on merciful mind:

an interview
with Ilya (ID)

One of the reasons I was drawn to TUO TUO, as a place and a project, was a raw desire to SEE again. I was becoming wary and worried, my sight was sunk after so many little brutal city lifetimes, so many little bruises clouding my vision. My attention had been MIA, hijacked, or in hiding. I hoped the silence, stillness, and revolving ambient presence of artists would draw it out from its hiding place – some sort of sensuous gymnasium, the kind that lives and breathes. Enter Ilya: the prophet.

At one point during his three months in residence, soft laughter surrounded the inside jokes spilled over tea that he would make the perfect cult leader. And let me tell you, I’d be the first to join. Ilya has the true gift of sight. To see consciousness iterate through the material plane, his writing attends to a rare articulation: how we experience the coordinates of the universe. What is this? Who am I? Here I am.

In on merciful mind  stories and meaning unfold from a constellation of inquiry. Ilya’s writing is a witness, a guide for seeing, really seeing the world. It alleviates a deep-seated suspicion that we are separate, testification to this interconnectedness we call the cosmos, and his words make me less afraid to feel alive. 

I corresponded w/ ID (online) following his residency and our publishing of 'on merciful mind' –

KAITLYN: Throughout, but not always, the voice in on merciful mind signals a nascent consciousness, I know that your creative process/ writing process emanates from a practice of inquiry and I’m hoping you could tell us a bit more about this.

ID: I'll drop there a bit of prehistory (and a lot of barbaric English). We all know those types of formulas we are using to establish Art as something of use to society and therefore deserving its financial resources: «we should [re-imagine, re-think, re-define, re-establish, re-appropriate, re-search, re-shape] something in order to […]».

For me, it sounds like a Google product manager's talk at the beginning of a new sprint, but nevertheless, I always was wondering, who are those "we" which are really going to do all those huge chunks of labor of "re-smth," so generously intentioned in written prefaces and public talks. It is like we, artists and theoreticians, constantly re-imagining everything, and then there are some special guys who are bringing our high-costed daydreamings into reality.

Looks not nice, and there are no special guys anyway, so at some moment I switched to combine both roles in myself by iterative alternating poetic and muddy jobs. I've tested a lot of those cycles while working with wild plants at my Tsvetochnaya st. 6 (Flower street 6) workshop. For example, at some period lupins were suffering from a fungal disease and I was trying to properly fix them (with a help of industrial fungicides), but with no success. Then I switched to some quasi-rational aesthetic treatments, and it worked. From this case, I had distilled the clumsy "graceful causation" hypotheses which I was practicing until spider mites arrived. Spider mites are the ultimate test for a nice theory — we enjoy environmental humanities only because we are wise enough not to collide it with the spider mites —and my little speculation had not survived them as well. So I needed a new one to describe the failure, then come with it to almost eaten burdocks and sea pea vines, test it, then repeat. This cycle is obviously essential for any human activity: do-observe-think-do. But in art practice, the feedback response usually comes from the art field itself, in the forms of one's own artistic intuition, critical opinions, professional success, etc. I, on the other hand, was trying to feed my artistic flow on burdocks' and mites' responses. Doing art but evaluating it by an activity of the fungal disease.

So! This is my model for some kind of inquiry inside my ploys. And it is present in on merciful mind as well. I try to re-(hehe!)-grow my own "self" (being lost during the months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine invasion in February); and I test different theories during this attempt — of other daydreamers (Goethe's, Batesons’, Waldrop’s), of a forest, of the friendly animals around. Then I feel what happens and begin a new iteration. Each chapter of my writing is a record of the such assumption-attempting-response cycle, and the response input is very distinct and local sourced — TuoTuo, woods, and bogs around it, Lisa's writings — all of them being playmates and sources for this testimonial "self" in the piece.

K: It is not just the involuted nature of the work that makes it so powerful and absorbing, but that the substance, the matter that fills in its tender layers: is living and breathing. And what I’m left with is the desire to roll around in the words, again and again, like a dog in the dirt, as if I could soak up the meaning this way. You spoke about it when we were all together, discussing the work, at the end of your residency, and while I won’t ask you to over illuminate, I thought it would be a nice glimpse-offering for the reader if you could peel back the curtain a bit on your use of numbers/numbering in the piece. Some examples of this below:

ID: Such a pleasant description of your experience, thank you! I am usually not into numbers, it just happened this time.

But they (two-four) are allowed to wander among farms, exposed to relative biodiversity and feeling, reduce four layers to three, to choose to mention this. Stage 1 after the cut. Stage 5 after the cut.

Those numbers are an influence of the vitalism-embryology alliance, which is infamous for being rebellious to mainstream biology. In the first stages of epigenesis, animal embryos involute, fall into themselves, thus creating their own self-topology not by adding quantities or structures but by some smart, I would say, poetical operation. I use those numbers as an amount of those inside-self-layers, but also as an amount of between-selves-layers, which are constantly multiplying, then merging to be able to involute again. And also same numbers refer to a seasonal, step-by-step growth of trees, which happens every new spring from the previous autumn leaf bud (involuting again), as well as to a forest succession after a cut. I prefer to believe that the same processes are also happening in the writing.

Wind’s sand into leaves, here language1 weathers against molecules, anything can signify anything; thus: a cry for help.

Yes, I remember the science. It follows that I can’t choose a word or a thing but am still blessed to prefer a shade of eyes and sky and heat, a measured gap between pines and abrasions, and other avian things, till molecules weather language2 to the emptiness between them.

In Russian it was one word (yazyk, язык) both for language1 and language2 but in two different meanings: the tongue and the language (same as Latin "lingua", for example). In my weird supporting notes for Lisa's resplendent translation, I've marked those two "yazyks" to distinguish them later, but those numbers became the distinguishing itself. Multiplying and merging layers of meaning.

K: And maybe as well, some expounding on how subtraction appears ... 


It’s nothing, onwards, subtraction.

Subtract the spruce, which shelters me from the rain, subtract the action of remaining dry, subtract the extradimensional animal horde under shared cover and especially the spike-armored worm, go to hell. Subtract the appointed evening, the morning’s meeting, every night the day’s ice, subtract the heart and its ants, what will be left for your hospital game?

The woods must be larger, else why come there. For the woods to be larger they should not exist. Let streams start and end in a muddy pool. No stars, no road, no fire, no whirlpool — one hundred temptations all in one price.

It is like during meditation… you are noticing things and emptying them through this noticing until only procedural skeleton remains. But I am suspicious to this skeleton (or, better, skeletons) as well, I am aiming to nothingness as solution, of course not the Great one, but instead the foamed one, multi-nothingness, in which every small purple bubble takes the place once occupied by the rain, the worm etc.

ID is an artist whose residency at TUO TUO was facilitated by Artists at Risk (AR).

Learn more about the artist and his work here.

Kaitlyn D. Hamilton is the co-founder and co-director of TUO TUO.

Many thanks to AR & Arts Promotion Center Finland (Taiteen edistämiskeskus) for supporting this project.