Zhanna Kadryova, Untitled, 2014, wallpaper, burned brick wall segments. Installation view. From “Fear and Hope.”

Zhanna Kadryova, Untitled, 2014, wallpaper, burned brick wall segments. Installation view. From “Fear and Hope.”

“Fear and Hope”

Zhanna Kadryova, Untitled, 2014, wallpaper, burned brick wall segments. Installation view. From “Fear and Hope.”

Last winter, Kiev was the locus of social and political upheaval that sought to break Ukraine’s long tradition of the few (elite politicians) making decisions and controlling common resources for the sake of their own interests. The exhibition “Fear and Hope” recalls the indelible mark these events have left on anyone who lived through them, as expressed by Nikita Kadan, Zhanna Kadyrova, and Artem Volokitin, the three winners so far of the biannual PinchukArtCentre Prize for Ukrainian artists. It also demonstrates that in Ukraine, social and political relations have changed little following the widespread experience of horizontal self-organization during the Maidan protests, which started last year. Accepting without question the traditional hierarchical relations between artist and public, Kadan, Kadyrova, and Volokitin each attempt to incorporate the potentially transformative experience of the recent months of unrest into their own established methods.

In the massive canvases Irreversible Beauty I and II and Significancy, all 2014, Volokitin finds beauty in the destructive force of explosion and the darkness of the psyche, while taming them through geometric regularity. For the single-channel video Sisters, shot in 2006 and edited in 2014, he filmed four women sitting in a row, mourning the death of their mother—an allusion to the increased responsibility of the living after significant human loss. Kadyrova’s installation Crowd, 2012–13—a suite of forty vertical glass panels, each containing a collage of human figures cut out of a single edition of one of the world’s newspapers—evokes the massive street protests occurring with growing frequency around the globe. But unlike a dynamic and dangerous mass of protesting bodies, Kadyrova’s precise arrangement of figures removed from their original positions in their retrospective newspapers implies a form of “crowd control.” Becoming part of the composition, visitors find their movements restricted and framed by the artist’s placement of the panels.

Kadan’s section of the exhibition is modeled after a Soviet historical museum, but designed with the luxurious materials available to an oligarch-financed institution. Here he has gathered his own works, both old and new, including several that directly reference recent events in Ukraine, along with Soviet publications that testify to the ideological framework that continues to shape public discourse. This museum forgoes traditional historical narrative to allow for multidirectional relations between the objects and ideas presented, bringing past moments into the present and trapping projections of the future in glass cases, as if relegated to the past before they’ve had a chance to actualize in the present. The final display case, Kadan’s Exhibit. Inseparable, 2014, is a large cube filled with black ash. Resembling the remains of burned rubber tires, it represents the reduction of what was once living amid complex and dynamic relationships to a homogeneous mass of indistinguishable matter. This menacing object is the manifestation of a very subjective fear, that of losing or being denied one’s particularity.

The PinchukArtCentre remains an uneasy territory for the presentation of critical art. While its private sponsorship relieves it from the practice of state censorship on moral (or political) grounds, that same oligarchic patronage and institutional attitude perpetuate the elitist hierarchy that Maidan opposed. Kadan proposes an alternative discursive model—a personal museum that mixes objects from the past, present, and future, refusing traditional ordering systems, but without sacrificing distinction. The viewer is implicated in the installation, both physically and intellectually, invited to navigate his or her own position in relation to this complicated history (at once intimate and public), with the understanding that it is still being formed.

Larissa Babij