I call everything “x- Movie”. If I’m hanging out in a hotel, my *vibe and narrative* becomes Hotel Movie, a library work sesh Library Movie, sipping Campari is Campari Movie, a boat trip Boat Movie, etc. Whatever Movie.
This summer I flew to Russia for video work and family visits. While this in itself was Russia Movie, I literally honestly personally seriously filmed the rest of the trip and started to edit footage together into an actual Russia Movie. Boats, caviar, vodka, vaporwave, capitalist critique, obsessive consumerism, teenage models, brooding barmen with beards, Adidas, jet lag, babushkas, pastoral landscapes, alien diva languages, animals, shitty overdubs, exquisite spas, and toxic wifi frequencies were all a part of my experience on this summer's journey.
I snapchatted & tweeted & instagrammed so much the first few days, which on top of jet lag, made my eyeballs wanna get the feck out of my face. I turned off my internet for a week, which in today's time is like ten years, and that was awesome.
While the angle of the final cut of Russia Movie is still to be decided and elucidated, I’d like to make something more of a video essay/personal travelogue than a straight up documentary or “Nastya’s trip to Russia” home movie fluff (although I do love the fluffy narcissism of home movies). Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil serves as prime inspiration.
The link between history, memory, and travel in that film is extraordinarily well done. What I’m going for an opposite angle with arguably a more personal atmosphere. Instead of looking at the connections of the exterior world in the grand playground of time, I’m exploring what it is about Russia that connects me to the culture. What about me is so Slavic (is it the Adidas tracksuits? the vodka? the fascination with warm climates?) What in the Russian landscape is alien to me, and what is familiar? How do I begin to reconcile my past and present within it, as well as my love and hate towards the motherland where I am seemingly both outsider and native?
Adding to the intrigue is Sans Soleil’s genesis in Russian composer Modest Mussogorsky’s composition Sunless: I considered titling my piece after Russian translation “Bez Solntza”. I abandoned that in favor of more personally efficient “Russia Movie”. (To me it also sounds like what an American with a Russian accent would say imitating a Russian: “drink vodka. get in car. put camera. we make Russia movie.”
When thinking about a project with such a wide scope and broad landscape, often the center cannot hold and there is no concrete gravitational force or theme. However, a few things kept popping up throughout the trip of Russia Movie that provide an interesting common thread.
FIRST: THERE'S SURVEILLANCE EVERYWHERE.
Something that I noticed immediately that had not previously existed ten years ago, and even in 2015wasn’t as commonplace, is the presence of surveillance cameras everywhere. The mall. The street. On the metro. Inside cars. Even in small islands in bum fuck nowhere Russia. The new laws, known as the “Irina Yarovaya package” and signed into effect by Putin, ask citizens and institutions to retain all of their data, keep tabs on their daily life, and report it to the authorities if asked or to the courts if a crime is committed (for example, if one gets into a car accident and the car camera is taping). The future is now, the dystopia is now.
Aesthetically and conceptually, I was kind of into it at first because like Kim and Kanye I love documenting my life 24/7, but a personal videography compulsion and a nationwide surveillance mandate are two entirely different things with different effects and connotations. Proof is great, but how far does it go? I suppose American/any cosmopolitan surveillance exists on many levels we can’t even register (surely I’m not alone in covering up my MacBook’s camera lens when I’m off Photo Booth) but it was a little shocking how overt it was in Russia. This topic is like five other dissertations in itself. Instead of expanding it, I’m going to think about how….
MOSCOW AND SAINT PETERSBURG ARE THRIVING!
The environment is so cosmopolitan and fabulous and new~money and party till 6am because time doesn't exist and it only gets dark for like two hours in the summer time and everyone has jet lag because they're traveling to some distant universe but mine is really the most distant of all because as I'm sipping my Campari orange or vodka neat or gin fizz or organic almond milk white russian (you can take the girl out of LA...) I'm mentally portalling to this moment when I'm gonna publish a blog on the internet about my glamorous Russian voyage and what pics to use and what clever captions to compose and how to mediate this delicate balance between Russian and American identities I've been dancing around my whole life with fear and restraint and humor and embarrassment and pride sometimes and intrigue and confusion and like what do I tell people and whatever it doesn't matter, none of what I think matters because I'm on vacation and I'm also at work and everything is paid for and everything is a polarizing experience and I'm very lucky.
RELATIONSHIP WITH AMERICA IS VERY POLARIZED.
Everything, actually, is polarized: politics, climate, wealth, tech, social issues... the most apparent of the divisions is in the age difference/generational gap. Like the rift between American Baby Boomers and Millennials, Russia's generational gap equivalent differs on basic human existence, commerce, education, women's rights, quotidian melodrama, iPhone ettiquette, etc. From my experience the most major difference was how they viewed globalism and America in particular: the younger, forward-thinking generation has a positive view of America and the potential of global peace and diplomacy, while the older people of Russia, when they found out I live in America, scoff and say "America? Garbage country."
