The Ukrainian Pavilion: An Honor of Artists, not the State
It should be said at the beginning: this time Ukrainian curators were able to chose the most deserving artists to represent the Ukrainian at its national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Nikolay Ridniy, Geanna Kadyrov and Hamlet Zinkovskyi belong to the young generation of politically engaged artist and Ridney and Kadyrov are active as left-wing artists in opposition to the system of cultural administration of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture.
The data about Ukraine in this Guide, informs us about the current economical, political and ideological situation in the country. The Ukraine is split up into several ideological camps led by right-wing nationalists and it has enormous World Bank Credit, a system of paralyzing post-Soviet bureaucracy, institutionalized corruption, absence of state education in the sphere of contemporary art, and so on. The ruling coalition led by pro-Russian president Yanukovich is in opposition to the pro-European political forces, who aim for a European Union membership in the near future. The idea of Euro integration is not new for Ukrainians; especially keeping in mind the last revolutionary protests that took place in the capital square of the country, Maydan, in November 2013.
Each year the Ukrainian pavilion has to cope with the organizational failure of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture. Instead of providing the finances and necessary facilities for the production process the artists face incidents of the Ministry’s censorship, rude interventions in the curatorial program, a lack of finances for the production of art works and the exhibition, damaged transportations, absence of technical support, unpaid artists and editors etc. The representing artists mentioned above admit they do not feel anything except of shame taking part in such a state organization. On top of bad organization, there is always a looming threat the pavilion can be cancelled by the state because of one government’s preferences.
The final confirmation of Ukraine’s participation to the Biennale by the Commissar of the pavilion Victor Sydorenko came just two months before the official opening. However, the space in the Palazzo Loredan was not suitable for exhibiting Ridniy’s and Kadyrov’s concrete and granite sculpture; funding for preliminary site visits was not provided for the artists nor for the curators of the pavilion; three of the four sculptures of Ridniy arrived broken the day before the opening, and the payment of the fees for the artists was not presupposed to actually be paid. Almost all preparations and installations had to be managed and financed by the artists in the couple of days before the opening without the help of paid assistants. It is only because of the generous support of close friends of the artists and solidarity networks such as the artist-activist network REP that the exhibition was actually able to open.
Meanwhile, six well paid representatives of the Ministry with official government salaries and per diems came to visit the Biennale. The mission of these officials of a Ministry of Culture that refused to take part in the production and finance of the pavilion remains a mystery. The pavilion should not be regarded in honor of our country,
The fact that during the entire time leading up to the Biennale, not one of the participants could sign any official agreement with the government, makes all talk about the works of art in itself useless and de-politicized. In today’s post-Fordist times of wide-spread precarious and unprotected labor taking place outside of any legislation, we have to politicize aesthetics rather than aestheticize politics. We need to recognize the pavilion of Ukraine as an expose of artists struggling against the state. Is it not here that we find its true representational character?Liza Babenko