Vadim Zakharov, artist: 'Art works must have feelings of happiness and interest'

Archiving, publishing, making videos and performances, the artist - who divides his time between Berlin and Cologne - refuses to do just one thing

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The Independent Culture

Vadim Zakharov divides his time between Berlin and Cologne. His Berlin studio is in the increasingly trendy area of Schöneberg and is light and spacious, with evidence of his work displayed in every room. Even his kitchen has pinned up photographs of artists.

Zakharov represented Russia in the 2013 Venice Biennale. His work Danae was gender specific, with ladies only allowed into the ground floor to have golden coins rain onto their heads protected by transparent umbrellas – a comment on how money has become so central to his country.

Zakharov was born in 1959 in Stalinabad, now known as Dushanbe. His parents moved to Moscow when he was six but he still has Stalinabad in his Russian passport. He laughs, "When I ask the authorities how I can have a city that no longer exists in my passport, they say: 'It has to be.'

"My father was a communist and there was a bit of a problem when I wanted to be an artist – he wanted me to be a communist. Instead I became part of the 'underground movement' – very different from the underground movements elsewhere." By the late Seventies they had a created a community. "We were creators, curators, critics and collectors. It was like a golden age in the Soviet Union."

Today, without a gallery to support him, he pursues various projects, including archiving the Moscow Conceptual Movement that he was part of in the 1970s. He saw his fellow artists disperse around the world, and in response devised Pastor, a yearly magazine that included interviews with the artists with whom he was most connected.

Zakharov follows his own conceptual structure, tempered with a determination that the works should have a pleasing aesthetic. He inserted cameras into an orange, and into another artist's armpit, producing photographs that at first glance appear abstract. They follow his own self-imposed rules, but have a sense of humour. "My photographs are anti-photographs," he says. "For me it was important to use the centre, as conceptual artists always use the edges".

Archiving, publishing, making videos and performances, he refuses to do just one thing. Most recently he found a box of discarded family films in a flea market. "I like touching time. This is an archive project about time. There are 25 films of one German family. In the small screen you can see life, and it has really touched me."

About working with another artist as the collective known as Obama in Berlin, he says: "We have one rule. First of all, works should have a feeling of happiness and interest. If they are only ideas, we do not do this."

Paper Museums: Moscow Conceptualism in Transit is at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (023 8059 2158) to 19 July

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