The bitter and bloody civil war which is, by the day, still unfolding in the former Soviet nation has been a constant feature of news bulletins.
But there is, of course, another side to this beautiful country, one which you might be forgiven for thinking never existed.
Now, a group of highly talented Ukrainian artists have come together in a bid to provide an insight into the country's rich cultural heritage - and show that there is more to Ukraine than friction and war.
Ukraine, in fact, has one of the most vibrant art scenes in former Soviet Union and the artists in this exhibition have chosen very individual and unique ways to communicate; showing extraordinary commitment, energy, insight, resilience and talent.
An exhibition of their work is also particularly contemporary and highly topical as it undoubtedly reflects the challenges facing the country.
It also predicts, in an uncanny way, the growing challenges and questions concerning their nation's future identity and stability.
Jointly organized by the Firtash Foundation, the expo aims to provide a broad introduction to the diverse and energetic nature of Ukraine’s art-scene through showcasing more than 160 works by 38 artists.
Entitled 'Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now', it is thought to be the world’s largest exhibition of contemporary art from Ukraine.
Lada Firtash, chairwoman of the Firtash Foundation, said: "Given that Ukraine has hardly been out of the news this year, much of the art on show undoubtedly reflects the challenges facing the country."
The exhibition, which opens next week in London, features work that has been made recently, but mostly pre-dates the social unrest and upheaval that Ukraine has experienced during 2014.
However, as the title suggests, since the early years of the new millennium the work of many Ukrainian artists has tended to reflect burning issues now facing the country.
The event showcases an exciting group of artists who are relatively unknown outside their homeland. Some of the artists featured in the exhibition have established reputations in Ukraine, while others are recent graduates.
The work of these two generations of artists provides an arresting insight into the future of contemporary art in Ukraine and is set to play a key role in shaping our understanding of the culturally rich but complex environment in which they practice their art.
The exhibition, which runs from 9 October to 3 November and is co-curated by Marina Shcherbenko, Igor Abramovych, Oleksandr Soloviov and Andriy Sydorenko with advice from Vladyslav Tuzov and Natalia Shpitkovskaya at Ukraine´s Modern Art Research Institute and National Academy of Arts, is organised as part of a celebration of contemporary and traditional Ukrainian art, fashion, literature and music.
It forms the largest collection, to date, of Ukrainian contemporary art. It is the third in a series of exhibitions aimed at showcasing Ukraine's unique culture and heritage to an international audience and part of a long-term partnership between London´s Saatchi Gallery and the Firtash Foundation announced in July 2014.
Lada Firtash described the potential of Ukrainian artists as "immense", adding: "Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now is probably the largest and most profound collection of works by Ukrainian artists to date and the works in the show demonstrate many aspects of life in contemporary Ukraine, its spirit, energy and essence. We anticipate that the exhibition will enable the world to understand and appreciate Ukraine's creative potential."
Further comment came from Vladysla Tuzov, deputy director of Ukraine´s National Academy of Arts, who said: "Ukraine today has become a significant contributor to global culture. There is a growing recognition of contemporary Ukrainian art, with the participation of its artists in prestigious forums such as the Venice Biennale and in the international art market at Art Basel and FIAC.
"Modern and contemporary art has a comparatively short history in Ukraine. During the era of socialist realism between 1938, when the Union of Artists in Ukraine was founded, until the 1990s and Ukraine’s independence, any conceptual shows or abstract art were considered hostile. Photography, video art and performance were not recognised as art forms and some ‘non-conformist’ artists and underground art groups from Odessa and Lviv were prosecuted by the state."
He added: "Gradually during the 1980s, unofficial manifestations of art began to emerge across the country’s cities and towns and, by independence, artists were finally able to express themselves freely through their work.
"With this history of restriction and harassment, Ukrainian contemporary art has had to make a sizeable leap in a short period and has attracted an increasing amount of international interest.
"Its strong folk roots and traditions of national iconography are the basis for its new art findings and unique contemporary vision. Despite the active and insightful social role that art can play, its practice is still considered to be marginal in Ukraine; conservative attitudes continue and young artists are taught to work with traditional media rather than thinking in new ways. To break free from this approach many artists work independently, creating their own methods and showing their work themselves."
Nigel Hurst, chief executive of the Saatchi, said: "Our role is to bring contemporary art to the widest possible audience and make it accessible, wherever it is being made. The ongoing support of the Firtash Foundation allows us to work towards this aim by helping us to provide a high profile platform to bring new Ukrainian art to the attention of our international visitors."
He added: "Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now presents a wonderful opportunity to provide a showcase for this exciting group of artists who are exhibiting their work together for the first time."
