Is there a sexual level in it?
Of course! Of course people come to the parties to make friendships, find lovers, of course there is this possibility for social and sexual interaction—to be making unities, or perhaps one- night friendships that don’t end up in real unity. There is this mixture of old ideas related to sexual relationships coming together with new ones. Sometimes the old one wins, sometimes the new one wins, sometimes it’s a combination of the two.
Looking at the techno scene—I’ve been here for three weeks now—it is for me more real than the everyday post-Soviet world. I suppose it depends on who I spend my time with. To me it is the other world that is living in a state of travesty or fake reality. How do you see the relationship between these two worlds? I’m trying to refer to the idea of maskirovka—a situation of military deception, undeclared wars, and uncertainty on all levels of life.
Maybe for me it’s delayed adolescence. We had this prolonged childishness after 1991. We were an independent state, but we had many childish illusions that we could be on sisterly terms with many states that don’t view us as sisters. We were naive about many things. So that was our childhood: the years from 1991 to 2013. In 2013, after the Maidan Revolution and the start of war, we had to become adolescent very fast. I am not saying that we are mature now, either our culture or our state, but rather that the current condition of facing the different sides of our reality can be defined as adolescence. The harsh side, the after-party side, is when you are disillusioned, money gone, just your hangover and your scars.
What gives the best or worst hangover?
Trust and love, of course. You are so ecstatic. No speed or MDMA will make you as ecstatic as love. Conversely, when you are disillusioned about your partners you feel like you’ve lost everything, your trust, not wanting to enter into any love, any party, you can’t find love anymore.
As Slavoj Žižek says, war always repeats itself, the first time as a serious story, then in the form of farce.
We were looking at photos from Maidan, when Ukrainian forces were killing Ukrainian citizens, and you said that the most traumatic thing for human beings is not seeing natural disasters but seeing violence inflicted by humans on other humans. You could say this was an awakening, lost trust and lost love. You look into the reality of the system.
Before 1991 we witnessed the harshness of the old Soviet system toward us, the citizens. And once again we have witnessed all the harsh- ness of the state against us, its citizens. Many have become disillusioned and entered into much more independent terms. You could call it anarchy, but you should maybe view it as permanent or temporary islands of stability and independence. There is now much more autonomy and self-trust and self-reliance among citizens than there was before. The people trust themselves more than the government. The government prefers to see us as cannon fodder rather than as its citizens.
Why was Maidan so traumatic? Can you describe it?
We believed that the elected president and the police, who are paid from our wages, would not start shooting us, or would have disobeyed orders to shoot. Another traumatic thing is that there were hopes that the investigation into the crimes committed by the authorities during Maidan would be successful, that we would see some guilty people pay for these crimes. Yet none among the accused were found guilty.
Does that mean that when nobody is guilty, everyone is innocent?
More than one thousand witnesses saw the crimes, but nobody was guilty. It’s totally absurd. It’s the same absurdity surrounding this unannounced war. Everybody knows we’re at war, we have witnessed the troops coming, we have seen them crossing the border, we know who the aggressor is, but we are not able to call it a war. We are not able to call many other things by their proper names, either. You see the duck, it’s quacking, it’s running like a duck, it’s behaving like a duck, but you are not able to call it a duck.
People call this situation a hybrid war. Let’s talk about masks and the masking of reality. Can you explain the term “green men”?
It’s a term for the invaders who are actually Russian soldiers, but masked as independent soldiers. It’s a hybrid war. As Slavoj Žižek says, war always repeats itself, the first time as a serious story, then in the form of farce. This liberator-man, the Soviet soldier who liberated the Ukrainians from the German occupation in World War II, is coming back to liberate people who are more liberal than he is.
If you ask me, I seriously believe that I am living through the zombie apocalypse, and there won’t be a good ending.
Hence this new liberator is wearing a mask so he cannot be pinned down or identified. Perhaps he knows he’s in an unjustifiable and unsettling position. I have noticed how people here love masks, for parties and such. Is there a reason for this obsession?
I see Ukrainian culture in many ways as coming from Scythian and Semitic cultures, which had this old oriental custom of masks, but also developing from the ancient Greek tradition, since there were many Greek colonies on the north coast of the Black Sea. The Greeks brought a culture and early theories of the mask. So we have a very long tradition of masking and carnivals, to all possible new ends. Through these you are able to live your additional selves. I remember having been fond of masks as a child. I had three favorites: a snowflake, a little fox, and a little devil. Masks are very natural to us: carnival masks, but also protective masks, for instance against the annual grippe epidemics. Consider also the masks against the smoke of war and revolution. There are beauty masks as well; we’re very much absorbed into the industries of fashion, beauty, entertainment, and last but not least, sex.
Are the masks about hiding reality, or are they part of becoming another reality?
For me, virtual reality is always one more reality. It’s not fake or artificial or additional. I cannot say that it is less real. For me, masks are not fake but rather normal.
Could we say that this hypernormalisation of artificial reality might play into the hands of people like Putin?
But everything might play into the hands of war. I’m not an optimist. If you ask me, I seriously believe that I am living through the zombie apocalypse, and there won’t be a good ending.
Tobias Zielony is an artist, photographer and filmmaker based in Berlin.