23 November 2017, 13:00
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1 Exchange Square, London EC2A 2JN
The event will be in English.
The annexation of Crimea and the war in the east of Ukraine have engendered an intense debate about whether the country’s public spaces should be purged of all remnants of Soviet monumental propaganda. In 2015 the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation banning these monuments as symbols of the obsolete Soviet regime. From an original population of 5500 in 1991, today not a single Lenin statue remains standing in Ukraine. The government-supported policies of “decommunization” have come under criticism from historians and cultural activists for failing to protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage, who argued for an approached informed by considerations of conservation. Though the content of Soviet art was meticulously controlled by state propaganda, Ukrainian artists managed to develop a visual language that transcends the Socialist Realist canon. Today these works serve as historical testimony, and show a new important page in the 20th-century art history. The event will analyse Ukraine’s parting with the Soviet aesthetics and symbols from the point of view of cultural history.
“Decommunized: Ukrainian Soviet Mosaics,” a freshly-published book of Soviet mosaics photographed around Ukraine, will be unveiled during this event. The book presents the first comprehensive study of Soviet monumental mosaics, outstanding artefacts of the cultural heritage of the era. Photographer Yevgen Nikiforovspent three years traveling all around Ukraine (including the presently occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts) in search of the most interesting art pieces of the 1950s–1980s within the context of Soviet Modernism. He covered 35,000 km of Ukrainian roads and visited 109 cities and villages to discover more than 1,000 surviving mosaics. The book includes around 200 unique photographs of monumental panels: officially sanctioned gigantic images of workers, farmers, astronauts and athletes of coloured smalto or ceramics illustrate Soviet life as it was meant to be represented. Some of the pieces featured here were demolished shortly after the photographs were taken: they fell afoul of the so-called decommunization laws that ban communist symbols and slogans.
Dana Pavlychko is the Director of Kyiv-based Osnovy Publishing (http://osnovypublishing.com/eng/). Osnovy has been Ukraine’s most important academic publishing house since 1992. Today Osnovy’s catalogue contains over three hundred titles. The publishing house is actively developing a new direction – books with unique content and design, conceived and created by Ukrainian authors, designers and illustrators. One of the first projects was an English language guide Awesome Ukraine featuring interesting facts about Ukraine, equally fun for foreign visitors and Ukrainians themselves.
This event is organised in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Ukrainian Institute in London.