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75 days within four walls

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75 days within four walls


Vladimir Emelianenko

The first Museum of Self-Isolation opened in Russia. The joint collaborative project of the Museum of Moscow and Triumph Gallery has already attracted attention of colleagues from Berlin, London, New York. Anna Trapkova, director general of the Museum of Moscow, talks with Russkiy Mir about some artifacts from Coronavirus times and how the museum has became an archive of emotions and habits of online people.

Photo: Museum of Self-isolation

Anna, when and how did you manage to collect real timeline chronicles?
There are various paintings, graphics, photo, installations, video, personal interviews and hand-made masks, jewelry, diaries all those things people were using during that 75-days isolation.
It took place mostly by the end of and after the isolation was finished. We knew that Muscovites were not just sitting at home, they must have been doing something. There were lots of photos of hand-made masks on Facebook and Instagram, video recipes of home food on Youtube. People were trying to make their life routine less boring. At some point we decided that it's the time to call out the people, “Bring us your things.” We started again taking online interviews. When we've just launched our project of collecting items and stories, there was a certain doubt that all that would not be interesting enough. However we've received very strong emotional response. Rings, earrings, pendants, even tablecloths and napkins, more graphics, knitted items and of course homemade masks were flowing to our museum. The next day I was almost crying reading dozens of touching stories. I recognized myself, laughing and crying.

Crying? Why you were so touched?
I was touched about everything. There were so many things about me emotions, burnout, breakups, apathy, joy, my laziness and fear. When I was reading the Nurse Diary by Maria Ionova-Gribina, I had to get rid of panic. After admiring No humor, no feelings. I'm burnt out " by Igor Samolet I couldn't say a word. I was drawn by Yan Basharin interview : I have cried a lot and ate french fries.I felt with my skin how bad it feels when visitors without masks are shown the door in supermarkets.

Photo: Museum of Self-isolation,

What did you laugh at?
Most probably I was inspired, when understood: This is it! Exactly what we need. For example, knitted felt blouses, or mittens and hats with pompoms. I remember that I loved Rules of Ulysses' Life by the namesake anonymous blogger. Now we have some quotes from his/her diary: If you feel sad in four walls and you have already crawl on a ceiling, look inside yourself!, You can oversleep any critical period in your life," Disgust has no limits," Don't trust ads, just keep your secrets."

Hence, our Museum of Self-isolation was constructed step by step, from scattered items and multiple perspectives. The collection is built from artifacts sent by ordinary people and professional artists. Everybody took a fresh look at their lives a house, a job, creativity, building up unique space that temporary replaced regular natural habitat. The it was possible to leave the home only in case of need - to a nearest store, taking out the garbage, to walk a dog.

Anna Trapkova. Museum of Moscow,

I can't help feeling that this exhibition is like an archive with documented time-period and art psychotherapy altogether. How did you achieve that?
It was our deliberate intent. We had excellent monitoring curators philosopher Marina Bobuleva, anthropologist Nail Farkhatdinov, sociologist Polina Zhuravskaya. They were in charge of choosing the artifacts ranged from simple house items to artworks. During this challenging process our curators have experienced the same self reflection as those closed-in-apartment residents. In all circumstances, nobody can take away the right of intellectual activity, art creating and self-expression. Also social media provide lots of instruments of self expression, being an exceptionally powerful resource for art therapy. In all, the exhibition didn't take only one direction. Apart of being an art and emotions' archive, it also proposes socio-anthropological research of human self-expression patterns. Therefore, on the one side we have the exhibition, on the other side, a wealth of material that was collected for the continuity of scientific work dedicated to study of human capacity in force majeure situations.

It's been nearly a year that we are living in this very force majeure hanging out in the web. Don't you think that along with pandemic, people will get bored with the museum dedicated to this topic?
Certainly we had these fears. However, I lost any doubts after visiting Triumph Gallery. I was very touched by the artworks dedicated to self-isolation. How it was deep. Also I was impressed about the fact that many artists work in a diary format. It was a new approach. I immediately invited Triumph artists to our museum, and their works became a part of our exposition. I'm glad our project attracted attention of colleagues from Berlin, London, New York. Professional art along with home artifacts brought by ordinary people provided a sense of belonging to the time span. These two parts are placed apart at the exhibition, but looks like there's a magnetic field between them.
Photo: Museum of Self-isolation,

Why is that so?
By my opinion it's because all our exhibits show us that online existence and pandemics have taught us many things. Online has taught us to value offline experiences and the fact that we can make a choice of living environment. And pandemics has taught us how to live in a moment, and to believe in the future.

Do you think that it would have sense to show the exhibition in other places during the post-coronavirus times?
If we do that it has to be seriously adapted to local contexts. Every city, like Kazan, Vladivostok, Saint Petersburg, has its own experience of surviving the pandemics. All characteristics and peculiarities have to be demonstrated. Only in this way one can believe and rely on the museum. In any case we will keep the collection for next generations.

We all anxiously waiting when the pandemics will stop. Will you also stop collecting material?
Pandemics evidence is to be continued to be collected. For example I haven't figured out yet how to show with artifacts that during the self-isolation almost everybody started cooking pies and cakes in accordance with grandma's and exotic recipes or at least make home-made food. Of course even after the pandemics we will continue to gather new evidences. We're doing this job not only for today's spectators, but also for those people who will study self-isolation phenomenon in 30, 50 or 100 years. We are the museum, and we're responsible for eternity.

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