From The Battlefield
SEA Foundation, De Pont Museum, LocHal Bibliotheek, Tilburg, 2023
Katya Buchatska, Chantal Rens, Nick J. Swarth, Kostyantyn Doroshenko, Alevtina Kakhidze, Eveline van der Peijl, Sasha Kurmaz, Yulia Protsyshyn, Leo Trotsenko, Tamara Turliun, Andrei Liashcuk, Roos Vogels, Chikako Watanabe.
Curator: Maria Vtorushina
From The Battlefield is a program with artists, curators and writers from Ukraine and the Netherlands, about living life through a war situation. It aims to amplify the direct testimony and evidence of those who are committed to protecting freedom and hope. The collaborative project features an exhibition, presented at SEA Foundation. Additionally, there is a public program at at De Pont Museum and LocHal in July 2022. By presenting words, notes, images, documents, and works of artists, curators, and thinkers, From The Battlefield focuses on the strength of making small decisions of dignity and freedom when also sacrificing for victory in the circumstances of war.
Cultivating small and fragile experiences that help individuals and communities live through inhumane conditions (these experiences grow into volunteering, crowdfunding and self-organized initiatives) can be as significant as earning the world's solidarity attention or receiving material and tactical support. The war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine in 2014 escalated to a horrific level on 24 February 2022. The destruction of war and the war crimes committed by Russia have brought hundreds of thousands of deaths, ruined cities, and caused the emigration of millions of people. To bring about such a catastrophe, the Russian army has used remote rocket attacks to kill people instantly, and often indiscriminately. It has stripped people of their identity by razing entire cities and communities to the ground. Displaced Ukrainians have been wiped out by imprisonment, humiliation, and so-called filtration.
From 2014 to early 2022 many Ukrainians were seduced by the reassuring feeling that the defenders were keeping Russian troops at bay at the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. For those who lived in peaceful Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Lviv the war seemed entirely detached from everyday life. Now, on the current battlefield, Ukraine is holding back a full-scale Russian invasion along a border. Turning a blind eye and shirking responsibility is a mistake that cannot be afforded. The ideas of the brightest theorists do not seem humane enough to frame a productive dialogue between the Western world and the frontier in the current war. And so From The Battlefield will not address theory. Rather, it will amplify voices from within. Through collaborations and artistic material by Ukrainian and Dutch participants, we want to capture a specific time and space where violence and disruption prevail. How people live through a war whose will for freedom is powerful, and whom we offer a safe space so that hope can sprout again.
Chantal Rens, Tamara Turliun, Andriy Liashchuk. One Day You Will Grow Back Your Thumb. Kyiv/Tilburg, 2022
On February 24 2022, Russia started a terroristic phase of a war against Ukraine. After the bombardment of Kyiv, artists Tamara Turliun and Andriy Liaschuk started to produce wooden birds to sell to support Ukrainian defenders. In April, Andrey cut off his thumb while crafting. Tamara and Andrey made the first prosthetic for him from found objects. On May 6, they got in touch with Chantal Rens, an artist based in Tilburg, the Netherlands. What follows is this dialogue, guided by objects, randomly found by the artists. It’s about the strong will and effort to live through loss; about hope and support.
Katya Buchatska, Alarm Tablecloth. Ukraine, 2022
“When the war broke out, I was not at home in Kyiv, and I was finishing the museum of Paraska Plytka Horyzvit in Kryvorivnia to be opened on March, 1. We didn't open the museum and I went to Lviv to the apartment of friends of friends. Sometimes there appeared acquaintances of the past tenant of the apartment, who took away some things. As a kind of help for the displaced person I was given a tablecloth. It was old, with yellow marks, with handmade embroidery, I didn't need it at all. In my state of mind a tablecloth was associated with blockade and famine. This evening was the most difficult: I was safe in someone else's apartment and couldn't save anyone. From my past, the only thing I had left was a backpack with my things in it; I didn’t pack it as my emergency alarm bag. After a while, I laid out all the items I am going through the war on a tablecloth”—Katya Buchantska.
