Lada Nakonechna (*1981 in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, lives and works in Kiev) confronts the viewer in her drawings, installations, videos, and performances with pictures of current events and pictorial experiences from the collective memory, which she manipulates or distorts. She often lets the human being, in the form of the viewer, become a manipulative, disruptive factor who himself influences and changes a given picture.
Observing the Artist as Another Object
While creating her works, Lada Nakonechna constantly thinks of clearing up space and leaving it free for others. To some extent, her works can be seen as manifesting the need for a spectator. The artist, like anyone else for that matter, desperately needs a spectator to be able to see herself. In a certain sense, only this kind of reflection makes possible something common that does not belong to anybody but can be shared by everybody. How to remove yourself from view, thus, freeing up space for something to happen or potentially happen? How to stop producing, accumulating, appropriating and instead start eliciting, watching, and analyzing all that has already been produced, accumulated and appropriated? Maybe this gesture of clearing up can be seen as a human being’s last chance for dealing with the impossibility of life?
To make herself visible as a spectator who acts even when motionless (as inertia is the most dangerous gesture for one who has declared her desire to change the world) – this could be Lada Nakonechna’s artistic statement. Having escaped from the natural order and declared themselves the rivals of nature, people also took upon themselves the responsibility of self-reflection. Any representation of the world seems incomplete without somebody contemplating it, without attention to the quality and specificity of that looking. The unfinished landscapes on the top portion of the wall in Incomplete are waiting for someone’s arrival to populate the landscape, but there is nothing to look at except the bodies of viewers filling the empty space. The artist’s gesture turns the viewer’s gaze back upon herself, to see herself looking at herself in this unfinished landscape.
The artist also reveals the process of creating a new landscape in Constructing the New Landscape. This new scenery, which looks civilized, is not clearer or more livable than the forest full of danger and chimeras that people escaped. People have produced a reality where images of street fights predominate over natural landscapes. But these pictures are as incomprehensible as the abandoned and menacing forest. Why does the world invented by people revolt against them? Why is it that the living space apparently made unthreatening presents new threats to humans?
Perhaps the fear experienced by man in nature is radically different from that of modern man? Is it possible that the fear of the forest is more comprehensible because it was caused by natural conditions and demanded simple actions like attacking an enemy, defending oneself against danger, or hunting for prey? Having protected themselves from natural threats, humans have not eliminated fear. With Personal Shield, Lada Nakonechna exhibits the civilized person’s fear – of the other, of the world, and of oneself. This fear does not disappear, even in the relative safety of today’s society. This fear has accumulated because the ways of realizing it and living through it have been lost. The work Reserved consists of a cage that occupies the whole room so that there is no space left for a person to enter. It exposes the usual reaction tothis hidden fear – occupation or appropriation of space or discourse, desire to master the world, whether materially or intellectually.
When she covered the Albertina Library’s walls with pencil drawings of bookshelves amidst marvelous landscapes (Perspective), Lada Nakonechna refused to secure them in any way. The work that the artist created over three months during the library’s working hours in the presence of visitors could be easily destroyed with the touch of an eraser by anybody who enters the space. Art, like everything else created by people, should be preserved for only as long as there is a need for it – whether existential or vital. When something exhausts its potential, it should simply be discarded. The fragility and potential disappearance of Lada Nakonechna’s work revealsart to be a form of action in the world, while at the same time desacralizing and demystifying the artwork.
In Appropriated Phrases, the spectator passes through a corridor, encountering phrases taken out of context from Brecht’s play Good Person of Szechwan, while obscuring the name of the speaking character with her body. Instead, the names – the Old Man, the Unemployed Man, the Policeman – are projected onto the spectator’s back. Thus, discovering herself in between the subject and discourse, the spectator becomes somewhat perplexed: Who is saying this? What does it mean? Why are these exact words being said? How did I end up as a mediator between the discourse and subject and what should I do in this situation? Caught up in the process of contemplation, the spectator is made a participant of a conversation, even though she is not the one speaking.
Lada Nakonechna reflects on a person’s capacity to really perceive one’s surroundings, which are often obscured by one’s idea of what is being observed. This becomes visible through the work Almost the Same where the wall of the exhibition hall is covered with an exact photographic copy of the wall. In Object Lesson of my Participation the artist deals with the place and function of art today. When an endless number of images are being created and used by certain people with the purpose of manipulating others, the artist’s role becomes to display these various methods of manipulation and unveil the illusionary structures they produce. Perhaps exhibiting the mechanisms, instruments and methods of art is also an attempt to reflect on the system of social relationships?
By exposing the methods and principles the artist uses to construct reality, Lada perfroms a certain demystification of perception. At the same time, she shares this work with spectators tired of the infinity of images as a way of dealing with the contemporary world. Lada demystifies not only the artist’s work but also the sacred persona of the artist. In different countries, during different exhibitions, she repeats her performance Bad Face of Ukraine where she sits motionless on a chair in the gallery with her eyes closed. Thus, she gives away her own position of observer (one that is already inscribed into her works themselves) to the spectator, placing herself next to her works as another object, equally open to another’s gaze and analysis. Lada Nakonechna manifests art as a frame for looking at the world, and elucidating the complicated social structures that affect what we see. At the same time, she does not appropriate this artistic approach, but invites the spectator to do the same – in his or her own specific way.