Two years have passed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Those defending against continued aggression, displaced from their homes and previous lives, deal with daily, compounded loss. Artists, reflecting on the trauma, tackle the questions that aim to make sense of life when everything is affected by death.
is a Basel-based cultural critic and curator from Kyiv, Ukraine. She is a co-curator of a multidisciplinary cultural festival CULTURESCAPES (Basel, Switzerland) and an editor of festival readers. She was a director of the Center for Contemporary Art (SCM) in Kyiv and an editor-in-chief of a cultural online magazine KORYDOR. She is a consultant for various EU programs and institutions on cultural relations and cultural mediation. As a cultural critic and essayist she contributes to numerous media. She is a member of PEN-Ukraine.
Well-intentioned appeals from the collective West to encourage cultural dialogue between victim and aggressor reflect existing power structures. Reconciliation, Kateryna Botanova explains, cannot be imposed from outside.
The idea that the purpose of culture is reconciliation confronts Ukrainian cultural activists with a dilemma: how to preserve one’s dignity while keeping the attention of western institutions?
The Ukrainian art that was destroyed – and the art that never happened
Ukrainian artists are struggling to invent a new language to express their experience of the war, one that goes beyond tropes and commonplaces. Some of them frantically document, others reflect in hurried sketches while on the run with their kids. Many artists don’t create at all – they are on the frontlines.
Ukrainian art since Maidan
Maidan set art free from the fight for the political agenda, since everything has become a part of the political agenda. On the other hand, the rapidly accelerating political and geopolitical changes brought several challenges for artists.
There is little hope for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia during the World Cup. However, Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike will not have been in vain if it causes people to question the platitude that ‘sport is above politics’.
Cultural policies two years after Maidan
The Maidan protests have given Ukraine a chance to stop and look at its future, and plan it the way she wanted to, writes Kateryna Botanova. Now it’s becoming apparent how to make the revolutionary shift from continual fighting, distrust and questioning of legitimacy to mutual support, collaboration and growth.