Fine art, sculpture & photography in the heart of Kyiv since 1988

ACADEMIC

LOOKING FOR LENIN by Niels Ackermann and Sébastien Gobert. Foreword by Myroslava Hartmond. Eds. Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell (FUEL Design & Publishing, 2017)

In the process of decommunisation, Ukraine has toppled all its Lenin monuments. This book documents the inglorious fate of these Soviet statues, following their often violent removal. Photographer Niels Ackermann and journalist Sébastien Gobert have scoured the country in search of the remains of these toppled figures. They are found in the most unlikely places: Lenin inhabits gardens, scrap yards and store rooms. He has fallen on hard times – cut into pieces, daubed with paint, turned into a Cossack or Darth Vader. Yet despite every attempt to reduce their status, the monuments retain a sinister quality, resisting all efforts to separate them from their history. Myroslava Hartmond's introductory essay puts Niels and Sébastien's journey across Ukraine into historical and global perspective, highlighting the uniqueness of the Leninfall phenomenon and the significance of their work in the context of post-Soviet studies.

'Trojan Horses in a Cold War: Art Exhibitions as an Instrument of Cultural Diplomacy, 1945 - 1985' [Oxford University, Dept. of Politics and International Relations, MPhil International Relations Thesis, Trinity 2014.]

The present thesis investigates the instrumentalization of art as a tool in foreign policy, taking as a case study the organization of art exhibitions in other countries by the Soviet Union during the Cold War period.

30 Jun 2016

'Godhead Dethroned: Leninfall as Collective Esoteric Practice.'

Minima Ucrainica #6

The violent toppling of the Vladimir Lenin monument in Kiev’s Taras Shevchenko Boulevard by far-right extremists on the 8th December 2013 was a dramatic moment in the Euromaidan Protests, widely televised across the globe. Over a hundred Lenin statues and Soviet monuments will face destruction in the year to come, well ahead of the official start of the decommunization process in April 2015. This forceful purging of the urban and rural environment of the Communist figurehead’s images would become known as Leninopad, or Leninfall. Although the toppling of statues of political figureheads is a common trait of regime overhauls, upon closer examination, the phenomenon of Leninfall presents a rather curious example of post-Soviet collective esoteric practice. The Mother Goddess archetype that is the Ukrainian landscape is liberated of the host of phallic columns that have sought to dominate it forevermore. The plinth, at once battleground and burial-ground, remains empty: what should replace the downcast idol?

A Tribe Called W.I.T.C.H.

SABAT Magazine, Crone Issue 2017

This article examines the role of radical feminist group W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) in contemporary women's movements and culture. W.I.T.C.H. became one of the most idiosyncratic phenomena of late 1960s counterculture. Among its original members were New York-based Robin Morgan, Peggy Dobins, Judy Duffett, Cynthia Funk, Naomi Jaffe, Florika. Its Manifesto, a text of certain literary merit – like many of their ‘hexes’ and chants – encouraged women to form covens, and such groups sprung up in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco. W.I.T.C.H.s’ choice of emblem was no accident. The W.I.T.C.H. Manifesto hails witches – and gypsies – as the “original guerrillas and resistance fighters against oppression”, providing birth control, abortives, and mind-altering drugs to those who needed them. During the recent Women's March on Washington (January 2017), their legacy was revived and recontextualized within the contemporary political context.

31 May 2017

Small Is Beautiful Is Not Just A Slogan: On American Artist George-Ann Gowan And Humane Diplomacy

The Odessa Review, Issue 9

In May 2017, H.E. Marie Louise Yovanovitch, the 9th United States Ambassador to Ukraine, invited the artist George-Ann Gowan, a longtime friend and a resident of her native Kent, Connecticut, to participate in their second joint public diplomacy project under the aegis of the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program. The global visual arts program, formalized by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors, shipping about 60 temporary exhibitions per year and curating the permanent collections of the Department’s diplomatic facilities throughout the world. George-Ann identifies as a cultural diplomat: ‘I realize how meeting just a single person from another country can change one’s perception of that place’. Over the course of her short visit she meets with local artists, museum and gallery professionals, academics and students, immersing herself in the local visual culture while giving lectures and workshops, and sharing openly her experience as an artist, a local patriot of Connecticut, and a woman who used creativity to overcome personal tragedy and to inspire others.

