- ANATOLIY BABIYCHUK
- LESHA BEREZOVSKIY
- VERA BLANSH
- OLEKSANDR BURLAKA
- IGOR CHEKACHKOV
- MSTYSLAV CHERNOV
- ANDRII DOSTLIEV
- LIA DOSTLIEVA
- NAZAR FURYK
- OLEKSANDR GLYADYELOV
- VIKTOR MARUSHCHENKO
- MYKHAYLO PALINCHAK
- ALEXANDER CHEKEMENEV
- POLINA POLIKARPOVA
- YAROSLAV SOLOP
- ELENA SUBACH
- VALERII VEDUTA
- EMINE ZIYATDINOVA
The self-contained diverse projects tell about contemporary Ukraine — whether depicting poignant or comforting subjects, driven by melancholy, curiosity, or the necessity to record the important and tragic current events. Some projects directly comprehend the Russian invasion of Ukraine since 2014, while others have no direct connection to the war, but are now compelled to be seen as having such. One way or another, the artists witnessed and reflected on the experiences and events that took place in their home country.
War shifts the usual picture of the world — familiar views, ideas and habits get distorted. The meanings that radiate through the depth of the matter of war seem to be altered, uncertain, misleading, or sometimes, on the contrary, more apparent. We strive to orient ourselves in this new, refracted picture of the world. And now, on the 119th day of the war (this text was published on June 21), we revise and gaze at the photographs, searching for the meanings and perspectives that may help to comprehend today’s reality and to tell about contemporary Ukraine through its photographic practices.
The first exhibition on the platform entitled ‘Refractions. Home’ features the works of 18 photographic artists from Ukraine. As an introduction to the following exhibitions that will be curated by our partners, this one is curated by us, Viktoria Bavykina and Max Gorbatskyi.
Horaivka, deep inside Ukraine: home to 520 inhabitants, a nursery and a school, a post office, a village club, two convenience stores and medical practice with two nurse practitioners. From here it is 338 km to Lviv, 433 km to Kyiv, 501 km to Odesa and 992 km to Donetsk.
Flooding due to blasting of a dam on the Irpin river that happen on February 26 near the Demydiv village, Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 8, 2022
These photographs are a continuation of the Obscure Land series, which the artist created in 2019-2020. Chekachkov says, “This series continues my exploration of how modern digital technology affects images. Shooting Ukrainian landscapes in panorama mode, I observe how reality is glued together by an in-camera algorithm, and how, when glued, it crumbles to pieces. On the one hand, I am interested in how a modern camera depicts time and space, and how plausibly it models the surrounding reality.” Chekachkov woke up early on the 24th of February 2022, one hour later he managed to get on the morning express train from his native Kharkiv, which is located only about 30 kilometres from the Russian border. From the window of the train heading to Kyiv, Chekachkov photographed the early hours of war using the same method, co-authored with the algorithm, creating mutilated, distorted, compromised and obscure images of what had to be ordinary Ukrainian landscapes.
Prior to Russia's full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, the war on the territory of Ukraine (in Donetsk and Luhansk regions) lasted for 8 years. In February 2014, Russia began seizing the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula. By sending its troops there without identification and subsequently holding a fake "referendum" that was not recognized by any democratic country in the world, Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014. Since then, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars living on the peninsula have been persecuted and tortured, many had to leave their homes.
In March 2014, Russia began organizing pro-Russian demonstrations in eastern Ukraine (with Russian citizens among the protestors) and proclaiming the idea of creating ‘people's republics’. In April 2014, Russian-led military units seized a number of cities and towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Later, the so-called People's Republics were proclaimed — Russia's proxies on the territory of Ukraine, with the help of which Russia waged a hybrid war with Ukraine. As of November 2016, the international volunteer organization InformNapalm has identified servicemen from 75 Russian military units that have participated in the war in eastern Ukraine since 2014.
