IS IT THE SAME?
IS IT THE SAME?
– No wars are small. – No wars are other’s. – All people are brothers and sisters. – We understand each other. – We are Slavs. – We are the same. – You are to blame. – You deserved it. – It’s all your fault. – We were there. – We went through it. – We survived the war. – Putin does everything right. – Ukraine is Serbia. – Ukraine is Kosovo. – Kosovo is Serbia. – Serbia is Russia. – Russia is the aggressor. – Russia shows NATO its place. – Russia is our brother. – Brotherly nations. – We were deceived. – We were lied to. – They used us. – I am tired of explaining. – You don’t hear us. – We are not against Ukraine, we just know what is going on. – The West is lying to you. – Don’t be their puppets. – Don’t tell us about the war, we perfectly understand what it is without you.
Snippets of my Serbian conversations, real and virtual, echo in my head. In 2022, I traveled between the Balkans, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe enough to see how the war that Russia is handing against Ukraine has breathed new life into the old wounds of the space that on the West they call the East. We all found ourselves unable to separate it from the traps of our own memory. As if in the kafana/kitchen/taxi/gallery/terrace/ Facebook, our conversations were witnessed by the ghosts of our own collective past, and under their watchful eyes we were justifying ourselves. But every time I returned home, I realized that my talk about the war abroad had nothing to do with the feeling of war in in Ukraine, like in Magritte’s painting, the picture of the pipe is not equal to the pipe itself. Over the past year, the war in Ukraine has evolved into a part of the landscape – an integral shell of the earth formed as a result of the complex and long-term interaction of all environmental components. Just as it is impossible to walk on water or swim on land, the landscape of war determines the very nature of human functioning within it.
The artists participating in this exhibition were not part of any of these conversations. Each and every one of them met on the morning of February 24th, 2022, in Ukraine. All of them still live in Ukraine and all of them were forced to become an integral part of the war landscape – to move, to save and be saved, to lose the sense of reality, to blame themselves for being powerless to change anything and to find the strength to continue the work, to be afraid, to hate, to seek a balance, to withdraw, to test the ethics learned from books in practice and transform it, to make it life-giving, to constantly doubt whether you are a good person and whether you are doing enough, to blame yourself cause there are those who have it worse, to not lose face, to master emotions, to be honest with yourself, to save the resource. None of these works is an argument or an illustration of my Serbian conversations, but rather an attempt to pack up the square meter of the landscape that we have in Ukraine and encapsulate them intact in the white cube of the gallery, to compare the pipe with its image, to ask if it is the same?
Daniil Revkovsky & Andriy Rachinsky
Mickey Mouse Steppe. The Seekers
Single channel video (color), loop, 16:9 PAL, 11’11”, audio.
**Mickey Mouse was the name used by German soldiers during World War II to describe the damaged Soviet tanks BT-7 and T-34-76 of 1942.
Andriy Rachinsky and Daniil Revkovsky are artists from Kharkiv, the largest city in the Ukrainian east, and east Ukraine, with its industrial landscapes, working-class culture, and rich and complex identity as central themes in their art practice. The Ukrainian east, as well, is the main battleground of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. Back before the full-scale invasion began, the artists were working on a project called the Museum of Human Civilization, which tells the history of mankind from the perspective of the future, after the death of human civilization. Mickey Mouse Steppe. The Seekers is a new part of the project dedicated to the study of the tank battles’ history. During the research, the artists discovered that more tank battles took place on the territory of Ukraine than in any other country in the world, and the first time tanks were used on Ukrainian territory was the battle for the Kakhovka bridgehead in 1920.
The video shows a field where destroyed military equipment is gradually becoming part of the landscape. Two main characters, played by artists, wander through this landscape. They come across a blown-up Russian tank and start disassembling it to scrap it. In the process, they whisper a prayer, asking for protection from shelling, mines and other dangers of war.
Daniil Revkovsky & Andriy Rachinsky
The Mickey Mouse Steppe. The Archive
A series of photographs and drawings on paper
In this part of the project, Daniil Revkovsky and Andriy Rachinsky combine a massive actual photography archive with a hoax. The project presents real photographs of damaged tanks from the First and Second World Wars, as well as the current war, through the eyes of a fictional resident of Kharkiv from 2024.
The Mickey Mouse Steppe. The Archive.
Tanks are one of the most striking examples of late human civilization products, in the design of which one can trace the economy and ambitions of the countries’ authorities. The largest concentration of tank destruction in world history occurred within contemporary Ukraine’s borders. This is the topic that Vladyslav Lyubchenko was studying by carefully collecting photographs of the destroyed vehicles. After the death of Vladyslav Liubchenko, the archive was appropriated by Ivan Styghatenko, who saw on those photographs of tanks the creatures he had been drawing until the last days of his life.
In 2153, an archaeological expedition found the archive in the ruins of a building in the Novobavarskyi district of Kharkiv. The archive consists of photographs and a series of drawings:
Year of the photos: 1919-2022
Years of the collection creation: 2004-2022
The photographs of tanks were taken within the borders of Ukraine (1991).
The archive was collected by Vladyslav Liubchenko* (1965-2022).
