Text by Oksana Kyzyma, Press Secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy in London
Edited by Darya Malyutina, PhD, a human geographer
The Passion For Freedom exhibition speaks sincerely and provocatively about freedom. More importantly, it also does so with passion and profundity.
In the heart of London, between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, the Mall Galleries brought together contemporary artists, sculptors and filmmakers – artists from all walks of life sharing principled views on events and developments happening in different parts of the world. It is the seventh London festival, and its name speaks for itself – the Passion For Freedom.
The Passion For Freedom exhibition speaks sincerely and provocatively about freedom.
For the first time in its history, Ukrainian artists-cum-activists participated in the competition. Ukraine, which for the last two years has been facing the aggression of a neighbouring state, marked its debut at the Passion For Freedom Art Festival with four presented artworks and two awards.
The Festival promotes the very idea behind most of contemporary art: it stands for freedom. The artworks gathered from all over the world tell the stories of freedom of expression, human rights, and gender equality. In their own artistic way, they tell the stories of countries where freedom is under threat.
Russia’s aggression as brutal rape
With eight thousand killed, and many more injured and displaced, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Ukrainian story at the festival reflects the Russian aggression against the country.
It feels like the canvas is bleeding when you walk closely to the “The Kerch Bridge” artwork by Natalia Formosa. Here, you can track both the annexation of Crimea and the hybrid war in Donbas. Formosa says that, as a woman, she feels almost physical pain watching what’s happening in her Motherland. The Russian aggression is regarded by her as a brutal rape.
Freedom cannot be jailed
The sculpture by Dmitri Iv depicts a female body made out of welding more than 4,000 steel chains, floating or writhing in mid-air, defying gravity. She’s almost free, but at the same time immobile, attached to the ground by two chains tied to her hands. The art object tells the story of the Need for Freedom.
The next artwork is inspired by the plight of Nadiya Savchenko. The Ukrainian pilot was kidnapped by Russian-backed militants and arrested on trumped-up charges, having been jailed in Russia since July 2014. The canvas depicting the story of the brave woman deprived of freedom by the Kremlin brings out a spirit in her eyes which reminds of the words Savchenko said one day in a Moscow prison: “It’s me who has the most freedom here, despite being in this cage”.
Accordingly, the artwork by Olga Brown is entitled “Nadiya Savchenko. Putin’s Hostage”, and symbolises the Hope (which is a Ukraininan translation of “Nadiya”) of Ukrainians, stressing the heroine’s brave heart and Ukrainian spirit.
Art is stronger than arms
The fight for the freedom depicted in the documentary “Stronger Than Arms” by Babylon’13 shows the evolution of Ukrainian reality. Marko Suprun, producer of Babylon’13, urged film producers, artists, writers and journalists to keep on telling their stories to the international audiences, in order to help stop the assault on freedom that the world has been seeing recently in Ukraine and other places.
This successful debut at the largest London freedom festival brought two awards to my country: “The Need For Freedom” artwork by Dmitri Iv won the Passion For Freedom 2015 Silver Award, and “Stronger Than Arms” documentary by Babylon’13 won the Passion For Freedom 2015 Bronze Award (Film Section).
Ukraine’s fight for freedom proves that art can make a better and more passionate storyteller than either media or politicians often manage to be.
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