25 years of presence - Contemporary Ukrainian Artists, 2016

Page 322


Born in 1983 in Kharkiv. Graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture. His works explore factors that affect social behaviors, including models of relationships offered by mass media and clip thinking, which presupposes that only striking visuals can draw attention. Selected exhibitions: Recipe for Utopia (2016, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); Kylym. Contemporary Ukrainian Artists (2016, Zenko Foundation, CCA Yermilov Centre, Kharkiv, Ukraine); UK/raine (2015, Saatchi Gallery, London); R-Evolution (2015, Beulas Foundation, Huesca, Spain); Images From Ukraine’s Maidan, 2013–2014 (2015, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, USA); Long Path To Freedom (2014, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, USA); Theory of Reliability (2014, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); I Am a Drop in the Ocean (2014, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna); Civil Mysticism (2014, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); La Ferte Bernard International Art Festival (2013, France); Society of the Spectacle (2013, Shcherbenko Art Centre, Kyiv); Habitat (2013, Bottega Gallery, Kyiv); Social Euphoria (2012, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); Gurzuff Open Air (2012, Project Space, Kyiv); Collective Dreams (2011, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); MUHi (2010, Bottega Gallery / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); Illumination (2010, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv); Gogolfest (2009, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv); Self-Defence (2007, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv).

My fist encounter with art happened at the Kharkiv Art Bureau studios. As a child, I would often cajole artists into inviting me to visit. One gave me a Lenin figurine, others showed me Socialist Realist pictures and gave me candy wrapped up in Pravda newspaper. There was a printing press on the first floor of the Bureau, used mostly for posters and portraits of secretaries of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. These portraits were printed in huge print runs just in case: they were to be pasted to cardboard and submitted for storage, but sometimes artists would snatch some and use them as sketch paper. You could wander the Bureau like a museum, and best of all, it was free of charge. But, in essence, it was a real factory of ideologically “correct” art. It produced heroic images of varying degrees of sophistication, but the pathos imbuing these works no longer inspired: it became a part of the routine. The only thing it did do was to create a bathetic backdrop, which made children playing and workshop drudgery seem grotesque. There was also the alternative art scene that my father was a part of. It was a parallel world. There were experiments in painting, graphic art and design. The experiments were met with criticism by the majority, but Perestroika allowed artists to live in their cultural ghetto. Meanwhile, regular Soviet life coursed beyond the walls of the art bureau. It remained unchanged for a long while even after 1991, which did not mark a watershed in either the customs or the habits. The same queues in half-empty stores and perpetually grumpy people remained a part of life. Positive emotions would only ever kick in when social pressure increased: once you saw a camera filming, at public events, or in the presence of the authorities. This explains why in the early 1990s a part of the population was so deeply disenchanted with democratic changes: nobody was tasked with creating reasons for euphoria anymore. All of a sudden, the authorities stopped coercing people into being proud of their country and contributing to its development. You had to do it yourself based on your own beliefs, and you had to be responsible for your words and actions. It proved too harsh a challenge for the majority. I systematically explore the problems in comparative experience. First, I’m talking about a significant part of my paintings, namely, Industrial Eden, Political Hallucinations or Trade Secret; second, I’m talking about curato-


rial projects and video installations: Recreation Zone, The Society of the Spectacle, Zero Rate Credit. My goal is to demonstrate to what extent human emotions are affected by interactions with society. This correlation comes with education, but sometimes it produces not responsibility but inferiority complex. People become weak and easily controlled. Their psychological state oscillates between disillusionment and euphoria, which often precludes them from concentrating on their own problems. I started thinking about it when I began to study pop art. I’m not sure if Andy Warhol would agree, but for me his Campbell Soup and Mao’s portrait are a response to advertising fetishism that had slipped rational reflection of many in the latter half of the 20th century. Even now, it seems, many fail to realize that advertising and propaganda are real weapons that define personal choices, and hence social choices too. They can tempt with sweet promises that mask terror, discrimination or just low-quality goods. Popularity documented by pop art is an efficient way of influencing social consciousness. It can be blown up artificially, through populism, financial investments or blackmail. The point is, advertising gives you no guarantees, making you lazy in the process. Reading long texts becomes ever harder, public is drawn to catchy titles and political slogans instead. I still marvel at how dependent moods and beliefs are on artificially created images of ideal life. What is advertising? It is pictures and words snatched out of their context. You can make flashy nonsense of all sorts out of it, and where’s the guarantee that people will notice the trick before they trust what they see? There’s no guarantee, as the events in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea amply demonstrate. Political PR technology prioritized nostalgia for imperial USSR ambitions, markedly absent in democratic Ukraine. These ambitions gave people faith that their life, although poor and hard, had higher meaning; for example, as the promised rematch with the West. Within the context, Ukrainian realities give no ground for utopias of the kind. Now we have ample ground for objectively estimating our potential not for baseless self-aggrandizement. In general, I believe that pathos-laden identity myths hinder social evolution. One has to learn to note one’s shortcomings and to take personal responsibility for overcoming them. In conversation with Roksana Rublevska

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.