Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea presents a selection of filmic works and moving images by contemporary artists from Ukraine titled A Letter From the Front, curated by artist Nikita Kadan (Kiev, 1982) with Giulia Colletti.
Ukrainian artists who participate in this event with their works are currently blocked in the cities under siege or have managed to take refuge in the border areas or in neighboring countries. They are mobilizing within or outside the borders of the war-torn country, measuring themselves against distances through their own bodies. Some of them were unable to recover their hard drives before leaving their homes and studios, and therefore this project can only deal with the ways in which artworks are saved in digital format on servers, clouds and web platforms.
“The greater the distances are between all of us, the more united we feel in our demand to stop the Russian aggression in Ukraine. We could not be more solidary then we are now, while we face the fact that years of political struggles are in danger of dissolving and going up in smoke. The selection of filmic works and moving images presented on this occasion do not strictly speak of the new war. They are rather evidence of the work that has been done (or we thought we had done) to prevent the conflict. This works can be seen as a premonition of an evident and inevitable catastrophe, which too often in the history of Ukraine has been tangible.” (participating artists)
The screenings are introduced by conversation between Nikita Kadan, who is currently in Kiev, and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.
The works presented are by:
Yaroslav Futymsky, Flag is burning, 2019, color, sound, 1:51 min.
Yaroslav Futymsky, Second attempt, 2019, color, sound, 3:28 min.
The videoperformances of Yaroslav Futymsky are often related to the traces of political history hidden in the landscape. At the same time, they take the shape of political manifestations in a postpolitical world: summoning the ghosts of past and present revolutions.
Katya Libkind, Where are Your Big Ears Dear Dead Grandma?, 2021, color, sound, 6:44 min.
Libkind’s grandmother died at the age of 86 in Israel, choking on plain water. Reconstruct a nonexistent conversation on her birthday, the artist pays homage to her ancestor.
AntiGonna, Enter the War (Entra in guerra), 2017, color, sound, 3:57 min.
War lives deep under the Earth. People themselves let it in. The war asks to enter.
AntiGonna, Rave on the bones, 2017, color, sound, 6:59 min.
At the same time, when the war continues in Ukraine till today, also the raves continue. Raves on the bones.
AntiGonna (in collaboration with Nikita Kadan), Lucid Skin, 2019, color, sound, 16:16 min.
The protagonist is an artist who rethinks his identity. He is into self-harm as a way to punish his ‘masculinity’.
Yarema Malashchuk & Roman Himey, Dedicated to the Youth of the World II, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 9 min.
The focus of the film is the techno rave Cxema and the youth, on which the camera is carefully focused the next morning after the event. This is the place and meeting that the youth of Kyiv are waiting for and preparing for — this particular escape from everyday life, rejection of it — evokes strange feelings of modern ritual.
R.E.P., Yodler, 2011, color, sound, 17:59 min.
Yodler is part of a series of videos documenting site-specific performances that the R.E.P. group has produced in diverse, peripheral contexts, ac- cording to local folk traditions and current cultural situations. Each time, the actor-performed piece borrows its title from the language in which it is realized, carrying the tradition of, itinerant folk musicians, in this case from Austria, who write and perform religious, historical, and epic songs.
R.E.P., Smuggling, 2007, color, sound, 10 min.
Smuggling is a documentary reality about those who cross the border daily, those traveling to a slightly better-off country in hopes of selling a carton of cigarettes or a bottle of vodka for meager profit, in some miraculous way both does and does not correspond to the actions of the artists traveling with them.
Nikolay Karabinovych, As far as Possible, 2020, b&w, sound, 6:23 min.
A tour group traveling by bus through the Kuyalnitsky estuary on the outskirts of Odessa, whose caves Jewish residents, including the artist’s great-grandmother, took refuge in during the outset of World War II.
Dana Kavelina, There are no Monuments to Monuments, 2021, color, sound, 34:35 min.
People are talking about a certain monument that was presumably erected to memorize the Catastrophe, but their speech falls apart, and we cannot compose a single image of either the monument or the catastrophe that happened to these people.
Daniil Revkovsky & Andriy Rachinsky, Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk, 2018, color, sound, 22:13 min.
Found footage from various industrial sites at the Dnipropetrovsk region are assembled into a seemingly neutral way, without specific montage. A landscape of ruined but still working industries, a landscape of exhausted nature and work. The events taking place are both mundane and catastrophic – they are part of the working routine and they are also manifesting the state of collapse.
Oleksiy Sai, The longest, the most productive/Deep cleansing power, 2021, color, sound, 3:29 min.
Artists Oleksiy Sai makes his living as director of commercials. Hi video work is using fragments of this commercials with repeating slogans “The longest and the most productive” and “Deep cleansing power”. As one of his colleagues said – ‘Our hell will look like this’.
Alina Kleytman, Responsibility, 2017, color, sound, 6:24 min.
A girl wearing a ridiculous masquerade meant to show how people wear the other people’s expectations about them like dresses.
Lada Nakonechna, Switch on Red, 2016, color, sound, 3:02 min.
“I propose that we try to place ourselves inside the Catastrophe and to think about finding ways of how we can speak about it from the position of being within. Catastrophe could be something very personal, but on the other hand it is not only about the single person, because the person is not alone, in this situation or in this war. It is also a catastrophe of relations and of the social sphere, which influences politics, general attitudes and our relationships.”
Yuri Leiderman (in collaboration with Andrey Silvestrov), Birmingham Ornament, 2011, color, sound, 65 min.
Birmingham Ornament consists of various fragments based on texts by Yuri Leiderman acted out by different characters such as two “TV announcers”, an “Odessa chanson singer”, a “Berlin street philosopher” etc. This fictional line is interwoven with fragments in which Yuri Leiderman’s father talks about his family’s ordeals during the years of the Second World War.
Lesia Khomenkо, Self-portrait (Autoritratto), 2013, color, sound, 7:33 min.
The stop-motion animation is based on a painted self-portrait. While painting her face, the artist kept changing the eyes: initially open and staring insolently at the viewer, they gradually drooped shut with sleep. Having collected 1,500 shots for the video, she painted the completed self-portrait over with white paint, transforming the canvas into a screen for the video projection. The work was inspired by exhausting attempts to put her young daughter to bed: they both pretended to fall asleep while peeking at one another. This temporal processuality steeped in personal experience is transposed onto the processuality of an artistic medium: the painting loses its traditional material medium, leaving nothing but memories of itself.
Mykola Ridnyi, Regular Places, 2014 – 2015, HD video color, sound, 15:23 min.
Comings and goings of citizens in five public sites around Kharkiv are filmed from a static angle. Without a sense of context, the uneventful footage seems irreconcilable with the brutally violent conflict between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists that occurred here only months earlier. Rupturing the calm atmosphere, audio excerpts extracted from online videos have been overlaid on top of the footage; shouts of threats, warnings, abuse and intimidation echo across indifferent scenes, in a forced confrontation between recent traumatic memories and a present state of collective denial.
This program is part of Espressioni and will on view every Sunday from 24 April 2022 until 25 September 2022.
*Letter From the Front is the title of an iconic Soviet painting from 1947 by Aleksandr Laktionov (Rostov-on- Don, 1910 – Moscow, 1972).