IT'S THEIR JOB TO PULL THE SUN ACROSS THE SKY
Kerch, the Crimean city where Maria Kulikovska was born, was established more than 2600 years ago as the crossroad for many cultures. This Greek city, known then as Pantikapaion, was the capital of the Bosporus Kingdom, which controlled trade lines between Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century AD . In the Pantikapaion, a brilliant Ionian temple was built in the acropolis, dedicated to the Apollo Iatros (Apollo The Healer)
. Although the origins of Apollo's cult are uncertain, it is certain that Apollo was not originally a Greek but rather an Eastern god . Even in Homer's Iliad
, Apollo didn't protect the Greeks, fighting for the Trojans. Also, it's an interesting case that Apollo was attributed as a healer in Pantikapaion, as in metropolitan cities the god was known as the deity on a chariot, who draws the sun from the East to the West across the sky, and as the patron of the Muses. The god's dual nature is evident in the Greeks' conviction that he held sway over both human life and death.
Nowadays Kerch is a port and industrial city, where regular life is determined by the functioning of factories. Since the 1990s the industrial resources of the city have faced stagnation; the situation got worse after the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014 . At the same time, the ruins of the temple of Apollo on the mountain Mithridate remain visible (alongside the Soviet Stella, erected after the end of the Second World War), as the mountain has kept its Greek name through thousands of years. The cultural identity of the South Crimea region has always been connected with ancient heritage and Hellenistic pride.
Maria Kulikovska enrolled at the National Art Academy in Kyiv in 2007, being a resident of Crimea. Even though the world evidenced the Russian occupation of Georgia's Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in 2008, the possibility that Crimea could be annexed by the Russian Federation seemed then unimaginable. For the students of the art academy in Kyiv, Crimea was a favorite summer playground, where they spent weeks of plain airs by the sea. The real situation on the peninsula, thus, was far from an idyllic picture. Crimea was never a tourist paradise, but a Soviet military base and was distinguished by shipbuilding. Crossing Ukrainian borders without any restrictions, the Russian businessmen and politicians were buying huge parts of the land in Crimea, joining the other Russian families, who took the territories after the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by Joseph Stalin in 1944. The Russian Black Sea Fleet was based in Sevastopol. The conflict was already there.
While studying in Kyiv, Maria started her pivotal art projects, researching her own body and its original desires. The 2010 year in Maria's practice happened to be a time when she posed foundational questions which led to the research of her identity, gender, and norms, imposed on her freedom to dispose of her own corporeality. The artist implemented this research work through sculpture. The very first mold that Maria took from her body, was cast in 2010 in the basement of the National Academy of Arts in Kyiv. It was titled My Second Xena I
. The name of this artwork is related to the first name, which Maria received from her mother at the time of birth, – Xena. Since the production of the first cast, Maria has used a technique of molding, traditional for portrait sculpture of all times. But the performative way in which she applies this technique rejects any attempt at the idealization of the female body. An intention to produce a perfect image is an integral component of the classic sculpture. The male professors in the Academy demanded exactly the 'classic' way of seeing the body. But Maria's figures are free from the obligation to conform to anyone's ideas about female beauty. They are not a product of male fantasy, nor do they obey the architect's order to carry the load in the structure, or to fulfill any other mission as, for example, the Caryatids, regarded by traditional sculptors for harmonious examples of the female physique. But the Caryatides, according to Vitruvius, were the women, condemned to slavery. Their eternal punishment was to hold the roof of the acropolis after the region of Carya broke the deal with Athens .
Maria's research also partly derives from the motto "My body is a temple", which was a headline for cultural attempts of second-wave feminism (the 1960s-1970s) to resurrect the Goddess and celebrate female biology . While producing Xena
, Maria made multiple molds of her vulva. The artist arranged these tender sculptures into a monumental arch-shaped installation Pysanky
at an exhibition "Dreams of the Future" at the Modern Art Research Institute. The visitors should have entered the hall through this symbolic door, the beginning of everything, as Ukrainian Pysanka
symbolizes the resurrection and new birth. During the Soviet regime, statements with the agenda as of Niki De Saint Phalle's She
— A Cathedral,
Judi Chicago's Dinner Party
, 1974-78, were absolutely unthinkable, and even an idea to talk through the feminist discourse in any similar manner would be immediately punished. The 1990-s in Ukraine were the era of freedom, psychedelics, and sex, but also exclusively male party: most of the radical artworks were done by men. Therefore, Maria's Pysanky
was the direct and effective form of presence, highly necessary at that time. This was one of the first statements, intended to interfold the huge gap of the absence of female subjectivity in Ukrainian art. The installation provoked a wave of mockery and lamentation in the media. This argument later led the artist to launch the project Flowers of Democracy,
2015, with the same imagery.
