Irina Danilova

Past Events

Irina Danilova Vilcek Dropdown Arrows

City Drawings (2009 - )

City Drawings is a 2009 addition to the ongoing Project 59, begun in 1995. The ultimate goal of this new-media project, which uses cities as canvases, is to make drawings in 59 cities around the globe (“first come, first served”), using cars, mobile phones, and open-source tracking systems. It is an alternative way of revealing the structures of the cities, their physical and wireless connectivity. It is also about the tracks we leave and the routes we take, and about the possibilities and limitations of making drawings in the urban realm, incorporating new media.

The first City Drawing in the United States was made in New York followed by cities coast to coast, from Boston and Miami to Los Angeles, with Houston, Cleveland, Chicago, and several others in between.

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Constellations (2011 - )

Constellations is a series of projects/interventions reflecting the phenomenal events and changes in our culture and society. Sky constellations are the symbols of the heroes of ancient times, mythological characters known for their outstanding deeds. The project creates a new mythology: the interaction of personal and corporative history. It depicts outstanding situations and records them during interactions, both personal and on the Internet, using locative media technology. 


We now live during the era of rapid transformations. Technology, globalization, unification, and the roller coaster of our economy all combine to cause dramatic changes. There is a unique museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, built and designed by the first (de facto) installation artist, Henry Mercer, who at the beginning of the twentieth century, during the rise of industrialization, collected all the preindustrial hand tools and re-created a small trade shops atmosphere. It is one of the most impressive monuments to the major transformation of his time, to all the abandoned tools, skills, social, and business relations. Today, we are again in a very transitional state.

The sky has always had mystical references to a parallel existence. Now there is another version of parallel existence: virtual reality. New Constellations are created to inhabit our new heavens, by connecting the dots between different sites with an online open-source tracking system. An important part of this project is the real-life interaction with each location in space and time. The first constellations in the series represent two giant corporations that were started as small businesses by young intellectuals in different university towns in 1971. One is thriving and the other is dead.

The Constellations project started with the discovery that within an area of several blocks in midtown Manhattan there were 59 Starbucks coffee shops. Reflecting the “star” component of the company name, their locations all over the world can be compared to stars in the sky. The accumulation in midtown Manhattan awoke the thought of a constellation.

At the same time, Borders was announcing the closing of all of its stores. The newly created Constellations project was adapted to record that contemporary transformation.




This Constellations project started with the discovery that within an area of several blocks in midtown Manhattan there were 59 Starbucks coffee shops. It celebrates the 40th anniversary since the first Starbucks coffee shop was opened in Seattle, in 1971, by an English teacher, a writer, and a historian. They learned the coffee trade and bought coffee during the first year of operation from Alfred H. Peet, founder of Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Berkeley, California, in 1966. Peet, who popularized the taste for European coffee in California, sold his business in 1979, when he was 59.

There are countless ways to connect 59 points into a constellation. This project started on the corner of W. 59th St. and finished at 599 Lexington Ave. On the first day, Hiram Levy and Irina Danilova followed their plan to visit all the Starbucks in the area, buying drinks in turn and sharing food. Some stores were visited for restrooms, some for supplements. Video and photo documentation, while not officially allowed in the stores, were made as much as was possible. The tracking signal was activated in front of each store immediately after the visit. Lining up the GPS device with satellites in a skyscraper jungle filled with competing cell signals was the most difficult step in the project. On the second day, Hiram and Irina continued buying drinks, in turn, and sharing food; then they decided to buy something in each store to record the time of their visit. The first 40 shops were visited by Irina and Hiram on November 12th, 13th, and 19th. Olga Filatova substituted for Hiram for the last 19, on December 3rd and 4th.


Borders closed all its U.S. stores in 2011. In Constellation Borders, 59 recently closed stores were visited during a multiweek series of trips that started in far eastern Long Island, continued through southern Connecticut, greater New York City, New Jersey, and the Philadelphia area, and finished near Annapolis, Maryland. Extensive documentation was collected and a signal was transmitted from each of the 59 locations via satellites to an online tracking system. The Constellation Borders project was created as a virtual fossil-record of previous retail activity. Much like the dinosaurs of old, Borders lost out to a changing technological climate and more adaptive foes. 


National and Geographic (2000)

I grew up in the USSR, a self-centered country, which promulgated itself as the best country in the world. In moving to the United States, I found myself in another country that did the same thing. Soon after arriving here, I created several projects that reflected my adaptations to my new environment and migration experiences. One of them, the National and Geographic project—an American flag containing 59 stars, to represent my belief that America’s destiny includes 59 states and 59 presidents—was influenced by the historical expansion of the country (Alaska and Hawaii, were both incorporated in 1959) and its international stature and reputation. The presidential aspect of the project was the consequence of my first experience with a presidential campaign, in 1996.


National and Geographic was exhibited as an installation first in 1996, at the SVA gallery in SoHo. (Coincidentally, the opening fell on the same day my parents became citizens of the United States of America. I was naturalized four years later.) Subsequently, during my Longwood Arts (Bronx, New York) residency in 2000, also an election year, the project was transferred into an Internet version.

