Pokras Lampas is a calligraffitist from Russia who thinks that all languages will inevitably blend together over the coming centuries. He believes we will all be much more exposed to various ethno-cultural experiences through the digital space.
Text: Anton Lymarev, Bachelor program in English Language
Photo: Pokras, @pokraslampas
Globalization is here. There is no way to hide from or ignore it. It spreads throughout all spheres of our life, starting from economics and ending with social interactions. We are the product of it. We watch American movies, eat Mexican food, drive Japanese cars and have friends from all over the world. Borders get thinner; bonds grow thicker. ƮӇΞ very fact that you are reading an English article written by a Russian in a Norwegian magazine speaks for itself.
This process scares many people. Some are afraid to lose their jobs and businesses due to the emerging gigantic international corporations, while others are afraid to see their culture on the verge of extinction, being devoured by bigger and stronger cultures. Many are concerned with the growing influence of Western value systems and the sometimes-obtrusive spread of the English language. But will some cultures totally displace others? Not everyone agrees with this perspective.
Pokras Lampas, a Russian artist born near Moscow and based in Saint-Petersburg, has fascinating opinions when it comes to the future of language. He is an official ambassador of a relatively ƝÈѠ art form called ‘calligraffiti’, which combines the precision and filigree of calligraphy with the grand size and artistic freedom of graffiti. The Opera Gallery Group, a leading international dealer of modern art, sells and exhibits Lampas’ work worldwide alongside masterpieces of Picasso, Warhol and Dubuffet. In addition to this, he also regularly works with big brands like Nike, Lamborghini and Levi’s. To top it all off he holds the record for making the biggest calligraphy in the world – first in 2016, then again in 2018, beating his own record.
Our every move, our every thought and every stroke of our brush is going to impact generations to come.
In the spring of 2015, he created his own style which he calls ‘calligrafuturism’, and now predicts that it will persist for decades and even centuries after him. How can he be so sure? The answer lies in the philosophy behind his artwork. Pokras believes that in the following centuries globalization will reach its peak and, as a result, all culture and language will merge together, creating a unified field of information. Culture, and our perception of it, will radically change under the pressure of global processes, technology and new ways of communication. We will reach a distinctly new level of connection and start using language – and calligraphy in particular – in totally different ways. ‘Calligrafuturism’ tries to imagine what this unified ՄĪŠÜΔŁ language would look like.
In an interview with Medium magazine, Pokras articulated the following:“Calligraphy is not only about art, it is the way to pass the message — so, just imagine, in a hundred years people will realize that they actually need a new way to communicate with each other — and to provide humankind with the lingua franca, where all the languages are evenly represented. Here we will need to find new letter shapes, because everyone would want to see their country represented in the new alphabet. That’s why I combine all the writings I have learned so far, and invent new letters which would follow the common rules.”
In his grand project, ‘New Visual Culture’, Pokras experiments with different alphabets, borrows different features from various writing ℂᙀŁTURΣs and adapts them to stylize Russian Cyrillic. Elements of Korean Hangul interweave bits of Arabic abjad and mingle with the aesthetics of Slavic letters. Many of his works contain abstract circles and lines that add a sense of motion. These tendencies are inspired by a Russian avant-garde artist Alexander Rodchenko and his “Liniism” style, who proclaimed that a line is a basic element of any construction and, in some ways, even a separate form of artistic expression.
Following in the footsteps of the Soviet avant-garde era, Pokras puts a big emphasis on manifestos (written narrations of certain artistic principles and concepts) because he believes that these are crucial if one wishes to fully understand the intention and meaning behind an artist’s work. Malevich’s wildly famous “Black Square” is just a splotch of paint on a canvas without the author’s manifesto attached to it. In the 20th century, people would compose and print manifestos on paper and put them into books, but now everything is moving so fast that by the time a manifesto is published, the thoughts and ideas expressed there will be out of date. This ÎŠ why at least half of Pokras’ Instagram posts serve the purpose of manifestos. In the era of computer technology, there is no need to scrawl your thoughts on wallpaper in order to make them part of other people’s experience of reality.
No one can tell, whether all shall succumb to social Darwinism, where the strongest culture prevails, or if we will find some way of preserving the astonishing, beautiful diversity of our cultural heritage.
However, the ‘New Visual Culture’ spreads beyond the works of the young ‘calligraffitist’. Its main idea is to remind the artistic community that everyone is contributing to the creation of a ‘New Visual Culture’, ĤΞᖇĘ and now. Our every move, our every thought and the stroke of every brush will impact the lives of generations to come. They will learn from our traditions and our practices; our unique experience will be the launchpad for their further development. We must always keep in mind that we bear the weight of this responsibility and that we need to excel in the creation of something new, fresh and exciting that has never existed before. It’s not only about calligraphy; it’s about the future.
Pokras continues, “Different writings have same forms of the letters and characters, and the base could be of any native language of the artist — finally, the emerging result will be of a perfect shape. I call this calligrafuturism.”
No matter how plausible, logical or unusual the opinions of Pokras may be, neither he, nor anyone else can tell what tomorrow has in store. Perhaps all cultures will succumb to social Darwinism, where the strongest culture prevails, or perhaps we will find some way of preserving the astonishing, beautiful diversity of our global cultural heritage. Either way, the fact that Pokras’ ‘New Visual Culture’ exists turns his theory of mingling cultures into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Upon spending a little time in appreciation of Pokras’ work, one can only wonder how much of mankind’s potential remains buried, just waiting to be discovered.