Svetlana Ochkovskaya: We Are Not Ourselves

Zealous Stories, Sculpture winner, Svetlana Ochkovskay lives and works in Portsmouth, UK. Her practice explores ideas of identity, belonging and otherness: encouraging new perceptions of the world by taking the audience to a visual other.

Svetlana Ochkovskaya, We Are Not Ourselves, Photo credit Dana Do

Congratulations on winning Zealous Stories: Sculpture. Your winning project, We Are Not Ourselves, features a series of wearable sculptures. Could you give us some context around these costumes?

I had created that series of wearable sculptures for my MFA Degree Show 2020 at the Goldsmiths University of London before the first lockdown.

The figures ‘non-human’ appearance transforms their identity, giving spirit and energy to a new fantastical creature, stretching the boundaries of the imagination.

Through performance in the otherworldly sculptural costumes, I make familiar things unfamiliar: giving everyday experiences a new meaning. I create a new world that offers an escape from the daily routine and our mundane way of seeing. Fantasy helps us question who we are and who we can become.

We Are Not Ourselves, Photo credit Dana Do

Are the people wearing these hybrid sculptures of relevance? How do you want the audience to perceive what lies beneath?

The human body is an integral part of the sculpture: not just as a base for it, but as a primary state of communication, not a face. The body also gives expression to wearable costumes through physical presence and movement. I see a human body within a sculpture as a place of visual and mental transformation.

Through concealing the identity, I allow anyone who wore it to fully immerse themselves into the character of the sculpture: to express themselves free from stereotypes and social functions. Thus, I defined identity as something changeable and evolving.

We Are Not Ourselves 

How does the medium of sculpture fit into your wider practice? Do you see yourself as a sculptor predominantly?

I am a multidisciplinary artist exploring the intersection between sculpture, installation, performance and film.

I make immersive, disorientating installations and wearable sculptures. The installation becomes a physically animated space, in which the sculptures and their surroundings interconnect. I would like to create a hidden world or micro-world, which allows us to completely lose ourselves in space – the intersection of real and imaginary space, lived and experienced space, perceived and conceived space.

The primary medium is a sculpture within an installation, so I see myself as a sculptor predominantly.

We Are Not Ourselves 

Could you tell us more about your video Adapting To The New Reality Of Life Under Lockdown and how these sculptures come into play?

Social interconnectedness offers human beings a sense of identity and a way to deal with their everyday emotions. The lockdown is a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. I create a new fantastical world that offers an escape from the daily routine and our mundane way of seeing.

The pandemic inspired me to bring to life my wearable sculptures and create a video performance combining real-life scenarios with elements of humour and fantasy. The film is a projection of my imagination from my personal experiences; as a wife, mother and artist.

We Are Not Ourselves 

What is your creative process? 

I usually work on different pieces simultaneously. I have never drawn sketches – the vision of the finished piece is always in mind. I love to experiment with a variety of materials and techniques. I prefer to work with organic and recycled materials, such as paper, autumn leaves, pebbles, etc.

I use paper, tape, wire and paint to create these sculptural forms. I had to cut thousands of different squares of paper, fold them into cones, tape them, then assemble them all with wire to make the form of a sculpture. It has been an incredibly time-consuming process: I have spent one year designing it. The fragile nature of the materials makes costumes vulnerable to breakage.

April 2021, Havant, Searching For A Place To Belong, November 2019 – ongoing

Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?

I am currently working on the project out | side | in curated by Olga Tarasova. Inhabited by a creature from my series, Searching for a Place to Belong, The Smallest Gallery in Soho will precipitate into the topographical corpus of its new resident. Opening from July – September 2021.

I am also one of ten winners of the Lucky Dip bursary scheme by ‘a space’ arts. I am designing a new series of wearable sculptures for a live performance and exhibition at God’s House Tower in Southampton, October 2021.

How do you see your practice evolving?

I would love to collaborate with professional creatives, such as performers, dancers, choreographers, camera operators and filmmakers. I am interested in producing a professionally filmed moving image piece and disseminating my wearable sculptures beyond live events.

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Ellie Isaacs

Community Manager