An Introduction by Savannah Nolan
A mononymous person is an individual who is known and addressed by a single name, or a mononym. Madonna, Elvis, Cleopatra, Michelangelo, Cher, and Evgeny- they all have a family name, but the power of their persæona deems it completely unnecessary. I’ve always called him “The Evgeny”. He is instantly recognizable. He stands apart from the crowd. I don’t particularly know why, he just does. In French they say, “Je ne sais quoi.” Evgeny is an enigma.
I first met Evgeny three years ago at a party. He had long blonde hair and looked like a hybrid between Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire and Warren Beatty in Shampoo. His expressions were unmanaged and effortless. He had a big beautiful smile and floated around the room like a butterfly. Finally, he landed on me. He spoke smooth English with a heavy but elegant Russian accent and was wearing a Scottish Kilt. An international man of mystery. The first time he ever spoke to me he said, “Hello, did you know when I was growing up in Soviet Union, we had no food. I was always hungry and I would fantasize all the time about having sex with a chubby girl, so baby, you should love yourself!” He floated away again yelling back towards me, “Just love yourself!” Who was this guru in a kilt who used to have a fat fetish that was triggered by Soviet culture? I was instantly intrigued. Suddenly, he floated back. The second thing he said to me was, “Hello, I’m Evgeny.” And then he fluttered away again. He drifted back a third time, this time, with two lovely people behind him, “This is, Susan and Clayton,” he said, “my two partners, we are all in love! Let’s have champagne!”
Evgeny is larger than life. He is like a movie character. When he cooks, he adds all the spices. When he speaks, he speaks in multiple languages. When he acts, he uses every emotion. When he meditates, he travels to the deepest unknown parts of his soul, always in search for more answers and greater understanding. When he dances, he sets into motion every part of his body. When he loves, he loves with all his heart. When he thinks, he does so with an open mind. When he drives a car, he usually gets distracted by looking at castles on the side of the road that he might live in one day, and comes close to crashing but never does. Evgeny is a dreamer. What makes a person an artist? What makes a person unique? I say an artist is somebody who truly understands themselves, and by understanding themselves, they understand the world around them. The Seven Days of Silence in a Small Room Alone, performed by Evgeny, was a brave journey inward to in order to understand the deepest parts of himself.
Today is March 29th, 2020. The world is quarantined because of the Coronavirus. Evgeny is putting together a book about his life and performance art. We are secluded together, hidden away from the world, in the beautiful countryside of Normandy, France with his family, friends, and lovers. He will celebrate his birthday soon. He is sitting on the windowsill looking out, speaking on the phone next to me, chatting in Russian, faster than a Ferrari driving down the Corniche. I don’t know what he is saying, or to whom he is speaking - but I’m sure it’s fascinating, just like him.
Paris, February 1, 2020
My name is Evgeny. I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia on the 24th of April around 4 am in the year 1985. Georgia was under the regime of the USSR. I now live and work in Paris, France. After I became a French citizen in 2018, I began in earnest to launch my career as an actor and an artist. Now my life is my art.
It feels like I have had several miracles in my life.
The first was when my mother was pregnant with me and her sister stopped her from having a Soviet style abortion: a bottle of Vodka and a very hot bath. My aunt felt something was wrong and broke down the door of the bathroom to get in and stop her.
The second was when I was 4 years old. While I crossed the road to go to the park, a big yellow Volga taxi hit me. My uncle saw the accident from the window, ran out and took me to the hospital – only my shoulder was broken.
The third time I was 5 years old and I was trying to fix a light which wasn’t working in the common space of the apartment building where we lived. I climbed a ladder to get to the light and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground on the other side of the room. My grandmother found me and started to cry, but I lived.
I had a protector. I’ve always had protectors.
When I was 18, I had an out of body experience because of a drug overdose. I saw myself lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. There was a question about whether I should go back or leave, but it wasn’t me asking this question. As I looked down at my body with the person who was taking care of me, the only thing I saw was love, so I decided to come back. As soon as I made this decision, I was back in my body and regained consciousness. Love brought me back. But I was very miserable after the drug overdose. For at least two weeks, I hated everyone.
