Interview with Anna Zvyagintseva, Nikita Kadan and Mykola Ridnyi

Ukraine at the 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale


Author: Kinga Lendeczki
Published on: 18.07.2015

Ukraine is represented at the 56th Venice Biennale by the group exhibition Hope! showing works of young generation of Ukrainian artists: Yevgenia Belorusets, Nikita Kadan, Zhanna Kadyrova, Mykola Ridnyi & Serhiy Zhadan, Artem Volokitin, Anna Zvyagintseva and Open Group. The exhibition gives voice to personal hopes as well as critical opinion and reflections of artists on the present situation and future perspectives of Ukraine.

Kinga Lendeczki Before we start to talk about your participation at the Venice Biennale and the exhibition and its preparation, I would like to ask you to talk about those stages of your career, which you would regard as most important ones.

Anna Zvyagintseva I would mention one exhibition, which is strongly connected to my work The Cage, which is on view now in Venice. It was the exhibition Court Experimentorganized by curatorial union Hudrada. The project was realized in 2010 and I participated in it as a curator as well as an artist. Two members of Hudrada (Yevgenia Belorusets and Oleksandr Wolodarsky) and an ex-member of the group – Andriy Mochan, were prosecuted because of their protest actions. This show was our response to that prosecution. We tried to draw attention of the society on the problems of the corrupted judicial system in Ukraine.I would also mention my two solo shows. My first solo show entitled “Trusting movement” was summarizing what I am interested in as an artist. The second one “The radio behind the wall” was organized in January this year and it was an attempt to reflect on Maidan and on the war, which is going on in Ukraine.

N.K. For me those stages were the funding of R.E.P. collective in 2004, which still exists and I am a member of it and forming of Hudrada in 2008. Hudrada is publicly active since 2009 and we realized several projects together since that time. These exhibitions, such as the Court Experiment or the Labour Show, are part of our curatorial activity in which we started to create certain environments for ourselves. For a few years I was active member of artistic groups, but since 2009 I started to focus on realization of certain works, which I consider important for my practice, like Procedure roomSmall house of giants or Babooshka. Ensuring mausoleum. From my previous exhibitions I would regard important the travelling exhibition The Desire for Freedom. Art in Europe Since 1945 organized by Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, RENDEZ-VOUS 13 in Musée d’art contemporain Lyon, The Ukrainians* in Daadgalerie in 2014 and from this year the Lest The Two Seas Meet in Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw and the exhibition Europe. The Future of History, which recently opened in Kunsthaus Zürich. In autumn I will exhibit at 14th Istanbul Biennial curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.

Anna Zvyagintseva: The Cage, 2010. in Hope!, Pavilion of Ukraine, 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2015
Anna Zvyagintseva: The Cage, 2010. in Hope!, Pavilion of Ukraine, 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2015


K.L. At the 55th Venice Biennale you were one of the artists who participated in the exhibition Monument to a Monument, which was presented in the Ukrainian Pavilion. How does it feel like to represent your country for the second time in Venice?

Mykola Ridnyi Unfortunately the idea of the world without nations and borders seems to be more and more utopian in a context of recent changes in the world. In today’s Ukraine the idea of national state belongs to self-identification as a historical victim of Russian imperialism. But I do not appreciate romantic attitude to the idea of liberating nationalism because ongoing war as any war is not romantic. It doesn’t liberate civilians who live on lines of fire and who are similarly afraid of Russian artillery as of Ukrainian one. That is why the national representation of art is very problematic for me and being particularly in Ukrainian pavilion for second time is a big challenge which I accept to reflect on and criticize situation in and around my country with my works. The characters of the works which I presented in 2013 and which I present now are very different. In the case of “Monument to a Monument” I was talking about social and political tendencies which were not really discussed by the Ukrainian society, but which were very visible and problematic for me. One of the works the “Monument / Platforms” from 2011 was touching the issue of a demolition of a Soviet heritage in public space while the other one “Shelter” from 2013 was related to the topic of military education and conditions of bombproof shelters. Today it is visible that these issues have been grown from rare stories into problematic waves and they became anxiety points of public discussions. In a way before works were faster than reality, but today life is definitely faster than any kind of art. Mass media is extremely fast, especially with reports from the “hot spots”, and it is actually a big problem. The comprehension of the last events is missing. My aim connecting to the works which I present this year is not just to fix or focus on some problems, but also to try to open new layers of understanding and new levels of discussion.

K.L. In February was announced that the Pinchuk Art Centre would organize the exhibition at the Ukrainian national pavilion. What was the reaction of the local contemporary art scene?

M.R. I would rather like to answer from my individual point of view, because contemporary art scene in Ukraine is very segregated and doesn’t have one common voice or point of view. The organization of the show in the national pavilion is a state’s responsibility. In case of Ukraine responsibility is a shaky concept. Being more precise the pavilion depends on Ministry of Culture and on the policy of this institution. After the revolution of Maidan new people became part of the team of the Ministry, who had experiences in working in the field of contemporary art.