Artists come out in support of Ukraine

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Works posted online aim to combat Russian propaganda campaign

By Sophia Kishkovsky. Web only
Published online: 03 April 2014

“The world would be a better place if Putin wasn’t always trying to prove his ‘manliness’,” posted the American artist Fred Tomaselli

A Kiev-based organisation has attracted dozens of international artists to create works supporting Ukraine’s Euromaidan protesters, which toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February and continue to fight against Russia’s annexation of Crimea last month.

Photographs, graphic art, videos and statements of support by artists including the American painter Fred Tomaselli and the Egyptian-Lebanese media artist Lara Baladi have been posted online as part of the initiative “Artists Support Ukraine”, launched by the Kadygrob Taylor Platform for Contemporary Art in Kiev. Among the first to respond was the well-known Russian artist collective AES+F, which has shown its video projects in Kiev at the Pinchuk Art Centre and the First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2012.

The artists said they began “to despair of Russia’s actions and [feel] shame for some friends”, hinting at the group of intellectuals and museum professionals who signed a letter supporting Putin’s actions in March. The Russian government uses “power and a lie”, AES+F said in its message, both against Ukraine and against its own citizens. “Kiev’s unique experience gives everyone hope. We understand it and support you in the pursuit of freedom.”

Volodymyr Kadygrob, one of the founders of the initiative, said that around five well-known artists from Russia had responded so far, which was encouraging because “we haven’t expected anything at all”. He adds that he was prompted to start the artistic project after Russia’s movement of troops into Ukraine and the “massive informational campaign” to justify the annexation.

“We wanted, on the one hand, to draw attention to military aggression awkwardly veiled by Russian propaganda and, on the other, to show the attitude of the international art community towards Ukraine,” Kadygrob told The Art Newspaper.

Meanwhile, an exhibition opening on 11 April at the Vienna Künstlerhaus shows how Ukrainian artists both foresaw and were an integral part of the Euromaidan protests. Among the works in “I Am a Drop in the Ocean: Art of the Ukrainian Revolution” (until 23 May) are Vasilii Tsagol’s “Ghosts of Revolution”, a series of paintings that the artist began to compose in 2012, depicting scenes that are eerily evocative of battles to come between protesters and pro-government forces.

The curator Konstantin Akinsha, who is originally from Kiev, toldThe Art Newspaper that he was glued to webcams of the protests and was “hysterically reading Twitter every minute”. He said that the exhibition, which he organised with Alisa Lozhkina, the editor of Art Ukraine magazine, aims to convey “the spirit of resistance, the energy of revolution”.

In addition to works of art, the exhibition will also feature objects from Maidan, including the catapult constructed by protesters to shell police. “In a certain sense, we are equating these arms to art, which also became a weapon of the revolution,” Akinsha said.

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