LUX audience week: Watch films and rate them
Find out where you can watch the films nominated for the 2021 LUX Audience Award in your country and how to vote for your favourite, EU affairs.
Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar winning Another Round, Collective by Alexander Nanau and Corpus Christi by Jan Komasa (nominated for Oscars in 2021 and 2020 respectively) are the three films shortlisted for the European Parliament and European Film Academy’s 2021 LUX Audience Award.
How to watch
You can watch all three films free during the LUX Audience week from 10 to 16 May online and subtitled into your language.
Catch the live debate with the three directors on Facebook on Friday 14 May from 5pm CET.
Another Round by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (original title Druk)
Have you heard of a Norwegian psychologist’s obscure theory that a small amount of alcohol in our blood opens our minds, increases creativity and keeps us happy? Four high school teachers experiment with it, but what first seems to offer a cure for a mid-life crisis goes off the rails. Vinterberg‘s movie is not only about drinking. It has a deeper message about how to face life’s highs and lows and be honest about them.
Another Round won the 2021 Oscar for best international feature. Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is planning an English-language remake.
Collective by Romanian director Alexander Nanau (original title Colectiv)
This stirring documentary is titled after a nightclub in Bucharest where a fire killed 27 young people in 2015 and left 180 wounded. The documentary follows a team of journalists who investigate why 37 of the burn victims died in hospitals although their wounds were not life threatening. They uncover terrifying nepotism and corruption that cost lives, but also show that brave and determined people can reverse corrupt systems.
Collective was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature and best documentary categories this year.
Corpus Christi by Polish director Jan Komasa (original title Boże Ciało)
The film is based partly on the real story of a young convict who experiences a spiritual transformation and wants to become a priest. By a twist of fate, he ends up taking responsibility for a parish in a remote Polish village. As the story evolves, he confronts a tragic secret that is devouring the community. Through the story of this charismatic preacher, Komasa reflects on what creates a community and what makes us susceptible to both fake and real leaders.
Corpus Cristi was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature film category in 2020.
How to take part
This year the winner will be chosen by MEPs and audiences, each group accounting for 50% of the votes. Rate all three films from one to five stars on www.luxaward.eu by 23 May. You can change your rating and only your last vote will be counted. Vote to have the chance to attend the next European Film Awards ceremony in December 2021.
About the LUX Audience Award
The European Parliament launched the LUX Prize in 2007 with the aim of supporting the production and distribution of European films, stimulating reflection on current political and social issues and celebrating European culture.
All three finalists have been subtitled into the official EU languages. The winning film will also be adapted for the visually and audibly impaired.
Billionaire and sustainability supporter Elena Baturina praises the creative potential of younger generation
January 31st the submissions window closed for ‘Design for Sustainable Cities’, an international student competition in support of the United Nations’ SDG programme. The competition is co-organised by two great supporters of education in creative disciplines – BE OPEN creative think-tank and Cumulus Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media.
The competition was launched in October last year and invited students of creative disciplines from basically everywhere to develop their own innovative solutions to the challenges of SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. These challenges include increased carbon emissions and resource use, growing number of slum dwellers, inadequate and overburdened infrastructure and services, worsening air pollution and unplanned urban sprawl, etc. The year of 2020 exposed another drastic problem of city dwellers – the danger of rapid spread of the virus in heavily populated areas.
Both BE OPEN and Cumulus believe that the challenges of the new reality of our daily existence require new solutions; qualitative change is possible only through innovative action, and innovations are only born by bold, inquisitive, creative, out-of-the-box ways of thinking.
That is why the competition cries out to the creative youth, students and graduates of all art, design, architecture and media disciplines of universities and colleges worldwide to encourage them design ideas and projects that embody the principles and aims of United Nations’ SDG Programme.
BE OPEN will award the top ideas submitted by individuals or teams with cash prizes: the main prize winner will be chosen by the jury of design academics and professionals and get €5,000; €3,000 will go to the personal choice of BE OPEN’s founder Elena Baturina; the winner of €2,000 of the Public Vote prize will be selected by an open online vote; and a very important inaugural Safe City prize of €2,000 will be awarded to the solution that will be efficient in tackling the detrimental effect of the pandemic in a city.
We have asked Elena Baturina about the plans and aspirations she associates with the competition.
- Why have you chosen SDG11 as a focus for the competition this year?
I am positive that the issues of urbanization carry unmatched importance in 2020. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are in many ways a direct response to the consequences of urbanization.
