Step into the world of cybernetic surrealist Anna, also known as Pom Determinism. Using visual components to question the conceptual and philosophical world, Anna uses art to express the echoes of ethereal ideas. Reaching out to the universe with hands outstretched, her tattoos express a liberated psychosis of 90’s Microsoft aesthetics that probe the underlying systems of society. In this interview, Pom Determinism expresses hopes, dreams, theories and axioms.
Can you introduce yourself a bit? Where you’re from, when you started creating art, etc.?
My name is Anna, also known as Pom Determinism. The background of this nickname has very long story. Because of the Belarusian roots of my mother, during the time of my teenage life in Moscow, I was attached to the nickname Potato; the national food of Belarus. I don’t know how he managed to disappear for a few years in the Crimea, but to get acclimatized in Kiev so well.
In view of my knowledge of French and a great love for French culture, I decided to use the French translation of this word - “pomme de terre”, which, however, literally means "earth apple". This is such a funny use of semantics: the presence of the biblical paradise apple in different languages of the Latin group. For example, orange is from the Dutch "appelsien" ("Chinese apple"), pineapple in English (pine apple), in Italian tomato is "pomo d'oro" ("golden apple"). So, I shortened pomme de terre to pom_de_ter, this is how this word is read with all the French love for unreadable letters. And so, ideally, I lay on this my present immersion in philosophy and the discovery for myself of the most plausible answer to the question of free will - the ideas of determinism.
...now, I don’t believe there are people who can’t draw.
So, I was born in Moscow but, to be honest, I’m not even a bit nostalgic about this city. I’d completed a paramedic’s degree there, then started to hitchhike here and there. Then I travelled to Crimea, which I always had imagined like post-Soviet California. I used to hang around with skaters and garage musicians, and there I met a punk who handpoked his friends and himself.
One day we found ourselves at a home party with lots of booze, where he just handed me a tattooing needle so I could help his drunk pal to tattoo his ex-girlfriend’s name inside a heart. Then I went to a medical university, where I spent a year, but what I came to after I’d worked in the intensive care in Russia: the health care industry is pure hell.
I started to search for myself, I wrote lyrics and prose, and even thought of tying myself up with writing, though I was dreaming about tattooing since I was 16. So, I ended up tattooing myself. When I’d finished the first one, my boyfriend said I shouldn’t be doing this, as I can’t draw. It was the biggest love in my life, that punk who first gave me a needle to try to do a handpoke tattoo on his friend. We ended the relationship very painfully, with thoughts of suicide and things like that, so maybe I started to get tattoos to prove to him, and myself, that he was wrong. Probably I did this to spite him. But now, I don’t believe there are people who can’t draw.
Hypothetical situation: You have 30 days left to live. What would you do, and where would you go before you die?
I would take out a big loan and fly to Japan, and from there I will move around the world in order to see the maximum of it. And if they won't give me a loan and I won't have any money, then I’ll go hitchhiking in Crimea as I used to do as a child. And I'll try DMT and Mescaline, if by this time I still haven't done it yet. Well, I don’t know whether you can publish such confessions.
I love that your work blends surrealism and important politics. Can you talk more about the concepts behind your visuals? What is your philosophy or mission as an artist?
I create my tattoo works in a handpoke futuristic visual style, but I also believe the tattoo should be conceptual, so what I draw usually meets philosophical topics. I am of the opinion that a tattoo should no longer be a body painting in a certain style, like an ancient vase. Old School, New School, Ornamental and Polynesian should already be a thing of the past.
For example, this happened with graffiti, which over the past few decades has changed from territory labels to street art, which art critics take apart and sell at auctions. I made cute pictures in the retrowave style, tried to follow trends in fashion like tribal tattoos of the 90's, but all this was not that insincere. And then I realized that I was not interested in being like everyone else, being in a trend and fashionable. On the contrary, I always wanted to do something different. Inthe era of clip thinking, Instagram...I value intelligence, intangible values and knowledge. Therefore, I decided to make a conceptual tattoo like, you know, “Malevich’s square” - so that the idea prevails over the visual part. This is handpoke, a handmade tattoo, with direct contact with another person. I use futuristic styling and two colors: green and purple. Bright green as on the screen saver of the film "The Matrix" and the opposite purple, which is also considered the color of wisdom. Many say that they see such colors in acid trips, but I always draw my sketches with a sober mind.
