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Ukraine Pavilion
Mark Titchner, “WE ARE UKRAINIANS. WHAT ELSE MATTERS?”, 2007, digital print on vinyl. © the artist. Courtesy Vilma Gold, London
What does it mean to be Ukrainian? Who are they? Where are they? He admits, however, that his participation in the pavilion is
These are the questions Peter Doroshenko, commissioner of Ukraine’s “slightly odd… people think I’m lying, and then they’ll say, ‘Oh, are you
national pavilion at this year’s Biennale and director of BALTIC Centre Ukrainian, then?’”
for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, aims to tease out. Taking his cue I ask Doroshenko whether this signifies, underneath it all, a
from Ukrainian film director Alexander Dovzhenko, who asks those dearth of artistic activity in Ukraine. “No, far from that. There are many
same questions in his own work, Doroshenko has organised a pavilion emerging, mid-career and senior artists making amazing work in
that includes work by foreign as well as resident Ukrainian artists. Ukraine, but I was interested in pushing the boring artworld boundaries
Artists Dzine, Juergen Teller, Sam Taylor-Wood and Mark Titchner of having national pavilions filled with artists for political reasons. Taking
explore what it is to be Ukrainian from the perspective of an outsider; some risks, thinking differently and working with a group of international
meanwhile, Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov shows images artists on some important questions could have its rewards” – the most
from his latest series, Shargorod (2007), a portrait of a town southwest important of which may well be improved relations between cultural
of Kiev; and artist duo Alexander Hnilitsky and Lesia Zaiats present centres in Ukraine and abroad.
videowork and paintings on the subject of memory and geography. Indeed the pavilion is underscored by twin themes of
“I was interested in how global forces foreclose some forms of globalisation and diaspora: on the one hand the relentless spread
cultural life and open up others. And to better understand what the of multinational corporations, and on the other, the scattering of
aims of culture in a globalised world are,” Doroshenko explains. Though peoples and cultures across the globe. Dzine, himself an example of
the foreign artists have no ostensible ties to Ukraine, their inclusion in this phenomenon of social and cultural fluidity (born in Puerto Rico
the pavilion is part of a more general assertion of Ukraine’s changing and currently living in the US), has created work on the subject of a
cultural identity, which, strangled for years under Soviet rule, is currently Ukrainian community in Chicago. And to further stress the pavilion’s
looking outwards to the world beyond its borders. commitment to questioning national identity but not be bound up by
ArtReview caught up with Titchner to discuss his two works issues of geographic specificity, several of the works will be exhibited
for the show, a large-scale banner and an eight-metre-tall mechanical outside of the pavilion’s Palazzo Papadopoli space. Dzine has, according
sculpture. He explained that while his work would normally feature to Doroshenko, “produced a useable boat to be placed in the canal”,
excerpts and sentences from found texts, this time the wording on while Titchner’s sculpture (a meditation on Yevgeny Vuchetich’s The
his banner would be penned by an artist’s collective in Kiev. “I wanted Motherland, 1967, a towering sculpture in Kiev commemorating the
to get a sense of what it is like to be an artist in Ukraine”, he says, Great Patriotic War) will be exhibited along the canal by the Rialto
emphasising that he didn’t want to “spend a day in Kiev and just be Bridge.
done with it”. Naysayers may well sneer at the initially incongruous list of
Still, one wonders whether the choice of foreign artists to exhibit artists chosen to exhibit. But if the rate of globalisation increases at its
at the pavilion was a source of resentment among those in the collective. current pace, it is tempting to wonder whether, in future, the nationalistic
But their reaction, says Titchner, was positive, and is reflected in the premise for the Biennale’s pavilions will continue to have any real
banner’s defiant slogan, which reads, in both Ukrainian and English: value at all.
‘We are Ukrainians. What else matters?’
p109-126 Venice AR Jun07.indd 123 11/5/07 00:28:49
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