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On July 13th we hosted a “Der Greif X MPB: Behind the Image” Instagram Live with artist Anna Moskalkova. Anna Moskalkova, the recipient of our Guest Room Scholarship for Guest Room: Marina Paulenka, gave us an in-depth look into her practice and the series "Grief". Here we are sharing more images from the series and insights into the project with some of the questions she generously answered for our community during the live.
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Der Greif: First of all, Congratulations! Could you tell us what the Guest Room Scholarship means for your practice?
Anna: Oh, yeah, of course. I have different thoughts on this question. Obviously, it means a lot, and in particular, I don't know if you notice and what your view on this question is, but for me, it's very difficult to swim in this pool of praise that exists online at the moment. In general, I think there is a culture of praise. We all put everything we do out there for others to judge every day in huge quantities. People, in general, publish everything, and then they receive constant praise for their work from various individuals. I don't know if you agree, but for me, it's very difficult to filter through all the comments.
While an artist needs praise and positive feedback, it's sometimes challenging to separate and understand, such as, am I progressing in the right direction? Am I actually walking towards where I want to be? This scholarship, to me, signifies that yes, I do belong, because the process is fantastic. You receive a very specific topic to respond to, you craft a narrative, invest significant effort into it, and then you submit it. It goes through a shortlisting process, and then gets shortlisted again. It's like a double confirmation for me that I'm indeed on the right track, and that my goals are likely aligned in a coherent manner for this.
Der Greif: So if I understand this correctly, you shot your project in response to the Guest Room theme of “Balancing Belonging”. Or was your project, “Grief”, already something you had in development?
Anna: That's a great question, and, actually, everything happened simultaneously. I was in the process of shooting it when I came across the open call, and it all lined up. I can't definitively say if I tailored my project to fit this opportunity, as I was already engaged in shooting it. When I read the description, which was well-crafted and detailed, I resonated with it immediately. I thought, "Exactly, this is precisely the theme that is deeply meaningful to me." And that's how everything fell into place concurrently.
Der Greif: Could walk us through how that theme spoke to you and how it relates to your specific project.
Anna: So, as I mentioned earlier, it is closely tied to my personal story. I left my home country approximately 20 years ago and have since lived in various places—Holland, France, England, and Spain. Each country brought its own unique culture that I had to adapt to, and naturally, this journey was not without its challenges. Eventually, I settled in Spain and invited my parents to join me.
Tragically, my father passed away after residing here for seven years. I frequently visit his resting place in the cemetery. For me, it serves as a source of solace and empowerment, providing a tranquil escape. Being there alone, I find the opportunity to reflect on numerous aspects of life.
During a visit in May, I observed an extraordinary transformation in the field adjacent to the cemetery. Spanish poppies, a typical sight, painted the landscape in vibrant red hues, evoking excitement. Yet, what truly captivated me was the mingling of these poppies with an assortment of other wildflowers, creating a breathtaking display.
A cemetery, juxtaposed with this awe-inspiring beauty, prompted a cascade of thoughts. The cemetery itself showcases the names of numerous Spanish families, all bearing common Spanish surnames. Amidst them stands my father's name, written in Russian, a stark contrast that sparks contemplation. In this small cemetery, a place where stories converge, I find myself pondering how he and I arrived at this point. These are my ancestral roots, but have I also established new roots here? It's a profound inquiry that drives intense introspection.
The essence of the open call perfectly aligned with my experience—balancing and belonging. How do we assimilate into cultures? What compromises do we make in terms of our personal and cultural values as we seek acceptance within society? These were the questions that resonated with me within the context of the open call and the picturesque scene I was capturing. This confluence of factors led to the creation of my work.
Grief, written by Anna Moskalkova
My father is buried in a foreign country, And it was I who made him leave. The field by the cemetery is breathtaking in May, And I cry, and I grieve. I belong nowhere, I dwell in darkness, and I do not find what I seek. My roots are severed by my own hand, I long to fit in, but my wounds still leak. Belonging is a painful topic from so many angles. I guess it has always been since I was very young. Take, for instance, my national identity; I can't say I have one. I left my home country when I was 20. I traveled the world, longing for acceptance. And I was accepted, in England, in France, in Holland, in Spain, and everywhere I went, really. But never fully. Similarly, I have never been able to accept certain things. Now I am Spanish. I brought my parents to Spain, where my father died some years later. The fact that he is buried in Spain is comforting and painful at the same time. I want to fit in, and I do things that compromise my values every day, culturally. I love it, but I also hate it. Where is the balance? In solitude? In spiritual growth? In creating art and helping others? This field by the cemetery where my father's surname is so different from anybody else's, I can be myself and reflect. Heritage, boundaries, values, nationality, and roles in society – I look at them from a more poetic perspective. I am the one who chose this path. I am walking it with so much hope. The field full of flowers is the world that is overwhelmingly beautiful, no matter where you are. This beauty is absolute, no matter if you fit in or not. "Me" is me; I will always have myself, although I struggle to show my face to the world. Despite having many faces and roles to play, my past is also with me; it shapes who I am. Nobody can take it from me. And my art is that link between the world inside myself and those people I want to be accepted by. I suppose I have mixed two topics: the grief about my dad and my everlasting search for identity and understanding of who I am. Deep inside, I know those two are interconnected. My pain inspires me to create; my roots give me wings. Perhaps it is within my roots that I will find my balance. I am still searching, and I don't pretend I have answers.
Anna Moskalkova underwent extensive art and music history training at the Tsiakovsky Institute of Music in Chelyabinsk, Russia. From an early age, poetry and photography became her primary modes of self-expression. Raised in the company of theatre actors and musicians, the seeds of a lifelong commitment to creative storytelling and artistry were sown within her.
Her educational journey continued, culminating in a Bachelor's degree in cultural studies from South Urals State University and a Master's degree in hospitality business from Erasmus University Rotterdam.
As a dedicated artist, Anna Moskalkova immersed herself in the world of photography, learning under the guidance of revered artists and photographers. This journey paved the way for her current role as a full-time commercial and social photographer. Her expertise extends to working with NGOs and private industries, where she assumes roles as an instructor, visual strategist, and visual curator. Additionally, she engages in freelance photography and creative training, demonstrating her commitment to the craft and her versatile skill set.