31 Mar 2017

The Decommunizing Of Taras Shevchenko

The Odessa Review, Issue 8

The remarkable poet and artist who is considered to be the father of the modern Ukrainian nation means different things to different people. It is precisely because he is such a well-known symbol, that his historical legacy and place within the pantheon will have to be reconsidered in the process of Ukrainian Decommunization. Contemporary Ukraine needs a new and fresh relationship with the work and identity of its founding poet.

31 Mar 2017

Australia's Aboriginal Art: A Human Rights Puzzle

The Odessa Review, Issue 8

The ongoing revival of aboriginal art in Australia is emblematic of the nation's complex history, and the often fraught relationship between Australia's settlers and its native population. The beauty and cultural value of these works is without question, and their renaissance in Australian cultural life has carried them as far afield as Kyiv, where they have found resonance with their audience. Curator and cultural critic Myroslava Hartmond reflects on Australia's recent reappraisal of aboriginal culture, cultural diplomacy, and the relationship between Ukraine and the land Down Under.

31 Dec 2016

Malevich’s Kyiv Period Is Newly Fashionable

The Odessa Review, Issue 6

This October saw a remarkable conference [Kazimir Malevich: Kyiv Aspect] take place in Kyiv on the legacy of the great artist whose Ukrainian ties are only now garnering academic and popular interest. The need to celebrate Malevich's Kyivan legacy is raised in numerous public debates amid a campaign to rename Kyiv's Boryspil Airport in his honor.

31 Dec 2016

TARAS SHEVCHENKO IN CHINA: Spiritual father of the Ukrainian nation unites Ukraine and China in landmark cultural exchange programme

Cultural Diplomacy feature, Business Ukraine Magazine

For almost 100 years, Taras Shevchenko, the celebrated poet and painter who challenged the autocracy of tsarist Russia and called upon the Ukrainians to fight for freedom at a time when Ukrainian nationhood was at its weakest, has been the subject of Chinese-Ukrainian cultural relations. Chinese intellectuals first came across his poetry in the early 20th century. He was celebrated in the People’s Republic of China as a ‘poet of oppressed people’. His humble beginnings as an orphaned serf, as well as his millenarian vision of egalitarianism, self-improvement, and sovereignty continue to resonate in China today. In 2016, a landmark series of art exchanges took place between Ukraine and China. It culminated with the opening of the Taras Shevchenko Museum in Beijing in September 2016, the first institution of its kind to be funded fully by a foreign government – not the Ukrainian state or diaspora. For the first time since the 1950s, the Chinese government displayed a willingness to strengthen institutional ties in the sphere of culture between China and Ukraine. Indeed, the joint Chinese-Ukrainian initiative united the Chinese Academy of Painting and Calligraphy, the National Taras Shevchenko Museum and its fraternal organizations, the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture of Ukraine, as well as both Embassies, and has challenged professionals and laymen alike to reconsider the symbolic and transformative role that Taras Shevchenko’s work continues to play in Ukrainian society today.

30 Sep 2016

THE FOREST SONG: Global Gaming Community Discovers Ukraine's Fairytale Folklore Heritage

Cultural Diplomacy feature, Business Ukraine Magazine

News of American game developer Colabee Studios releasing a game based on Lesya Ukrainka’s ‘The Forest Song’ spread across the national media and delighted diaspora communities worldwide. But does this surrealist adventure, based on a fairy drama from over a century ago, have any chance of success? Could its interpretation of Ukraine’s traditional cultural heritage capture the imagination of the global gaming community like post-apocalyptic hits S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Metro 2033, Survarium, or achieve the popularity of the Cossack game series in the CIS region? With a series of indie awards under its belt following the preview in March earlier this year, ‘The Forest Song’ is gaining traction, not just as a game, but as an innovative social entrepreneurship project whose philosophy seeks to bring forgotten folklore of Western Ukraine to the global audience.

30 Apr 2016

Ukraine Must Embrace Crimean Tatar Culture Beyond Eurovision

Cultural Diplomacy feature, Business Ukraine Magazine

On May 15th 2016, Ukrainian Eurovision contestant Jamala delivered a coup de grâce to her opponents with a soaring crescendo, bathed in the golden light of a sprawling tree, a symbol of Crimean Tatar nationhood. Her performance of ‘1944’, a haunting ballad of her family’s experience of Soviet deportation, was arguably the single most salient statement on the unresolved issue of Crimean annexation to ever be made from a stage without actually mentioning politics. But if Russia’s discontent in the media is anything to go by, the Kremlin got the message. For Ukraine to harness the positive attention that the Eurovision coverage has engendered, we must consider Jamala’s victory as a call to action: first and foremost, by creating conditions for the preservation and development of Crimean Tatar culture at home.

