30:00 min, 4K, Color, Sound
Mascha Naumova addresses basic, and therefore the most difficult existential questions throughout her artistic practices. But when one manages to answer these questions, the answers form a foundation of a personality. With video and performative practices as her main tools, Masha explores her emotional experience and issues of gender, femininity, sex, mortality and humanity’s battle against it. The artist is capturing different stages of her life that are marking the assembling of her identity. Mascha’s performances, influenced by theatrical plays and classical drama, are often close to mystical scenes.
Performing “The Perfect Finish”, Mascha gets her body involved into a ritual of funeral preparation. Thanatopractor carefully carries out the beauty procedures that are necessary to make the body and face look as if a person was alive. He shampoos and styles Mascha’s hair, applies special embalming makeup on her face then paints her nails. He dresses the artist as a dead woman — cutting clothes at the back — and puts her in a white coffin. Special tanatocosmetics and products are used in the performance — the ones usually applied to restore the beauty of the body before the ceremony.
Why did Mascha decide to go through this experience now? We have never talked on death as much as in 2020. It seems that everything lost sense for the mass media — but the COVID-19 pandemic. And even if not everyone has faced the virus directly, then everyone knows and hears constantly about the number of deaths surrounding him or her. Everyone, regardless of age and health, has probably imagined his or her own death coming this year. Aestheticizing death, Mascha Naumova tries to remove tension and to tame fear — at least, for some time. Her way of dealing with anxiety is to feel that touch on herself.
The death and funeral services industries are culturally dependent. In India, there is no need to plan first days after death: most probably, your ashes will be scattered over the waters of the Ganges. Many older women in Eastern Europe go to bed in their most elegant shirt to be found beautiful on the morning of their death. In Western Europe, a few years before the onset of ripe old age, it‘s customary to conclude a contract with a funeral agency: to choose a coffin, clothes, and leave a photograph documenting your appearance in a most accurate way. And — most likely — to pre-order a ceremony that you like. What causes this aspiration to fit the social standards even after being actually dead? Maintaining a sort of social façade, or showing respect for the life you lived?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought back the chaos inherent to death. It can no longer be planned and thought out, even in prosperous countries. Death regained its medieval appearance of senseless, black and uncontrollable horror. Closed coffins, graves covered with chlorine, burials without relatives. Mascha Naumova not only dares to reenact the traumatic milestone situation, finding forces to cope with fear. The artist also sets a right of a human being to leave with dignity (preserving his or her centuries-old culture and aesthetic) against the depersonalizing meat grinder of death.