Roman Mokrov

Roman Mokrov is a young but already quite successful and well-known contemporary artist. He photographs and makes video-art. Simultaneously he works in real-estate agency and photographs premium apartments. Roman suggested setting our meeting in unusual place – in the canteen of old building of Kursk Station.



About content

What role does absurd element, combination of paradoxical things, play in your works? Is your main idea to show something ugly as it is beautiful, or is it an artistic device for demonstration of more abstract idea?

It is both a method and content. It’s a view trained in a special way. It is not a result by itself to show some absurdity, my view is just focusing so. I have taught myself to see so. Partly because I can’t live without irony and take everything seriously. I see at the angle. I turn out to be a “jolly cynic”. I see any situation from the outside.

What is your attitude to such absurd things as cynicism, irony, and bewilderment?

No, it is empathy. For example, how many epochs are here (the canteens of Kursk Station)? Nikolay’s station is covered by soviet station, domes are painted in gold above, and that’s 90th. The diner at the imperial station seems to me to be brilliant.

Homes from Roma Mokrov on Vimeo.

Why is the theme of a road and journey is the most frequent?

Life is like a journey. Till death. 

Do you shoot video-art in Russia only? Do you base your ideas on Russian content? If you spent a year in Milan, how would your works change?

I am interested in universal values such as Love, Death, and Competition by the example of where I am. So in Milan I would find friends too, from homeless most likely.


About work

How many posed photographs within your works? Do you prefer candid shot or completely directed picture?

And how do you think? Of course, I don’t invite special elderly lady with a kerchief to a church, I just cannot stage in this way. Five years ago I made a picture of the elderly lady, and this Sunday I saw the same kerchief in the church, it is unique, I am sure. It won’t be mess up, its pattern; I think there are not many of them in the city. But this time I saw a little girl who came in the kerchief.

Could I say that you use documentary as artistic device?

What is documentary?

Unprejudiced fixing of reality, of what you see, quality mistakenly imputed to photography as major.

Reality is not enough for me, so I need something to imagine.

               “Hide newborn fire in palm”

How much are you detached from the subjects you are photographing? Is there a personal echo, or is it just a witness or social researcher’s view? For example your video-works seem to accumulate more of your personal experience.

There is no participation, I am present everywhere. I am not detached from the subjects. If I’ve come here with you, I am in the thick of things. How can I be detached?

Is there a necessity to photograph with film cameras, or is trash-conception better embodied with digital equipment?

What’s the difference? I’m an artist, I don’t care. I use photography as raw, I don’t see the difference, and essence is primary. Digital photography is just more expensive.

How do you define when the photography becomes a work of art?

Everything that artist does is a work of art. I’m joking of course. For me everything that exhibited in museum or declared as a work of art is a work of art.

It’s a disputable view.

Yes, it is. But I was taught in this way. Everything that declared as a work of art is called a work of art, everything that exhibited in museum is a work of art.

What spectator’s reaction do you count on after watching your works? Did you face with total misunderstanding of your conceptions?

I don’t count on any reaction. There are different people. Who does artist work for?

That depends. That is why I ask you. 

I don’t count on at all, I just pursue art. And if we want to explain art to mass of people we need educational programmes from a young age.

Do you have favorite picture?


About situation

Are there directions and spheres in contemporary art that you don’t understand, and projects that you won’t participate in?

Just in contemporary? If not, for example, I don’t understand why modern students of art paint still life. I understand everything that happens in contemporary art. Another question if I like it or not.

In your works such a trick when you mark space of commonness with some paradoxical inserts and elements (girls worn in oriental dresses dancing at railway stations, stations named after philosophers and etc.) often appears. There are many projects with such looking today. What is it related with?

I don’t work with urban space. I feel tightness and stuffiness, and what I see is not enough. In my case, for example, I was born here, in the place without a sea. What I can? I can go to the sea.  I do like bathing. I can imagine the sea too. But then I would like to bath in it. So I would suffer here without it and would imagine it within some project. The same way the project with stations can show parallel reality. Development of our country went by special direction (there are cities like Kirov and Dzerzhinsk). Could you imagine if everything would be in a different way, another flags and standards, stations “Red Sartre” and “Nietzsche-commodity”? I think we can just test it, and suggest such Utopia.

Spring from Roma Mokrov on Vimeo.

What contemporary Russian artists’ works do you find the most competent and serious? What areas of contemporary art do you find the most worthy in Moscow?

I think they are MMOMA, GARAGE, MediaArtLab. Triumf makes cool things.

About myself

Do you have teachers in photography that conducted you and impacted on your photography esthetics?  

Street impacted on me. (laughing)


Do you look for inspiration in other kinds of art? What do you watch and read for yourself?

The world around inspires me. Bukowski motivated me; he is very consonant with my creative work. I was delighted with Alexander Dvorkin’s “Sectology”. Now I am collecting booklets of different sects, scientologists and others. I like quotation of Italian curator Francesco Bonami “The art is for those (and mainly for those) who don’t have money, but who can dream – and nothing else is needed”.

Do you feel sorry about any actions or non-actions?

Such a question drives me to a nonplus. I wish I got married and had the child earlier. I feel sorry that I haven’t travelled to India for long period. I’m not very regretful. I regret that I am sinner. (laughing)

To set off (b) from Roma Mokrov on Vimeo

Do you face nervous situations? For example, you react upon negative comments to your work?

I faced negative critics when I was opening the exhibition devoted to marriage rituals. But I wasn’t upset about such themes, I like any stir.

Do you have interesting peculiarities, or may be odd hobbies beside photography?

Since 2008 I have been collecting ballads, songs that touch my soul. At the moment there are 1067 of them.

List of some affecting artists (arranged by Roman): Santiago Sierra, Martin Kippenberger, Edward Hopper, Sophie Calle, Anri Sala, Ron Mueck, Nan Goldin, Timur Novikov, Sergey Bratkov.