In order to understand my true nature and my true potential I decided to remove all comforts from my everyday life. To see and feel what is really there beyond the bubble of comfort. I also decided to not eat for the first 3 days, I would only drink water and herbal tea. Then have one fresh juice in the morning and one soup in the afternoon until the 7th day. My belief is the purification of this body can make my soul more welcoming and more alive.
I don’t really understand what the soul is, but I truly believe that it came from God. Something pure and beautiful with a different understanding of life. In some way, life itself guided me to this experience. Is this experience an art performance? Is it a spiritual experience? Or just escaping from my everyday life? Trying to slow down and just breathe?
I believe that it is a mix of them all.
I don’t know what will be uncovered during these 7 days.
In addition to writing and painting materials, I brought some books into the room. I read The Art of Stillness – Adventures in going Nowhere by Pico Lyer on the first day.
Besides reading, I could choose between 3 activities in that room:
When I meditated, my favorite position was laying down. During the first days, when I wasn’t eating anything, my meditation resulted in several naps a day.
When the sun went down, I read the New Testament of the Bible until I fell asleep.
I felt good at the end of the first day.
Paris, February 2, 2020
FEAR & PAIN TRANSCEND INTO STRENGTH & JOY
The first time I came to Paris, before I experienced all the palaces and Michelin-starred restaurants, I stayed in a tiny, dirty room, and I thought, “Oh my god, if I ever move to Paris, I hope I will never have to live in such a tiny, dirty space.”
But I woke up in my 8 square meter room and I watched the sun rise, and I started to paint, and it made me feel good. Then I wrote all morning.
I felt abandoned by my father as he left my mother when she was pregnant.
I felt abandoned by my mother because she made me live with my grandmother in another town until I was 8 years old.
As a child, I always dreamed of having my own space.
When I finally moved to be with my mother, we were all living in one room until several years later when my brother and I finally got our own shared room.
I felt like an outsider in my childhood. I was a “different” kid and more sensitive than most boys, who were aggressive towards me: I felt more comfortable in the company of girls, loved nature, and played with dolls. The threat of violence by boys made me very unhappy, but there was always someone who protected me.
At the age of 14, my father wanted me to follow his career in the army, and my mother wanted me to go to a car mechanic college, which were both the wrong choices for me.
By the age of 15, I started to go out. I started to discover my sexuality, and build a circle of friends who were more free, more different, and more like me. I started economics college and moved out of my parents’ house when my father was on a mission in Chechnya, otherwise it would have been impossible for me to leave.
Once I moved out of my family home, my life became much more interesting. My first love, Vladimir, was twice my age, and had no idea I was a minor when we met. Our travels changed my perspective of the world. I was shocked by how people in Spain and Thailand were open about their sexuality, and I realized I was never going to be happy living in Russia after seeing the openness possible in other countries.
In 2003 I graduated from economics college and decided to go to London to study English. I was 18 years old and arrived in London with £19 in my pocket and a visa for 3 months. I took English classes but couldn’t find a job. London was very hard on me, so I moved back to Russia, but this time to Moscow, not my hometown in the south. Moscow was a very tough city. It made me stronger and more of a survivor. I took a job at a restaurant called Propaganda, which became a gay club on Sunday night after the dinner service. At this time I met a man named Vladimir, who had the same name as my first love.
I decided to leave Russia to find freedom. I chose France for its beauty as well as its university system, and Vladimir loved to eat, loved to travel, and loved the culture of France. He agreed to support me in my pursuits and dreams, so I moved to Strasbourg to learn French and in 2007 to Paris. Vladimir had invested in apartments there so I didn’t have to worry about where to live.
In the summer of 2008, I visited my childhood friend Veronika. She knew me very well and encouraged me to develop my natural talents as an actor. Her words inspired me to search for an acting school when I came back to Paris. I studied Le Jeu Devant La Camera for a year at Acting International. It was a very exciting year but I also faced the challenge of being cast in roles in France with French, English, and Russian accents. As the year drew to a close, I realized the best way to create economic security for myself was to postpone my acting pursuits for a time, and return to economics. The next year I enrolled at La Sorbonne.
When I graduated, I decided to make an independent life, obtained my working papers, and started a new job. Thus I started to live the Parisian life fully, establishing a large circle of friends. We spent a lot of time hanging out at Cafe de Flore and partying.