Happiness is being replaced by material values in this world, and it scares me.
I always thought that creativity is about the artist’s personal issues incarnation and his disconnection to the world. As it occurs to me, the two main problems the modern world has are the cult of consumption and the Internet. Happiness is being replaced by material values in this world, and it scares me. Everybody knows that if you want things to be fine, you have to earn a lot. But why? If your income grows, your consuming activity grows as well. And, to be sure, advertising takes care to make you believe that you buy not soda, but genuine happiness. At the same time, we live with a sense of our absolute superiority, surrounded by intelligent machines, but the further progress goes, the more stupid people become, because advertising easily sells us anything just by adding sexual undertones, and our most basic instincts take over our consciousness if possible. And why are we so proud of the freedom of choice? Maybe because there is just no confidence in its presence, but the popular culture is trying that hard to convince us of the opposite in order to maintain the demand for useless things?
Year after year, freedom of choice of virtual information is also being more and more accurately calculated by sophisticated algorithms, and targeting is configured more precisely, thanks to the voluntary flow of personal info...to feed your ego through likes and views that create a new virtual hierarchy in the non-existent world of social networks.
If we already consider a tattoo as a new kind of modern art, which, like graffiti, is gradually moving away from just pictures to something more complex, overgrown with meaning, then it should also be an indicator that reacts to the problems of the actual reality. The odder the tattoo looks and the more it differs from trends, the more relevant it will look during the entire presence on the skin. Personally, first of all, I try to question things that usually seem the most obvious, simple and popular, because they were explained to us and shown as the only option. The habit of questioning makes us possible to develop our thinking ability, and thereby justify the appearance of an evolutionary novelty in the form of the cerebral cortex within us.
If you could only read one book, listen to one record, and watch one movie forever which ones would you choose? If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to have dinner with, who would you choose?
The book: a volume of Daniel Harms’ works. He is the most surreal and absurd of the 20th century Russian writers. Recording: Pink Floyd’s Echoes. I feel that loneliness of an astronaut who looks at Earth through a porthole sounds like that. And the film: a cartoon, Yellow Submarine. I loved it very much as a child, I watched it repeatedly. We had 3 tapes at home; 2 of them were stolen by my father from a shop where you can rent cassettes.
And I would choose dinner with Socrates. And, preferably, in his time in ancient Greece.
What has your experience been like traveling all around Russia, Ukraine, and more, tattooing? What is it like being so heavily tattooed, and what is the art scene producing in that part of the world?
This is always a delicate thing for me, about Russia and Ukraine, I would like to be apolitical, but it is difficult...if you were born in Moscow, you live in Kiev and you adore Crimea for its nature. Any power is violence, some people divide money, others suffer. I have never voted, I did not elect Putin as president, I did not choose in which country to be born. Russia has a huge territory and a lot of natural resources that need to be protected, so this is a cruel militaristic state.
Moscow is a separate paradise of the cult of consumption. In Moscow, you can earn a lot of money to spend on the values imposed on us by advertising, and think that this is "true happiness". Political activism is radiant in Russia, because if you want to protest against the authorities there, it’s better to hide behind art because you have more chances to remain free and alive. As for tattooing: it's the same. There's almost nothing that is radically new and not much of futurism in tattoo. On the contrary, there's a glance into the past, I think. Somebody is inspired by Suprematism, Rothko, Basquiat, somebody with rock'n'roll and grunge, stylistics of old comics, but the rise of the Russian underground came around 2015, when the Russian Criminal Tattoo came into mainstream fashion. This style came from the Soviet concentration camps where everyone who was against the Soviet regime spoke out against it, and created the objectionable art. The theme of a tragic past is the lack of freedom and this is relevant in Russia.
...I like it when I manage to break stereotypes.
