Escape into Oneself from the Bustle of the World


Teymur Daimi: "Today, in order to believe in the fact of one's own existence, one has to periodically see oneself in numerous narcissistic reflections"


Author: Narmina VALIYEVA Baku




"Art is an anthropological practice. Its purpose is to create a special atmosphere, being in which the individual would be able to look inside themselves, switching from the noises of the outside world to their inner silence..." This is the way Azerbaijani artist, film director, philosopher and art critic Teymur Daimi defines his creativity. His pictures can be found in many private collections in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Israel, Poland, Finland and Switzerland. From the very start of his artistic career, Daimi engaged in theoretical research. In 1966, he published his book, "The Find of the Way", which comprises three essays: "The Find of the Way", "Manifesto of Transformed Space or a Portrait of Total Artwork" and "Epiphany of Elusive Unity". For five years, he took part in the team developing the concept of the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In addition to painting and graphics, Daimi has created plenty of installations and implemented original performances. One of them is the mystery play "The Archetype of the Woman" implemented by him jointly with stage director Vaqif Ibrahimoglu at the avant-garde theatre Yug. Teymur Daimi also wrote and directed a number of experimental films and a full-length feature film, "The Last One". Currently he teaches at the Azerbaijan State Art College under the Academy of Arts.



In an interview with R+, Teymur Daimi spoke about his view on contemporary art, future plans and other things.



-Tell us how it all began? How did you become an artist?


- I was born in Baku. My father was a petroleum engineer and my mother was a doctor. I was the only child in the family and, naturally, my parents paid close attention to my education and development. As a child, like most children of my age, I took to drawing. Later, at school, I began to attend an art studio at the Yuri Gagarin Palace of Pioneers. But we had no artists in our family and I did not have much moral support from my relatives. In addition, my parents thought that artistry could not keep me comfortably off. They wanted me to follow in their footsteps. But I knew it for sure already in the sixth form that I would be an artist, I did not want to upset my parents prematurely and announced my decision only towards the end of school. They did not show much enthusiasm but they did not put any obstacles in my way either. In the end, they put up with it. After the 8th form, I entered the A.Azimzada Azerbaijani Art College following which I continued education at State University of Culture and Arts and defended my thesis at the Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law under the Academy of Science of Azerbaijan on "Postmodernism and the Problem of Tradition in Contemporary Azerbaijani Fine Arts".


- Is the problem of traditions in contemporary art of relevance today? What is more appropriate nowadays: to be a cosmopolitan artist or keep to national traditions?


- I believe that the artist should work the way they feel and deem appropriate. No limits should be put and no rules should be dictated to the creative individual. Artistic freedom comes before everything. There are quite a lot of people in Azerbaijan who carry on traditions of the national art school. There are also many artists who build on the discoveries of the West-European avant-garde and using the methodologies of postmodernism. And it would be not quite correct to say that one approach in creativity is better or worse than another. Despite the fact that one of the largest international forums on modern art, the Venice Biennale, features national pavilions up to now, modern art basically knows no such problem as "national ghetto"…


- In what style do you work?


- I think that, after the rise of postmodernism somewhere in the last quarter of last century, trends and movements in visual art have ceased to exist. An integration of all historical styles, trends, traditions, techniques and forms has taken place within postmodernism. Now taking the central position in art is not the "work of art" itself or a series of art works but the artist's entire strategy of life and creativity, the intellectual technologies used by the artist to build a dialogue with the world. In other words, the idea - the concept, a certain message to those around - is coming to the foreground. The creativity of any artist is a set of symbolic codes that the audience is supposed to decipher.


- What message is laid down in your works?


- At the outset of my career, I used painting as a kind of channel to convey ideas related to philosophy, mythology, various spiritual traditions and practices. Today, I have other tasks that are rather of a research and interdisciplinary nature, at the boundary between theory and practice, science and art. Through my work, I try to evoke some rare and fine states of mind in the spectator enabling them to dip into secret dimensions of their own multidimensional human nature - dimensions which they usually do not probe into and which they avoid, being distracted by the noisy bustle of the world.


- Is it difficult to be an artist?


- Being an artist is not easy today. However, it is also difficult nowadays to be a good doctor, teacher, engineer, architect… In order not to lose your skills as a professional, you need to constantly evolve, to be in motion, to work on yourself and never cease to learn and strive to achieve the impossible setting yourself super-tasks.


- In addition to fine arts, you make films. Tell us about your work as a film director…


- I view cinema as the next evolutionary step in the development of visual arts. I came into cinematography quite naturally and, I would say, at the level of intuition. As I practiced painting and enjoyed the process, I still felt at some point that something was missing. In addition to static images, I wanted to hear sounds and words, to watch movements and gestures. But I worded it this way later on. During that period, I did not realize at once what I was looking for. I was tormented by a sense of dissatisfaction and that's that. For this reason, driven by a sense of lack, I began to create, along with paintings, spatial compositions - art objects and installations. Later, feeling again some creative thirst, I went over to the more vivid and dynamic genre of performance and began experimenting with the body including that of my own. But that did not bring the desired satisfaction either. It was only in 2002, when I picked up a camera for the first time and shot my first film, that I realized that, as it turned out, I had been groping my way all along towards the art of "motion pictures", that is cinematography. That film was called "Undercover" and was made specially for an international art project in Strasbourg. It was followed by the films "The Internal Paradise", "Challenge of Fire", "Awakening", "The Heart of the Temple", "Geo-Creation" and others. In 2011, the opportunity opened up to make a full-length feature film on the apocalypse, "The Last One", starring science fiction writer Alexander Khakimov who plays himself in the film. Incidentally, I wrote the script just for him. "The Last One" is the title of a disaster book that was written by the writer and brought him fame. But the price of this success is too high. The hero suddenly finds himself in the world that he described so gloomily in his own book.


- Do you think that having a talent is enough for a person who wants to achieve certain heights in visual arts or film direction?


- I teach at the Baku Art College and there are quite a lot of talented and promising young people among my students. But I always tell them that talent will not suffice if you want to achieve something in creative work. You need to learn, develop and improve. Especially nowadays, the young have plenty of opportunities for learning and self-expression. It seems very easy today to be heard. Suffice it to open your own page in a social network, publish your works there, share your thoughts, get the right connections, find like-minded people and even sell your creative output. But there is one thing… Renowned German philosopher Boris Groys once said that society used to be divided into artists (in the broad sense of the word) and the audience. With the advent of social networks, there is no audience left because almost all of them have climbed the stage and turned into artists, directors, writers and poets. The auditorium has become empty. That is, nobody has any interest in the work of others as everybody is preoccupied with their own activity, revelling in themselves, their own presence. Hence comes the phenomenon of incessant selfies, as though, in order to believe in the fact of their own existence, modern humans need to see themselves periodically in a multitude of narcissistic reflections… I do not even try to assess this situation or judge about it. Is this good or bad? I do not know. Time will tell…