I am very grateful that my past led me to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, living my dream.
The challenges of youth and childhood form conditioning that limits us. By accepting that this conditioning exists, we can stop fighting with the norms of our society and transcend them.
Paris, February 3, 2020
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU LOOK AT, IT'S WHERE YOU COME FROM
I have always been curious about spirituality, and the dimensions of life we cannot see with the human eye. I studied different teachings like Buddhism and Kabbalah during the times of my life when I was disappointed in myself or others. The times of crises.
At the age of 29 it was one of these points in my life. I wanted to have some stability. I felt that I was ready for that. My first step was to go to a silent retreat with my friend Tish in the south of Portugal with the Guru Mooji. I was already studying his teachings online. And I was very curious about the experience of silence. The most profound state that I achieved during this retreat was the connection with the “outside world”: it became one with me. The separation between my mind, body and the physical world vanished. There were no boundaries. I was connected to everything. It was a very profound episode of my life. When I came back to Paris my life started to change as I lived with the freedom from boundaries that I had discovered. At the end of the summer I met Clayton and later his wife Susan. My exploration of freedom from boundaries gave me the strength to bridge their relationship with my love for them both. In this way, I found stability in my personal life, and brought a new stability to their long-term marriage. This foundation helped me obtain French nationality a few years later.
I’ve been meditating almost every morning. What does that mean? It’s not about a physical position or activity. For me, it’s more just a state of beingness/stillness. It’s not related to this physical world. I usually do it in the morning when I’m taking my bath. It’s like starting my day with a renewed mind or state “0”. So my thoughts are more clear and my actions are more pure.
After five years with Clayton and Susan, the stability of our relationship began to change. I was claimed by a lover outside of the relationship, and added to the turbulence of my life. This situation was driving me crazy because I couldn’t understand how I could be in love with all three of them. Strong feelings between everyone nearly led to the collapse of our relationships.
I started to go to church and meditate more, and at the end of the year I called my mom and told her the truth about my private life. I told her that I was in a relationship with Clayton and Susan and recently with another person. I told her about my dark thoughts. She bought me plane tickets and I went to Russia after 10 years of absence. I spent time consulting with my family, my friends and myself. When I returned to Paris I began to reconcile with my lovers, and continued the preparation for the experiment of solitude and silence I knew I would need to regain the spiritual peace I discovered in Portugal.
On the third day of fasting the only thing I could think about was a French baguette. It was very hard to concentrate on writing or anything else. I hoped that I would have the strength to keep going with this experience. On the third day, I felt the weakest since I started. But when I concentrated on “being- ness and stillness”, I felt the strength and power to keep going.
Physical movements did not disturb this state of being, which is always available no matter what circumstances we are in.
It’s a kind of acceptance to know that you’re going to die - there is nothing you can do about it, and at the same time it makes you more alive. A paradox. To be aware of that state and open yourself to it is tremendous freedom. It doesn’t require anything. Just be open to that stillness - but not with your physical body, rather with your inner self.
I practiced yoga to maintain my body, and ate healthy food. But this time I wanted to learn more about my inner world. I want to go deeper and deeper until I could touch and understand my soul.
I made this ritual of coloring all the cracks on the wall with yellow paint, and it felt like I was fixing myself. I made paintings called “The view from my window” and ‘The window”. Today I felt very vulnerable.
My days became longer and longer, my psyche more and more fragile.
After the baguette, I thought only of the fresh fruit and soup that would arrive on Day 4.
It was very hard to write. Thoughts were not coming easily like the first two days.
It was my first day of painting. It helped a bit to stay inside of the room. I asked myself if I could make it through 7 days.
Then it was time to meditate.
Paris, February 6, 2020
NEVER ENDING STORY
When you open yourself to the unknown your way of life changes.
The first few days I could not believe that I would make it until the 6th day. I didn’t do it to prove anything to anyone, I wanted to do it for myself to push my limits. So on day 6, I could not believe that I was still there in the room but it made me feel proud. I felt like a different version of myself. I was silent, I was starving, but I was still there. If I could remain in this room for a week in silence, I would have the strength to overcome my obstacles more peacefully.