In the post-Soviet countries, a person with tattoos was persistently associated with the criminal world, because before the criminal tattoo there actually was no culture of tattoos at all. If in other countries tattoos comes from ethnic tribes, or, for example, from seafarers, and usually is associated with something positive, we here have a very negative attitude to tattooed people. I constantly attract judgmental views and comments about my appearance in the streets. But I like it when I manage to break stereotypes. Say, when I hitchhike or when I just recently visited a psychotherapist. The first reaction of an average person is: if there are this many tattoos on you, it definitely means you're a prostitute/drug addict/originating from a bad family. The psychotherapist immediately asked about the tattoos, and due to the fact I didn’t clearly pronounce the word “millenial” she, for some reason, concluded I don’t read books at all. And I read them, and my family is fine. By the end of the conversation, people often change their minds. I like it when it happens, but the total mass will keep its conservative opinion.
I love Ukraine, as people here struggle to escape away from their bad emotional baggage and look into the future. Unlike the Russians, with their cult of power and fear, the Ukrainians have always valued freedom and fought for independence. And now, here, against the revolution and war in the background, there is a real rise of the underground culture, Kiev is usually called “the new Berlin”. There are the most insane raves, the most known – Сxema («Scheme»).
The modern art flourishes here, as it shows things as they are, and needs no censorship and complete permissiveness. It seems to me that you can find such a vivid tattoo scene nowhere, but in Kiev. Unlike retrospectively criminal in Russia, in Ukraine it’s such cyber futurism like DSMT and Dase Tattoo, who is close to me, or neo-gothic like Euthanasia Sport, and, of course, the best handpoke artist, in my opinion, Yaroslav Putyata also known as yar.put, who is also from Kiev.
I love Kiev and find like-minded people among open people who value themselves, freedom and friendship. In Russia, where I was born and raised, I have neither friends, nor like-minded people who can understand me. Everyone is very much fixated either on consumerism, or on politics, or on their own ego and, in general, people have a slave's consciousness. I would like to change citizenship, because I see what a terrible and almost Stalin’s regime Russia has come to, and I don’t feel any relation to it. Now in Kiev, I feel in the right place.
You’re also a fashion model! Is that completely separate from tattooing, or do the two art forms ever merge? Beyond art and tattoos, what are you really passionate about?
I got into modeling thanks to tattooing. The fashion industry now usually opts for unconventional appearances, including plenty of tattoos. There is an active interaction between these industries - many brands collaborate with tattoo artists, and tattooed people tend to appear on catwalks, although quite recently it was almost obligatory for a model to have an absolutely clean skin. And they participate not only in streetwear brands' shows, but also in such high fashion houses such as Gucci, for instance.
I am interested in fashion as the art associated with the practical side of life, I like to dress off the beaten track and look not like everyone else. But I don't like the consumerist side of fashion. In Moscow, many people dress exclusively in expensive branded clothing, spending all their salaries, but they end up looking absolutely tasteless. I dress in second-hand shops, as there you can find the most random pieces, and it is eco-friendly, considering how much resources are spent on production, but how many clothes are just thrown away. It is respect-worthy, when brands do not just make money, but also pay attention of their audience and to environmental and social problems.
I am interested in science, medicine and philosophy. These are the very things that are a source of inspiration for me and give me a chance to find answers for the questions that arise from my interaction with this world.
...the idea of conceptual tattooing...which can, and should, deal with relevant social issues and eternal philosophical questions.
Do you have any travel plans, projects, collabs, merch, etc. coming up that you’d like to share? Any hopes for this year or the next?
Now I have a serious restriction, due to the fact I can't get a Schengen Visa in Russia, so I'm limited to traveling to visa-free countries. But as soon as this problem is solved, or I have my citizenship changed to Ukrainian, I will immediately head to Berlin. They say that Tel Aviv has a similar vibe as well as Warsaw, Prague, Paris, Rome.
And the next goal will be - Japan and South Korea. And as for collabs, I get very embarrassed, when it comes to interaction with other artists, I think I have something like the impostor's syndrome. It seems to me that artists will reveal that I can't do anything for real. This is a very strange phobia, but some of my friends say they have something similar. I plan to enlarge the scope of my work and combine handpoke with a tattoo machine. And well, the most important thing is to keep promoting the idea of conceptual tattooing, and inform people that it is not only about just painting bodies, like clay vases, but the full-fledged modern art, which can, and should, deal with relevant social issues and eternal philosophical questions.