“No one is waiting for me anywhere.” Great interview with designer Vladimir Tsesler

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In the last couple of years, Belarusian artists and musicians have very accurately reflected in art what many feel. First in connection with the events in Belarus, and now with the war in Ukraine. One of them is the famous artist and designer Vladimir Tsesler, whose art, thanks to the play of contexts and involvement in current events, often goes viral. Now the Belarusian lives in Cyprus and leads a private life. We talked to him about creativity, its relevance and role in difficult times, moving and the changed Minsk. In his reasoning, Cessler is tight-lipped, but his remarks, like the posters, on the one hand, convey the essence, on the other – give the opportunity to think and try to read the meaning between the lines.

“There is a feeling of uselessness if nothing changes”

– Last year you sold at a digital auction work Limoncella. After that, did they exhibit anything else there?

– In fact, it was not me who exhibited it, but my friends. Since I do not understand anything in this, I decided not to participate in it yet.

– In general, modern art, including digital, is valued?

– As God puts on the soul. It probably depends on how much is invested in advertising.

– What are you mainly doing now?

– It is not possible to do work, because this requires equipment. And I don’t have it yet. So I do everything a little bit, mostly do graphics.

– Can this be called art?

– As practice shows, anything can be called art.

– You regularly publish new works. What and who inspires you?

– My work is a response to what is happening around, what worries me.

– And what worries you the most?

– Yes, everything that happens around. This is a very broad question that we will not cover in a short conversation.

– Without what or for what reasons will the inspiration run out?

– Sometimes you do to pay attention to something, but there is a feeling of uselessness of the lesson due to the fact that nothing changes.

– Probably nothing changes at the moment. But the contribution to some kind of change or to the mood of the people is still there…

– I do not know this, because I do not see the eyes of the audience and few people talk to me on this topic.

“Does that affect you?”

– In general, no. Every artist understands what he is. No more and no less. I have long noticed that people are scolded or praised no longer for the work itself, but for something else.

And sooner or later you realize that it is not so important.

– Is it more important to speak?

– Probably, yes. You have something inside, why and for what you are doing it.

“I’m not very adapted to life, and creativity is what turns out”

– You once said that in order to attract the attention of modern man in art or advertising, he must be shocked. Do you still think so?

“I don’t know.” Today there is little to shock.

“Because there are enough shocks in reality?”

– Yes, there is just more shock in her.

– What then can attract the viewer’s attention?

– Everyone would like to know the answer to this question. But I don’t know him.

– Did you pay attention to what causes the most response in your work?

– Often this is something completely unexpected. Sometimes I think it will be one job, but it turns out that it is not – another gets more attention. It is difficult to predict what will make an impression, because people are very different, everyone has their own temperament, character, everyone thinks differently.

– How do images come to you, which then become new works? Are these some long reflections or, rather, moments of enlightenment?

“I don’t think it’s a long thought.” It is difficult, rather, to find a topic to talk about. And the rest is a technical matter. When I am asked how this happens to me, I answer that I can do nothing more. I am generally not very adapted to life. And my creativity is what turns out. That’s all.

– Creative people never turn off their heads, they pass everything that happens around them, look at the conditional lamp and combine it with an excavator in their head. Do you also have this: do you always imagine and see some images or do you have to concentrate, sit down, work so that they are born?

– You don’t have to concentrate, you don’t have to work. They arise somehow at once. And this happens in milliseconds. You know, like that pre-awakening dream that is said to last only a split second, but it seems to be a whole event that lasts a long time. And here everything happens very quickly. But in order to perform this image later – this is a routine: you are looking for a suitable way, you see what you have on hand.

– You have works that inspire hope, there are those that ironize over reality. Is it the optimism and irony that you have, or do you just want to express them for a purpose?

– This is the way of thinking. I think I got it from my grandmother.

And I also had a friend, Vyacheslav Dubinka (Belarusian artist and photographer), who did everything in the world: photographed, cut out paper, tried himself as a writer and journalist. In his stories there were always broken and sad destinies, like a man with whom fate treated quite cruelly. But he always spoke cheerfully and with subtle irony. It was very close to me.

– Do you think the ability to look at reality with irony facilitates the perception of what is happening around?

– Probably, yes.

“You will never have to return to the former Minsk”

– Times are difficult now, but if you look at the historical context, they are interesting. Is this a good time for a creative person?

