The opening of the 5th triennial of contemporary Ukrainian art «Ukrainian Cross-Section» took place in Kaunas! Under the slogan UKRAINE! UNMUTED the project will speak to a foreign audience through art and performance, dialogues and discussions, words and emotions, and thus — calls to put Ukraine in unmute mode!

Kaunas Central Post Office. Photo: Viacheslav Polyakov

«Ukrainian Cross-Section» started on November 4th in the 2022 European Capital of Culture — the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. Here, in the historical building of the Central Post Office of Kaunas, the Cultural Strategy Institute presented an exhibition of modern Ukrainian art, which is a topical cross-slice of what Ukrainian artists are experiencing, worrying, and working with today. The exhibition is located on two floors of the modernist building of the Post Office on the central pedestrian avenue Laisvės and presents a total of 17 art projects by 27 Ukrainian artists.

The starting point of the opening weekend was a performative event
With the help of the body and movement, in interaction with the space, material and with the audience, Vlodko Kaufman, Yuri Shtaida, Natalya Lisova, Yaryna Shumska and Volodymyr Topiy were “telling” stories about the path, about what Ukrainians are going through today, about the ability to resist and live on. In the performance, the artists explored the inner state of a person during the war — how Ukrainians live in a state of constant temporary displacement, how they continue to lead their lives, despite the internal numbness and the feeling of standing still for long months.

Started with a performative action, the project gathered about 300 spectators, and after the official opening ceremony opened the doors for exploring the triennial.

 «The Triennial is a space where you can listen, talk, reflect on the culture of Ukraine, its past and present, and see what Ukrainians think about themselves. I think we ourselves do not yet realize how much work we have done on ourselves and our current fears in this project and thanks to it. This is what our team embodied in parallel with the experience of the war and despite difficult emotions» — shares Lida Savchenko-Duda, the «Ukrainian Cross-Section» project manager.

Kaunas 2022 CEO Virginia Vitkine addressed the audience with the first welcoming speech. Than greetings from the Ministers of Culture of Lithuania and Ukraine were heard. Simonas Kairys, head of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, noted that the project UKRAINE! UNMUTED is important and relevant, because it reminds of a war that started a long time ago. In a video greeting, the head of MCIP Oleksandr Tkachenko reminded that «Ukrainian Cross-Section» has been presenting Ukrainian art to foreign audiences for more than 10 years and thanked Lithuanian partners for relaying the Ukrainian voice to the world today.

The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Lithuania Petro Beshta, member of the Lithuanian Seimas (Culture Committee) Vytautas Juozapaitis also shared their impressions of the exhibition. On behalf of the city of Lviv, Natalia Bunda, head of the development department of the Lviv City Council, greeted those present. She noted that art is one of the most powerful ways of speaking, and it helps to show the anxiety in which everyone in Ukraine lives now.

According to Khrystyna Boyko, director of ZMIN Foundation (the foundation supported triennial tjis year), such events as «Ukrainian Cross-Section» are an opportunity to tell who Ukrainians are widely and an opportunity to stimulate interest in Ukraine and Ukrainian culture from the outside, to get to know Ukraine.

Speeches by Lida Savchenko-Duda, curatorial remarks by Vlodko Kaufman and Serhiy Petlyuk added a touching note to the ceremony. “It is important when a nation speaks during a war”, the curators say. Since the day of the opening, the curators have already conducted several tours of the exhibition: for the official delegation of the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania, a tour in Ukrainian for Ukrainians who found refuge in Kaunas and in English for everyone, a press tour for the media.

So that, «Ukrainian Cross-Section» presents the artworks of Yana BACHYNSKA, Lia DOSTLIEVA and Andrii DOSTLIEV, Kostiantyn ZORKIN, Zhanna KADYROVA, Alevtina KAKHIDZE, Nikolay KARABINOVYCH, Myro KLOCHKO and Anatoliy TATARENKO, Sasha KURMAZ, Katya LIBKIND, Kateryna LYSOVENKO, Pavlo MAKOV, Sergiy PETLYUK, Viacheslav POLIAKOV, Andriy RACHINSKIY and Daniil REVKOVSKIY, FANTASTIC LITTLE SPLASH (Lera MALCHENKO and Oleksandr HANTS), Stanislav TURINA, Volodymyr KAUFMAN (project in cooperation with Maksym MAZUR, Serhiy SAVCHENKO, Yana KRYKUN, Sergiy RADKEVYCH, Natalka SHYMIN, Natalia LISOVA).

Exposition of «Ukrainian Cross-Section». Photo: G. Jovaiša

«Ukrainian Cross-Section» in Kaunas will last from November 4 to December 4, and during this month, in addition to the art exhibition, a discussion program and a presentation of a book of essays on Ukrainian culture are also planned. The publication will be published in three languages: Ukrainian, English and Lithuanian and is aimed to tell about the cultural context and background of Ukraine.

 «The text format is designed to further strengthen and reveal the topic of UKRAINE! UNMUTED — through essays, we strive to open Ukrainian culture to a non-Ukrainian audience, interest them, ruin stereotypes about it, explain phenomena and historical periods that are not obvious to a foreigner», — shares curator of discussion program and the book complier Oksana Forostyna.

The discussions will take place on November 10, 11, 24 and 26 and will be conducted in English. You can watch the broadcasts on the organizers’ Facebook pages: Cultural Strategy Institute, Kaunas 2022 and the partners of discussion part: International “Renaissance” Foundation, Ukrainian Institute, ZMIN Foundation and the UkraineWorld project.