ArtsLink Assembly 2022 Reading and Resources

ArtsLink Assembly 2022: Greener Grass? Cultivating Transborder Connections Between Ukrainian Cultural Communities brings Ukrainian arts leaders together to reflect on the current needs and to reimagine the future of Ukrainian cultural practice. We have gathered contextual resources on decolonization, artists and war, and historical and cultural background of the Russian imperialist war against Ukraine.

ArtsLink Assembly 2022 Program

Decolonization of Art and Culture in Ukraine

A series of public events organized by the Ukrainian Institute in cooperation with the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Artists, curators, public intellectuals and academics focus a decolonial view on Ukraine and Eastern Europe as a response to the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Video channel includes “How Do We Decolonize Art” (September 4-9); “Art as a Weapon and as a Target” (October 8-10); “Fallen Between the Cracks. Unknown Art Histories” (October 28–30); “Histories Behind the Pavilion. Decoloniality and Biennials” (November 17–19).

This anthology of thought pieces and other materials compiled by the Ukrainian Institute Kyiv, trains a post-colonial lens on the causes of this brutal war, the role of Russian culture in it, and, most importantly, on the realities of war and the long fight of Ukrainian artists, cultural workers and citizens at large against the colonial legacy.

An open letter by Ukrainian artist Nikita (Mykyta) Kadan
Published by ArtTerritory on October 3, 2022

Nikita Kadan responds to a letter from Russian artist and activist Dmitry Vilensky, a co-founder of the Chto Delat? group, about his refusal participate in a joint panel with speakers from Russia and Belarus at the Jerusalem Art Conference #7.

The Elephant in the Room / A Blanket of Snow / An Open-ended History

Essay in three parts focusing on why has Ukraine – and to a certain extent other Eastern European countries – been such a blind spot in European culture and art circles
By Kateryna Botanova, curator, Ukraine / Switzerland (ArtsLink Assembly 2022 keynote speaker)
Commissioned and published by the online magazine Various Artists in April – June 2022

The Elephant in the Room
Outlines “the basics of Eastern European identity politics caught in a paradoxical race to catch up between coming to terms with the past and a neoliberal imperative to reform. From her point of view, one thing is clear: the West has indulged in a colonial-style arrogance, denouncing Eastern Europe peoples’ attempts of coming to terms with history as nationalistic – and thus depriving them of agency.”

A Blanket of Snow
Focuses on the underrepresentation of contemporary Ukrainian art in the West before the Russian invasion as well as “points to the blind spots that continue to shape not only Europe’s art market, but Europe’s understanding of “its” East.” (The essay in Ukrainian was published by KORYDOR, an online magazine about contemporary culture). 

An Open-ended History
“In the third and final installment of her essay Kateryna Botanova reflects on how her understanding of the reciprocal relationship between art and political action has changed over the past few years. She demonstrates how an emancipated and anti-colonial attitude has gained ground in the Ukrainian art scene whose value cannot be overestimated—especially in the current situation.”

Essay by the Ukrainian historian Anton Liagusha
Part of the ‘Essays on Exhaustion’ series
Commissioned by the Ukrainian Pavilion in Venice in partnership with the cultural memory platform Past / Future / Art

“History, always a battlefield, is also a necessary condition for imperial existence,” Anton Liagusha writes in his essay

“As a wanna-be empire, Russia delenda est. While we count down the time till this happens, Ukrainian historian Anton Liagusha names etiological, historical, and eschatological reasons for Russia’s exhaustion.

Maria Sonevytsky, author, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Music, Bard College, US, on the ongoing programming of the Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin at San Francisco opera (essay)

“While it may be unfair to implicate Pushkin or Tchaikovsky in the revanchist imperialist war conducted now by Putin’s Russia, we should nonetheless take this moment to think critically about the ways in which the logics of empire extend into the present, and how these two figures—perhaps above any others—have been instrumentalized for delivering ideas of “Russian greatness” to the world. Tchaikovsky’s success was, after all, only possible by his complicity with an imperial culture that labeled and subjugated one people as “Little” in order to make itself “Great.”

Through the limited glimpses of enserfed humanity in Onegin, we might pose questions about how Russian imperialism obscured the reality of Ukrainians: excluding them from the halls of prestige, outlawing their language, denying their history and agency—while condescendingly prizing their melodious voices and tuneful songs. The full-scale invasion of Ukraine this year has prompted many Ukrainians to advance sharp critiques of the enduring imperial logics that undergird the operas we program, and the names we associate with transcendent “greatness.” 

By Daria Badior
June 13, 2022

Is it possible to build a career in the arts in Russia and not be involved in building a totalitarian state? Does one have to pay a high price for success and access to resources in the Russian empire? To answer these questions, Ukrainian art critic Daria Badior analyzes the controversial public stance of Ukrainian film director Serguei Loznitsa (article). 