LAUNCH National and Geographic >


Artist Statement 

One of my major quotes, “Art is not life but life is art,” can also be read in the reverse: “Art is life but life is not art,” since the important part is the contradiction itself. Both life and art are fields of my research. When asked what kind of art I do, I describe myself as “not a painter, not a sculptor, and not a printmaker.” I am involved in several lifelong projects.

The works shown here on the dARTboardConstellationsNational and Geographic, and City Drawingsare component pieces to one of those ongoing projects, called Project 59, which I started in 1995 as a one-year experiment when I first came to New York and entered the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts (the first statement of Project 59 was “95 as bread and butter, 59 as butter and breadthe same”). At the time, I found the differences in cultures, knowledge, and experiences overwhelming, and as an artist needed a unifying tool, one with universal flexibility, so that I could address anything that came my way. I was influenced by the Social Security program in the United Statesthat everyone here has an identification numberand decided that an art project also could be identified by a random number, meaningless, yet, conversely, applicable to anything. A number seemed the most universal tool for artistic investigation and exploration; it also happens to be very convenient, as well as appropriate to the digital era.

Project 59 launched with an explosion of ideas, some triggered by my new friends. One, for example, to put 59 stars on the U.S. flag (National and Geographic), came from a migrant from Germany, during a conversation we had in a café. Developing the National and Geographic project became my first course in the history of the United States of America and the American flag.

Project 59 did not stop at the end of 1995, as I had initially planned, nor by the end of the twentieth century; it zipped straight through into the twenty-first and continues to this day, as a series of installations, performances, video and media art. Since its inception, Project 59 has reached audiences all over the globe, and many people have participated in its various activities.


About Irina Danilova

Born in Soviet Ukraine, in the city of Kharkov, Irina Danilova grew up in a household strongly influenced by her mother’s idealism, a woman “with strong internationalist and socialist values.” So deeply did her mother, a high school teacher, hold to these values, Ms. Danilova recalls, “that neither my father, nor her best friend, nor my uncle, who spent decades in the gulag, could ever argue with her. But all of them loved her and respected her honesty and her striving for a fair life for all. She never was a communist.” Ms. Danilova’s father was an art editor for Prapor, the only literature magazine in Kharkov. Before World War II he had been a promising illustrator, with contracts for future work. His first book was about to be printed when the war started. While fighting in the conflict, he lost his young wife and two small daughters, one and three years old. Ten years after the war, he met and married Ms. Danilova’s mother, and the couple had two more daughters, also two years apart. Her father never returned to illustration, but he had passed on the artistic gene to his youngest daughter.

At age 20, Ms. Danilova enrolled in the Kharkov Academy of Art and Design, and after graduating, in 1984, moved to Moscow. It was the era of Perestroika, and underground art had just started to emerge in the city. She soon became involved with Hermitage, the first art association in Moscow to show this art publicly, and began to exhibit her works there. 

Among the many other deprivations suffered during those days, Ms. Danilova remembers in particular the total lack of information about the rest of the art world. “We were completely isolated from contemporary art (any modern art of the twentieth century),” she says. “We grasped at bits and pieces of information we could find anywhere, often in books or articles that were critical of it.” She regards her move to Moscow as a big step toward gaining access to such information; but it wasn’t until she moved to New York, in mid-1994, when she was in her mid-thirties, that she was finally able to immerse herself in all that was happening in the contemporary art world. (Two years earlier, in Cleveland, Ohio, she had reunited with her parents, who had immigrated to the United States, in 1989.) “I understood,” she says, “that I needed to learn both English and contemporary art as quickly as possible.” To achieve both those goals, she enrolled in the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), in 1994.

Ms. Danilova earned her MFA from SVA in 1996. Today, she is an active visual, media, and performance artist, and curator. In the United States, her installations have been shown at the Islip Art Museum (Islip, New York), the Weisman Museum (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Spaces (Cleveland, Ohio), the Telephone Factory (Atlanta, Georgia), and Judson Church and the Chelsea Art Museum (New York). Internationally, she has exhibited in Germany, Bulgaria, Iceland, Russia, Italy, and Ukraine. In 2007, she went to Chelyabinsk and Ekaterinburg, Russia, as part of the U.S. State Department speaker program for cultural exchange; and in 2010, she took part in the first Ural Industrial Biennale of Contemporary Art. As a performance artist she has appeared at the Cleveland and Santiago International Performance Art Festivals, and participated in the Franklin Furnace program, The Future of the Present. Her cyberworks have been presented at the Thundergulch and Smack Melon Gallery, in New York, and at Prixars Electronica, in Austria. 

Ms. Danilova is the recipient of a BRIO (Bronx Art Consul) award and the VISIONS & BEGEGNUNG award, both in 1998. She completed an international project, Point 59, through Arts Link, in 1999, and a Longwood Cyber Studio Residency in 2000. She has also curated several international projects and lectured in many art departments and colleges here and abroad. For two years she taught as a visiting artist at Pratt Institute and served as curator of SET Gallery. Ms. Danilova has been teaching art at Kingsborough Community College, in Brooklyn, for almost a decade, the borough she now calls home. She is also executive director of Project 59, Inc.


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