The Refugee Project

Via MoMA's Design and Violence online project I discovered The Refugee Project by Hyperakt & Ekene Ijeoma. It's a powerful, clear, beautifully-designed tool to learn about "people who flee across international borders seeking asylum (and, thus, refugee status) leave their homes and lives behind. The devastation wrought by such forced migrations due to conflict, famine, persecution, and other life-threatening circumstances... The Refugee Project synthesizes data gathered by the United Nations to visually narrate the forced migrations of refugees around the world since 1975...  In 1975, there were approximately 3.5 million documented refugees worldwide; by late 2013, that number had risen to almost 13 million. In the wake of continuing conflicts in Syria, Gaza, the Ukraine, and beyond, that number continues to grow." Below are two screen shots of the most up to date data, from 2012, making me wonder how new data will be collected from the current situation escalating in Eastern Ukraine as we watch videos and read about families being displaced from areas of severe fighting. How does this sort of project promote empathy and action from those that have the ability to help? 

A screenshot from the Refugee Project that depicts the number of refugees residing in Ukraine: 2,807.

A screenshot from the Refugee Project that depicts the number of refugees residing in Ukraine: 2,807.

A screenshot from the Refugee Project that depicts the number of refugees originating from Ukraine: 25, 256.

A screenshot from the Refugee Project that depicts the number of refugees originating from Ukraine: 25, 256.

Tatars are an example of an ethnic group that has been driven out of Ukraine for too long. This article explains the pain and frustration that Tartar artist, Rustem Skibin, feels having to leave his home while wanting to teach and preserve his craftsmanship. How does the reporting from major news sources and the Refugee Project promote empathy and action from those that have the ability to help? 

Poroshenko supports soft (chocolate) culture

Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, isn't an avid contemporary art collector but was inaugurated at the Mystetskyi Arsenal, the home of the Kiev Biennale of Contemporary Art. According to this article, he has claimed to support it's development, and this article also boasted a great graphic featured below by Vitaly Yankovy that I couldn't resist sharing.

Petro Poroshenko enjoys candies from his own manufacture  , 2014, by  Vitaly Yankovy   via The Arts Newspaper

Petro Poroshenko enjoys candies from his own manufacture, 2014, by Vitaly Yankovy via The Arts Newspaper

Imaginary Archive and Tires in Kyiv

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.

Mikhailov at Manifesta 10

Boris Mikhailov, Berlin, Germany, 2004 (Portrait from llesphotographes.com) via http://blog.asalto.pe/boris-mikhailov-1938/

Boris Mikhailov, Berlin, Germany, 2004 (Portrait from llesphotographes.com) via http://blog.asalto.pe/boris-mikhailov-1938/

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.

Dontesk Billboards mimic WW2

I came across this article from Euromaidan Press, a great resource in English for information in Ukraine. Seeing these billboards in Dontesk is an eerie look into the conflict present in the everyday for citizens living in Eastern Ukraine, and the bubbling up of history via propaganda. Disturbing, indeed.

Separatists in Donetsk have displayed advertisements on the city’s streets that are copy-pasted from Soviet propaganda of the times of WW2, appealing to the nostalgic feelings of many citizens of the region for Soviet times, and even earlier.... in an attempt to show that the current military struggle will be seen as glorious in the future as the indicated conflicts were to the people at the time.
Join the ranks of the Donbas People’s Militia! Photo by Said Ismagilov, via  Euromaidan Press , July 4, 2014.

Join the ranks of the Donbas People’s Militia! Photo by Said Ismagilov, via Euromaidan Press, July 4, 2014.

The original poster, translation, "Motherland calls!"

The original poster, translation, "Motherland calls!"

Artists Support Ukraine

From their website: 
"Artists Support Ukraine is an art initiative aimed at turning the attention of international public towards the current situation in Ukraine. There is an urgent need to stand against military aggression, propaganda and injustice. We are engaging artists and cultural workers from all over the world to make a statement in order to support peace and freedom. #supportukraine"

See messages from artists on their site, there is everything from messages to puns to paintings to general words of support. This piece by Fred Tomaselli is really powerful.

Courtesy of Fred Tomaselli via  artistssupportukraine

Courtesy of Fred Tomaselli via artistssupportukraine

Created under serious cirumstances

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:

courtesy of the Ukrainian Museum

courtesy of the Ukrainian Museum

courtesy of the Ukrainian Museum

courtesy of the Ukrainian Museum

Anastasia Taylor-Lind has a striking book just released from her portraits of people on Maidan.

by Anastasia Taylor-Lind

by Anastasia Taylor-Lind

"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.

Markiyan Matsekh, performing before riot police in Kiev on a piano painted in the colors of Ukraine.  Künstlerhaus

Markiyan Matsekh, performing before riot police in Kiev on a piano painted in the colors of Ukraine.Künstlerhaus

There are more exhibitions and collections of things from maidan to share. Stay tuned.

99 Year Difference

A friend shared this series of old photographs in Kyiv from 1912. It's a gorgeous, opulent city. 

The image below is of Besarabska, an indoor market in the heart of downtown, which has functioned a a marketplace for over a century and longer.

Courtesy of  glavcom.ua

Courtesy of glavcom.ua

In the video below you will see the same building (with the Universal Bank billboard on it) and a crazed Khreshchatyk Street, which is the main street of Kyiv. I abruptly and shakily shot this video on August 5, 2011 when I witnessed hundreds of "Militsia" running through the streets amidst shoppers and vehicles parked everywhere. Moments later I turned the corner, camera off, to see a paddywagon carrying Yulia Tymosehnko wail by, driving her to trial and then subsequently, to prison for two and a half years.

Are you alive, brother? An article to read.

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.

Give this article a read.

Babij and Kadan on Guernica

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

From Guernica's site

From Guernica's site

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/Ukraine has not yet died

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. 

February 18, 2014

February 2, 2014

January 1, 2014

December 14, 2013

December 1, 2013

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.

CHORUS(×2)
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.

CHORUS(×2)

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.

CHORUS(×2)

Online/Offline, Visuals in the #euromaidan revolution

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:

1474546_10201185087965412_1473996994_n-400x400.jpg
From Cleantechnica.com

From Cleantechnica.com

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.

From the  Strike Poster Facebook page   Image depicts Ukrainian President Yanukovych

From the Strike Poster Facebook page

Image depicts Ukrainian President Yanukovych

This poster depicts a caricature of President Yanukovych.

This poster depicts a caricature of President Yanukovych.

From the  Strike Poster Facebook page   Translation: I breathe freely (over the colors of the Ukrainian flag)

From the Strike Poster Facebook page

Translation: I breathe freely (over the colors of the Ukrainian flag)

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.

From the Kraplya website

From the Kraplya website

From the Strike Poster Facebook page: "Italian creative station  H-57  expressed support us and sent his poster. Wished "Che la forza sia con voi" (yes you will arrive with force)"

From the Strike Poster Facebook page: "Italian creative station H-57 expressed support us and sent his poster. Wished "Che la forza sia con voi" (yes you will arrive with force)"

And in the States, when too many people were paying attention to the fate of Justin Bieber, Andrea Chalupa organized #digitalmaidan to tell the rest of the world what was happening in Ukraine. This article and the images below explain it all. 

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