Artists and War

An exhibition at Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv
Curated by Olga Zhuk, Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta, Anna Pohribna, and Natasha Chychasova
Opening on November 25, 2022

The exhibition of contemporary Ukrainian art “Heart of Earth” presents the artworks (painting, photography, video, sculpture, graphics, installation) of 16 Ukrainian artists created between 2014 and 2022, as well as commissioned specifically for the exhibition.

“For many, the notion of Ukrainian lands as the granary of entire continents seemed to be more of a myth than history, until the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022 highlighted its unexpected relevance as an element of world food security. It also turned out that food comes from the earth, just like gas and oil, and can also be used as a weapon.” (excerpt from the curatorial statement)

A speech by Ukrainian writer Oleksandr Mykhed at the festival BookForum
Published by Suspilne Media on October 19, 2022

“The more of us they kill, the more of us will bear witness to their evil,” writes Oleksandr Mykhed, aa author and curator of art projects. His non-fiction book ‘I Will Mix Your Blood with Coal’, an exploration of the Donbas and the Ukrainian east, is forthcoming in English and Polish translations and is available in German, published by Ibidem. He is a member of PEN Ukraine. 

Works, movement practices and discussions by Ukrainian dancers (website)

“Говори тілом/Let the Body Speak” is a video hub of works, movement practices and discussions by Ukrainian dancers and choreographers that documents the somatic experience and visual evidence of processes, occurring in the Ukrainian contemporary dance during the war. The initiative of the Platform for Contemporary Dance is spearheaded by Ukrainian choreographer Anton Ovchinnikov (ArtsLink International Fellow) to create opportunities to practice their art for the Ukrainian dancers and choreographers displaced by the Russian invasion.

The special edition of the 19th International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (website)
November 11 – 13, 2022
Kyiv, Ukraine

Anna Remešová in conversation with Ukrainian artist Mykola Ridnyi (ArtsLink International Fellow)
Published by BLOK contemporary art journal on October 28, 2022
“Hito Steyerl wrote … that the accessibility of visual information or the fixation on images of war doesn’t put us closer to that reality, it doesn’t create a better understanding or compassion. In this sense it is a problem and as an artist you have to react to that fact. You cannot be just a journalist or videoblogger.”

12 Ukrainian Female and Non-binary Artists-Researchers (among project participants are Natasha Chychasova, Art Prospect Residency Fellow, and Anna Scherbyna, ArtsLink International Fellow)
Published by Blok Magazine, July 2022

Silence féminin is a series of texts developed by 12 Ukrainian artist-researchers during a two-year long laboratory (2020-2022) organized by Natasha Chychasova, centered on breaking the pattern of silence. Originally intended to be published as a printed zine, disrupted by the escalation of the Russian war on Ukraine, the complete works instead appear now in BLOK as a four-part cycle.

Artist Alevtina Kakhidze on the art of surviving (ArtsLink International Fellow)
Published by The New Institute, June 9, 2022
Looking at Anselm Kiefer’s installation at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Alevtina reflects on the experience and sights of war and creates a collage contrasting Kiefer’s work with the images of destruction from Ukraine.

By Ilya Kaminsky
Published by The Paris Review, June 14, 2022

“The testimonies are vivid and unpretentious: poets write about their children, parents, friends, loved ones, and fears. At the same time, reading email after email, something epic unfolds. These voices testify “in the name of all funeral wreaths and plastic ribbons / in the name of lacquered coffins and lacquered shoes of corpses,” as one of Gladun’s poems, goes.”

As Russia continues to attack Ukraine, Pavlo Makov’s work for the Venice Biennale carries with it a powerful message of determination and resilience.”
By Fiona Sinclaire Scott, CNN, published on April 22, 2022

The Story of the Ukrainian Pavilion in Venice and Exhibition-Making as a Matter of Cultural Survival: An Interview with Maria Lanko
By Denisa Tomkova, ArtMargins, published on March 15, 2022

“We try to keep our spirits up by remembering that culture is as essential to stopping the war as defence units,” says Maria Lanko.
Co-curator of artist Pavlo Makov’s project “Fountain of Exhaustion. Acqua Alta” for the Ukrainian Pavilion in Venice, Maria risked her life by driving for days to bring the artworks out of Kyiv. In the interview with ArtMargins, Maria talks about the war in Ukraine, its impact on the biennale team, the team’s determination to see the project through, what the international art community can do to support Ukrainian participation and why exhibiting art matters in times of war. (Pavlo Makov was an ArtsLink International Fellow). 

