Ukrainian art discovers the world

10.10.2014 | By Natalia Davydenko

Art critic and a lecturer at the National Academy of Arts and Architecture Olha Balashova answer KW questions

KW: Which platforms host the most important art processes nowadays?

O.B.: We have artistic stage illuminated with a bright lighting strand (PinchukArtCentre, Mystetskiy Arsenal, etc.). From the artists that stand on this stage we expect some expressive gestures and notable projects. It seems to me, however, that he most interesting and important processes are now transpiring not on that territory, but in the laboratory conditions.

Two vectors can be singled out in these processes. The first is about constructing a new Ukrainian identity, establishing public dialog, accepting the fact that the Ukrainian people do not represent a homogeneous environment, but a complex multi-cultural formation, a sum of regions, which nobody knows how to tie together. We have not realized these, what would seem, simple facts up until recent events.

Ukrainians essentially have not gotten used to differences, that some may think differently and perceive differently their own culture and give different meanings to the notions Ukraine or Ukrainian.

It took a completely unique situation to show us these differences. However, we have not yet learned to cope with them. This is where the artists see a focal point for application of their efforts to teach dialog, to hear your interlocutor, to construct situations, in which we can master these skills.

KW: Which artists could you name in this contest?

O.B.: Alevtina Kakhidze, for instance. On the one hand, she drew damnation of the whole art medium on herself by participating in the Manifest 10 (modern art biennale in St. Petersburg, which the Ukrainian art community decided to boycott - KW). On the other hand, she is constantly creating space for dialog, retelling and commenting the events that happened and happening in the East through the prism of views, ideas and experience of her mother, who lives in Zhdanovka. Alevtina relays these thoughts and provokes discussion.

KW: What is the second vector?

O.B.: It is linked to the request for opening unknown pages of the history of Ukrainian art and Ukrainian culture in general. We have whole cultural layers uncovered, for instance the works of the artists of the sixties. Exhibition of Anatoliy Sumara at the National Art Museum certainly fits this section. This is construction of the present through discovery of the unexpected past, personalities and phenomena, which were hidden from us under the dust of time.

KW: Is there rejection of customary artistic devices?

O.B.: One needs to understand that today art left the sphere of simple representation. Everything that in the broad light comes from this sphere: paintings, installations, to put it simply finished items that comment on the situation. Meanwhile, modern practice of world art is drawn towards communicativeness, working with communities and certain people. Many projects that covered the Maidan theme were based on reaction and therefore uninteresting, since they did not take this path. There was, however, a project Letters from Maidan by Volodymyr Kadygrob and Kateryna Taylor. It was based on the stories of people who suffered during the winter events. Thanks to the mediation of the artists they were heard by a wide audience.

KW: Were there any changes in the internal communication between artists?

O.B.: I should say that the art environment is overcoming its generic problem closed nature and autistic attitude towards the world. I am not speaking about establishment of inter-regional communication, but also communication between different generations. Take Denys Kravets, for example. He is drawn towards ornamentality, which has little in common with the mainstream art. That is why he could not find himself, dropped out of the artist medium, until he discovered the works of monumentalists Ada Rybachuk and Volodymyr Melnychenko. Thanks to this he managed to build his own creative line, his own horizon. The project of the guys from the Open Group with Lviv artist Yuriy Sokolov is another example of interaction between generations. Today, we observe how new professional connections are being built, how the links between the past and the present are being established.

KW: On the background of these processes we are observing the boom of neo-pseudopatriotism. Mass market exploits the ornaments, cultural heroes of the past, etc. Can this stand in the way of the search of the new Ukrainian identity?

O.B.: When Maidan only began it was OK. People needed simple things to outline their personal fight, their position. It is a good thing that embroidered shirts and folk ornaments were actualized. Naturally, when everything and everywhere is decorated with folk motives, as we see now, it is too much. This, however, is a temporary phenomenon. Noteworthy, not ethnic, but national symbols became truly sacred. It incites more emotions than decorative neo-ethnics. This is a sign that the idea of Ukrainian people and state is taking over the nationalistic discourse.

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