When walking through European cities, it's common to stumble upon a statue or public monument dedicated to a hero of the past. In Kyiv a Portuguese artist, Alexandre Farto, created this mural to commemorate Serhiy Nihoyan, the first protestor killed by shooting during the Euromaidan protests in January 2014. This contemporary form of monument creates new meaning and impact for the faces that look upon us stoically in our world's streets.
CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) has an up to date Ukraine Crisis Timeline that you can find here. It starts from late 2013 and continues through present day. Though the news isn't present in our mainstream media anymore, the struggles continue.
Open for a few more weeks at the Pinchuk Centre in Kyiv is Fear and Hope, group exhibition including artists Nikita Kadan, Zhanna Kadyrova, and Artem Volokitin. According to this article, the exhibition is "inspired by the dramatic events that have changed Ukraine forever, the show invites guests to reflect on the Maidan protests that resulted in tragedy, violence and political change in Ukraine—and to think about the future."
You can read more about the entire exhibition on the art center's website which summarizes it nicely. It brings up many questions that have passed through my mind: How do artists deal with and react to national and personal tragedy happening around them? Do these works create enough of a distance for the Ukrainian audience to reflect? Is it too soon? Is it therapeutic? How would this work resonate outside of Kyiv, away from the area where the tragedy occurred?
I especially respond to Kadryrova's pieces using cut out imagery from newspapers:
Though the crowds on Maidan in Kyiv have dissipated there are still so many actions and events during that time that are important to remember. Perhaps they can serve as launching points for future demonstrations or as inspiration for complacent communities.
One of these actions was The Open University of Maidan, still with a very strong and active Facebook page. "Started by the faculty and staff at the Kyiv School of Economics (which was co-founded by a consortium led by Eurasia Foundation), Open Maidan University is offering free, graduate-level lectures to the Ukrainian public on the square.... In the month since Open Maidan University (OMU) began, thinkers, business leaders, and academics have delivered a hundred lectures on everything ranging from how to reform the constitution to how legislation works, how economies function, and the power of free speech in society," states this article on Eurasia.org.
It's incredibly inspiring to me to know that Ukraine's smart and motivated community turned to knowledge and learning to empower themselves.
Hyperallergic shared this article written by Gregory Sholette about Imaginary Achive, his project that "consists of dozens of artist-generated 'documents', each of which represents a past whose future never arrived. As it moves from country to country local artists contribute new fictitious histories which, despite their fantastical dimension, manage to address concrete political, historical, and social struggles. So far IA has appeared in New Zealand (2010), Ireland (2011), Austria (2013), and now Ukraine (2014)." The article is worth a read and examines ways artists are and were responding and digesting their experiences on the Maidan, which culminated in an exhibition at Les Kurbas Center in Kyiv led by Sholette, Larissa Babij, and Olga Kopenkina.
The Manifesta 10 biennale is open through October 2014 in St. Petersburg, Russia after much controversy, and expects over half a million visitors. Exhibiting work by an international cast of contemporary artists, included among them is Boris Mikhailov, photographer. He created a new project for Manifesta called The theater of war. The second act, intermission, documenting everyday life behind the barricades from Kyiv's Euromaidan in December 2013.
See this article for an installation view and this one of Mikhailov's photographs at Manifesta 10.
Researcher Alina Polyakova wandered through Maidan in Kyiv the other day and wrote about it's eerie, surreal silence. I have been thinking about what was created by artists and activists in that space once filled with unrest. Below are some manifestations of it:
The Ukrainian Museum in New York City has been exhibiting the posters from Euromaidan in their lobby. Their brochure below also has translations from Ukrainian:
Anastasia Taylor-Lind has a striking book just released from her portraits of people on Maidan.
"I Am a Drop in the Ocean: Art of the Ukrainian Revolution" at Künstlerhaus in Vienna, Austria is up through May 23rd. Thirty-five artists, activists, photographers and performers had their work rushed to Vienna with help from the Arts Arsenal in Kyiv. The image below of the pianist Markiyan Matsekh "in front of armor-clad riot police guarding the presidential administration building, giving a Chopin recital on an upright piano he had painted the colors of the Ukrainian flag." This article explains more.
There are more exhibitions and collections of things from maidan to share. Stay tuned.
My Facebook feed has been a lot quieter with news from my friends and colleagues in Ukraine lately, which is where I learned so much about what was happening in Kyiv starting last November. It was truly an amazing source for updates and news. Now that the pictures of babies and cat videos are bubbling up to the surface again, I was reminded of a poignant article by Sophie Pinkham, a smart woman I met during my time in Ukraine. Sophie lives in New York, too, and she captured the days in February when we were all glued to our screens just hoping and praying.
I came across this article post revolution in Kyiv. Photographer Donald Weber photographed unused molotov cocktails left over in the city. To think that these were some of the only weapons the protestors had, all hand-made.
Over the past few months the world has been made very aware of the corruption and self-interest that has been the way of life for Ukraine's government, which therefore trickles down to every aspect of society. Though it can be demonstrated in a very tangible way by seeing the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych's, $3.2 billion mansion outside of Kyiv, it has also been affecting the growing contemporary art world in Ukraine. Using the example of censorship of a piece by Volodymyr Kuznetsov’s piece at the Mystetskyi Arsenal (Ukrainian for “Art Arsenal”) this article is recommended reading in order to understand how artists in Ukraine have dealt with and responded to these challenges as they continue to be issues.
The article, a conversation between Larissa Babij and Nikita Kadan (bios below), was published about a month ago and is from a conversation from the start of 2014, but it is still relevant as we all look toward to the future and what will happen with Ukraine's leadership and how artists are responding to the changes in their society. Read it here.