More than half of the world’s population now live in cities, and the percentage is projected to grow to 60% by 2030. This growth goes hand in hand with so many problems that affect well-being of billiards of people. We must admit that traditional measures cannot cope with that scope and ‘evolution’ of these problems, so we desperately need creative thinking – design thinking - and creative action to handle those. Design has a crucial role to play as an instrument or achieving the UN SDGs.
- Tell us about the current stage of the ongoing competition?
Well, we have once again joined forces with the wonderful Cumulus Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media. Together we feel we are able to reach out to most schools that teach creative disciplines worldwide and therefore create an opportunity for as many students as possible to benefit from this competition.
We are past the submissions deadline, and starting with February, our teams and the jury will set to the harsh yet exciting task of selecting the top projects that will further compete for the prizes. We already have hundreds of submissions from all over the world, and those I have seen are very promising.
- How meaningful their response seems to you?
The entries are full of good thinking, proper research and great intentions. Of course, they are not meant to save the world overnight, but they are about minor steps, translatable and feasible for the absolute majority of people worldwide, that will actually work.
That is why I am so hopeful that this competition will drive more engagement with young designers and their sustainable solutions from the SDG-focused businesses, state and public bodies that can actually bring them to reality.
- What do you personally look for in the winning submission?
As you probably know, I am first of all a person of business. So I can’t help looking at projects from a practical perspective, with the ‘how we can actually do it’ approach in mind. That is why, I am looking at how well-researched the solution is, will it be in demand, how feasible it is, are there resources at hand to make it work, is it scalable etc. So, the Founder’s Choice winner must be a pragmatic solution.
- What does sustainability means to you personally?
At my end, investment has been allocated to sustainability-related businesses, such as solar energy production, energy-efficiency technologies, membrane engineering. As for my everyday life, I try to make positive shifts to greater sustainability as we all should, starting with little yet consistent everyday steps that may not seem that huge an impact, but are necessary to make sustainability part of our joined future.
- Does BE OPEN now account for the possibility of a new pandemic while developing your projects?
Well, we all do. There is an unpredictability factor in everything now, right? But we have been doing well this year, due to the fact that BE OPEN has always had a well-established online presence that helps us easily connect and engage with audiences from all over the world.
With this competition, we can easily carry out all stages safely and with social distancing observed, the only thing that would require a public gathering is the awards ceremony. But even if we have to cancel it once again, we promise that we will not only celebrate the winners online, but do our best to showcase their ideas and talent to as wide public and as many stakeholders as possible.
Russian historian Oleg Kuznetsov's book reiterates Umberto Eco's warning about the Nazi threat
Each of our readers, regardless of their nationality, political views, or religious beliefs, retains a part of the 20th-century pain in their soul. Pain and memory of those who died in the fight against Nazism. The history of the Nazi regimes of the last century, from Hitler to Pinochet, indisputably proves that the path to Nazism taken by any country has common features. Anyone who, under the guise of preserving the history of their country, rewrites or hides the true facts, does nothing but drag own people into the abyss while imposing this aggressive policy on neighboring states and the entire world.
In 1995, Umberto Eco, one of the most globally famous writers and author of such best-selling books as Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, took part in a Symposium held by the Italian and French Departments of Columbia University in New York (on the day when the anniversary of the liberation of Europe from Nazism is celebrated). Eco addressed the audience with his essay Eternal Fascism that contained a warning to the entire world about the fact that the threat of fascism and Nazism persists even after the end of World War II. The definitions coined by Eco differ from the classical definitions of both fascism and Nazism. One should not look for clear parallels in his formulations or point out possible coincidences; his approach is quite special and speaks rather about the psychological features of a certain ideology that he labelled 'eternal fascism'. In the message to the world, the writer says that fascism begins neither with the Blackshirts' brave marches, nor with the destruction of dissenters, nor with wars and concentration camps, but with a very specific worldview and attitude of people, with their cultural habits, dark instincts and unconscious impulses. They are not true source of the tragic events that shake countries and entire continents.
Many writers still resort to this topic in their journalistic and literary works, while often forgetting that, in this case, artistic fiction is inapproriate, and sometimes criminal. Published in Russia, the book State Policy of Glorification of Nazism in Armenia by military historian Oleg Kuznetsov reiterates Umberto Eco's words: «We need an enemy to give people hope. Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards; those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and the bastards always talk about the purity of the race. National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same. Hatred has to be cultivated as a civic passion.»
