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Buryatia's Blossoming Artist: Altana Discusses Astronomy, Film and Happiness
NCO 099
2023-09-08
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N: Hi Altana, it's wonderful to have you here with us. Could you share some insights about your upbringing and life growing up? What did you aspire to be when you were a child? And when did your passion for art begin to blossom?

A: When I was in middle school, I thought there were only two ways to not "waste" your life - only science and art. So, one day I saw a TV show where Carl Sagan was talking about space and galaxies, and it was such a fascinating experience for me - it really inspired me to study astronomy. So, I bought some pop-science books about the universe, like Stephen Hawking's books about black holes.

And after the ninth grade, I decided to enter a specialized physics and mathematics college, where I could study physics all day long.

Understanding its romanticization came after a couple of weeks. And also when I lived in the dormitory of this college, I felt outside the box - everyone mathing math, physicsing physics, but I wanted to draw, sew and write magazines.

I left this college, and from that moment my artistic path began. I began to study the history of world art and entered the university at the faculty of contemporary art.

N: If you had to categorize yourself as an artist, how would you describe yourself? Have you discovered any particular medium you feel passionate about or are you still exploring and experimenting?

A: For this era my passion medium is mix of moving images with moving words. Video is kind of old classic instrument but there're so many ways to make a poetic sentence out of this.

Also I can say that my videoworks are in the edge with performance.

I’m always living through the theme of the work — being inside of a structure of video, do some rules and practices out of them or participate in videos as an «actress».

N: What are some themes you like to explore in your work or that you are particularly passionate about? How does your personal heritage influence your artistic work? For instance, do you find that your concept of beauty or the themes you are passionate about are shaped by the folklore, heritage and traditions of Buryatia?

A: It's natural that my works are coming from my Buryat cultural background, but due to difficult subaltern situation and repressive past and present of Buryat people, most part of young generation is innerly divided - feeling part and apart from their culture.

I grew up in Buryat sense, but in its post-repressed and urban version.

So it feels like you need to get to know with yourself slowly: read, conceptualise and investigate deeply. Therefore, I often talk about memory, home, family stories and our mythologies. In my works I see a specific fragile sense of emptiness which I feel only in Buryatia. There is this sort of harmony surrounding everything around you... transparent air for thick thoughts.

N: I know you are currently leading a nomadic lifestyle between Kazakhstan, Buryatia, and possibly the Netherlands for your future studies. What is it that attracts you to each individual place? As we are connecting right now, you are in Almaty. What are some fun things young people like to do there?

A: Yeah, this year I have a really nomadic lifestyle. I think that from the beginning of this year I've been in the 14 countries. Almaty is like a giant fragrant green tree surrounded by a giant rocky mountain. I love the people so much, they're so warm.

Almaty is kind of a large (in size) version of Ulan-Ude - people are close to each other with reverent attitude. All other places on the planet attract me with their novelty.

Buryatia is my homeland — mother’s lamb soup with homemade noodles, my childhood memories and hopes about its future — it has goosebumpsy feeling of "home".

In summer in Ulaan-Ude everyone goes to Baikal, because it is pretty easy to reach ( a 2 hour drive). This summer, I worked in a grocery store in a village on the shores of Lake Baikal. It's a pretty interesting social scene - people coming to relax and to rave, old, young, arguing couples, school friends, parents with ice cream, mysterious lovers, vacationers resting in tents...

N: Here at Newlife research, we are all about redefining success and finding happiness. What personally brings you joy and fulfillment? Is there anything you learned about finding your own happiness?

A: I would say this: "Continuation of the movement so that the bones do not stagnate and see-love-hug people and share smiles. Be open-minded-and-hearted to all creatures."

Images Courtesy of Altana

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