Following her plaster installation Army of Clones
, presented at the Izolyatsia's Platform for Cultural Initiatives' exhibition Gender
2012 in Donetsk, Maria made there a project Homo Bulla.
Together with the team of Izolyatsia, the artist produced three copies of herself cast from soap. The technique of soap boiling grasped Maria's attention, as the detergent, originally prepared from animal fat and alkali, is intimately related to the flesh and body from the process of manufacturing till the stage when the soap bricket vanishes on the skin. The title Homo Bulla
was given by a curator Olena Chervonik, emphasizing the fragile state of the project and of the human condition. Maria installed the sculptures in several zones of the former factory and let the figures not only be open for any gaze, empowered by the potency of the naked body but be affected by the forces of nature — the rain, the wind, the sun. The right to own and postulate her femininity is only the first layer in the artistic process of unfolding the body through the sculpture, peeling the layers of gender norms and social boundaries. And this is only the first stage of the critical inquiry into patriarchal institutions.
The artist's impression from the first explicit contact with the Western structures of hierarchy and capital was marked by the installation Sweet / Swiss Life,
made during Maria's summer residency in AKKU, Uster in 2012. The dream of the sweet European life is a comforting fairy-tale, in which equality and collaboration seem to be the basis of the beautiful world. To discover that welfare and peace come from colonial wealth, strict patriarchal rules, and isolation toward otherness mean losing a big deal of naivety at once. The artist critically extracted the very substance of the Swiss well-being for her final work, showing it as a combination of milk and sugar. The pile of 700 caramelized milk bricks looked as tempting as white chocolate through the glass of the transparent AKKU container gallery. But this structure was destined for monotonous decay, without producing any new life with its huge potential energy.
A reference to this work was a project Soma – Body without Gender,
made by Maria in collaboration with her mother for the Pinchuk Art Prize 2013 in Kyiv. Coming back home from travels, the artist questioned the type of family relations that shaped her identity. The installation of the salt pillars, symbolizing the strict patriarchal hierarchy, was falling apart and breaking down, silently performing what Maria has positioned as a demand for horizontal restructuring of the society and elimination of any kind of vertical power relations. Inviting her mother to collaborate on this topic, Maria also touched on the Oedipal line in family structure, which is lived out by every child of 3-5 years, manifesting their impulses of bi-homo- or hetero-sexual desire towards the parents and thus shaping their identity . Usually, dealing with this stage scares adults so much (as they have to consider the existence of the children's sexuality) that they choose to see children as creatures without gender. Or to react according to the notion of what for centuries has been considered to be ''normally boyish" or "normally girl-ish". But can we ever think of a figure of a child differently, without conscripting the existence of children to the constant reproduction of social norms? Jules Gill-Peterson, arguing for the identity of queer and trans children, suggests admitting that in contemporary society children –
as a set of ideas –
serve the purpose of making the future the same as the past
. And it will be fair enough to say that in traditional post-Soviet families the child, as a notion, was understood as someone, who will reproduce the scale of the world with the same ideas about the hierarchy, sex, family, race, the economy, etc. But do we ever question why a child, thrown into a hostile world that they didn't choose, is obliged to reproduce the dysfunctional rules? Why must a child, born biologically female, live their life the same as a woman in a totalitarian state did? This kind of relationship, interplayed on the territory of art by Maria and her mother, formed a landscape of continual breakdown.
While Maria was working on a private, intimate level, similar processes were unwrapped in Ukraine on a national scale. The contrast between the life of diverse and progressive Ukrainian society and the rigid imperial rules, imposed by the corrupted pro-Russian regime of Viktor Yanukovich resulted in a Revolution of Dignity, bursting all around Ukraine from November 2013 to February 2014. Symbolically, the protest was started by the disobedient children. The first pickets were initiated by the students in Kyiv. The activists demanded to guarantee the European future for Ukraine. And this became the main call of hundreds of thousands of people, who stood up for the students, violently attacked by the Yanukovich police. Thus, the small pro-European demonstration turned into a powerful tornado for justice.
On the 8 of December 2013, Maria Kulikovska was filming the final performative part of Soma – Body without Gender
. Operating with a heavy hammer, the artist demolished the remains of the salt pillars in the exhibition hall of the Pinchuk Art Centre. Her anger and emergency call for a different society sublimated in the destruction of the backbone of this hierarchical construction. By that time the salt became solid like a rock. On the same day, furious protesters gathered to overturn a granite monument of Vladimir Lenin on Taras Shevchenko Boulevard. This was the collective call to end the fake reminiscences of the Soviet Union, and to realize that the USSR was a tyranny that terrorized its own citizens. The monument was situated a few hundred meters from Pinchuk Art Centre. When Maria left the exhibition space, she was carrying the equipment from the performance. As the artist approached the crowd surrounding the monument, somebody asked her if she had a hammer to help with the demolition of Lenin's figure. Of course, she had. This, and the following coincidences that happen throughout Maria's practice are not occasional. The strings, stretched between ideas, people, and communities, between struggle and historical decisions, pierce her work and become visible in many significant points.
