Oleksiy Say, an Ukrainian artist from Kiev shows his digital prints at the Bunsen Goetz Galerie in Nürnberg. In the Interview with Kunstnürnberg he explains what Excel Art is und why he tries to explore the global corporate culture of offices.
Oleksiy Say about Excel Art and his exploration of office culture
Kunstnürnberg: You use the computer program Excel for your artworks. How does this work out technically?
Oleksiy Say: Technically, I sit behind the computer and fill in the cells one by one or by groups. I change the colours, outline some functions, mix the texts by using the Excel program in the known way. I do the same things everybody does, except that I don’t count anything (laughs). I use the Excel sheet as a workspace where I mix graphs, shapes and charts. I operate with numbers but not with specific numbers. I use them in specific situations when I want to change some graphs.
I don’t started with the idea to explore the program. I started with the idea to show people who usually work with Excel something equal to their possibility and to destroy the magic of painting. So they cannot say “I can’t do it or I can’t imagine it”. The artworks are totally clear for that kind of people, because it is made in the computer “language” they use every day in office. I try to talk to the people of the global corporate culture. Once I had a reaction I expected: A lady was standing in front of a picture with a beautiful colours and flowers and said “It’s horrible!”. This is the reaction I expect from this colourful pictures, not pleasure.
Kunstnürnberg: You also use written text in some of your pictures and not just colours. What kind of texts?
Oleksiy Say: Yes, there is always some written stuff in the pictures. I steal the documents, I take them from the internet or from people. I use the texture of the daily work, because these texts are the result of the work, which is done in the office. The office worker produce mostly nothing. They change some data on electronic documents. They didn’t build something, or boiled and cooked something, the texts are the results of their work.
Kunstnürnberg: Are the texts just random or do they mean something specifically in combination with the pictures?
Oleksiy Say: Sometimes the texts are related to the pictures. For example the picture with the little sheep. These are the sheep you put in a line when you want to go to sleep and they jump over a fence. The picture was filled with the text of a document where a tight timing of some stupid tasks was counted. This stupid work is the background why some people cannot sleep, for example. That’s the literal sense of this picture. But mostly the texts are just a trashy mix of different documents.
Kunstnürnberg: Why do you use Excel and not a different kind of (graphic) program?
Oleksiy Say: I could use every kind of graphic program. But I think the Excel documents are the most abstract ones. They are farer away from reality as this global culture produce the reality which forces people to live in a capsule of doing nothing, doing the same in the office. At the same time I realised that the office-culture is a very productive culture. It changed the world for the better. Of course it has very weak sides. But criticism is not my goal. I want to observe it and understand why we are here (laughs).
Kunstnürnberg: What kind of motifs do you prefer and why do you use them? For example I can see motifs which associate directly to the office, but you also make landscapes and animals.
Oleksiy Say: I don’t want to please people with my pictures but I also don’t want to show everything in black and white. I want to show weakness in beauty for example. The flowers in my pictures are not better than real flowers. They are colourful but simple and for me this means that this flowers substitute to reality. The data cannot be compared to the real life. The life in the office is not perfect. It is weak and at the same time it can produce something original. It sounds silly, but that’s how I see it.
Kunstnürnberg: You say Excel Art is a long term project for you. Do you just make Excel Art prints or are there Excel Art sculptures, videos, installation or even Ecxel Art performances, too?
Oleksiy Say: The topic of my work is the global culture of the office and Excel is just one tool for me. I also make sculptures and installations, but not with this program. I don’t want to copy the objects of this program to a sculpture. It would not work out. That’s another story. Is use it as a workspace but not for the style. I try to talk to people with their own language, but I don’t want to transform the language.
Kunstnürnberg: In the exhibition at the Bunsen Goetz Galerie in Nürnberg we see pictures.
Oleksiy Say: And one installation, which is not related to the pictures. The installation combines some lamps and mould. Tiny figures of people multiply as mould under the weak subtle lights. But I also make other stuff like just a slogan with 15 meters width or different sculptures. Excel is a part of the story. My goal is to understand the culture. I know that the mainstream contemporary art is a kind of socially engaged art. But I don’t want to change my work.
Kunstnürnberg: You worked in an office, too. On the one hand you didn’t like the job and on the other hand you found the office interesting. Please, explain this.
Oleksiy Say: Yes, I tried to understand the culture of an office. I found the atmosphere really really unnatural for people. For example to smile the whole day to everybody. It is just fake. But it has a background, because it is necessary. I want to keep the feeling of this unhappiness with reality because this is my way of understand this working-culture. I see that people ignore this culture. We are inside of it and people try to think that we have another way of life. They try to concentrate on other ways of life, on holidays or social life, some of them on personal life or a religious life.
But they leave this part of life without reflection, without any stop. They think they have to do the work and never understand the sense of the work.
Kunstnürnberg: How is the situation for you and other artists in the Ukraine right now. Is there a lot of political art?
Oleksiy Say: Yes, there is a lot of political art. The situation in the Ukraine has another side for artists. Everybody became sober and socially active. The people try to help each other. I don’t think that political art will help with politics. They are trying to do their best to offer the world and the people informations. The informations the world gets from the war is sometimes misunderstanding, because of propaganda that comes from Russia or just because we are far away from everything. In general artist are a very active part of the Ukraine right now. Not like it was ten years ago, when artists were just a seperated group on their own.
The artist now volunteer and help a lot in this war with Russia. It is a war and not a civil war or a conflict. We didn’t start a conflict. We are in a war that was brought from Russia.
Kunstnürnberg: What are your plans for your stay in Nürnberg?
Oleksiy Say: I walked a lot around the town, attended a birthday party of friends from the gallerists and thats it for today. I visit the old town and will visit some museums. Nürnberg reminds me a lot of this film where two killers hide themselves in the historic town of Brügge, in Bruges (dt. Brügge sehen…und sterben?). Nürnberg is really nice, I feel myself like on holidays here.
Kunstnürnberg: Go to the Neues Museum and visit the “Gesichter” exhibition. That’s my recommendation.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Oleksiy Say: Thank you, Thank you!
About Oleksiy Say
Visit the website of Oleksiy Say here: http://sayexcel.wordpress.com
- born in 1975 in Kiev, Ukraine
- 1993 Graduated from Kiev college of industrial arts, graphic designer
- 2001 Graduated from Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Architecture, graphic artist