"As art workers, we continue to practice and defend the right and responsibility of each person to think and act for themselves."- Larissa Babij
Larissa Babij lives in Kyiv and works with Ukrainian contemporary art as a translator, writer, and curator, and often collaborates with artists to organize experimental projects. Together with the performance group TanzLaboratorium, she has been producing the annual PERFORMATIVITY Educational Art Project since 2011. She is a member of the Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative (ISTM).
Nikita Kadan is an artist based in Kyiv. In 2007, he graduated from the National Academy of Fine Art (Kyiv). Since 2004 he has been a member of the REP (Revolutionary Experimental Space) artists group. He is also co-founder and a member of HUDRADA, a curatorial and activist group founded in 2008. Since 2012, he is a member of the Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative. Kadan often works in interdisciplinary collaboration with architects, human rights watch activists, and sociologists.
Shche ne vmerla Ukraina is the title of Ukraine's national anthem, translated as "Ukraine has not yet died." Growing up, this beautifully somber tune was part of almost every cultural event I attended. It was sung seriously, we were required to memorize it, and we stood at attention while singing it at Ukrainian scout camp. It was, of course, outlawed to be sung during Soviet times so singing it freely in America was a strong point of pride. To this day, it is one of the three songs that run through my mind's subconscious, bubbling to the surface when walking alone, during times of concentration and when I feel the need to sing, this song bursts out of me. It's strange, I know, but I attribute it to it's intensity and power.
Never have the lyrics been so poignant in my lifetime as they are now during the war that has erupted in Kyiv over the past few days. Below I have posted several accounts of the anthem being sung by Ukrainian protesters since November. The lyrics are translated below, they powerfully represent the act of solidarity between Ukrainians fighting for their freedom.
Lyrics translated into English:
Ukraine has not yet died, nor her glory, nor her freedom,
Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish like dew in the sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.
Souls and bodies we'll lay down, all for our freedom,
And we'll show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation!
We'll stand, brothers, in bloody battle, from the Syan to the Don,
We will not allow others to rule in our motherland.
The Black Sea will smile and grandfather Dnieper will rejoice,
For in our own Ukraine fortune shall shine again.
Our persistence and our sincere toils will be rewarded,
And freedom's song will throughout all of Ukraine resound.
Echoing off the Carpathians, and across the steppes rumbling,
Ukraine's fame and glory will be known among all nations.
In the images I see of the huge crowds gathering during the Ukrainian revolution, I have been moved and overwhelmed at all of the hand-made signage and large gorgeous Ukrainian flags waving. At first, the meme that was everywhere was Keep Calm and Carry On, adapted to:
Changing one's profile picture to these images and sharing them around social media have been powerful ways to show support and solidarity with the Ukrainian citizens.
I was really pleased to see this article in Korydor* by Catherine Sergatskova explaining how an individual designer or artist can have a huge impact by allowing their visual messages to spread freely through downloading, printing and using posters on the streets. This article brought to light a very important dual effect that can happen during mass protests: A viewer can take action and become a participant by showcasing these posters in public and the designer of these images can produce a great impact while remaining (preferably) anonymous.
Strike Poster (Страйк Плакат) is a group formed to do just that: share posters to be used during the protests. They write the following on their Facebook page:
"We are convinced that the fate of the country is being decided today . We encourage all creative people to join nationwide strike and make posters or any other materials. We've created a resource where artists , illustrators , designers can post their works, and anyone can download them to print or put on their pages on social networks." In other words, this system allows a viewer to then become a participant. You can send your works via Facebook or email them.
*Korydor is an online journal about contemporary art and culture in Ukraine, put out by the Foundation Center for Contemporary Art in Kyiv. (If you can't read Ukrainian or Russian let your browser translate for you and you will get the gist of most articles.) These are young, smart contributors who are really analyzing and thinking about their country.
One of the themes that is seen everywhere is the blue and yellow water drop, illustrating the mass movement of protestors: "I am a drop in the ocean, which will change Ukraine." The KRAPLYA website (kraplya translates as "drop") is incredible, and has a page for downloads. The designer of this message remains anonymous as of now, but I hope that this person (or people) understands that it's a powerful, poetic message that is rare to see in the barrage of brisk headlines, flames, and photographs of corrupt politicians.
Since November 2013, my eyes have been glued to news in Ukraine. What started as a peaceful protest has gone horribly astray, due to the criminal government in power. The rights of the Ukrainian citizens are not being respected and it's heartbreaking. BBC, New York Times, Huffington Post, Kyiv Post and other major news sources are covering stories, but the major part of my information is coming through Facebook from friends and colleagues living through this nightmare. Their friends and loved ones are now getting hurt, since new draconian laws were passed on January 16th and violence has exploded around the city. The images and statements that everyone is sharing is so powerful, and they come through in droves throughout the day, when we here are going about our workdays and watching anxiously from too far away. I am collecting them here, and keeping the anonymity of the source of the posts. This collecting is forming a powerful, informative archive.
Thousands of peaceful protestors on the streets of Kyiv and they all have to eat and stay warm. This is a great article about food on Euromaidan, on the Pickle Project, a blog that is an "ongoing effort to document and share traditional foodways in communities large and small throughout Ukraine as a way of understanding issues of sustainability, change and community." The impact of the group, kindness, and generosity are fueling the kind citizens of Ukraine as much as their hunger for positive changes for their country, legitimate chances for opportunity, and the downfall of a corrupt government.