Photographs for the project "Dreamland Donbas" were made by Viktor Marushchenko in 2002-2003 while working as part of the film crew of "Workingman's Death" by Austrian documentary filmmaker Michael Glawogger. Marushchenko photographed the work and life of illegal miners in the cities and towns of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Often at the cost of their own lives, trying to make ends meet, these people worked in closed abandoned coal mines, where industrial mining was no longer possible. "This project is about the lives of people who lived in oblivion"
The project ‘Crimea’ is a visual sequence that reflects on the experience of Crimean Tatars finding Home in the complicated geopolitical environment preceding and following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. When this took place, Crimean Tatars as a group once again became a target of state political persecution. All the photographs capture the quiet moments of daily life and landscapes in Crimea, with almost invisible political tension growing through the sequence. The sense of home is replaced by the feeling of instability and fear that is accompanied by the state’s repressive political machinery and propaganda.
left: Photographer’s grandmother Ayriye Emirvelieva, b. 1932, poses for the photographs during elections in Imeni Lenina village in the Uzbek Soviet republic.
Because of the Russian Federation's invasive actions in Ukraine in 2014, almost 2 million Ukrainians lost their homes and are still unable to return. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of March 2015, 1 million 941 thousand people had left the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts and the annexed Crimea.
Fairy Castles of Donetsk
Remember how in the nineties we had cockroaches at home, and when you lit the stove the floor turned red from them? I once stole money that you were saving up for winter boots and bought Snickers bars for all my friends, and then was too scared to go home and you had to go looking for me. And remember when the two of us lugged home eight bags of apples? We laughed the whole time, it was such great fun, and everyone was still alive back then. And the time someone was shot in the courtyard. The shots woke me up and I lay there in unbearable silence. I could hear them downstairs whispering about throwing the body in a lake. ‘Take his legs, I said take his legs, fuck’. And then silence again. Everyone around me was asleep so nobody else heard it. I was really scared, and you weren't there anymore to tell you about it. Thinking about Donetsk in the nineties is like looking at the sun from deep in the water: the light shifts and disappears, blurry shadows move above your head and you don't know if what's approaching are fishing boats or sea monsters and dragons that have risen from their mythical depths, ready to black out the sun and eat you up.
Mythologizing a place distant in time and space, and your own experience associated with this place, isn't something unique to us, it happens one way or another with everyone. To analyze this process more deeply, we invited friends, acquaintances, and strangers to share their personal stories about Donetsk in the '90s, the way they remember it. Lego bricks were used to make models of the places from their stories. These models aren't perfect representations, but they help create an emotional and material connection with the past, serving as both a symbol and a tool of that connection.
Arabat Spit is located in the northeast of the Crimean Peninsula. Until 1955, the whole territory of the spit was a part of Crimean ASSR, and later its northern part was transferred to the Kherson region. The passing here boundary was conditional because it had separated the parts of one country. In March 2014, in one day, this borderline became a grey contour, a symbol, which was used in maps to mark disputed territories. For Ukraine Crimea is a temporarily occupied territory, for the Russian Federation — it is a part of the country. The rest of the world in unequal parts either supports one of the parties or maintains neutrality. This series of photos was taken in Arabat Spit and represents non-military objects that are easily mistaken for the military ones at night. The feeling of certainty and disorientation that arise at the same time are faithful companions of the locals.
"Project about my family
and my native village"
Delicate plants tied up with the remnants of clothes, the remnants of something very human — whether stockings or pieces of bed linen: a tiny floral ornament — it used to be a pillowcase, they slept on it; colored ribbons — used to be the dresses, they celebrated wearing them; all these ambivalent symbols of destruction and germination can be the most accurate description of the world around us. On the one hand, this fragile state conveys a delicate moment of vulnerability. People and nature are delicate and brittle, so this fragility is also expressed in the fear of showing their own mortality. On the other hand, it is a reminder of the power of life, a metaphor for the spirit that overcomes obstacles and the fragility that can withstand rude earthiness. After all, it is fragility that is an integral part of the solid. The project Fragility is about poeticization and monumentalization of invisible, everyday, ordinary things, which we usually do not pay attention to, and respect for our everyday life. This is a reflection on our reality, on the environment, on what constitutes relationships between people. Fixation of something ephemeral, temporary, ritual. Because the fixation of the moment — photography, as well as the fixation of an injured body or its part — is an action aimed at preservation.
