How is Everyone Doing?
Culture and Self-Organisation in the Time of War
The Off-Space Q+A column typically focuses on the independent, artist-run spaces and projects that exist across East and Central Europe, and the people that keep them going. For the March 2022 column, we’ve handed things over to Daša Anosova of Kyiv Lodge to give us a window into what is happening right now in their communities, in the face of war. Kyiv Lodge is a self-organised initiative and space for artists and researchers based physically in Kyiv and online. They are big fans of grassroots artistic communities and horizontal self-organisation, and have been trying their best to build connections with the initiatives that share their values of resisting dominant narratives, of promoting radical art and culture, and standing against the war.
Today marks exactly one month since Russia extended its brutal war against Ukraine to all Ukrainian territories. It’s hard, but we remain optimistic, knowing we will win. All our thoughts are with people in Mariupol and all other Ukrainian towns and villages that are being shelled and besieged at this very moment, experiencing the horrors of this atrocious invasion.
For this past month, regular check-ups on our friends, colleagues, and community members have become a common practice. We want to stress that many of our colleagues cannot continue their work in the arts, culture, or activism for multiple reasons. Having no opportunity to flee, serving in the Armed Forces, joining the Territorial Defence Forces, taking care of families, volunteering, losing homes and workplaces to the Russian shelling might be some of them. Russian bombs fall on our studios, offices, hospitals, schools, residential areas, and nuclear plants. Russian troops slaughter, rape, sabotage, and destroy. Yet, many of those we care about continue resisting with optimism and eagerness. We couldn’t have put our feelings into words better than our friend Kate Nosko, co-founder of ist publishing, has: “Such actions and work in extreme environments become an anchor point – they bring an understanding that everything is cruelly and unjustly interrupted, but something usual remains. We hold onto those straws.”
ist publishing is a small press that publishes Ukrainian artist books, translates Pascal Gielen, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Rem Koolhaas into Ukrainian, and who is building a unique community of readers. Despite everything, they are busy publishing “Pavlo Makov. The Fountain of Exhaustion. Acqua Alta”. Pavlo is a Ukrainian artist who remained in Kharkiv with his family for the initial week of bombing, they have now been evacuated to a safer city. Pavlo is also the artist who has been selected to represent the Ukrainian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2022.
We are delighted that our long-term relationship with ist publishing has not been interrupted, even today. Co-founder Kate Nosko, says:
“Our publishing was born in Kharkiv, which has gone through devastating bombing and remains besieged. Yet, we decided to get ourselves together and slowly continue working one step at a time. Today it is quite difficult since new publications are impossible to make. The printing houses are located in different cities, and most of our stock remains blocked in Kyiv and Kharkiv. Yet, we are working hard on the publication for the Ukrainian Pavilion. Our long-time friend Astrid Vorstermans from an Amsterdam-based Valiz agreed to print the stock in the EU so that we will be in time for the Pavilion opening. We feel that we are not alone! We ask our readers to support us by buying books from our website and promise to ship all the orders as soon as we can. All profits are donated to the biggest animal shelter Sirius, and a charitable foundation for people with mental disorders. We work because it is necessary. We work because we have to persevere.”
We will take advantage of this opportunity to share that a few weeks before the war broke out, together with Troyanda Studio, we applied to the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation to fund our project in the National Folk Decorative Art Museum. Some readers might be aware of what it means to be shortlisted for council funding. Well, today, the full funding, in the amount of 583,281 million hryvnias, which was to be provided for the implementation of cultural and artistic projects in 2022, will now be used to meet the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to counter the Russian invasion. As a result, the grant season in 2022 has been suspended until the final victory over the Russian occupying forces.
We’re looking forward to this event!
While anticipating Ukrainian victory, Troyanda Studio along with an open group of collaborators, have also begun publishing a collection of first-hand diaries and personal memories of those directly affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war. The archive begins on February 24th, 2022 and is an ongoing work of collecting, categorising, and translating diaries into multiple languages.
“We do realise that the horrendous scale of the events happening make any effort seem small and futile. We are doing it primarily for us not to go completely mad.
One of the main ideas is to be able to collect and organise memories that cannot go away because a social network moderator has decided so. We will start publishing existing diary entries and don’t want to waste anyone’s precious time writing submissions or filling in the forms. And lastly, but most importantly, we want to support contributors financially. This is to be achieved through international funds and private donations. We’re working on making the process as transparent as possible. Ah yes, what is also important — this project is done not only by Troyanda, it is Troyanda Studio + everyone else, an open group of people who we cooperate with.”
Working Room residency at Asortymentna Kimnata
Asortymentna Kimnata (Assortment Room) in Ivano-Frankivsk has been famous for supporting “art on the periphery” by researching the local “assortment” of artistic and cultural products. For the past month, they have been supporting the evacuation of art archives while serving as a hosting organisation for the “Working Room” residency. Together with our dear friend and mentor, renowned Ukrainian artist and curator Lesya Khomenko, they developed an artist lab. Lesya has utilised her international network to set up a fund, while the urban laboratory in Ivano-Frankivsk, Frankivsk Drama Theatre, and Asortymentna Kimnata have joined forces in support. At the residency, artists are focused on researching questions related to the Russian war against Ukraine with the goal of making material objects that could become physical artefacts for both the local and global context.
“Culture is important at all times, it was already clear for me during the Revolution of Dignity. Art might not be essential in the time of war, but still significant, at least at diplomatic and geopolitical levels. Here at the “Working Room”, together with internally displaced artists, and those who joined online, we’ve been working on certain questions related to the war. How is the perception of the human body changing? How does dehumanisation work in the context of war and does dehumanisation always mean something negative? – are some of them.”
If you are reading this text from a safe place and want to support Ukrainian art, culture, and resistance, please consider donating to the initiatives mentioned in this text directly. All details are easy to access on their social media and websites. We are grateful to BLOK and many other international media outlets who are reaching out to Ukrainian initiatives, making our voices heard. This means a lot in the current times.
Kyiv Lodge is an open group of people involved in art and culture production. It focuses on building connections with art and culture producers who resist boring dominant narratives and try to stay independent. Their interests include but are not limited to self-organisation, cooperatives, violence, eroticism, and institutional critique. Kyiv Lodge space is an open studio for cooperation but is currently inaccessible due to the war.
|Index||Asortymentna Kimnata Hlebzawod ist publishing Kathryn Zazenski Kyiv Lodge Off Space Q&A Troyanda Studio Working Room residency|