THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH REA NIKONOVA
18 – unfinished
Started on: 3-1-1995
RJ : Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?
Reply on: 20-3-1995
RN : I like your idea of interview. I send you my “architectural” treatment of your question and my answer.
(Rea sent me a xerox where she transformed my question and her answer into one of her artworks, which she calls her “architectural” treatment. This xerox will be a supplement to this interview. The text written in the reply was: ” I got involved in the mail art network in 1986 after an experimental art-exhibition in Hungary in 1985. Serge Segay and I receiced an invitation after that from mail-artist Nenad Bogdanovich (Yugoslavia) and Daniel (New Caledonia) and Harley from the USA wrote to us. This was my second birth.)
RJ : In those years it was still very difficult for artists in the (then called) USSR to communicate with artists in the rest of the world. Could you tell a bit more about the problems in those days. Has it changed a lot in the years after the big changes that have occured?
Reply on 1-8-1995 (registered mail)
RN : I don’t know – can you receive this my letter. Early we (Russians) lived in a time now called “the era of stagnation,” and this era comes again. The era of Stagnation, red lie, the era of the KGB and repression for independent artists and their relatives.
In Russia government and art are all together incompatible. The KGB take great interest in mail-art (and mail-artists) and opens our international letters (our russian letters too). Our letters disappear (We sent them by registered mail only, always) or letters are returned without reason.
I and Serge Segay live in the siege: our son is in prison, we have the threat of a prison for Serge and for me. Serge and I knew for some time that we were taking great risks with our art activities, but we don’t knew that our art is a reason for the prison (many years) for our child.
Yes, emigres publishes their books in Moscow, but I have not one of my books published in Russia (30 years of my literary activity). I could one time go to abroad. Now I think: why the KGB gave me a passport? Maybe, the wanted to know: whom I shall call etc… Maybe, they thought that I shall have a problem with my poetry in Berlin…. A misfortune for them – I had a great success.
I returned to Russia and Motherland prepared “the present” for me: second arrest of my son (20 years old). Of course they wanted to arrest me or Serge, but we are clever persons, we know russian (soviet) life very well. Pour young son of mine….
All of these “joys” became possible with the abvent of “glasnost” and before “glasnost” too. We don’t see “big changes” in Russia. It are decorative changes (a fancy-dress ball).
Serge and I continue working under difficult conditions: we have not the money for food, clothes, letters, paper etc…. We have not our books and exhibitions in Russia, but we live in “freedom”… ro far.
I LOVE MY SON VERY MUCH (HE IS IN PRISON)
I LOVE RUSSIA (SHE IS A PRISON)
I LOVE ART (ART CANNOT EXIST IN A PRISON)
Please, give me a sign (as soon as possible) when you will receive this letter.
(the last part of the letter was treated in the Architectural way like the previous answer)
RJ : Yes, your registered letter arrived. There was 5600 Roubles of postage on it. Inflation also makes communication difficult. How much mail-art do you receive in these difficult times, and how much are you able to answer?
Reply on 19-1-1996 (letter dated 30-11-1995)
(Rea’s answer contained an original art work, and above her answer there was a “arcgitectural” treatment of a letter she sent to Robin Crozier in June 1992. The postage on her registered letter was 7000 roubles this time, an indication of the inflation in Russia)
RN : Yes, I have received your next question but I could not answer – I had not the money – it is very expensive for me.
Now my American friend helped me (to sell my hand-made journal TRANSPONANS, 1979-1986, five copies of each issue), therefore now I can send my letters to you and to other friends. (Also I could “travel” to the prison, to my son, but I couldn’t see him – it is prohibited. I did not see him whole year and I have not the money for an advocat).
My husband Serge Segay is nice specialist for Russian avant-garde but now he is unemployed (KGB realized “best dream”). Now we don’t receive our correspondence almost, especially from America and Germany. My friends in America wrote me: my letters arrived to them – 5 months! Unfortunatelly my English is very poor (Oh, I would like to answer you in Russian!)
RJ : Yes, it would be wonderful if we could talk in the same language without limitations. I am now writing in my second language too, and unfortunately I know only a few russian words. If you would write in russian I would have to look for a translator, and I don’t know anybody nearby. Actually I then would prefer to print your russian answer so that everybody could look for their own translator if they want to read your words. Is a language important for communication?
(On November 27th I received a letter from Rea by registerd mail. It took one and a half month to get here. She wrote that she hadn’t forgotten about the interview and included some stampsheets and two works by her husband Serge Sergay)
The unfinished interview went online with the other unfinished interviews. It was online for some years. Then I received the request from Rea to take it offline because of political problems and I did. Now that she and her husband sadly left us, I decided to put it online again.
For more details see: