• Andrii Dostliev, Lia Dostlieva Fairy Castles of Donetsk 2018–2020

Online discussion “Political emancipation of artistic practices in Ukraine”

On Wednesday, March 16, at 6 to 8 pm EET / 5 to 7 pm CET, join us for an online discussion, where artists, curators and researchers from Ukraine will talk about their works dealing with the entanglements of past and present, memory and cultural decolonization.

Participants: Svitlana Biedarieva, Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, Nikolay Karabinovych, Olia Mykhailiuk, Lada Nakonechna, Kateryna Botanova.

Moderators: Ieva Astahovska and Linda Kaljundi.

The discussion will take place on Facebook:

Since 24 February, the world has desparately followed the war started by Russian president Putin in Ukraine justifying his aggressive invasion of the neighboring country with the need to “defend itself”, “denazify” Ukraine and “protect people who have been subject to abuse and genocide by the regime in Kyiv”. In his hour-long televised speech announcing the attack, Putin manipulated notions of 20th century and especially WWII history, denied that Ukraine has ever had “real statehood,” and stated that the country was an integral part of Russia’s “own history, culture, and spiritual space.” The falsification of history used to invade an independent state, assert power, and justify his imperial megalomania, has suddenly transformed war in Europe from a thing of the past into an urgent catastrophe of unprecedented scale for millions of people in the 21st century.

The war in Ukraine began in 2014 with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine. Already at that time, cultural resistance played an essential role alongside political protests. “What the artists did next to the barricades, sandwiches, hospitals, and Molotov cocktails was also a form of survival art, careful and scrupulous, often anonymous documentation of day-to-day activities. It was the art of action, of intervention in the physical and political reality to affect the symbolic one,” writes Ukrainian cultural critic, curator, and writer Kateryna Botanova. “Artistic practices engaged and laid the ground for a different kind of society based on a common fight and, at the same time, care and solidarity.”

After the Maidan Uprising (2013), many contemporary Ukrainian artists continued to work with difficult, debated and traumatic issues, among them searches for identity, memory wars, changing geopolitical affiliations, “documenting and empowering the voices of the other, telling the stories of those unseen and disempowered, articulating history not as a politically curated linear narrative serving the purpose of nation-building but as a layered and conflicting array of forgotten stories.” Collecting, accumulating, and articulating these issues of society’s blind spots, these artists have been building a critical mass of knowledge that are essential in building “a political nation capable of embracing multiple identities, on the foundations of traumatic experiences of the Soviet collectivity and post-Soviet aggressive individuality, colonial recasting of identities and post-colonial national take-over, Soviet totalitarianism and post-Soviet authoritarianism,” as Kateryna Botanova sums up.

The discussion is part of the project “Reflecting Post-Socialism through Postcolonialism in the Baltics”, which analyses the imprints of post-socialism and post-colonialism in the region. The programme is organized by the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art in Riga in collaboration with Kumu Art Museum, and it is curated by Ieva Astahovska and Linda Kaljundi.

The event is supported by the Nep4Dissent Research Network, an EU COST Action Association.


Olia Mykhailiuk, “rememberMINT”

“rememberMINT” is a subjective multidimensional collage of poetic lines, documentary interviews, and photo/video essays from Donechchyna and Luhanshchyna, and performance. It is an attempt to explore the mechanisms of memory. When there are no more words, movements remain. When movements stop — smell remains. When people die — grass sprouts.

Many people find it difficult to forget times of hardship. But my memory, with no effort made, does not return me to where it was scary. In August 2014, I happened to be in the occupied Alchevsk for a while. There grew a lot of mint in the yard. When the world narrowed down to one backyard… we brewed mint tea. Sometimes a sunbeam fell through the window in the ceiling into the glass cup. Mint helps some to calm down and reconcile with their own memories, while it helps others, those who tend to forget, to recall. But I do not aim to cure everyone. Everyone has his own grass.

Olia Mykhailiuk lives and works in Kyiv. In 2007, teamed up with other like-minded people and founded ArtPole Agency in order to unite artists working in various areas—painters, musicians, performers, writers. Developed the concepts and initiated several notable multidisciplinary projects, both Ukrainian and international. She continues to work on the development of interaction between various art disciplines, particularly performance, music, literature and video art. In performance, she often tries to study the primal senses of words by referring to her own system of emotional signs and symbols.

Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, "Cultural decolonisation in our practice"

In our practice, we have been consistently working on establishing a discursive space that would enable the recontextualisation of cultural and historical processes in the context of the decolonisation of Ukrainian culture from the dominant external imperial narrative. We will show several examples of our works that use these optics while looking at the Ukrainian past and present.

Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev are artists from Ukraine, currently based in Poznań, Poland.

Lia is also cultural anthropologist and essayist. The primary areas of her research are trauma, post-memory and agency of vulnerable groups. She works in a wide range of media, including photography, installations and textile sculptures, and has exhibited her works in Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, Austria and elsewhere.

Andrii is also photography researcher and curator. He has degrees in IT and Graphic Design. His primary areas of interest are memory, trauma and identity—both personal and collective. He works in various media and has exhibited his works in Ukraine, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and elsewhere.

Lada Nakonechna, “Disciplined Vision”

“Disciplined Vision” is the title of an exhibition of Lada Nakonechna in the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU). Looking at artifacts of the Socialist Realist tradition from the NAMU’s archives, library, and collection as testimony, it proposes examining the role of art in shaping judgments about history. For they are the shared aspect of culture that determines the present.

The paradox of the visual culture of the Soviet Union lies in the implicit violence in the affirmative, positive images that spring from general humanist values (emancipation, mutual respect, love for one’s native land, etc.). Expositions of Ukrainian Museums mainly continue chronological unfolding of the history of art that played a role in constructing unyielding logic of history. Disciplined Vision examines how the representation of Ukraine in Socialist Realist tradition still forms the consciousness of people.

Lada Nakonechna is an artist and researcher. In addition to her personal practice, she is involved in a number of group projects and collectives. She is a member of the R.E.P. group (since 2005), part of the curatorial and activist union Hudrada (since 2008), cofounder of Method Fund (2015) and co-curator of its educational and research programs. In 2016 she also joined the new editorial board of the Internet journal of art, literature and politics Nakonechna’s artworks, which often take the form of installations incorporating drawing, photographs and text, call attention to methods of recognition and reveal the internal aspects of visual and verbal structures. Her latest artistic investigations are based on artistic and archival materials related to the art of Socialist Realism—understood as a “method” and institutional and educational system. In 2014 she received the Kazimir Malevich Art Award.

Nikolay Karabinovych, “In the beginning there was the rhythm”

Brief history of Ukraine 1991–2021.

A few stories, few videos and 3 artworks.

Nikolay Karabinovych lives and works in Kyiv and Brussels. The artist works in a variety of media, including video, sound, text, and performance. In 2020 and 2018, he was awarded the first PinchukArtCentre Special Prize. From 2019 he is studying at the Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK) in Ghent. In 2017, Karabinovych was an assistant curator of the 5th Odessa Biennale. His work has been shown at M HKA, Antwerp, PinchukArtCentre Kyiv, Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Moscow, Museum of Modern Art, Odessa.

Svitlana Biedarieva, "Viewing postcolonial entanglements in Ukraine through Latin American lens: Beyond “At the Front Line”"

My presentation will focus on linking points between Ukrainian and Mexican art scenes. It will explore the notions of ambiguity and hybridity in the two regional contexts and will take on two different models of colonial and decolonial processes. I will compare the questions of (post)memory, memory wars, violence, and historical trauma in the discussion of art projects.

Svitlana Biedarieva is an art historian, artist, and curator with an interest in Eastern European and Latin American art. Her edited books include “Contemporary Ukrainian and Baltic Art: Political and Social Perspectives, 1991–2021” (ibidem Press 2021), “At the Front Line. Ukrainian Art, 2013–2019 (Mexico City: Editorial 17, 2020, co-edited with Hanna Deikun). Biedarieva’s papers have been published by, among other outlets, Space and Culture (SAGE), Art Margins Online (MIT Press), and Revue Critique d’Art (University of Rennes 2). She obtained her PhD in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, in 2020.

Kateryna Botanova is a Ukrainian cultural critic, curator, and writer based in Basel. She is a co-curator of CULTURESCAPES, Swiss multidisciplinary biennial, and is an editor of the critical anthologies that accompany each festival, among them On the Edge: Culturescapes 2019 Poland, Archeology of the Future: Culturescapes 2017 Greece, Culturescapes 2021. Amazonia: Anthology as Cosmology. Currently, she is guest curator for the opening of the Jam Factory Art Center in Lviv, Ukraine, in 2022. She was a director of CSM/Foundation Center for Contemporary Art, in Kyiv, where, in 2010, she launched and edited Korydor, the online journal on contemporary culture. She has worked extensively with EU Eastern Partnership Culture Program and EUNIC Global as a consultant and expert. A member of PEN Ukraine, she publishes widely on art and culture.

Read more