THE BIENNALE DI VENEZIA PRESENTS PIAZZA UCRAINA

An installation curated by Borys Filonenko, Lizaveta German, Maria Lanko (curators of the Ukrainian Pavilion). Made in the context of the Biennale Arte 2022 with the collaboration of the Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund (UEAF) and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.

The Venice Biennale presents Piazza Ukraine, curated by Borys Filonenko, Lizaveta German, Maria Lanko, curators of the Ukrainian Pavilion. Created in the context of the 59th International Art Exhibition, with the collaboration of the Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund (UEAF) and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Piazza Ukraine is an installation designed by the Ukrainian architect Dana Kosmina set up at the Esedra Space of the Giardini della Biennial.

The purpose of this project is to give a voice to the artists and the artistic community of Ukraine and other countries to express solidarity with the Ukrainian population in the aftermath of the brutal invasion by the Russian government and to create a space that can be a place for debate, dialogue and support for Ukrainian culture.

The President of the Biennale, Roberto Cicutto, declared: “From September to November 2020, the Venice Biennale presented the exhibition entitled The restless muses. The Venice Biennale faces history in the Central Pavilion at the Giardini, with the aim of highlighting the moments in which the events of history broke into the most important art exhibition in the world. Unfortunately, these were not isolated cases: the 59th Exhibition curated by Cecilia Alemani now faces Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The reaction of the Biennale following the outbreak of the conflict was immediate: our institution supported the artist and the curators by offering them the opportunity to present Pavlo Makov’s work, making us all witnesses of their experience. To reconfirm the collaboration between our institution and Ukrainian institutions, Cecilia Alemani and the curators of the Ukrainian Pavilion joined their efforts by designing Piazza Ukraine, a space dedicated to Ukrainian artists and their resistance to aggression. We hope that this initiative will contribute to raising awareness in the world against war and all its consequences. “

“In times of brutal wars like the one that Ukraine is currently experiencing – comments Cecilia Alemani, Curator of the 59th International Art Exhibition – it seems almost impossible to think about art. But perhaps what the long history of the Biennale has taught us is that this institution is capable of being a space for conversation, a square where dialogue can go on and where art can serve as a tool to question the very notion of national identity and politics. In its 127 years of existence La Biennale has recorded the tremors and revolutions of history like a seismograph. Our hope is to create with Ukraine Square a platform of solidarity for the Ukrainian population on the grounds of the Giardini, among the historical pavilions built on the ideological basis of the nation-state, shaped by the geopolitical dynamics and colonial expansions of the twentieth century. “

Piazza Ukraine is a place of solidarity with Ukraine born in the heart of the International Exhibition by the team of the Ukraine Pavilion, in concert and at the invitation of the Biennale and Cecilia Alemani. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which began in 2014, entered a critical phase of large-scale military invasion on February 24, 2022. Starting at five in the morning, after the first air strikes, the life of the entire European country is no longer been the same. The same fate befell every single citizen of Ukraine, including artists. Military service, volunteering, cultural diplomacy, storytelling in the form of a diary are just some of the social and private practices that currently keep Ukrainian artists engaged. Most of them have stopped working in the atelier, some still reconcile artistic activities with military and social life, while others continue to produce works of art almost daily. For the latter, constantly dedicating themselves to work helps to endure the ordeal of constant news updates and the harsh reality of the war that surrounds them. But it’s not just about that. A work, whether it be a drawing, a photograph, a comic or a short text, after being completed takes little time to spread publicly through social media. Once in the public domain, these works transform into something bigger. They become a proof, an artifact, a document of a state of mind. Probably these works have already been elevated to the rank of the most immediate and certainly undeniable documentation of an experience made of trauma, anger and also genuine courage. Users of the most popular social networks in Ukraine virtually gather around these works of art, exchanging opinions and creating new narratives. All together, the sequences of these artistic expressions create a sort of agora, a meeting place, a square.

The space of the Piazza, created by the artist and architect Dana Kosmina, embodies the balance between stability and fluidity. This place has a classic center and structure, despite being an ever-changing exhibition, in which the posters are stratified and the debate on the world emergency situation, before and after the conflict, is continuously highlighted. Ukraine Square is built around a monument covered with sandbags, a reference to the widespread practice in times of war in Ukrainian cities to protect public art from bombing.

The wartime art archive was compiled by the Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund (UEAF) team. The foundation aims to support artists and cultural workers throughout the conflict and into the future. It was founded by the NGO MOCA together with the independent journalistic editorial staff Zaborona, the art gallery The Naked Room and the Mystetskyi Arsenal cultural institute. The fund collects humanitarian aid, information on programs and opportunities offered by Ukrainian and foreign institutions in support of artists, curators, art managers, independent researchers and non-governmental cultural initiatives. To find out more and make a donation, visit https://ueaf.moca.org.ua.

Art in wartime is also a further answer to the three questions posed by Cecilia Alemani in the declaration of the exhibition The milk of dreams. Artists in Ukraine and Ukrainian artists outside the country are undergoing a human transformation. Together with this experience they have their own vision of the human body and its metamorphosis, of the relationship between human beings and technologies and between the human body and the Earth. Bodies that have been shaking for months together with the domestic and city walls. Technology kills and protects every day. Every day, the relationship between human beings and plants, animals, the earth and what is not human changes or strengthens, and all this is not a dream.

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