Imagine for a moment that you walk in someone else’s shoes, that you’ve been persecuted from your mother land, Russia or that you’ve witnessed legendary New York nights. Try to feel fear, love and the desire for creation. This is the life of renowned artist Slava Mogutin. He claims that everyone is born a creative, but most are afraid to try. Well, if that’s true, he is undeniably the most fearless artist you will ever come across.
What does it mean to you that your work has received such wide acceptance and recognition?
Nothing ever fell from the sky and I worked hard to get where I am today. I never compromised or sold out or made the ‘right’ career choices, I just spoke from my heart and followed my passion and always did what I love. Of course, it’s flattering to know that my work is gaining more recognition, but I’m not making art out of vanity. I grew up in such a hostile environment that my work became the only positive outlet. I poured my soul into it and it helped me to overcome my fears, anxieties, insecurities and all the negativity surrounding me. I suffered from unfair persecution and censorship, but all the attempts to silence me made me even more determined to express myself in the most radical and honest way. It was a survival mechanism that helped me to become the person and artist I am today.
You are also an awarded author. How important is it for you to express your musings in both writing and visual manner?
As long as I remember myself, I’ve been always writing and making art. I’m a third-generation writer and a self-thought artist and photographer. When I moved to NY, after spending nearly 15 years making my living as a journalist and editor for the Russian media, I decided to focus more on my visual art. After all, art doesn’t require translation, it’s free for interpretation and it’s accessible to a much wider audience. I still write in English, although less consistently and I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. At this point it’s more of a hobby, although I remain a poet in everything I do.
You, along with Brian Kenny, are the founders of SUPERM, a collaborative art project focusing on gallery and museum shows in the U.S. and Europe. How would you describe this global, artistically interactive experience today after an amazing 10-year-long course?
Brian and I have been collaborating from the day we met and it happened very spontaneously, like all the best things in life and art. I’ve always believed in the spirit of collaboration, but I could never imagine that we would last this long as a couple and as a team. SUPERM is our love child that keeps us together and allows us to create new things that we could never achieve separately. It’s the kind of third mind that blends together all our ideas, talents and dreams, and sometimes the results are surprising even to us. It’s also an open-ended project and a perfect platform and laboratory for experiments in different genres and media, which often include other like-minded artists – both emerging and established, young and mature…
Naked body has been depicted in art since the beginning of human civilization. If you look at the first prehistoric drawings and objects from Paleolithic period, there are plenty of depictions of tits and dicks. Sex is what keeps human species alive, so why not celebrate it in art? It’s much better than celebrating death, gore, blood, destruction and violence, so common in the Western mass culture.
One of your most sexual and visually provocative series is NYC Go-Go. What inspired you to shoot this series and how would you describe the experience?
Shortly after Brian and I met, he started working as a go-go dancer and bartender at several downtown gay bars, like the Cock, Boysroom, and Mr. Black. He quickly became one of the most popular personalities in the NY nightlife, sometimes working 5 nights a week. I would come out to visit Brian and take pictures of him and his friends. In most cases, I was the only photographer allowed backstage or in the dressing room and I met so many great characters, so I realized that this could be a great documentation of the disappearing underground gay scene—something that NY used to be famous for. Sadly, most of those places are already gone, and NY nightlife is not nearly as wild and exciting as it used to be. Looking through the pages of NYC Go-Go it’s like looking through the diary of our first years together, full of sex, drugs and hip-hop. It was a fun chapter of our lives, but, frankly, I’m glad it’s over. These days Brian and I hardly ever go out.
In the past you have stated that you’ve always felt limited by any particular genre or medium through your attempt to express yourself artistically. From your experience, what would your advice to the new artists who try to overcome that same boundary?
Don’t be afraid to unlock your creative potential and start using both sides of your brain! Every person is born creative, everyone is capable of writing and drawing, but most are simply afraid to try. Creativity is like a muscle that needs regular exercise—and the more you use it, the better you get.
What new to expect from you in the future?
I’m working on a book of writings in English, Food Chain, to be published in the spring 2014 by the new Brooklyn-based publisher ITNA Press. Moreover Brian and I are getting ready for upcoming shows in Paris, Prague, LA, and Tel-Aviv. Next year we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary and we’re planning a wedding-show-performance during our residency at an art center in rural Ireland, the land of Brian’s ancestors. Nothing makes me happier than traveling the world with my work and the man I love, exploring new cultures and discovering new things!