Umberto Ecp knew firsthand what fascism was, since he grew up under Mussolini's dictatorship. Born in Russia, Oleg Kuznetsov, just like almost every person of his age, developed his attitude to Nazism based not on publications and films, but primarily in the testimonies of eyewitnesses who survived in World War II. Not being a politican but speaking on behalf of ordinary Russian people, Kuznetsov begins his book with the words the leader of his home country said on May 9, 2019, on the day when victory over fascism is celebrated: «Today we see how in a number of states they consciosky distort the events of war, how they idolize those who, having forgotten about honour and human dignity, served the Nazis, how they shamelessly lie to their children, betray their ancestors». The Nuremberg trials have always been and will continue to be an obstacle to the revival of Nazism and aggression as state policies – both in our days and in the future. The trials' results are a warning to all who see themselves as the chosen «rulers of the destinies» of states and peoples. The goal of the international criminal tribunal in Nuremberg was to condemn Nazi leaders (main ideological inspirers and headmen), as well as unjustifiably cruel actions and bloody outrages, not the entire German people.
In this regards, the UK representative to the trials said in his closing speech: « I repeat again that we do not seek to blame the people of Germany. Our goal is to protect him and give him the opportunity to rehabilitate himself and win the respect and friendship of the whole world.
But how can this be done if we leave in its midst unpunished and uncondemned these elements of Nazism which are mainly responsible for tyranny and crimes and which, as the tribunal can belive, cannot be turned to the path of freedom and justice?»
Oleg Kuznetsov's book is a warning that is not aimed at inciting ethnic hatred between Armenia and Azerbaijan; it is a plea to common sense. The plea to exclude the falsification of historical facts (that make it possible to manipulate ordinary people) from the state policy. In his book, the author asks the question: «Glorification in various forms of Nazism in Armenia through memorialization of memory of the Nazi criminal Garegin Nzhdeh and his openly rasict theory of the tseharkon, the doctribe of the Armenian superman, is the subject of a purposefully and systematically conducted authorities and the Armenian diaspora have made such serious efforts in recent years to exalt the personality of Garegin Nzhdeh, and not someone else from among the Armenian nationalists who more contributed to the appearance of the Republic of Armenia on the political map of the world than Nzhdeh.»
Less than a year ago, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a draft resolution (initiated by Russia) on combating «glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racis, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.» 121 states voted in favor of the document, 55 abstained, and two opposed it.
It is know that the issue of the unified struggle against Nazism and its modern followers has always been as fundamental for Azerbaijan and its political leadership (without any tolerance of even a slightest compromise) as it has been for Russia. President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly spoken – both at the United Nations assembly and at the meeting of the Council of CIS Heads of State – about the state policy of glorifying Nazism in Armenia, citing irrefutable facts to prove this assertion. At the meeting of CIS Council of Defence Ministers, President Aliyev not only supported Russia's policy to fight Nazism and neo-Nazism on a global scale, but also expanded its scope, pointing to Armenia as the country of victorious Nazism. That said, Armenia's representatives to the UN always voted for the adoptions of the resolution calling for the fight against any manifestations of Nazism, while the leadership of their country openly erected monuments to the Nazi criminal Nzhdeh in the cities of Armenia, renamed avenues, streets, squares and parks in his honor, established medals, minted coins, issued postage stamps and financed films telling about his «heroic deeds». In other words, it did everything known as «glorification of Nazism» in the parlance of the relevant UN General Assemby resolution.
Armenia now has new government, but the authoritis are not in a hurry to eliminate the Nazi legacy of their predecessors, thus demonstrating their commitment to the practices of glorification of Nazism that had been adopted in the country prior to the coup that took place two years ago. The new leaders of Armenia, headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, could not or did not want to radically change the situation in their country – and found themselves either hostages or ideological continuators of glorification of Nazism that had been practiced before their coming to power. In his nook, Oleg Kuznetsov says: «Starting with the Millenium, the authorities of Armenia have completely consciously and purposefully pursued and, despite the change of the political regime in the country in May 2018, still pursue an internal 21 political course towards the nation's Nazification through state propaganda of the theory of tsehakron as a national ideology of all Armenians living both in Armenia and in diaspora, while simulating international efforts to combat glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism in order to mask the cultivation of these phenomena in the territory under their control, including the occupied regions of Republic of Azerbaijan.»
Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian polar explorer and scientist, one noted: «The history of the Armenian people is a continuous experiment. Survival experiment». In what way will today's experiments carried out by Armenian's politicans and based on manipulations of historical facts affect the lives of ordinary residents of the country? The country that has given the world a number remarkable scientists, writers, and creative figures whose works were never marked with seal of Nazism. With Kuznetsov's book revealing the historical facts, those who studied the ideology of German Nazism in depth might develop a different attitude to the words said by the Germany and felt guilty towards his people until the end of his days. At the end of his life, he wrote: «History is a policy that can no longer be corrected. Politics is a history that can still corrected».
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