creating new forms of art. At that time, the fascist forced the German “Bauhaus”, because any totalitarian society needs the artist-slave.

- I propose to digress from the topic of the totalitarian regime, and to talk about the younger generation. Are there promising young painters in Kazakhstan? Do they have the recipe of “how to succeed”?

- All of the possibilities are from the Internet. If you consider yourself to be a genius, you will make 10 thousand paintings instead of the 10 paintings. But quantity is only one aspect. If you consider yourself talented, you will make the picture more complex than less talented people will. But the basic recipe is to believe in yourself, ignore everyone, who is stopping you. It is important not to forget about self-improvement.

- Do you think art will save the world in the end? It is believed that if tyrants, maniacs, pedophiles and other bad people understood the art and devoted to it all the time, the crimes against humanity would be much less.

- Perhaps. The problem lies in the structure of society. Our society has only recently started to be structured, to form in the desired direction. I believe that we are moving now as we should. The advent of night clubs is better than to drink vodka at the entrance. Then lounge bars, meetings in different thematic areas began to appear. Later certain thematic coffee shops have come to the fore, where alcohol is replaced by the equally powerful tools of influence on human consciousness, such as lectures and intelligence, new forms of meaning. The man has always needed to change the perception of the world, and another thing is how he can afford it. With the advent of the centers of contemporary art in society has arisen a new tool system for changing the consciousness of the youth. By the way, the Internet is also a powerful tool to change consciousness. There are bad aspects of the new elements of the system, and there are good ones. And if we do not cooperate with this system, bad things will come quickly. That is because the interaction will happen anyway, whether we like it or not. The artist is the one who changes the reality. And it is not because he thinks so, but because it is the essence of the art.

- Some artists of the classical style, in other words realists, are very critical to the avant-garde, considering the “Black square” by Malevich striking example of the lack of skill in a profound form. What can you say about this?

- Let them think so. I simply do not perceive such people as artists. They are craftsmen. I passed it at 4 years old, and they have not passed so far. People born in the XXI century, can crack the password from the phone at the age of 5. Even there is a joke “My 5-year-old son can open the pin of an iPhone and I ate sand when I was 5 years old”... It is funny precisely because of its reality. It is safe to say that the “Black square” became a brand of the twentieth century. If I were asked how I would have marked the twentieth century, at the forefront I would put “Black square” and “Guernica” by Picasso. Now you are holding the recorder in a black box, we look at the black square of the screens of our monitors, but the twenty-first century came 17 years ago. But this age, at least in the Soviet era was perceived as the century of science fiction. The World science fiction, at that time, did not reflect the appearance of the mobile phone; they thought we would fly between galaxies. But it is all in the future, probably, we have just been a little bit late.

- In Wikipedia there is information that you once wrote a research paper “The role of the artist in the age of Aquarius”. Can you tell us a little about it?

- The supervisor of my research paper was a very interesting person, who later became my teacher in life. It is Nazipa Nurmukhammedovna Izhenova. I think she is the most powerful art critic in Kazakhstan. She ceased to engage in artistic practice and is spending all her time in the Indian temples. For her, work in art was a certain stage of personal growth. There are a few people, who perceive art as a spiritual path. Now many art critics perceive their work as a function in society. And it is too bad. We have museums, galleries, even a nascent art business. But there are not people who perceive art as a spiritual path. The Age of Aquarius is not associated with a rational sense. Images, generated in the XX century, have not received its development in the XXI century, and will not receive. Because now there is a paradigm shift of thinking, and philosophers call it the age of Aquarius. From the rational perception, we turn to the emotional, based on sensual and somehow religious points. Recently, we are paying more attention to the emotional aspect of the manifestations of reality; this is due to increased information flows, which will be processed exclusively by artificial intelligence. This will lead to the presence of artificial intelligence. And the person, to stay in this coordinate system, will have to find in himself the resources not being used now, but given by God or nature. We are only going to realize them, referring to the spiritual realm of humanity.

- That reminds of the stories about Tibetan lama, for allegedly possessing excess capacity...

- I believe that it is possible. I can understand starting conditions of the situation, which will lead to this eventually. Again, the increase in the number of information flows exponentially, I would be surprised if it led to nothing in the end. People can feel God in a certain place and in a particular state. The same Lama draw their own mandala on the shifting sand for a few years and then erase. Why? Exclusively for having experience and personal growth. For example, I spend my performances and events purely for personal experience and nothing more. To feel something that other people do not feel  – that is one of the goals.

- Tell us a little about your private life? Do you have children, and if so, will you try to make them artists?

- From the first marriage I have a daughter, Nuriya, who is studying in Art College. Now she is drawing better than I am. I consider her a very strong artist. By the way, her mother is also an artist.

- Does the girl have the creative gene pool...

- This is not more genes, but the environment. I do not really believe in genes, because they are responsible more for the anthropological functions and appearance.

- Even the artist needs to switch to something else from time to time. Tell us about your hobbies, perhaps you are into sport.

- No, I am not. Art is my hobby. Once I was engaged in freestyle wrestling and snowboarding, but it was a long time ago. You know, art is a platform for modeling reality. What else does a person need than that? Oh, and I love traveling, in fact, as much as the art. But traveling is a piece of art. That is because, as for me, traveling is visiting the exhibitions, various galleries and cultural buildings.

- Where do you draw inspiration for your ideas? How important is inspiration for a professional?

- I am a little skeptical about the word “inspiration”. It is like amateurism, the inspiration is more for art lovers. There is nothing wrong, because the word “lover” comes from the word “love”. What is the difference of the professional from the art lover? The fact is that he does not only love his job, but also earns money on it. A professional inspiration comes at 9 am and ends at 11 pm. The inspiration must cease to be something sacred for the professional, and become his tool. The professional must answer for their words and for the short term, and not wait for inspiration. If he does not, he is an art lover.

- In the Renaissance, every famous artist had students or apprentices. For them it was very important to pass on their skills to somebody. Are there any such things today? Do you have your students?

- I have a lot of students. In the advertising role I “graduated” many Art Directors. They became designers in the institutions, and I made them the Art Directors. As for the art, I am trying to create a certain institution, a kind of workshop, in order to “make” the young masters then. I had a gallery that existed not just to make pictures hung, but people buy them. There were always events with new faces, we can say with the stars. At first my “art” was designed to direct consumers. And then, when flows of direct consumers increased, I began to reach out to business-oriented flows, particularly on manufacturers of certain brands. Then after that, you begin to enter the state. When statesmen can see that you work openly, they invite you to more serious projects. So what happened to the brand of “South”, that was my first public project.

- Are you painting with a brush now?

- Yes, of course, I am. Recently I have found the most effective way to visualize paintings; the first part consists of a computer simulation. The second is to transfer this image onto the canvas and to revise it by hand. I have still more classical artistic principles, and the questions of the composition and colors I can modify with the help of modern technologies, such as graphics tablet, and usage of modern bright acrylic paints. To draw people’s attention, I have to speak the same language.

- After all, most people are not deep experts in the field of art. What does the average citizen need to understand and appreciate the essence of art?

- Nothing. Here is the question of the content and consistency of the content to modern trends. For example, when I was trying to attract the attention of journalists, I painted provocative pictures, and put a philosophical sense into them.


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