– You know, many would also like to answer this question. I think not for everyone, but for some – yes. Some may close and cannot do anything during this period. And someone – on the contrary. We see what the musicians are doing at this time and so much has been written interestingly.

If we talk about comfortable conditions, then you know how they say that an artist should be hungry. But many, on the contrary, say that comfort is important to them. I’m not saying that there should be complete comfort, but some minimum conditions in order to exist and do something are still important.

– Is your work now somehow different from what it was in Belarus, say, in “quiet times”?

– In general, no, because I’m not much here. This was the case before, when the world was mostly limited to the studio. About the same thing is happening today. I don’t go anywhere at all, as I rarely did when I was at home. Traveling is not my favorite pastime. For me, traveling is a big stress. When I go somewhere, I always want to come back from this place as soon as possible.

But when I left Minsk, I realized that I would never have to return to this city. I mean what the city was like when I left. It will be a different substance, a completely different world that has nothing to do with what it was before.

– Do you have thoughts that you may not return home? Probably because you don’t want to or just can’t.

– I think about it the least. You can’t think of that in advance.

“Are you pulling home at all?”

– Not now.

“When did it pass?”

– When many close people left there, when the connection with those who were there was lost [остался]as well as those in Russia and Ukraine.

– Is it important for you in which country to live?

– Actually, it’s important. In the place where I live now (in Cyprus. – Ed. Note), the weather is too hot. Sometimes it suffocates and interferes.

– But you have the opportunity to choose any country in the world…

– Well, straight! This is said very loudly. Nothing like that, no one is waiting for me anywhere.

– And if they chose, what kind of country would it be?

– Probably, for a comfortable life you need a country with a climate similar to the Belarusian one.

– Now many creative people have left Belarus. They organize various exhibitions. Do you lack this kind of activity?

– You know, I’ve always had a rather strange attitude to exhibitions, because most of the time they don’t bring you anything. It is believed that people there buy something. But nothing like that. But the work is often returned damaged. No one is responsible for this.

Exhibitions are a painful thing for the soul.

– Do you think the work of contemporary visual artists helps Belarusians or Ukrainians (each in their own context) to find a foothold?

“I don’t know, though I’d like to understand.” Still, it seems to me that people today are not up to it.

“Would you like your images to be like that?”

“I didn’t think of that.” When you create, rather, you think, will agree [зритель] with your position or not. That’s enough.

“Don’t turn back and stop time”

– Do you continue to follow what is happening in Belarus?

“Of course.”

– How do you manage to capture the moods and trends, especially for creativity, and not break away from the situation in Belarus? This is a big risk for everyone who does not live in the country for a long time.

– Thanks to the Internet, today we see and hear everything that is happening, including horrors. It is impossible to remain indifferent. Sometimes you realize the futility of what you are doing. And it happens – you show your attitude, and someone probably does not need it.

– Is it possible to close Belarus from the outside world and make people just watch TV?

– You can do anything. Someday it will, it may not be possible to call or no one will be allowed [в страну]. Everything is possible.

– If you remember your image of the bbc flag with a load of 97%, do you think it has moved further, hung or rolled back?

– If you’re talking about whether we won, then, of course, yes. In the sense that there is nothing to turn back and time does not stop. You can try to restrain indefinitely [перемены], but sooner or later everything will happen. This is perfectly understandable.

– That is, the Belarusians did not lose to the dictatorship?

– No. If they (the Belarusian authorities) are so outrageous, then they have lost, and thus take revenge.

– How long can what is happening in Belarus take time?

“As much as you want.”

– It sounds pessimistic and doesn’t look like you.

– No, it seems. I used to think it was about to end, but no – nothing like that – it could last as long as you wanted.

“Another one of yours.” work, which you published on the eve of the new year, with the inscription “Merry Crisis 2022”. Did you foresee what this year will bring?

– No. This work was created a long time ago. She is already 20. She just remains relevant every year. This often happens: you do something and sooner or later it’s time for this work of yours.

– And what do you expect from this year? Are you expecting something good?

– Constant expectation of something is a normal state of a person. But I’m pretty skeptical about everything. May God make good happen. I just don’t see yet how and in what system this can happen.

For myself, I never wanted anything big. I never gravitated to accumulation, I did not see myself with a good car, for example. Always cost a minimum. If there is what I have now, and thank God.

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