Pushing yourself past your limits is the best exercise you can do for yourself. In the end, it’s all up to you to create your vision of life. You give meaning to it all. Nothing is possible without God’s presence, but it is up to you to create what God is. And it is closer to you than you think.
I would not be here if I didn’t believe that there is something bigger than me. I hope this experience will make me a better version of myself with God’s help.
Today was another one of the hardest days in the room. My mind was so loud at this moment that I couldn’t do anything. Even laying down was impossible. I had hoped writing it down would make it easier, but it reminded me of the third day.
I knew that it would pass, it was just hard to believe at that moment.
These past days, I had three possibilities: to stand, to sit or to lie down. I felt like I overused them all. I really couldn’t sit, stand or lie down anymore.
During this period I had time to think about my past, my future, my friends, my enemies, my family members who have died and my family members who are alive, nature, my dreams, every single aspect of my life and nothing at all.
I wanted to welcome the child inside me who didn’t have the chance to experience childhood. Having this time alone helped me to establish my relationship with that inner child
My soul is old, yet I still feel very curious about life. The seven days of silence was only a small chapter in the book of my life.
I always dreamed of getting married and having a family. Until I turned 30, my mom asked me all the time when I would get married. In the country where I was born, people married in their 20s.
My first challenge was that I was into men. The second challenge was to find “the one” who can actually love me and who I
would love back. I ended up being on many dates and in many relationships from the age of 15 until the age of 29.
It’s very hard to stop me once I have an idea in my head. At the age of 29 I met Clayon and Susan and became their partner. We started a magical relationship against all the rules of society. My dream is still here. It’s been almost 20 years that I’ve been waiting for this dream to come alive and it took me 7 days in silence in this small room to realize that I can make it happen.
Paris, February 7, 2020
ONENESS AND CEREMONY
Oh God - it was the 7th day of me being in the room. I was almost finished! I knew that there would be people waiting to welcome me back to my life at the end of the day.
What I did not know was if the moment of return would be a ceremony, a ritual, an art performance or something else that would surprise me. What to call it? I did not know.
I thought of it as a kind of marriage. I would marry myself, marry life, and marry all the people who would come to share my return. It felt like it would be an act of completeness and oneness. That’s how I wanted to end this experience and it made me very joyful.
I proposed to myself to marry myself and to be good to myself through better or worse until my last breath.
Normandy, November 8, 2020
Silence is the language of God, all else is a poor translation.
I am a big believer in silence. I breathe in the future and breathe out the past. The moment where I “find myself” is between these two breaths. That moment is also representing infinity and death. Yes, both.
My favorite moment in the movies is when two lovers look at each other without saying a word. There is so much in that silence. When I am surrounded by nature, which has no language, the stillness gives me more than words. When I meditate, it connects me to a “serenity field” that helps me accept any kind of situation which is out of my control, and my day becomes more calm and joyful. Silence can be the most powerful tool that humans possess.
By practicing silence, a new state of consciousness revealed itself to me. It opened a door for me that only I could open. I felt the whole universe began to unveil itself. Learning that everything is interconnected was a powerful discovery. The deeper I went, the more intuitive I became, which led to a new way of living. I feel like I can be a part of building a new world. There is no feeling of loneliness. I am “one” with that endless source of life in the universe.
Once you have experienced that, you start to accept yourself for who you truly are. You can find an equal partner in life who resonates with the same vibration as your soul. It is not about two halves anymore, it is about the whole, complete human being, meeting the other equal one. And you can be partners for life in an authentic way.
After you have done the work by simply turning your attention inward, the world will offer you romance beyond your imagination. Its heavenly, beautiful, magical and miraculous. Once you open that book of self-discovery, you will never be on your own. Do it. You become one with life and life speaks through you. It never leaves you. The peace that silence brings is always here and available no matter your age, your origins, or your status in life. You can be anywhere with anyone. It is beyond words. It’s the poetry of life. A silent poem.
About the author
Evgeny is a Franco-Russian actor and artist born on April 24, 1985 in Tbilisi USSR. He began his acting career in 2018 with director Jordan Goldnadel in the short film “Chechnya” where he plays the main role of Doga. He lives in Paris and speaks three languages fluently: Russian, English and French.