{ resilience }

 

“Art is our gun,” says curator Lyana Mytsko[1]. To the great surprise of the Russian president and the international community, Ukraine perseveres, two years after the large-scale Russian invasion started. As with any war, there is mostly attention for death and destruction. Nonetheless, war is also a matter of life and creation.[2] With spirit and creativity, the Ukrainian people prove that they can stand up against a seemingly more powerful army. Art and culture are essential for their survival, as it helps to feel human, even under the most miserable circumstances. The crucial value of art becomes evident in times of crisis.
As opposed to ‘normal’ circumstances, in disaster circumstances urban changes are rapid, unpredictable, and difficult to control. Artists are operating in an imagined and ever-changing world and their role changes. Throughout this documentary research, I have identified different levels of the role of art and of artist’s engagements during war:

1) Army first: artist become soldiers in the army, do volunteer work to support the army, or use artists’ skills to support the army[3]
2) Heritage and culture preservation,[4-5] self-chosen methods of documentation[6]
3) Art as a weapon: fighting propaganda and creating awareness[7-8]
4) Ways of coping: (collective) healing through art[9]
5) Building a future: creation from destruction[10]. Building and designing proposals for (post-war) reconstruction[11]; teaching

My aim is that through the cinematic narrative and the use of film as a research method, I open up the possibilities for a new reading of the role of art in times of war, beyond the existing interpretation, a new understanding of how the seemingly simple fact of carrying on, despite everything, is a powerful act of resistance in itself.

 

[1] Mytsko, L. (2022, August 8). Personal interview through film, Lviv, Ukraine. Lyana Mytsko is the director of Lviv Municipal Arts Center, which is taking in displaced people. One of the people out of the Ukrainian artscene that were filmed and interviewed, on location.

[2] Yermolenko, V. (2022, August 10). Personal interview through film, Kyiv, Ukraine. Volodymyr Yermolenko is a Ukrainian Philosopher and Writer.

[3] Volunteer work is carried out abroad, such as in Amsterdam, as well as in the Ukraine itself. An example is the graffiti group ETC in Kyiv, that uses their graffiti skills to camouflage cars and send them to the frontline.

[4] Bevan, R. (2006). The destruction of Memory: Architecture at war. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 7-60.

[5] Mackic, A., Te Verde, R. (2016). Mortal cities, Forgotten Monuments. Zurich: Park Books AG.

[6] Kadygrob, V. (2022, August 9). Personal interview through film, Kyiv, Ukraine. Volodymyr Kadygrob is an art collector, curator and professor.

[7] Vellenga, F. (2018, June 6). Personal interview. Frank Vellenga and Johan van der Keuken went to Sarajevo to document the human side of the war. In their film, ‘Sarajevo Film festival’, they underline the relevance of film to survive a war, as it gives you the ability to move to another world.

[8] Stamkou, Eftychia and Keltner, Dacher, Aesthetic Revolution: Art as Culture and Catalyst for Social Change (August 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3578575

[9] Filatov, T. (2022, August 10). Personal interview through film, Kyiv, Ukraine. Theodor Filatov is part of the ETC graffiti group, and illustrates the therapeutic function of art during war.

[10] Woods, L. (1997). “Walls.” Radical Reconstruction. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1997. Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012) was an American architect and artist, widely knows as a creator of visionary architecture, who devoted much of his work to exploring the role of design in situations of crisis, among them the city of Sarajevo, which he visited during the siege.

[11] Sharapa, V. (2022, August 11). Personal interview through film, Borodyanka, Ukraine. Vlad Sharapa is a curator and artist, part of the art collective Lviv Berej, that helps rebuild destroyed houses.

 

Ravenna Westerhout