A guide to the New East

Post-internet art

Almost real

The Ukrainian artist closing the gap between art and life

With multiple accounts on Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Vimeo and Soundcloud, there isn’t a social media platform that Masha Batsea isn’t on. Having shown her work at the UK/raine exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery earlier this year, and planning a string of exciting collaborations for the future, there's little chance for you to miss the Ukrainian-born artist’s hilarious and hypnotising GIFs. Batsea, who recently graduated from a Visual Studies MA at the Royal College of Art, says she doesn’t separate her practice from her daily life and uses social media platforms to sketch her ideas.

“I see Instagram as a platform where I frame my process — things that may or may not affect my actual work,” she says. Batsea has an eye for amusing everyday banalities: whether it’s a beauticians called Beyoncé or a Ukrainian chocolate bar called Nirvana, she captures it all on her Instagram, combining the images with selfie collages and trippy GIFs. “I don’t think twice before I snap a small observation and put it up on Instagram. Later, when I look at everything as a whole I can see that there’s a certain pattern of seeing and thinking.”

Batsea’s overarching interest lies in cultural fusions, with London, where the artist is based, providing a rich source of inspiration. Walking around the mixed communities in Dalston and noticing all its cultural offerings is how Batsea came to the idea for Yala Yolo — a project where she transforms the objects she finds into Middle-Eastern artefacts and vice versa. Yala Yolo is both an installation of existing objects and a series of moving image works. “I created a digital space for it to make it easily shareable,” says the artist. “I don’t want to ever create work that is only accessible to gallery attendees.”

Yala Yolo has also extended into a music, with a Soundcloud based project Kuskus Airlines, made in collaboration with a fellow artist Charlotte Maeva-Perret and inspired by DJs like duo Acid Arab, who fuse western and eastern music. On taking east London as a point of influence, Batsea says: “We felt like there was something special going on with eastern and western cultures in this particular place — who is appropriating who? What if it’s evidence of a brand new, truly global culture, with all the rough edges smoothed out, born out of some natural submersion of one into the other? What if we try and explore that, not the differences.”

With Kuskus Airlines now a regular club night in London, Batsea is currently working with Iranian-born producer Kasra V, making visuals for his upcoming vinyl release, a compilation of Iranian music that was smuggled by his grandmother after the Iranian revolution of 1979. Interested in cultural exchanges and collaborations, Batsea’s work is nevertheless still caught in debates over cultural appropriation: “Cultural appropriation is a topic that’s quite hot at the moment, and it seems like everyone is a bit intense about it. I’m not sure where it’s coming from — being so separate with cultures and skin colours in 2016 just doesn’t make any sense,” she responds.

Batsea has an eye for amusing everyday banalities

No stranger to breaking borders, it’s not surprising then that Batsea also lets her ideas travel from one medium to another: from graphics to music, from Tumblr to Soundcloud. She describes Calming Waves, her latest project, as a “journey through digital platforms”. “It all started with the Logic Pro software that I’ve been using to play around with sound-making. I discovered the naming of their in-built sound library to be very poetic: they have samples like Calming Waves, Crispy Pulse, Swirled Decays and Delicate Hell. I took the first sample I liked, Calming Waves, and started growing a project around it.” Encompassing a visual essay, a Soundcloud page and an Instagram account, Batsea also aims to build a digital community, inviting participants at random on Facebook to respond to the title.

“You can also purchase a Calming Waves T-shirt. Depending on how this goes, I intend to create a series of projects related to each Logic Pro sound. The idea is that the product sales would fund every next project and there’s a chance it will grow into something interesting — I don’t know what is it exactly but I like the idea of exploring something that seems so abstract at first, to its endless extents. It makes me think of constantly unfolding layers, as if there was no beginning and no end just constant unfolding,” the artist says.

Batsea’s work stems from a desire to make art that is more of an experience, not limited to one space, whether physical or digital. However, with so many social media platforms, each promising visibility for emerging artists, is there an overwhelming pressure for artists to have an online presence? “I don’t think it’s necessary, unless they want to target an online audience,” says Batsea. “I’ve used the internet since I was 12 and it has affected my way of thinking hugely, but as time goes on I realise more and more that your online activity is still not everything. There are people out there who don’t go online much. Creating influential art for this audience would be way more challenging than dropping another GIF online.”

Text: Liza Premiyak
Image: Masha Batsea

“I don’t want to ever create work that is only accessible to gallery attendees”
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