Experience

Sasha Laskowsky Ziguilinsky: “I Came to Graphics Arts Through Agitprop”

An artist and a traveller Sasha Laskowsky Ziguilinsky on how to drop everything after 10 years of making book illustrations and start wandering the world

How does it feel to sail along the Danube; to cross the mountains between Bulgaria and Turkey by foot; to create a hippie community in Cyprus and spend a week in jail in Belgium? Ruth Borshevsky talked about it with the poster artist Sasha Laskowsky Ziguilinsky after meeting him in a bomb-shelter in Israel, where he showered and slept.


Sasha Laskowsky Ziguilinsky, 35 years old

Born in Santiago, grew up in the Atacama Desert. Studied journalism, worked as a crime reporter for a short time, then became a book designer. Now he is a wandering artist, suffering from dromomania.


Art

Posters are one of the most powerful and cheap ways to deliver a message. I usually work with analogies and cross references, resulting mostly in bad jokes and dubious puns about politics, music, movies and books. Since I have been wandering without a computer for the last few years, I am doing a lot of pen doodles of paper toys and graffiti sketches.

I mainly draw when I have nothing to do. While hitchhiking, sleeping on the street or drinking coffee… I draw to avoid boredom. I always have a sketchbook with me; it is my little private world of obsessions, but also a story of my trips, a documentation of thoughts and things that I saw.

I support myself by selling my drawings on the streets of whichever city I am in. It’s not much money, but if you combine it with dumpster diving, hitchhiking and intensive hoboing, it’s more than enough to continue rolling.

Although I don’t consider myself ideologically fueled, most of my work is deeply political in a libertarian anti-fascist vegan way. I believe in the basic dignity of nature and all sentient beings. I came to graphics arts through agitprop, through the writings of Goebbels and Lenin. I’m full of contradictions and I’m pretty aware of them. I think it was Flaubert who said that contradictions keep sanity in place.


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Past

I was born in Santiago in 1979, and from there we moved to the north of Chile. We changed cities frequently. Every two or three years – a different city. I attended about eight or nine different schools.

On the weekends we traveled to abandoned mine towns and cemeteries in the desert. Most of the graves were buried at shallow depth because the soil is very hard there, and many graves had been desecrated. I don’t know why this happens in the desert, but the bodies look as if they were made of clay. Clay mummies. Very rare, I’ve never seen this elsewhere in the world.

As a kid I was obsessed with drawing Jesus, the crucifixion. I went to a Catholic school and saw a lot of figures of Jesus with bleeding wounds.

The desert is what I miss – being in the desert and looking at the stars. I am still not used to the stars of this side of the world. In the Chilean desert you feel like you are far from everything. You see the endless mountains behind you and the endless Pacific Ocean ahead of you.

My family was Jewish. We have foreign surnames – Laskowsky Ziguilinsky – of Russian or Ukrainian or Polish origin. I had a feeling of living in an isolated place, belonging to a weird family and changing places frequently.

As a kid I was obsessed with drawing Jesus, the crucifixion. I went to a Catholic school and saw a lot of figures of Jesus with bleeding wounds.


Attitude About Life

After I graduated from university, I lived in the same place for ten years. I had a relationship, an apartment and a car, and I was trying to get used to the idea that this was going to be my life. But I couldn’t.

Traveling is running away from everything. In a way – from yourself because your personality is to a great extent conditioned by your social environment. At the age of eight or nine I was reading a magazine about people who decided to leave it all and live on an exotic island far away, like Gauguin or Stevenson. And twenty five years later I remembered this moment while swimming in Cyprus, in the community that we founded… it was like, “Wow! I did it!”

I remember one day when I was hitchhiking with Italian friend. We were lost in the mountains of Greece, dead from the heat, without water, without food. But it was amazing to realize that – I don’t want to sound stilted – but there was this possibility of being lost in the mountains of Greece when you could be in front of a computer dreaming about the possibility of being lost in the mountains of Greece….