March 26, 2022
Monument to Dante Alighieri with sandbags
to protect against Russian shelling in Kyiv
Grandmothers on the Edge of Heaven
In the modern world with rapidly developing technologies, the gap between generations is increasing and becoming an abyss. Nowadays, our grandmothers and we are separated not by two generations, but by what one can no longer measure. What are they like — our grandmothers, or others, those we meet in the streets? They do not always know what the Internet is and what is the value of information in the modern world. They live with their post-war values, keep their savings in a scarf for a rainy day and procure products for the future. They carry in a purse a photo of their family next to the faces of Jesus and Mary because they are also a family for them. Grandmothers have their own subculture, their own special fashion, their own ideas about how they should look. Basically, this means that you need to dress so that other people do not judge you. Clothing is a ritual. For example, I have vivid memories of celebrating Easter. This is a very big religious holiday in Ukraine. That Sunday most people go to the city cemetery to visit the graves of relatives, and of course, everyone tries to dress nicely for the holiday.
People prepare for this day in advance and often wear brand new shoes, because the holiday usually falls on the first warm days after winter. Women proudly wear heels, but very quickly, already on the way to the cemetery, new shoes start rubbing their feet and everyone returns home with bloody heels. The whole city — the victims of fashion and dress codes — is united by the common problem of Easter stigmata. It seems to me that grandmothers are so full of memories of the past that nothing of the present can simply fit into this fullness. They are physically present among us now, but in fact absent, because their consciousness is already awaiting the approaching moment to step outside the bounds of life and find themselves at the gates of Heaven, in which they desperately believe. Regardless of their confessions, grandmothers retell to each other articles about miraculous healings which they had read in newspapers and as evidence that there is life after death. I do not want to mistrust them at all, I only want to hug them and say that there is nothing to be afraid of and they are absolutely right. In this project, I use direct photos and collages to place the grandmothers among the landscapes of Heaven that they await. All the people depicted in the project were photographed during religious holidays and ceremonies of the so-called ‘forgiving’ (‘pilgrimage’), still popular in Western Ukraine.
Portrait by the windows
March 4, 2022
A self-made charger at the station,
next to tents for refugees who were
forced to leave their homes due to the war.
Hundreds and thousands of confused
children, adults and the elderly.
March 24, 2022
A volunteer welds anti-tank ‘hedgehogs’
March 7, 2022
These photos were taken from early December to the end of January. In the autumn, I started working on taking photos for the architectural atlas of Kyiv. The violent police dispersal of protesters on 30 November frightened Ukrainian society. This shock was formalized in a form of the first rather symbolic barricades on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square. After, everything was getting much more complex and serious. How did the square without any government buildings on it become so politically strong? So strong, its name had become the common noun for the protest itself. Its walls housed for the winter the lines of newly born 'Maidan Self-Defense' and the Internal troops soldiers one in front of the other. Later many of them will turn out to be side by side in the War in Donbas or later battles of the broader Russo-Ukrainian War.
In the winter of 2014, during the Maidan revolution, Chekmenev photographed the events every day for two months. The photographer felt obliged to shoot portraits of people who were brave enough to challenge the Yanukovych regime. Chekmenev recollects, "For me, all of these ‘warriors’ were heroes, for the simple reason that they were ready to go up against the army of armed government troops with homemade weapons, toy swords, shields, and spears." The photographer’s portraits of the defenders of democracy are devoid of any heroization. They show fear and fatigue and, at the same time, determination and self-sacrifice. The warriors represent all strata of Ukrainian society from peasants to housewives, from young professionals to workers. Often their images have a touch of soft irony, emphasizing the bravery of ordinary people who unexpectedly found themselves in a revolutionary battle.
Text provided by Alexander Chekmenev
On September 10, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus held a joint military exercise ‘West 2021’, which was attended by about 200,000 servicemen and up to 760 units of military equipment. The exercises were positioned as having a ‘purely defensive character and do not pose any threat to the European community or neighbouring countries’. (link to the source)
The exercises were supposed to end officially on September 16, but some of the military did not return to their permanent locations. (link to the source)
On February 10, 2022, joint Belarusian-Russian exercises entitled ‘Union Determination-2022’ began. No official information was provided on the purpose of the exercises and the number of troops. Some Russian officials have said that the exercises are aimed at unscheduled inspections of troops. According to official information, the training was to end on February 20, 2022. On February 21, the Russian president delivered an official hour-long speech to the Russian Federal Assembly asking to recognize the sovereignty of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories (terrorist organizations, so-called “DNR” and “LNR”).