* Born in Liubotyn village. From 1984 to 2018 he worked as a mechanic at the Kharkiv Tank Plant. In 1995, he began to collect various photographs of tanks. He died on December 21, 2022, in his apartment from a direct hit by an S-300 missile.
A series of drawings based on the archival photographs
Year of drawings creation: 2022-2024
Artist: Ivan Styghatenko (1987-2024).
He was born in the village of Borova (Kharkiv region). From 2005 to 2007, he served in the military unit 1302, and had the rank of “tank driver”. Since 2009 he has lived in the city of Kharkiv. Since 2014 he has participated in the military operation of the Ukrainian forces in Donbas. On January 13, 2015, his tank was hit, and he received 2nd category of disability. From 2015 to April 2022 he lived in Borova (Kharkiv region). On April 14, 2022, a tank shell hit the house at his place of residence, killing his entire family (his wife, father and mother), he survived. From April 19th, 2022, he lived in the Novobavarskyi district of Kharkiv. On December 27, 2022, he found an archive of photographs from the collection of Vladyslav Liubchenko in the rubble of his house. In February 2023, he began to make drawings based on photos from Lyubchenko’s archive. He died of hypothermia on February 12, 2024.
Large format color poster, print
The world order that ended in February 2022 held on one fragile condition. All the components of the upcoming catastrophe were in place, but they were kept in isolation from each other. They were considered toxic features of individual political systems that did not pose a global threat. But if conservative populism (Wilders), geopolitical realism (Bush), and market fundamentalism (Friedman) are mixed well, the outlines of a greater monster will begin to emerge in this mixture. Its name is Putinism. These monsters are opposed by a solidarity network of real and imaginary volunteer organizations that feed people.
With the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Larion Lozovoy was forced to leave Kyiv and move to western Ukraine. In Lviv, he joined the volunteer initiative Kukhnia-Lviv, which has been preparing free meals for Ukrainian displaced people since February 27, 2022.
«Cooking process is monotonous and leaves one’s mind mostly unoccupied: a perfect time to meditate on things like your political milieu and historical condition. These issues spill over and seep into the recipes: Populism, Corrupt privatization, Unfinished democratic transit – things that no one would like to see on their plate. It is hard to tell whether the resulting «cookbook» would be a recipe for disaster or a survival manual”.
One wall is reserved for the work of the Ukrainian artist, who refused to participate in this exhibition because of the position of the Serbian government to politically and ideologically support Russia in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
On February 24, Ukrainian artists deliberately abandoned what they had been fighting for for years – the presentation of themselves on the international stage as self-sufficient artistic units. Instead of “just making art,” they found themselves in a situation of consciously politicizing their own artistic expressions and took on the role of representatives of the context, this time not through manipulation of the Western curators or fascination with the opportunity of being exhibited abroad, but through the understanding that to speak is a privilege and the choice to share this privilege with those who are deprived of the opportunity to be heard because of the war. Ethically, this choice is as difficult and pretentious as the previous sentence sounds. Finding a balance between oneself and society, between duty and one’s own limits, and between career and conscience are problems that Ukrainians do not talk about publicly.
The artist for whom this wall is reserved refused to participate in the exhibition because she could not justify her artistic presence in the political context of Serbia. This stance and refusal, in my opinion, are more important and more eloquent than any artwork that could replace it on this wall.
Larion Lozovyi is an artist and independent researcher. He graduated from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, receiving degrees in Philosophy and Political Science. He has completed the Course of Contemporary Art at the Kyiv School of Visual Communication, Moscow Curatorial School by V-A-C Foundation and WHW Akademija (Zagreb, Croatia). He has authored critical texts for Korydor, Prostory and Krytyka Polityczna online magazines. Additionally, he engages in publishing works in contemporary European philosophy and public policy analysis. His areas of specific research interest include ideologies of modernization and the economic history of post-Socialist states.
Daniil Revkovsky & Andriy Rachinsky is a creative duo from Kharkiv, Ukraine who link different formats of artistic practices such as installations, re-enactments and video, and explore the contexts and landscapes of the industrial regions of Ukraine. They both graduated from the State Academy of Design and Arts in Kharkiv, where they majored in graphic design. In 2012 they created a public page “Pamjat” (memory) in the Vkontakte social network with the aim of researching the collective memory of post-Soviet territory. This project was the starting point of their collaboration. They received the PinchukArtCentre Prize 2020 public choice award for the Hooligans project. In 2022 they won the Allegro Award, the largest international modern art competition organized in Poland. Participants of Ukrainian and European exhibitions.
Asia Tsisar is a Ukrainian curator and researcher. Graduate of the Department of Cultural Studies of the State Academy of Culture in Kharkiv, Ukraine, she developed her practice in-between art and cultural studies and focused her interest on Central and Eastern Europe. Her topics of interest include archives, objects and collections, memory, commemoration, and the modes of rethinking the soviet past. She bases her curatorial work on methods of artistic research and creative storytelling.
Image: Daniil Revkovsky & Andriy Rachinsky MICKEY MOUSE STEPPE. THE SEEKERS. Single channel video (color), loop, 16:9 PAL, 11’11”, audio. 2022.