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Mikhail (Misha) Leykin was born in Volgograd in 1968. In 1994 he graduated from Moscow Institute of Architecture (MARHI). He was a member of the group “Iced architects” in 1997 – 2001.
Maria (Masha) Sumnina (Miturich-Khlebnikova) was born in Moscow in 1977. In 2001 she graduated from Moscow Academy of Printing.
Misha and Masha have been working together since 1999. MishMash is a husband-and-wife team. They paint, draw, design objects, and do architectural projects. MishMash, the Russian version of the name of their partnership, is a blend of their shortened names. The English version offers a pretty accurate description of their approach to most projects: mix the elements and play. Full list of the couple’s achievements can be found on their website www.mishmash.ru
Brooklyn. “Robot Beggar” appeared as a result of joint efforts of MishMash and Jason Klotz. The robot speaks, begging for money with a disposable cup; he paints in the manner of Jackson Pollock, dances and participates in the street performances as well. In 2004 the robot held a personal exhibition in the ”Leadbased Gallery”, New York.
2001 – 2005
Wind sculptures “Wind Face”: The physiognomy of winds appears at different windows all over the world, wiggling in the wind. Their work bespeaks the authors’ perfectionism, but at the same time manages to keep an air of youthful drive and natural ease.
The name and final image of the costume invented in 1998 – AntiSuper Hero SuperJew – were created in the USA: “He possesses the characteristics of an eternal “stranger”; he is alien in the surrounding context. He clearly does not fit into the environment and nature, as if his figure was cut and pasted. He explores the area in search of either heroism, or asylum, or in an attempt to blend into the landscape. Properly, SuperJew does not commit any action, despite the fact that he is constantly “in a hurry to help.”
SuperJew stood packed in a transparent box in an exhibition ”SuperJew made in China” in 2007. July 23, 2010, for example, there was a possibility to meet him online. Sometimes SuperJew gives advice – just 10 rubles apiece.
2003 – 2007
“Al Dente”: “Walking the streets of NYC, overflowing with an art and creativity, and thinking of changing their profession to something useful for people, or at least of recycling what is already created, we found a book on dentistry printed in early 1900s. The book had great photos of an elderly woman with an unflappable face, whose oil portrait could decorate any genealogical portrait gallery in some living room, were it not for the strange procedures committed by somebody’s hands in her mouth. This material seemed suitable for recycling, and we thought our actions useful. Painting the portraits of this woman, on the one hand we brought nothing superfluous into the world, because these portraits already existed, while on the other hand we shifted the existing content into a more appropriate form.”
The project was nominated for the “Black Square 2007” prize.
“TV-noise”. Masha’s reminiscences: “While living in New York I kept a detailed diary. In 2007, in Moscow, editing it, a large number of TV story retellings captured my attention, which formed our “background”, a kind of information noise, shimmering backdrop of our lives. Sometimes these stories rhyme with themselves, and crisscross each other and the events of our lives. Thus appears a series of ”TVnoise” – flickering light panels with the images resembling a TV screen with teletext and a sound of the TV mumbling and noise”.
“TV noise” was nominated for the “Kandinsky Prize 2007”.
In the installation “Be Softer!” there appeared stones, or more exactly, pebbles. “Be Softer!” is an ambivalent game: hard or soft? Arms or shelter? etc. A poem about this was attached. Ten wooden boxes with 24 cells each filled with stones in knitted socks laid on pieces of cotton. Since prehistoric times people were fascinated by stones. One of the main themes of MishMash’s work is observing pebbles from different angles: in the project “The List” 2009; “The condition of Motionlessness” 2010, “The Garden of Stones”.
“Apples fall in different gardens simultaneously” WinZavod, Moscow. Project “Ruins as Antibiotics”. “In this project we co-operate with mould, giving it an opportunity to build for us its magic castle. We build a bread model of a Moscow high-rise building, cover it with a glass hood, and then leave the rest of the work to the mould… At a level of our most profound animal essence we attempt to overcome a fear of death and destruction, on the one hand making destruction our co-author, on the other hand, giving an opportunity to a force of destruction to transform itself into one of creativity. Mould can be amazingly beautiful. Eroding foundations, it creates new wonderful forms not less fragile than the material it destroys. Spoiling the food – it develops life-saving antibiotics. The entire installation – bread tower and prints affixed to the walls – became ephemeral: it cannot be sold, given away, or moved. It exists only in itself in this place and time.”