On February 24, at about 4 am, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus launched an open military invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, the Russian president has officially announced the launch of a "special military operation" whose main goals are ‘demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine’ — the goals that have not yet been explained and deciphered by government officials.
As of May 27, about 5,000 civilians had died in Ukraine. (link to the source) These figures are much higher, as Ukrainian and international organizations cannot obtain information from the occupied territories and places where active hostilities are taking place. Thousands were seriously injured. According to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, as of April 9, more than 121,000 children were forcibly deported to Russia (link to the source)
During the three months of the war, the Russians killed 29 journalists in Ukraine (link to the source)
In March 2022, Russian troops committed mass killings, torture and rape in the small town of Bucha, Kyiv region. More than 420 city residents were brutally killed. In total, about 1,000 people died in Bucha link to the source. Bucha is currently the most famous site of evidence of Russian war crimes, but it is only one of many.
Old T-64 tanks covered with snow
stand at the depot site at the
Tank Repair Plant in Kharkiv.
January 31, 2022
The artist’s mother points to her
hometown Kharkiv on the map.
The artist’s self-portrait.
Kalush, Ivano-Frankivsk region 2022
Military exercises for civilians, Kyiv
February 6, 2022
April 5, 2022
The shopping center that was damaged
by Russian rocket on March 21
during an attack on Kyiv
March 29, 2022
Cemetery in Borodianka, Kyiv region
April 5, 2022
Fallen trees near the destroyed column
of Russian tanks and vehicles
in Dmytrivka village, Kyiv region
April 3, 2022
Absentee - Attendee
From the very beginning of my photographic journey, I have explored my habitats with a clear, defined goal — to find new, interesting locations that could become a worthy backdrop for a good portrait. But this time I changed my method and focus.
I strive to move from a practice that has become so strongly accustomed, based on emotional personal contact with a model, to endless documentation of a depersonalized landscape that is constantly transforming due to the influence of the Anthropocene, leaving traces of its previous incarnations in plain sight. For this, I turned to flânerie as a kind of meditation, the desire to explore and contemplate the most unobvious places and views. During my wanderings, the landscape became a living character, changing its appearance depending on the season.
All the people who appear in it were deliberately filmed as much as possible from afar, drowning in the textures of nature. The absence of a person in the frame is replaced by their direct presence in nature, more overwhelming. The feeling of impossibility to prevent chaos makes me want to endlessly document what has not yet been destroyed and has not succumbed to oblivion. Having given the image in aestheticism and romanticism, I want to make the viewer think: how much delight does the image of a landscape bring and what can I give it in return?
February 24, 2022
The body of civilian man killed during
a Russian bombardment at a residential
neighbourhood in Kharkiv
April 19, 2022
Chaotic shelling of a residential area in Mariupol,
dead bodies on the streets and shelters
March 7, 2022
A fire burns at an apartment building
after it was hit by the shelling
of a residential district in Mariupol
March 11, 2022
April 26, 2022
Dismantling of the part of Friendship of Peoples monument.
The monument, erected in 1982, consisted of three components: a large metal arch, a stele with Ukrainian Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Russian boyar and Moscow ambassador Vasiliy Buturlin, and a sculptural composition symbolizing Ukrainian and Russian workers. On November 24, 2018, Ukrainian artists created the work ‘Crack of Friendship’ on the arch, which was dedicated to Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in Russian prisons. On May 26, communal service workers dismantled the first part of the sculptural composition dedicated to workers. After the final dismantling, only the arch will remain, which on May 14, 2022, was renamed the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian people.
The series was created in Crimea in 2011 and consists of more than 100 photographs: they depict winter landscapes, Sevastopol and small towns near the sea. Immediately after the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, I once again carefully reviewed the negatives and painted them. Such a method of post-intervention in the image may seem quite formal, but in 2014, and even now, the project is a kind of photographic archive which captures my emotional experiences during the occupation of Crimea. The photos took on a new context and ceased to be associated with a carefree holiday, when my friends and I spent hours in deserted places, exploring the sky and rocks, quoting Homer's Odyssey, picking small pebbles with our hands, sniffing salt air, watching the Black Sea mood and sunsets.