It’s interesting how many people think this way – about “real life.” What does it mean? A job and a stable location? I understand that for many people real life means this, but it’s not for everyone. This is my life. I’d never been happier than when I realized that all my things were in my backpack and that I could go anywhere in the world and do anything I like.


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Traveling

Prague was the first stop.The first months in Prague were amazing. All I did was walk all day long, lost in the streets. Prague for me was completely different from everything that I knew in South America. It was the first time I saw snow. People didn’t understand why I was laughing and throwing myself into the snow. But after a few months I ran out of money, and I couldn’t renew my visa, so I got kicked out of the country.

From there I went to work on organic farms all across Eastern Europe.They don’t pay you, but you get room and board. Then I went to a Rainbow Gathering (yearly meeting of hippies — Editor’s note) in Slovakia. I met amazing people there and I saw that it was possible to travel without money. You go to a Rainbow Gathering for a month, you meet people, you live by helping out around the gathering, and you meet new friends, then you go to friends’ houses.

After my first Rainbow experience some friends and I built a wooden raft, and did a rafting trip along the Danube for several months. We departed from Hungary, and the plan was to travel across Serbia and Romania and to get to the Black Sea. But we did only about 300 or 400 km, and then the police destroyed the raft because it was illegal.

In Serbia I was robbed and kidnapped by a taxi driver. I learned the lesson: never ever hitchhike into a taxi.

I collapsed on while I was hitchhiking in Turkey and I woke up in a hospital.

I crossed the mountain border between Bulgaria and Turkey on foot with only 10 euros in my pocket saved for emergencies. I collapsed on the way; I was hitchhiking in Turkey and I woke up in a hospital. I hadn’t eaten in a few days. I got intoxicated on mountain water, and was stressed and tired.

I lived in Turkey for a couple of months, working on farms, and from there I sailed to a Rainbow gathering in Cyprus. We rode bicycles around Cyprus and after two weeks we found a Greek man who agreed to lend us a piece of land. So we set up a community near Paphos – a libertarian, hippie open farm.

In Belgium I was arrested in the airport and put in a detention center and then deported back to Cyprus. The authorities demanded that I have a certain amount of money to enter Europe and a return ticket to prove that I was not going to stay there, and a credit card – and I didn’t have any of these…

My trip has no final destination, but my plan is to get to Japan hitchhiking – from Russia or from Turkey. Like the travels of Marco Polo – I want to go all around and then maybe to cross back to Latin America. I think I still have ten more years to travel, up to 45 years old, and then I will have a kind of retirement project; I would love to have a mobile library in Bolivia, to go from village to village in a van, teaching children to read or helping them with literature that is not easy for them.


“Rainbow Gathering”

It’s going to sound sectarian, but I think that the most important thing that has happened to me in recent years has been going to the Rainbow gatherings. It changed my life, mainly because I realized that I could interact with adults without drinking alcohol. It sounds ridiculous, but it was a revelation. In Chile and in other places if you go out on Friday you have to be drunk to relate with other people. And at the Rainbow gatherings many people consume different things, from marijuana to ayahuasca, but you don’t have to be at this level to talk to them.

The hardest thing about living in a community or going to the Rainbow gatherings is the time to say goodbye. But there are magical moments of cosmic synchronicity when you accidentally meet people that you thought you would never see again. I have awesome friends. I have really good friends. There are some of them I haven’t spoken to for the past two years, but I think it’s better to have this kind of friend than those friends you make when you live in a fixed place. With many of the friends that I had in Chile – those who were in the same social circle as myself – I didn’t have much in common with besides alcohol and drugs. So who are real friends and who are just accidents on the road?

I like the idea that when you die everything that you lived through goes with you. I find it reassuring to know that everything that I have felt and experienced is unique and will never repeat again. Doesn’t it worry you – thinking that this is going to end and nothing will be left?
I like it, it makes me feel free. Don’t you want to have one more life or ten more lives? So far I think I have something like three lives in this body. This happens when you travel.


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