April 2nd, 2013


My life journey is to create unique experiences that lift the audience above the trivial everyday worries and awaken the deeper senses within us. I try to learn from thousands of years of storytelling. We are so lucky today to have the freedom and technology to create and share our stories with so many powerful tools.
- Andrei Severny, filmmaker and photographer

Workspaces: Andrei Severny

We met up with Andrei Severny - contemporary filmmaker, screenwriter, photographer and visual artist - at the ET Modern gallery in the artsy Chelsea district of New York City. Severny spends most of his time betwen his Chelsea studio, editing suite (at the ET Modern), and filming on-location. During our converstation, one thing that quickly became apparent is that he uses the city as his inspiration and creative playground. 

Severny’s work - spanning film, photography and video instillations - primarily explores human perception, psychology and neuroscience. His work is multi-layered, richly experimental and drenched in philosophical commentary. Although, for a guy who indulges in such serious subjects, we have to say that he smiles and jokes an awful lot! 

The ET Modern seems like the ideal space to spend hours editing footage and shaping one’s final creation - old bricks (with history), modern elegance, sunlit rooms, silence, and intimate proximity to the pulse of creative happenings.

Currently, Severny is editing his next documentary based on the calligraphy of Kris Holmes and the research of her husband Charles Bigelow. “This film will study different cultural aspects of writing and explore its relationship to rhythm and motion in music and dance,” Severny tells us. 

Severny is also developing a feature-length sci-fi film - to be shot in Spanish, on location in Mexico - called Zona del Silencio; a story about a journalist who gets involved in a series of mysterious events that parallel with his dangerous love affair. We can’t wait! 

Severny has gained national and international success, but is always pushing to reach new heights. (Ahem, this apparently runs in the family: Severny is the grandson of Andrei Severny, the Soviet astronomer.) 

Here’s a sneak peek into Andrei Severny’s creative space and work: 


I create using the best of what’s available from a simple image and a few words, to a complex feature-length film. Cinema for me is the most exciting and the most immersive art form. Making a film requires fast, bold decisions. On the other hand, writing, editing, analyzing, and editing again takes months. That is when the studio becomes your home, playground and prison.


My films often have little or no dialogue. Sometimes I also challenge myself to abstain from music. Instead, I use a palette of sounds, from a random street noise to a satellite-acquired signal from the most remote place in the outer space. This allows viewers to connect with the story on the intimate level of intuition, rather than rational thinking. Perhaps for that reason, Condition - the most irreverent film that I made in this manner - resonates best with sensitive intellectuals and one- to five-year-old children, both of whom haven’t lost their inner-sensibility and intuition.


If I do use words, for example in a documentary, they must convey deep meaning or, better yet, state a principle. In narrative film or video installations, I tend to use words to create atmosphere. I like to use word constructions that may have multiple interpretations. I want to inspire imagination, not to control it entirely by over-explaining a story or situation.


My first feature film, Condition, is a meditative drama that we made with almost no budget, powered by the sheer heroic actions of the sparse cast and crew. It was one of those impossible projects that came to life in spite of everything against it. This poster reminds me that with love, consistent effort and teamwork one can achieve almost anything.


Of course the real workspace is not limited to the Chelsea studio with an editing suite. The most wonderful things tend to happen outside in the real world with real people, locations and situations. These eventually become material for my visual stories. My most productive days often include trips all over the city on my good old electric scooter, of course with a camera on my shoulder and a notepad in my pocket.

CONDITION trailer from Andrei Severny on Vimeo.

水面 Minamo Video Installation by Andrei Severny at SET Gallery, New York from Andrei Severny on Vimeo.

Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See directed by Andrei Severny and produced by Edward Tufte on Vimeo.

Previous on Workspaces: frank visits the studio of Toronto artist Sam Shuter.

-Alina Kulesh.

Photographs: Alina Kulesh and Irene Kim.

Videos courtesy of Andrei Severny.

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