Leo Trotsenko, Katya Buchatska`s Alarm Tablecloth; from Replica and Differences series. Ivano-Frankivsk, 2022
Alevtina Kakhidze. Seeds Of Ukraine, 2019/Seeds Of Europe, 2022
From the very beginning of the war, the mother of Alevtina Kakhidze lived in the part of Donbas that was occupied by Russian troops in 2014. Alevtina spoke about her mother’s life in her works, calling her with the pseudonym, “Strawberry Andreevna”. Alevtina depicted Strawberry’s everyday life in the heart of military actions. While visiting her daughter in Kyiv, Alevtina’s mother bought seeds of flowers and vegetables for herself and friends. Now it is impossible to get these sorts of seeds in Donbas. In 2019 Alevtina’s mother died at a checkpoint in the non-government controlled Ukrainian territory. In 2019 the artist started the project “Seeds of Ukraine” as a long-lasting performative action, aimed to restore the lost channel of communication between Donbas and the western part of Ukraine.
After mother’s passing, her friends who still live in Donbas started to address Alevtina, asking her to buy the seeds for them. In response, Alevtina constructed a special traveling kiosk for picking up the seeds. In springtime, the time for planting seeds of flowers and vegetables, the kiosk would appear in “Zero”, a point which is the border between Ukraine and occupied Donbas territories. Because the people from Donbas didn’t want to just receive the seeds as a gift, Alevtina thought of an exchange instead. People who wantes to donate seeds could ask for something in return from the occupied Donbas territories. It could be something local, or something just as beautiful as a personal story or drawing. Since Russia started a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it is not only Donbas and Luhansk regions that are secluded, it is the whole Ukraine, being a battlefield, is secluded from Europe.
Because of this, the project ‘Seeds of Ukraine’ will change into ‘Seeds of Europe’. Alevtina’s kiosk has now traveled to the Netherlands to collect seeds for Ukraine. The kiosk will return just before spring, so that the seeds can be planted in 2023. You can visit the kiosk at SEA Foundation, Tilburg, there you can bring your seeds and write down what you would like in exchange for your donation. It can be something local from Ukraine or something as beautiful as a story or drawing.
Roos Vogels, Untitled, Made for the Project Seeds of Europe, 2022
The site-specific work of Roos Vogels is a combination of seeds that the artist collected during her practice-based reseacrh in the Netherlands. Roos combined her collection with the seeds, brought by Alevtina Kakhidze from Ukraine. In her work—which consists of installations, sculptures, drawings and photos—Vogels tries to fathom nature. Transience plays a major role in Vogels’ practice, not only because she uses materials such as branches, leaves and soil. The emphasis in her work shifts from interest for the beginning of the cycle, to the intermediate stage—between the sublime and the dead. With her work she tries to approach nature in different ways to achieve artistic results, like observing transformations in the landscape to experimenting with the growth of plants. Raised by the prospects of our society’s destruction of natural resources, the ‘romantic’ idea of reconciliation with nature takes on a new meaning for Vogels.
Sasha Kurmaz, State of Emergency. Kyiv, 2018, video
The film was built as a collage of found and personal documentary footage, uniting various episodes of social and political life in Ukraine after the start of Russia's military aggression in 2014. The full movie consists of 4 channel HD video pieces. Duration: 40 min. Sasha Kurmaz works with photography, video, public intervention and performance. In Kyiv, Ukraine, Sasha explores his hometown as a playground; a playground where his art, if not changing the face of the world, will, at least, move it forward. If his materials are multiple and his character quite complex, one thing is for sure, Sasha Kurmaz enjoys titillating the world's inconsistencies. Though direct, Sasha’s work is open to interpretation and characterized by extreme simplicity of execution. He analyzes social interrelationships in both poetic and political ways.
KyivPost: Artistic Dialogue Between Ukraine and The Netherlands Debates Freedom, Dignity, War.
Author: Kostyantyn Doroshenko