WILD THING | Aida Emeliyanova's exhibition 'I Do Whatever You Animals Do'



Aida Emeliyanova’s exhibition ‘I Do Whatever You Animals Do’

Artist/ director / producer / protagonist. The exquisite Aida emelyanova unleashes her animal instincts, and opens up about sinking her teeth into her new show ‘I Do Whatever You Animals Do’

The beautifully stunning Aida Emeyanova is back. The Russian born, London-based artist returns with her second show ‘I Do Whatever You Animals Do’ equally as stylised, daring, and boldly rich as before.

Wildly curious and unafraid, Aida’s work constantly pushes the boundaries between normalcy, surrealism, ecstacy and madness. I caught up with her to chat about the new show and her process creating and also becoming each piece.

Not many artists immerse themselves as producer, director and also protagonist of their work. Where did you first get the idea to play out all three elements within your work?
AIDA EMELYANOVA: It’s always very clear in my mind what I want my sets to look like, and the message I want my photographs to convey. The only way to ensure that I’m completely satisfied with the end result is to take total control of the whole process. In 2013 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art and Design I used a model in one of my collections.  I had a strong vision but felt the results were not what I had envisaged. Every person has a different way of seeing things. This is not a negative thing, however, can create confusion and dissatisfaction with the final outcome for those involved and dilute the initial concept. It was during this process and directing my model that I realised the benefit of becoming the protagonist.

When you are creating a work do you see yourself as the muse or the subject in your surroundings?
I am neither the muse nor the subject. Part of the creative process involves immersing yourself into the world you are trying to portray and I have taken a very literal representation of this. In this body of work the animals are the subjects and by extension I have become the subject by placing myself in the position of an animal. However, by this I do not mean that I Aida, the woman am the subject but, for example, the Lion who I portray in Imprisonment is the subject.

How did the ideas come together to form your current show?
My collection stems from the question – What does it mean to be a human being? I look at my own two dogs and pets in general and how they are so well cared for and shown kindness. This led me to question the cruelty we impose on wild animals and the lack of respect we show them. Why are we treating our pets better than animals living in their natural habitat? This led me to question the humility of humans and how throughout my life I have found humans to lack this. Throughout the creative process my body of work developed into one of highlighting the kinder more virtuous nature of animals that we humans are quick to label as dangerous and unintelligent.

Your pieces and sets are known for being highly stylised, and beautifully opulent. Each elaborately staged. Was one piece more difficult to put together than the others?
This collection is not just about the end result but the creative process. As with all things in life, the simplest part is actually the most challenging. Painting the lines on the set of the Zebra photograph entitled Making Choices: Black or White; Right or Wrong took two days to complete and was one, if not the most time consuming aspect of the whole collection. However, had I not immersed myself in all aspects of the project including the painting I would have felt like a model and this is the last thing that I wanted to come out of the experience.

Do you have a favourite from the show, or was there a particular animal, which was more fun to become?
The Zebra shoot was the most exciting and entertaining photograph to work on. Not only is it my favourite concept but; the process of staging had all sorts of eventful moments. The photograph conveys the juxtaposition of right and wrong, purity and darkness and the set itself is very minimalistic using only black, white and green in its composition. At the same time I find Zebras to be beautiful creatures – they are plainly beautiful animals and perfect for highlighting how two apparently contradictory statements can actually be used to describe a single animal. Staging this photograph came with its challenges, the most memorable moment being when the taxidermy zebra nearly fell on top of me. You would be surprised by just how heavy these animals are!

What is your process like for getting into character or posing within each piece?
Prior to even entering the studio I had meticulously planned out each day and how I was to design the sets. I had a selection of storyboards and plans pinned up on the wall as well as my research into each animal. When training as an actress I particularly enjoyed method acting. To better portray the animal I must understand its character and natural behaviour.

I studied the characteristics of animals, the way they walked, stood and slept. How they interact in the wild and their position in the animal kingdom hierarchy. I particularly enjoyed this process as I came to further understand the animal kingdom and this cemented the idea in my mind that animals really do have more humility and respect than humans.

 If you were reborn as an animal what animal do you think you would be?
I would love to be reborn as a penguin. I believe that they are one of the closest animals to humans and that we actually have a lot to learn from penguins. What I most admire are the family sets, penguins for monogamous pairs for breeding seasons. They are very good parents and share incubation duties etc. When researching I came across a number of videos and articles describing the humility and penguins. On a side note I find it rather endearing that penguins have no special fear of humans.

Lastly, any hints on what we can expect from you next?
I am currently pondering the exploration of the female stereotype in society – suppressed femininity and pressure for perfection subjected on women. I hope to research and devote more time to this in the coming year and exhibit in the next year or two.

Aida emelyanova: I do whatever you animals do
on now at debut contemporary


Words by Tracy Kawalik and Aida Emelyanova
Photos Courtesy of Brand Revolution

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