Art of survival



Ravenna Westerhout

In this paralyzed state of being, I started to think about what I could do, how I could contribute, and what my role could be. For my graduation project, I made a film about the bobsleigh track in Sarajevo, part of a bigger research project about the siege from 1992 – 1996. Part of this research was about the role of artists in times of war, and the importance of art. I decided to use my knowledge to continue this research in Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine aims to destroy and deny the independent Ukrainian cultural identity, history, language, and heritage in all its forms. It can rightfully be called a cultural genocide. Therefore, it is crucial to support the Ukrainian cultural sector. When it was safe (enough) to go, I went to Ukraine to document the role of art in the Ukrainian war – a project I call the art of survival.

War itself cannot be considered directly a creative force. However, the tragic external forces on a besieged city stimulate a specific human reaction that leads to the creation of new spaces and new ways of living. The Art of Survival is a multifaceted study through film, documenting the role of art and artists in times of war. Media, and especially film, have a big role in how we perceive our (indirect) environment. Media creates a specifically urban consciousness: they provide images of cities that are primarily mental constructions rather than real places.[1] These images relate to how the outside world looks into a war reality. Instead of following the scenes of carnage that the leading media so often show, this study follows the alternative scenes of people and artists in times of war through two case studies: the war in Ukraine and the siege of Sarajevo[2].


[1] Paalman, F. (2011). Cinematic Rotterdam. Rotterdam: 010, 15.

[2] Pilav, A. (2015). Collective documenting of extreme urban transformations: evidence of Urban Resilience during the war in Sarajevo (1992-1996). Sheffield: The University of Sheffield. Armina Pilav is a Bosnian architect and artist who researched methods and Practices of Architects during the War destruction of the City. She is relying on the analysis of the materiality of the destroyed city from her research archive and interviews with Bosnian architects.