Latvian Centre For Contemporary Art announces online discussion “Political emancipation of artistic practices in Ukraine”

March 14, 2022
Andrii Dostliev, Lia Dostlieva, Fairy Castles of Donetsk, 2018-20.

The Latvian Centre For Contemporary Art has announced “Political emancipation of artistic practices in Ukraine”, an online discussion that will take place via Facebook live on March 16th, from 6 to 8 pm EET / 5 to 7 pm CET. Artists, curators and researchers from Ukraine will talk about their works dealing with the entanglements of past and present, memory and cultural decolonization.

The participants of the discussion are Svitlana Biedarieva, Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, Nikolay Karabinovich, Olia Mykhailiuk, Lada Nakonechna, Kateryna Botanova. The event will be moderated by Ieva Astahovska and Linda Kaljundi.

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.

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