Kokonton Gallery, Venice, 2017

Anastasia Shevtchenko’s performance, Sisters, Kokonton Gallery, 2017

Artists: Anastasia Shevtchenko (STASIK), Ivan Kostenko, Vasyl Kostenko. Curator: Maria Vtorushina 

All too often, women in Ukraine are required to juggle numerous social roles simultaneously. Women from the older generation, born in the USSR, were taught to earn love through labor. They found the meaning of their lives in alleviating the distress of others, leaving no opportunity to experience life's pleasures. They toiled diligently for their families, motherland, or the party's advantage, continuing to do so without considering that love is not a service medal. Ivan and Vasyl Kostenko captured moments from their family's daily life. Stylistically, the photographs resemble the informal Soviet documentary photos of the early '70s, such as those from the Kharkiv school. This comparison leads to criticism of regulations that imposed numerous taboos on corporeality. 

The totalitarian state subjugated the concept of femininity to its functions. Contemporary pop culture is believed to guide women toward understanding ‘happiness’. Hence, Ivan and Vasyl incorporated elements of modern narratives and delusions into their story. By embellishing the photos with colored glitches, the artists borrow elementd of synthetic world where their loved ones’ troubles and nescessity to fight might disappear. 

An integral component of the exhibition is STASIK’s performance. Kyiv-based actress and singer Anastasia Shevtchenko created this project to share her experience of reconstructing her identity. Following the the Russian occupation of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine in 2014 and her service as a combat medic since the beginning of the war, Anastasia had to reconstruct her personality. This became her way of acknowledging the features that culture and society seek to eradicate in women.

Ivan Kostenko, Vasyl Kostenko, from the series Sisters. Image courtesy of the artists

Anastasia Shevtchenko’s performance, Sisters, Kokonton Gallery, 2017