Exhibition curated by Monika Fabijanska, currently on tour at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
Co-presented with Voloshyn Gallery, Kyiv
The exhibition features works by the leading contemporary women artists working in Ukraine and provides a context for the current war, as represented in art across media. The artists include several participants of CEC ArtsLink’s programs as indicated: Yevgenia Belorusets, Oksana Chepelyk (CEC ArtsLink Art Prospect Residency Fellow), Olia Fedorova, Alena Grom, Zhanna Kadyrova, Alevtina Kakhidze (CEC ArtsLink International Fellow), Dana Kavelina, Lesia Khomenko, Vlada Ralko, Anna Scherbyna (CEC ArtsLink International Fellow), Kateryna Yermolaeva, and Alla Horska (1929-1970)
“Women at War”

Online panel discussion organized and moderated by Ukrainian artist Dariia Kuzmych (in English)
May 3, 2022

“Since the beginning of the full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine, many European art communities and institutions have been supporting Ukrainian artists and cultural workers. In the first weeks of the war, cultural institutions and organizations also offered platforms to Ukrainian and Russian artists, both seen as victims of Putin’s regime. The panel addresses this approach, highlighting the simplistic view it is based upon. The homogenization of experiences, normalization of terror and erasure of historic violence are long-standing colonial strategies, inherent to the Western and post-Soviet perspectives on the foreign cultures. The discusson aims at bringing up the settings of the institutional knowledge production that currently alter the situations of Ukrainians worldwide.”

Video recording 

Interview in FRIEZE magazine
March 4, 2022

We urgently need your solidarity. Please demand that your governments shut down Ukraine airspace. We are being bombed. Please demand sanctions. Please find a way to stop Putin. Our country is already partly in ruins and the situation is deteriorating every day. We know there are hard times ahead. After the war will come famine, and then we will really need your help. If we speak about the needs of the artistic scene – we’ll need your support to reconstruct our cultural institutions and to restart our artistic lives, by increasing visibility for Ukrainian artists. But, ultimately, this is not about saving Ukrainians; it’s about protecting yourselves, too. We are all in danger, because this is a war against the very idea of democracy and human rights.

Report “The state of culture and creative industries during the war” (in Ukrainian and English) presents research by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.

Historical and Cultural Background

Insightful podcasts produced by the English-language multimedia project Ukraine World. The team produces articles, podcasts, video explainers, analyses, and books about Ukraine. A network of over 300 international journalists and experts  brings together key actors focused on Ukrainian issues.

By Slavoj Žižek
Published by The Guardian on June 21, 2022 (article)

“The least we owe Ukraine is full support, and to do this we need a stronger NATO.”
“We now know what the call to allow Putin to “save his face” means. It means accepting not a minor territorial compromise in Donbas but Putin’s imperial ambition. The reason this ambition should be unconditionally rejected is that in today’s global world in which we are all haunted by the same catastrophes we are all in-between, in an intermediate state, neither a sovereign country nor a conquered one: to insist on full sovereignty in the face of global warming is sheer madness since our very survival hinges on tight global cooperation.”

A compilation of articles in Eurozine online magazine
Post-revolutionary Ukrainian society displays a unique mix of hope, enthusiasm, social creativity, collective trauma of war, radicalism and disillusionment. With the Maidan becoming history, the focal point ‘Ukraine in European Dialogue’ explores the new challenges facing the young democracy, its place in Europe, and the lessons it might offer for the future of the European project.

US writer Askold Melnyczuk on the Assault on a Country’s Literature
Published by Lithub on May 11, 2022

“Imagine 20th-century American literature without Faulkner, Richard Wright, Willa Cather, Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, James Baldwin… Imagine contemporary American literature without them… It’s unthinkable. But the unthinkable happened in Ukraine.”

By Sasha Dovzhyk
Published by CNN on May 11, 2022 (article)

“To really understand Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion — from local teenagers weaving army nets, to grannies taking up weapons — you must look to the pages of the nation’s poetry books.

Largely unknown outside of the country, Ukrainian literature is filled with calls to fight against imperialist subjugation. In 2022, these words are finding new resonance. My generation — the first to grow up in Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union — had to rediscover these messages, obscured from us by a different tradition, that of censorship, distortion and belittlement of the Ukrainian national canon by the Russian imperial and Soviet ideology.”

A Ukrainian online cultural memory platform that carries out commemorative, research, and art projects and establishes discussion programs to engage broader audiences to work through the past.

A compilation of books, articles and platforms about Ukrainian art in English (list in progress, by Ukrainian Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine). 

Maria Sonevytsky, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Music, Bard College
Michigan State University musicology colloquium (video)
Moderated by Kevin Bartig, Professor of Music, Michigan State University
March 2, 2022

17 lectures (in English and Ukrainian) by Timothy Snyder, the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. Recorded live at Yale University in the autumn of 2022.

In this timely and much sought after course, Timothy Snyder explores the following issues: “Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?”