"There are no tyrannies that would not try to limit art, because they can see the power of art. Art can tell the world things that cannot be shared otherwise. It is art that conveys feelings."

 - Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine 

IMAGINE UKRAINE - Exhibitions

Imagine Ukraine is an ambitious project that aims to reach out beyond the immediate urgencies, however pressing those continue to be. It wants to open up to the larger reflection and longer term perspective that are needed for the future. Europe needs an enhanced focus on Ukraine, its concreteness and complexity, its possibilities and flight lines. Our joint understanding needs to grow.

To start with it consists of three exhibitions, curated by Bart De Baere and Björn Geldof, based upon the works of Ukrainian artists in the collection of the Flemish Community, presented at Bozar, the European Parliament and M HKA.

These are the starting points to initiate a reflective space about the past, present and future of the Ukrainian part of Europe. In the European Parliament the perspective will be the artist as a witness, in BOZAR the tension between big narratives and the reality of human lives, in M HKA art as a critical capacity.

 

(c)Photos: Pat Verbruggen, 2022

 


Уяви Україну – Маленькі та великі історії / Imagine Ukraine – Small and Big Stories

Imagine ukraine bozar 02 © Nikita Kadan. Photo: Pat Verbruggen

BOZAR, 06.05-19.06.2022

'Europe is an important part of Ukrainian History, just as Ukraine is a part of European history', writes Serhii Plokhii. Let's imagine it.

This emergency exhibition in Bozar's Council Room is part of a triptych, with other chapters in Bozar and M HKA. They all start from the Ukrainian artists in the collection of the Flemish Community.

The perspective taken in Bozar is the tension between grand narratives and life's anecdotical moments, as thematised in the signal work of this exhibition, Nikita Kadan's 'Little House for Giants', that juxtaposes a shabby shed with an abstract, constructivist shape. Likewise, Kadan's 'Chronicles', based upon historical photos of acts of violence on the territory of present Ukraine, makes the images turn away from the histories they illustrate today, towards a fundamental awareness of violence committed on human beings.

Oksana Shachko, the Ukrainian founder of FEMEN, left a small oeuvre of anti-icons, somewhere between the spiritual and the profane, addressing the institute claiming this spirituality: the church, a key actor in the present war. Lesia Khomenko thematises the most evident key institution these days: the army. She relates the artist's look  to  military optics, the sniper's gaze to the role of digital images in the war.

Sergey Bratkov photographs show , on the one hand, self-conscious young women in the ballistic section of Ukrainian's military school; on the other, boxers after they won their fight, empty, now the heat of the moment has passed. Since 2012, Anna Zvyagintseva has been taping  the sounds of very diverse demonstrations in Ukraine. She puts them in a cooking pot, and  crochets a prison against corruption, fragility against harsh power.

In 2016, Alevtina Kakhidze, famous for her reporting on the Donbas war, was invited for the Moscow Bienniale. There, Kakhidze made daily newscasts on the future,  on the daily life at the biennial, and on the war, widely ignored at that time.


Уяви Україну – Мистецтво як критичне ставлення / Imagine Ukraine – Art as a Critical Attitude

Imagine ukraine m kha 04 Photo: Pat Verbruggen

M HKA, 06.05–21.08.2022

The exhibition at M HKA presents the vital Ukrainian art scene from the perspective of art as a critical instrument.

 

Nikita Kadan attaches a Soviet star to a Portuguese coloniser’s sculpture from Benin. In a recent video, Sergey Bratkov shows his brother, an architect living in Kharkiv, who measures a dilapidated building. In the spirit of the Maidan Revolution, Davyd Chychkan reflects on his society’s future, inspired by the forces that were active in the — that existed from 1917 until the Soviet victory in 1921 –, with the black of anarchism (for an anti-authoritarian future), the red of socialism (for social equality), and the purple of feminism — for a culturally progressive horizon. He interweaves these with the colours, symbols and heritage of Ukraine. Its counterpart is the wall drawing Landscape with Staffage by Anna Scherbyna.


Another core element of the programme is See Ukraine, a film programme with videos by young Ukrainian artists, shedding light on current issues of identity and the relationship with past and future. The programme is introduced by the song Obiymy [Hug Me] by Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and the Akustikos Art Group, recently recorded in the ruins of Palats Pratsi [the Palace of Labour] in Kharkiv.


To add a playful element, on the other side of the library Alevtina Kakhidze’s The Most Commercial Project is also shown. Kakhidze investigates ideas of value, materialism, possession and consumption by imitating clothes she likes, then selling them at the clothes' original retail price.

 

The campaign image of Imagine Ukraine was created by Nikolay Karabinovych.


Уяви Україну – Митець як свідок / Imagine Ukraine – The Artist as a Witness

Imagine ukraine europarl 3 (c)Photo: Pat Verbruggen

European Parliament, 06.05–21.08.2022

'Europe is an important part of Ukrainian history, just as Ukraine is a part of European history', writes Serhii Plokhii. Let's imagine it.

Let's discover, in the European Parliament, Ukraine, one of the centres of the early avant-garde, now a vital artistic and intellectual scene.

The project space of the Parlamentarium is the ideal location for this endeavour, as it is a space of encounter between the European Parliament and its citizens, whose commitment is essential.

This emergency exhibition is part of a triptych, with other chapters in Bozar and M HKA. They all start from the Ukrainian artists in the collection of the Flemish Community.

Symbolic of the immediacy with which art can respond is the visual diary of Alevtina Kakhidze, who decided to stay in Muzychi, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

The exhibition presents a negotiation between immediacy and a deeper historical  ground. Both realms need witnesses.

On the one hand there is the formative moment of Maidan, as in the photo of Olexandre Burlaka in which water cannons lead up to a rainbow; on the other, the complexity of history, as with the elements of reflection brought together by Nikita Kadan about the territories formerly conquered by Russia.

The present reality – the petrified bread by Zhanna Kadyrova; the common soldier depicted by Lesia Khomenko – is linked to the history of erasures by the Soviet system as evoked by Kadan.

In the series Italian School, Sergey Bratkov confronted children in a youth detention centre with the Christian narrative of an Easter play,  a tradition they are no longer familiar with.   

Outside of the exhibition space itself, there's Eurotel, made by Bratkov during the UEFA 2012 European Football Championship: its final was tournament co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.