The boundaries of time and possibilities get blurry. The entire universe suddenly lives in the moment. Everything happens now. Ignorance is the start button. There is always something new to be found in the search for answers. 404 Zero, the pure generative art collective from Saint Petersburg in conversation with Maria Abramenko.
You both met in Moscow in 2016, I wonder what was everyone’s background before this?
It was a strange time – everyone wanted to transcend the expected/to push the boundaries/to think outside the box. We both wanted to do something deeper. We were thinking about expressing ourselves, but simultaneously, we didn’t want to make our art too personal/we didn’t want to inject our personalities into our art too much. We wanted to create something alive/fresh – something we could play with. It’s important for us to make art for ourselves. We need constant inspiration/ we need something to inspire us. It’s difficult to do it, while being trapped in Moscow. Therefore we decided to create a space that we could enter – a place we could stay in for a long time. The embodiment of this place were video installations and subsequently music. We wanted to stay there and leave the viewers on their own. Sasha, a co-founder of Tundra, is now its former member. Kristina was a designer, working with theatre projects and performances.
I have read that your most irrepressible fascinations are death, the unknown and the cosmos. What would you say is the main concept behind your artworks?
We get this question very often – in fact, it’s so hard to give a single answer. Indeed, we are inspired by death. It may sound strange. But the moment when the death is so near is indescribably inspiring. Everything is devalued within a second – precisely the moment becomes life and you are, in a manner of speaking, rebooted. You think, well, if this is the end and I’m ready, then I can still do something great. The boundaries of time and possibilities get blurry. The entire universe suddenly lives in the moment. Everything happens now. Ignorance is the start button. There is always something new to be found in the search for answers. It’s hard to see when you know what you’re doing, but the act of searching is very cool. Space is an inconceivable muse. It inspires, I guess, a lot of people, including us. We are inspired by different things – sometimes these are very down-to-earth and sometimes they are from outer space. However, all we have been doing last year is endure. For the most part, people have been shut off from seeing art and artists to make it. You can argue about that, but the fact remains – people got bored and there is no one else whom we could show our installations and performances. And it has become quite difficult to talk about inspiration in this case- we lost ourselves somewhere in Iceland, which was the last place of our journey, and the return to reality seems simply impossible.
What is the importance of sound in your artworks? Are you composing all the sound yourself?
Yes, we write our own music for all our installations and works. Not so long ago we released two albums. One was released by us because we had a hard time waiting for a drop on a label and the other was released on the Bedroom community label. Probably, it’s the best label. We were honored to be on the same list as Ben Frost, Nick Murphy, Valgir Sigurdson and many others. Both albums were recorded in a professional studio in Iceland – GreenHouse studio. They were mastered by Francesco Fabris. Moreover, we were also very lucky with the engineer – he appreciates keenly that we have to keep the material raw and do not add any effects. It was important for us that the entire material was recorded, mixed and mastered using analog equipment. We play on modular synthesizers buchla and eurorack format. The whole album is recorded live. The album is marked by the mood that accompanied the recording process. Or the absence of the mood labels the album – depends how you approach it. We just sat down and played, then pressed the record button occasionally. It was cool!
What would be the ideal location for your most desirable installation? Please explain why as well.
We would like to build a museum somewhere in the mountains or in the desert. Only those who really need to see this place will be the visitors. There will be enormously big installations. People could spend as much time there as they would like. There will be no curators, no producers, no sponsorship money – not even a schedule.
How does the NFT world works for you so far?
It’s kind of cool. When the hype started, we wrote Beeple, like, as he says, well, this is fucking great. Because we were busy with doing some stuff and dealing with our depression, we texted him again a couple of months later, like is it worth it? And he was like- yes, guys, this is fucking amazing. So when we woke up, it was already too hot and hard to leave. But in general, it worked. Recently we sold a small series of 4 works for 29k USD and also participated in a charity action where we sold the work for 86k USD. All the money went to a children’s fund. It is a strange world we live in. Now the priorities have changed utterly. It is probably time to say that the world will never be the same again.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have several upcoming projects. We are working on a huge installation in Australia in June at Dark Mofo festival. Moreover, there are several future projects in Germany, but these are still in progress. There is an upcoming solo exhibition at 180 The Strand in 2021, London.
Listen to Soundscapes vol.53, a playlist curated by 404.zero
Artist: 404 Zero / @404.zero
Art Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Antoine Schafroth / @a.schafroth
Photography: Volkov Vanya, Rustam Shagimordanov, Artyom Bitsovich & Aram Sun