We knew that 2020 would be tough. And then came 2021.
But the digital space doesn’t have to be all Zoom calls and doomscrolling. A new wave of artists and activists are reclaiming your news feed with conscious content that pushes the boundaries of both creativity and self-care. The Calvert Journal talked to the people and projects changing perspectives on both health and leisure in Russia today.
Sofia Skidan is a Moscow-based artist who puts yoga at the heart of her artistic experiments with space, textiles, and found natural objects. Skidan’s background as a yoga instructor allows her to use her own body as a constantly evolving sculpture, bending and shaping her own form to mimic the natural world around her. A sense of mysticism is woven into her work, and Skidan brings her vision to her ordinary yoga classes by carefully selecting the music and outfits for the day — transforming her own physical practice into a curated collective performance.
Yoga teacher and set designer Anna Artemieva has turned Russia’s long-neglected steam house tradition into a thriving lifestyle and community through her project, Nudeblog.
Artemieva’s blog is a celebration of communal bathing that combines practical guides and tips, inspiring imagery, and first-hand reportage from traditional saunas, otherwise known as banyas. Artemieva’s account travels all across Russia, from sleek spa complexes to idyllic DIY steam houses in the countryside. Nudeblog’s Instagram is also brimming with hard-to-find archival material, cultural investigations, and historical and social insights into this ancient Russian tradition, as well as bathing customs worldwide.
Artemieva also recently collaborated with fashion brand Oh, My to launch a capsule collection of basic banya garments, drawing on her belief in communal bathing as an aesthetic ritual.
St Petersburg-based collective Flowgardenz believes that we are one with nature. That mantra is seen in the lush green set designs that they create for artists across Russia’s music and fashion industry, including the likes of Mirèle, Kedr Livansky, and Gucci.
Flowgardenz draw on a versatile toolbox of myths, contemporary culture, and steampunk to promote an alternative vision of collective gardening and plant-inspired art. They work mainly with seasonal, local plants, and flowers, and even herbs and vegetables such as parsley and celery. Many of their photoshoots pair these sets with unconventional models that give them a unique aesthetic that is both fresh and intriguing.
Ural Surf are a team of surf enthusiasts from Yekaterinburg who celebrate the region’s untamed wilderness through organising collective SUP surf expeditions down local rivers. SUP surfing — or stand-up paddleboarding — allows for long and meditative journeys almost all year round, and the group is no stranger to surfing even while snow is thick on the ground. Ural Surf also caters for locals who want to stay within city limits. While Yekaterinburg itself is miles away from any sea or ocean, such geographical misfortunes prove little obstacle to the dedicated team, who organise events in the city’s ponds.
Love Your Health is one of Russia’s first projects to address ecology, sports, and health through contemporary culture and art. LoveYourHealth festivals have taken place in Rostov-on-Don, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg, backed by local artists, activists, and influencers sharing their vision and perception of beauty, body, and health. The rich and varied programme has included workshops, shows, performances, and collective practices.