“European Atelier 2009”, CHA, Moscow. Project “The White Wall” does not entirely depend on the artists. On a white wall, a white sheet of paper conceals a relief depicting the eastern fasade of Brandenburg Gate. The audience was asked to break through: to overcome their fear of a blank sheet and to develop the image using charcoal (the participants’ enthusiasm determined their success). Thus the member of the audience broke through the wall (The Brandenburg Gate long symbolized a divided Germany) and found himself in front of the doors. As it were, when he forced his way from the east to see the western skies, he saw “freedom and the vast indomitable force of nature simultaneously, the breathtaking clouds that obscured the real earthly life outside the gate.”
“Shrink” was exhibited at “The Secret Life of Bodies” at the Open Gallery in Moscow. It is an autobiographical micro-installation, influenced by life in the USA. The name, again, is a pun. It plays with two meanings of the word, as after they moved to New York, MishMash faced both: a psychiatrist and a change of scale (near skyscrapers they felt like lilliputs). A revision of the scale of the world made this project appear. Masha had to be shrunk, so Misha could carry her in his pocket and feed with crumbs.
Performance “The Volume of Desires or Different Kinds of Void” was shown in Garage, Moscow, and in Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. MishMash proposed to memorialize in gypsun the void inside prayerful hands. The collection of casts was exhibited at “Memories and Dreams” at the open Gallery, autumn 2010. The collection grows constantly; it now consists of the imprints of the desires of artists, architects, art historians, curators, photographers, psychotherapists, and even one pathologist.
Exhibition “Looking for a Masterpiece”, Open Gallery, Moscow. Installation “Durability Test”. For one month the visitors of the exhibition participated in an anonymous vote aimed to define an object that demonstrates the essential character of a masterpiece. As a result: MishMash’s and Valentin Diaconov’s collective creation was chosen. It was an interactive ruin made of tea and sugar. When a viewer approaches the show case, fan blades start to move. Fans blow towards the temple or tower walls made of tea and destroy them. At the end, there will remain just a skeleton with a critic’s text about the object inside. Here is a fragment: The presence of the viewer puts elegant fan blades into motion, and tea leaves, possible witnesses of debates about life and art in the artists’ studio, slowly fade like autumn leaves. The temple becomes a ruin, and only two things are visible – the bare bones of the building and the text you are reading. What is this work about? It’s difficult to reply immediately. One can see it as a kind of a romantic elegy, a glance inside the “crater of eternity.” There are clear links to Futurist disavowal of museums in favor of the machine, and flying machines especially. And a comment, though a bit straightforward, on Baudrillard’s concept of the “violence of transparency and images.” One thing is clear: this is a masterpiece, and the proof is the text that you have just read. (Valentin Diaconov – art critic).
Exhibition “A Close Look Changes the Object”, Open Gallery, Moscow. "Concise history of art. Handmade" (Venus made of soap). Before entering the gallery Venus has spent a month in the meat pasty cafe. People used her to wash their hands: caressed her, stroke her and even hugged. MishMash carefully observed the changes in form of the sculpture. From Venus by Praxiteles she steadily turned into a work by Maillol. MishMash supposed that having lived through several artistic transformations, Venus will eventually acquire the form characteristic of Henry Moore's sculptures...
The project "Geopsychoisometrical Examination of a City". This work by MishMash is of a quasi-scientific nature and plays with the particular qualities of perception: it is a common knowledge that the city dweller usually passes the same places without particularly noticing them. These fragments, multiply imprinted in one's memory, are formed into stable aesthetic conglomerations, idiomatic images which do in fact represent our life environment. MishMash attempted to create a catalogue of 'visual idioms', which are taken from a subjective view of a single person who explores the city for the first time. The group made two series of geometrical abstractions 'from nature'. The first one represented the expertise of Ekaterinburg (2011), the second, which was created specifically for the Open Gallery, was dedicated to Moscow. By using the difference between the interpretations of local citizens and that of the foreigners, MishMash composed a unique brain twister. The subjective sign system of Moscow, which was put through several filters of perception, had to be decoded by the viewers in the same way as the drivers interpret the road signs in the streets of the city.
Exhibition “Geopsychoisometrical Examination of a City: Moscow”, Open Gallery.