Absolutely Augmented Reality | "8 1/2 Anti-Social Masks for Instagram"

by Morgan Vickery

'Absolutely Augmented Reality' is a surrealist interpretation of current times, a portrait series by conceptualist free thinkers, Kuzma Vostrikov and Ajuan Song. While the exhibition in totality includes a hundred plus works, today, the Orange Art Projects presents an introductory chapter to the project titled, "8 1/2 Anti-Social Masks for Instagram."

Exploring the intersection of modern photography and "mental archive" of the subconscious, the artists expel digital manipulation and photoshop to instead, offer surrealistic motifs. Commenting on 'masks' worn to portray an online identity, Kuzma and Ajuan play with time, allowing viewers to decide the fate of these images in the past, present, or future.

As storytellers, each work suggests a narrative to interpret. These photographs prompt mystery in dismissing the comforts of clarity, a sort of uncertainty, which can only be defined by the eye of its beholder. Upon the opening of "8 1/2 Anti-Social Masks for Instagram," Flaunt spoke with the 'Absolutely Augmented Reality' duo to dissect their stream of consciousness in creation.

How did this creation come to be?

 Creative fire. Imagine you've been practicing baseball for ten years, and now they've let you out on the field. The thirst to make a statement, the thirst for victory!

New York is a new environment for us, a city the whole world dreams about. The French are kicking themselves. Paris is howling. The Vietnamese dream of New York, London is pining, Tokyoites are saving up for a ticket, Finns, Mexicans, Australians, Kazakhs, and Serbs are weeping, if only they could see, if only they could land in that beloved, far-away city of New York! 

How could we not start working here? When every second summons you to adventure. 

We said right away that we're serious kids, we need to do something of magnitude now. Something to make the critics and museum workers jaws drop. "Whoa, dudes! You can't do that!" Well, we did, and we're pretty happy. Look, we can't wipe the smiles off our faces, our muscles have frozen in happiness.

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How long have you known each other? When did you first decide to collaborate? 

Five years. Ajuan was dedicating herself to work with experimental photography, photograms, and chemigrams. I had just finished an enormous project called One Thousand Photos in Which I Have Never Been. That was 1000 collages dedicated to the problem of social networks. Contemporary art, you could say.

My hands were itching to continue with collage, this time with Warhol as a character. And at that same moment, Ajuan suggested interviewing me for her project. And I said, "What about some collages?" It took off from there.

We work nonstop— you can't even imagine it. I even managed to write a novel during our breaks, Just to Land in Tokyo, for which Ajuan and I have already taken a hundred pictures for illustrations. We're waiting to publish the book.

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What do you hope to evoke from viewers with this series?

In our culture of consumption, we've gotten used to seeing packaging and instructions.  Now we look at the creative process as a product. We prefer our food to be thoroughly chewed, or else the viewer will get mad or complain to customer service.

In this project, we're on the same side as the viewer, because Absolutely Augmented Reality raises problems that exist inside us. AAR develops language and content. From the point of view of language, our goal is to interpret the cultural process in a format comfortable for the modern eye. We create imagery at the juncture of painting and photography, bringing symbolic approaches from portraiture into an area that hasn't previously been considered fine art.

In terms of content, we're closer to the methods of twentieth-century artists, but with a correction for the interests of the current time. In that sense, our photography, largely symbolic, combines in itself more than just visual processes. We leave outside the frame dialog with the masters of literature, music, philosophy, and even science.

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Tell us about this introduction prior to showing ‘Absolutely Augmented Reality’ in its entirety.

It seems that 100 photographs all at once without any introduction is too many. Nobody would understand what it is. Anyone can push the button on a camera a hundred times; We post pictures on Instagram a hundred times a day. We want to begin a dialog, mark the issues that interest us so that the viewer can pay those issues, and artworks the attention they deserve.

The other nuance influencing that decision was the fact that the project covers too many topics simultaneously, and again, two or three topics is already too many, and our audience would drown in that quantity of responses.

8 1/2 Antisocial Masks for Instagram” focuses on the problem of the growing distance between the personal and the public. This exhibition voices the idea of the vitality of subjectivity, which nevertheless shows through in our masks. 

There's a reason Federico Fellini became the allusion for this exhibition because the method he proposes is near and dear to us. This is a method of doubt, of a stream of consciousness, of images, and the importance of the personal, against a backdrop of the general.

To a certain extent, we've made a movie for Instagram...

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What was your favorite part about working on this project?

The lack of limitations. No committee, producer, or supervisor could come up and say, "You know, Ajuan, maybe you could replace the orange with green because we need to demonstrate that no trees were harmed." That was a new sensation because usually, these constraints and rules are there. All my life I've heard those things. The "umm..." and "well, we can't do that" and "that won't work," and so on.

Fellini said that on his set, everything that he considered necessary was at work. And he was thrashed by some of the critics who don't like to joke around. 

Kuzma drew about 150 sketches which we used to shoot all the subjects, and that was a revelation as well. "You can draw!" That isn't forbidden either. Everything else is forbidden. It's forbidden even to give examples of what is forbidden.

The hardest part was the timeline. We wanted to be overwhelmed, and we got it. We also had dust and coldness in that shitty Bushwick warehouse.

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Will you both continue to collaborate on series in the future?

Of course. Next year we're putting out a photo album in Europe, with the same name, Absolutely Augmented Reality. We're also working on a documentary about the project which will come out by the beginning of next year. Not everything always works out, but in this case, the work has been interesting. Don't miss the premiere!

 We have a lot of other plans. It's especially important to preserve a sort of creative acrimony, and metaphorical acrimony, including as a response to the allergens of the moment. We already have over a hundred new concepts ready. But we also need some output from the audience. It's great when they tell you "thanks," or "what the hell kind of crap is this," and enter into a dialog. 


8 1/2 Anti-Social Masks for Instagram” will be on view at 208 East 73rd Street New York, NY through July 1st.