(I mean, it is, but also everything is a garbage country, and also America is amazing for many reasons, every place has it's pros and cons and that is a whole other in depth essay not even a subpost or microblog, anyway I as of now do love living in America / California / Los Angeles and defend my home with a non-ironic lite nationalism because damnit I live here, I can't not?) Isn't everything polarized though. Really. Think about it. Polarized Ray-Bans. Polarized reactions to movies. North and South Poles (Elon Musk always gives new Tesla employees a riddle about polarization and the Earth, fun fact btw). Even going to the mall is a polarizing experience. Contemplate that for a sec.
SOCIAL ISSUES ARE YEARS BEHIND.
While Moscow and the large cities are extremely cosmopolitan and livable, the small towns are archaic on a level beyond that of bible belt America bum fuck nowhere’s. An old guy in a Russian village asked me, “are there actually gay people in America?” I’m not easily dumbfounded, but that made my jaw drop.
WHERE WERE ALL THE F*CKING SQUATTING SLAVS IN TRACKSUITS?
Something that I was extremely looking forward to in Russia was experiencing the IRL version of the squatting slavs in tracksuits meme. That meme is so great because it’s spot-on to Russian culture and the gopniks in adidas tracksuits, squatting with vodka and cigs and caps. I remember all of those vividly even from childhood. Squat goals!!!!!!!!! There truly was an abundance of Adidas tracksuits (and even a few cross-loyalists who wore Adidas WITH Nike how DARE they!) but I didn't see any picturesque Slavs this time around. I had to resort to fecking Googling these pics. Disappointed.
THERE ARE SO MANY VAPERS / FASHUNABLE TUMBLR SUBCULTURES! WHERE IS THE VAPORWAVE?
I'm obsessed with vaporwave for so many L E V E L S. It's so easy to write this genre off as a joke and "just Phil Collins grooves slowed down 600%" or "virtual plaza ringtone vibes with archaic but also retrofuturey aesthetics but not like real music" or "it's chillwave/ seapunk" or whatever, yet the genre/movement/atmosphere lends itself well to critical dissection, especially in the topics of capitalism, postmodernism, postphenomenology, sound design, scifi, advertising, globalism, eCruising and digital semiotics.
Given my fascination with those themes, as well as the work of Ryan Trecartin/Ariel Pink/James Ferraro/Casino Gardens/Yung Lean/VR & AR, it's surprising that I didn't really immerse into vaporwave until this year. I guess I also always kind of dismissed it as not a wholly established genre. I think now it has a currency / contemporary value that is not only charming, but also brilliant: we're living in it. James Ferraro said in an interview:
If you really want to understand Far Side, first off, listen to Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks—buy this book and go home. If you do all these things you'll understand what [it] is—because people kind of live in it already.
Cliche, but, I feel like if the vaporwave phenomenon did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. I'm interested to see how and what the next "post-vaporwave" movement will be.
I used to have this life goal of being "a touring musician and settling down and teaching experimental psychology as a Leary scholar" but now I think I want to be a touring entrepreneur, and if the "becoming the next Elon Musk" thing doesn't work out, I can live in a - -- - § - - Løwƒ1 - d i g i t a l - grø††ø - - § - - and be a vaporwave scholar. I lived in a high end analog boat in Russia so that was kind of the complete opposite.....
EVERYONE LITERALLY THOUGHT I WAS AN ALIEN.
On the boat that I was living, the tourists were mostly retirees of French, American, and Russian heritage (all languages I speak in varied fluency/places that I've lived or have family from), and none of them could have guessed that I belonged to their sphere. The Russians assumed I was French and were surprised when I said anything in their native tongue. Same with the Francais. I didn't have much contact with the elderly Americans, though they did look at me like I was a USAlien 👽. None of this was in a rude or demeaning way, I just thought it was unusual to feel like an outsider in a place that I could have very much been *in my element*. My weird lavender/gray hair color and VIP entitlement (my mom's side of the family is very connected in sea travel, so I had a lot of boat privilege and had to check it constantly) also probably pissed off some of the older crowd, but can I truly be a millennial artist-blogger-entrepreneur-space expert without pissing off the generations prior?
Still, there are some advantages to being a glamorous extraterrestrial, like.....
PASSING THE TIME ON THE BOAT BY FILMING MYSELF CONSTANTLY!!!
I hear Kanye West hires a videographer to film him 24/7 for legal/personal/artistc/narcissistic reasons. Perhaps Mr. West should consider putting me on his video team, I mean, I have so much practice!!!!!
Cruising on the boat from Moscow to St. Petersburg, I deleted all my social media apps to "get away from the world and chill the fuck out and do nothing" (also, the boat had excruciatingly terrible wifi). To pass the time, I existed irl a lot and swam in rivers and read Leary & Pynchon & Dostoyevsky and wrote in a diary and walked around on the deck and looked at shit and filmed myself a lot. A LOT. I recorded a lot too -- there was a piano in one of the boat meeting halls and I'd go in there at night after a few Campari oranges and just fecking go at it. I ended up recording enough to constitute a small album, and definitely had enough footage for a micro movie if not a full length.
Who's to say if this is a "normal millennial" thing or an obsessive practice that touches on many personal-professional-psychological boundaries.... All I want to say is that this personal vacation work resulted in enough material to make BOAT MOVIE, a new visual album from Saint Valentine, and also, HIRE ME KANEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hire me KANEY if only because I can make a bomb time capsule art piece AND I know how to drive a horse AND my favorite Russian ice dream looks classy as feck: