Fairy Tale
Coming Alive
New media art curatorial project for the State Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russia
Once upon a time...
Avocado Toast curated new media art as part of an experimental exhibition called "The Russian Fairy Tale. From Vasnetsov to the Present" (chief curator Tatiana Getman), taking place in the West Wing of the New Tretyakov Gallery from February 22 till May 10, 2020.
Victor Lander
Executive Creative Director at Avocado Toast

This curatorial project complements the exhibition and shapes the viewer's experience according to the classic three-part structure of a dramatic piece.

The first act, Life's a Fairy Tale, is a collection of six Instagram filter masks created by six artists working with different media. The masks transform people into characters of classic Russian fairy tales and invite their wearers and their followers to visit the exhibition.

Fairy Tale, Come Alive!, the second part of the experience, consists of three multimedia artworks within the exhibition itself. These works by three contemporary multimedia artists are conceptual animations of paintings by I. E. Repin and V. V. Vasnetsov.

Finally, the third act takes place when visitors come back from the gallery, filled with new experiences and reconnected to the mythological reality.
Fairy tale, come alive!
For Fairy Tale, Come Alive!, three masters of new media art explored masterpieces of renowned Russian painters Ilya Repin and Viktor Vasnetsov.
Sadko, Ilya Repin, 1876
The State Russian Museum
Environmental simulation guru and CG artist Andrey Flat studied underwater worlds of Repin's Sadko. By bringing alive the lights and shades of the painting he searched for the mystery of the Sadko's story culmination — the moment when this gusli (Russian zither) player finds his future wife Chernavka among nine hundred brides in the underwater kingdom.
Baba Yaga, Viktor Vasnetsov, 1917
Viktor Vasnetsov Museum
While working on Baba Yaga by Viktor Vasnetsov, multimedia artist Vadim Epstein collaborated with artificial intelligence to solve the mystery of the enchanted forest. Pre-trained on the heritage of the great Russian fairy tale explorer, custom neural networks introspected the painting in the search for the mysterious and presented the result as a mesmerizing flow of colors, shades and movements.
Fight of Dobrynya Nikitich with Zmey Gorynych, Viktor Vasnetsov, 1918
Viktor Vasnetsov Museum
Animation artist Alexey Zakharov found a connection with the modernity in the painting Fight of Dobrynya Nikitich with Zmey Gorynych. Zakharov presented the fight of the Russian hero-knight with the fire-breathing dragon as a videogame battle with the final level boss that opens up the road to triumph and fame.
Life's a fairy tale
Life's a Fairy Tale is a collective Instagram project by six contemporary Russian artists that work in different media. Each of the participants worked with their habitual medium to tell a unique story and unveil the nature of one of the six characters of Russian fairy tales. As a result, six Instagram filter masks became a study that amalgamates ancient myths with modern-day narratives.
Leshy by Illarion Gordon
Baba Yaga by Viktoria Semykina
Koschei by Vitaly Prostov
Typeface designer and calligrapher Illarion Gordon brought the forest spirit Leshy to life and created the mask out of many written variations of his name. According to the custom, Leshy goes by many names but it is forbidden to call him out loud, so Gordon breaks the taboo by writing all those names right on the face of a person wearing the mask.

Book illustrator Victoria Semykina portrayed Baba Yaga, a classic female villain from children's books. This image takes us back to our childhood and reminds us of the time when every page of a fairy tale was filled with mystic wonder.

Artist Vitaly Prostov portrayed his own vision of Koschei — the ruler of the land of the dead. His eerie skull is completed by a realistic illustration of flowing time — an abstract reminder of shortness of time for us all.
Vasilisa by Alena Lavdovskaya
Bogatyr by Nikita Replyansky
Marfushenka by Masha Vorslav
Fashion illustrator Alena Lavdovskaya brought the image of Vasilisa The Wise up to date by giving her attributes of modern beauty and care. She replaced her kokoshnik, a traditional Russian headpiece, with a sleep mask to reinterpret the concept of beauty as having enough time for sleep and self-care.

Multimedia artist Nikita Replyansky endowed the mighty Bogatyr (hero-knight) with the power of technologies. The warrior from fairy tales is now equipped not with a sword and a shield but with worms and exploits – arguably, the most powerful attributes of modernity.

Make-up artist Masha Vorslav studied the concept of beautification based on the classic fairy tale movie character Marfushenka-Dushenka. The image of the beloved antihero from the Soviet movie Morozko is the author's way to pose the question: at which point does beauty turn into showiness in the modern world?

Denis Astakhov
Founder at Avocado Toast

Here at Avocado Toast, we use multimedia technology professionally to communicate with audiences. It's vital for us to generate trends in this industry by exploring the most technology-savvy means of expression. We were thrilled by the fact that the State Tretyakov Gallery was open for experiments in multimedia art and invited us to curate the technological part of The Russian Fairy Tale project.

Fairy tales are the most ancient stories told by humanity. This is a source of inspiration for many of us. Besides, thorough research of storytelling as a way of processing information is at the core of our creative method. That's why this project inspired our team so much and made us sincerely proud of the result.
The layers of Russian reality are highly transparent for the wonders of fairy tales. We easily allow magical elements to become part of our daily life and often make decisions based on mystical signs and gut feeling. This behavioral model comes from our childhood, from the fairy-tale wonderland. The history of Russian fairy tales amounts to thousands of years, but it's alive and always present for each of us, here and now.
Exhibition Organizer The State Tretyakov Gallery
Curators Tatiana Getman,
Ivan Antonov, Igor Volkov

Co-curator (exhibition area architecture & design)
Alexey Tregubov
Author of Interactive Objects Maria Tregubova
Academic Advisor Nikita Petrov

Curators of New Media Art Avocado Toast
Curator Victor Lander
Producer, Co-curator Olga Nikolaeva

Paintings Animation Andrey Flat,
Vadim Epstein, Alexey Zakharov

Instagram Masks Illarion Gordon,
Victoria Semykina, Vitaly Prostov,
Masha Vorslav, Nikita Replyansky,
Alena Lavdovskaya

Instagram Masks Development & Support Instafilter

PR Support Sergey Baryshnikov
Special thanks
Avocado Toast team express their gratefulness to the State Tretyakov Gallery and personally to the exhibition chief curator Tatiana Getman for openness, trust and continuous support throughout the project.

Vadim Epstein thanks Yuki Endo, Yoshihiro Kanamori, Shigeru Kuriyama, as well as Hsin-Ying Lee, Hung-Yu Tseng, Jia-Bin Huang, Maneesh Kumar Singh, and Ming-Hsuan Yang — for their research and digital tools for AI-powered image processing, used during his work on Baba Yaga:

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