31 Mar 2016

CARLOS GARCIA LAHOZ and Kiev's Suprematist Legacy

Cultural Diplomacy feature, Business Ukraine Magazine

The installation of the Monument to 100 Years of Suprematism outside the National Ukrainian Academy of Arts by Spanish artist Carlos Garcia Lahoz is a symbolic gesture that gives rise to a much-needed debate about the legacy of Kazimir Malevich. It roots the work of the great avant-gardist in Kyiv, the city of his birth, brings focus to the years he spent teaching at the very same academy, and points to the need for reassessment of the influence of Ukrainian traditional culture on development of global art history.

29 Feb 2016

MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF: Ukraine's cultural ambassador to nineteenth-century France

Cultural Diplomacy feature, Business Ukraine Magazine

The short life of artist and diarist Marie Bashkirtseff, one of Ukraine’s most famous daughters who died shortly before her 26th birthday, is a monument to intellect and ambition. An unbridled Slavic spirit directed by the dynamism and creativity of nineteenth-century France, the young Bashkirtseff made no secret of her three obsessions: her beauty, her own mortality, and her legacy – attaining glory at all cost. A contemporary of Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh, Bashkirtseff was the first woman artist to be displayed at the Louvre, but was snuffed out before her artistic career truly had time to develop. Today, as Ukraine reassesses her own legacy and bids for greater cultural recognition by other nations, a closer appreciation of Marie Bashkirtseff’s background reveals a unique synergy of Ukrainian and French culture.

31 Jan 2016

Can foreign filmmakers boost Ukrainian cinema renaissance?

04 May 2017

Where the Bodies are Buried: A Comparative Study of Lenin Disposal in Post-Communist States. 18th Annual Cambridge Heritage Research Group Seminar Heritage and Revolution: First as Tragedy, then as Farce?

One hundred years since the October Revolution, countries that were affected by the Communist regime are tasked with curating an unwieldy bulk of monumental propaganda. Among them, the serialized image of Lenin. I propose to undertake a comparative study of the different ways in which post-Soviet states dealt with Lenin statues following the dissolution of the USSR, in order to contrast their distinct visions of a national narrative after Communism. In Russia and Belarus, many statues remain visible in urban and rural centres. In Hungary, Poland, and Lithuania ‘memorial parks’ are ticketed dumping grounds that attract tourists and display the absurdity of the relics. In Germany, statues were literally buried... only to be disinterred for a major museum display. In Ukraine, the recent phenomenon of Leninfall sees hundreds of Lenins destroyed at the hands of activists in the wake of escalating conflict. 

22 Nov 2016

Gallery Practice as Research Method & Cultural Diplomacy

27 Oct 2016

A Portrait of Our Friendship: Visual Representations of Soviet-African Cultural Exchanges. Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Dream of International Socialism: New Perspectives on the Global Cold War

28 Apr 2016

Running an Art Gallery in Wartime Ukraine. Art, Expression and Democracy Seminar, The Crick Centre, University of Sheffield

04 Apr 2016

Leninfall: The Plinth As Battleground. Decommunization in Ukraine since the Euromaidan Protests. 2016 PLACES OF AMNESIA Conference, University of Cambridge

The violent toppling of the Vladimir Lenin monument in Kiev’s Taras Shevchenko Boulevard on the 8th December 2013 was a dramatic moment in the Euromaidan Protests, widely televised across the globe. Over a hundred Lenin statues and Soviet monuments would face destruction in the year to come, well ahead of the official start of the decommunization process in April 2015. This forceful purging of the urban environment would become known as Leninopad, or Leninfall. 

23 Jan 2014

Youth Counterculture in the Films of Alexei Balabanov. Appraising Balabanov Film Screening

I initiated the event to commemorate the life and work of Alexei Balabanov.

The She-Wolves Have Arrived: Roadburn Festival 2017 Champions a New Femininity in Heavy Music

‘The Art of Transformation: Creating Peace in the Fog of War’: Poetry & Testimony by Dr Rama Mani (Armistice Day, 11th November 2014, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK)

Book Review, F. Francioni, and N. Ronzitti (eds). War by Contract: Human Rights, Humanitarian Law and Private Contractors

Book Review, Sabina Mihelj. Media Nations: Communicating Belonging and Exclusion in the Modern World

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Triptych: Global Arts Workshop

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