Mask for Mask

Tyumen born and Moscow based “KRUZHOK” Unity is nothing less than a true voice and soul of today’s Russian underground. Unlike Gosha’s shows held in Paris and “Lumpen” models travelling around the world, “KRUZHOK” seems to be truly undercover. Last year we talked to its founder Stas Falkov, who gave us a hint on his philosophy yet kept most hidden for us to reveal. This time he pushes the boundaries of his investment and explores the lives of young actors from around Russia making them drop the masks before his lens. “Mask for Mask” – and there’s nothing gay about that, because the K matters not only on “E!”.

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This fall we sat down with Arseniy Kudryashov, the first hero of new Stas’s project and asked him about love, childhood in Asia and the future of the world of Donald Trump.

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KB: You was born in Moscow but travelled a lot as a kid as your dad is a diplomat. How did this affect you and made the person you are today?
Arseniy Kudryashov: My childhood was nothing even close to what we all consider as a careless one. I was born in Russia but can hardly say I have been growing up there, as we travelled a lot. Basically what I saw were “scraps” of my motherland – the embassies in different countries like Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar and others. Kids who grow up at the embassies is whole another story. Jealousy, hatred and domination are felt especially sharply in a confined space with 15 teens. I was the only one who studied at the Russian school assigned to the embassy in the morning and then went to the international one at the afternoon. The difference was drastic. I went to the first one to get beaten up and to the second one to be calmed down.

I realized I was different at the age of 5, but couldn’t care less. I was looking at boys without even realizing there was something wrong about that. I had no idea this was a big deal for society.

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I kissed a boy and liked it when I was about 6. We’ve been playing “Mothers and Daughters” and there were not enough girls in the squad, so I was the wife and he was the husband. It’s fun to remember but according to the script we’ve kissed. After that we began to kiss for no reason.

Later when I was 10 a new boy entered the class I was in. His name was Dima and he was 13. He was kind of an alpha and loved to fight. Obviously he gathered a group of “chavs”, if you will, around him and they’ve chosen me as a bitch. They started to beat me up every single day. They threw me to the pool and ripped my copybooks. After those cases I trudged home and never told anything to my parents. They have no idea up to these days.

Anyway, it lasted about half a year while Dima has been beaten me up. Eventually I didn’t even feel the pain. I just waited for him to calm down and stop. I didn’t even cry. One day while he was beating me he suddenly stopped, grabbed my hair and kissed me hard. Like a man. I remember to be so scared. Not scared of a kiss but of my feelings. I loved that he was beating and kissing me at the same time. Sounds like something from “Venus in Furs” but back then I realized that pain is very close to passion and lust. I even have a David by Michelangelo with a bleeding nose tattoed on my leg. It makes sense, huh?

An interesting twist happened two years later. Dima and me used to live next door, however we didn’t have any communication for a while. One night he asked me out of nowhere to come to “our place” – a tech floor of an abandoned building. I went. When I came I was surprised to see two other guys with him. One was 15 and the other was 17. By the time I managed to watch all of the pornography I could find at the embassy (and yes there is a lot), so I kind of had a clue what was going to happen. I was scared they might have started raping me, but now I can say this experience goes to TOP-5 of my best sex adventures. Amusingly all of them have families today.

KB: It is really hard to interrupt you, but let’s talk about diplomacy for a second. What do you think about the concept itself?
AK: To my father’s greatest grief I’ve become an actor. He accepted this fact now, but definitely he saw me as a great diplomat. As you may assume – I’ve seen it all. I understood really fast that the world of diplomacy is directly opposite to my outlook. “Politics is a very tacky and nasty place” – as Donald Trump once said and I totally agree here. You can never know who is “crooked” and who tells the truth and that’s the worst thing. I never wanted to take anyone’s side unless I examined the issue. Everybody is talking about the elections in the US these days and this is beyond intimidating what’s happening there. To me this is the best example of why not to go to politics whatsoever. At least Americans still have Kim Kardashian to get distracted from all that hell. But even she doesn’t post since her Paris robbery. So shit happens.

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KB: Being born to the family, where borders exist not really in the way we all know them, why did you eventually decide to stay in Moscow? A lot of people try to move from Russia, so what’s your point?
AK: I’m Russian to the bottom of my heart. I used to have a relationship with one Portuguese guy but he was an asshole. An asshole because he loved the fact that I fly to him thousands miles just to meet him, but unfortunately he didn’t love me. Turgenev and Dostoevsky brought me up as a kid so I do believe in true love. Russia covers so much in its soul that a lifetime is not enough to dig to the core. But you are welcome to actually dig and create ultimate art. It will be hard but this eventually will be the creation made of your blood and sweat. Russian underground has its precious beauty. For me – it’s in eternal passion. Certain artists create very bold projects nowadays and those are unique partially because Russians make them. I guess our nation has this gift to see beyond the surface. Historically proven.

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KB: Speaking of underground, what does this concept mean to you?
AK: I don’t have a precise answer, obviously. While making something underground you just rip your skin off and do whatever you want. You may be openly or secretly proud of yourself, your flaws, your sexuality, your dick and what not. I guess every artist is a pervert in a way. We all need something to throw this out to. And this whole concept has something melancholic in it. We suffer from our desires, from what we can never get. Russians like to suffer, especially in art. And this is historically proven as well, isn’t it?

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KB: How did your story with “Kruzhok” began?
AK: I met Stas accidently on some commercial photoshoot. I really loved the pictures he makes and really liked him, he-he. Just kidding… or probably not. Anyway, his work deeply touched me so I suggested to make something together. The next day I was standing before him in my underpants and he was pushing the button.

KB: The shoot you’ve made is beautifully homoerotic, which might still be tricky in Putin’s Russia. Do you feel the attitude to the LGBTQ community has changed through last years?
AK: I live in Moscow, do you know? I wear leather pants and red leather biker jackets. I put color on my nails sometimes. I don’t experience any difficulties with that I have to say. BUT we have to remember I am in Moscow. What’s happening in other cities – is a whole another story. I strongly believe Russia will eventually accept, but we need time.
We don’t like to be pushed to like something. Be patient. And don’t make politics out of this.

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KB: There is an opinion that the society is tired of “gay issues” and this topic is highly exaggerated in the media. What’s your view on that?
AK: Basically I don’t even consider that as an issue. This is a part of our every day life, which is not in the best place right now. So it needs to be talked about. This is it.

KB: And my last questions, since you brought those people up today. What do you think of Donald Trump?
AK: Asshole. Like my ex.

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KB: What do you think of Kim Kardashian?
AK: I think the power of K is underestimated. Especially when we talk about Stas’s last project ;)
“Mask for Mask” is exclusively available on kruzhok.moscow 

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Photography by: Stas Falkov @falkov.sn
Model: Arseny Kudryashov @dirty_arseny
Style: Dancing Store Moscow @dancing.store
Kruzhok: @kruzhok.moscow