Searching for the experience and the knowledge that could amplify her will for change, Maria started to spend more time in Europe. In 2013, during the residency RutaRuna she met Syrian-Swedish artist Jaqueline Shabo, who became her partner in artistic research and social experiments. On the one hand, Maria, aiming through her practices towards the ideal social aesthetics and justice, was dazzled by the organizational solutions of the Swedish democracy: actual gender equality, LGBTQ+ people rights celebration, the freedom of speech and choice. On the other hand, this society turned out to be a closed system with a set of prejudices, leading to a special policy towards foreigners, in particular Ukrainian citizens. Before 2017 receiving a long-term visa to the Western
countries (and here I mean all the connotations that usually prevent authors from using the term Western
) for a young, single woman with Ukrainian citizenship was an endeavor that often ended with a denied access to the EU. The reason was never spoken officially but rumored by the embassies and consulates in Kyiv as a spectrum of undesirable actions that this woman might do — from sexual work to a marriage of convenience that will finally give her a right to become an EU citizen.
This split between encouraging the development of the diverse potential of the EU citizens and treating the Ukrainian women as subjects who are merely aiming to sell their bodies was shocking. Maria and Jaсqueline decided to challenge this system and mock all the gender stereotypes of the immigration services, playing by their own rules. In January 2014 Maria Kulikovska and Jacqueline Shabo announced their wedding in Malmö. The artist's same-sex marriage was performed as a long-term action Body and Borders
. The wedding ceremony was held by Christina Meehan Lång, Ordained minister of the Church of Sweden, and former owner of Lång gallery, who was excited to take part in an ongoing project. This celebration of the women's bodies, emancipating from pressure and stereotypes through sisterhood and mutual care had to turn into a struggle with the obstacles so fierce that no artistic imagination could predict. If the marriage is a kind of final chapter in a stormy battle for love or a temporary haven where partners can concentrate on their relationships (in Maria's and Jacquelin's case — to work on the relations as an artistic project), this marriage was anything, but a haven. The legal partnership of Maria and Jacqueline was a step into a battlefield, where some of the most dreadful contemporary structures of power and control tried to lay claims over Maria's body and any opportunity of the happy-ever-after of this international union. The difference between me and the tree is that you can shoot me and kill but the tree will live long with the bullet in its heart
Taras Melnychuk (1939-1995), from the book of poems Prince of Dew,
After the efforts to stop the resistance of the Ukrainian people's bloodshed, which took away the lives of 107 activists , Viktor Yanukovitch capitulated. On February 24, 2014, he resigned and was extracted from Ukraine by his patrons to the Russian city Rostov-on-Don. A few days earlier the Russian Federation started an armed operation to occupy Crimea –
while Yanukovich was still president. The Russian troops, wearing no identification signs, blocked the main Crimean governmental institutions. The representatives of international organizations and journalists were swiftly deported from the peninsula or imprisoned. By 16 March 2014, the invasion resulted in a fake referendum, guarded by the military, that led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia. As the most cohesive group, who resisted Russian occupation, Crimean Tatars were targeted first. Russian military hunted and tortured the leaders of democratic organizations of Crimean Tatars. Following the annexation of Crimea, in April 2014 Russian soldiers invaded the territory of the Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The military leaders organized battalions of proxies, who forced the forming of the Russian exclaves on Ukrainian territory –
the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk republics. Ukraine has been defending its integrity. The war has begun.
On 9th June 2014, the armed Russian proxies raided the territory of the Izolyatsia Platform for Cultural Initiatives in Donetsk. They destroyed the archives of Izolyatsia, robbed the funds and the offices, and damaged the artworks from storage . The leaders of the gang claimed that the former factory was a strategic object. Luba Mikhailova, the founder of Izolyatsia, is certain that the raid was not tactical, but ideological . Everything connected with contemporary art and progressive values scare the occupants. The continuous destruction of Ukrainian museums and cultural objects by Russian missile attacks and numerous cases of marauding in 2022 proves how Mikhailova was right. One of the aggressor's priorities is to humiliate –
not just damage –
the spaces that produce values or preserve the memory. Izolyatsia was turned by Russian proxies into a torture room and illegal prison, that cannot be tracked by official organizations. Including the day this text is issued, there, the militias of the so-called Donetsk republic are capturing and torturing people, who resist the occupation. Entering Izolyatsia, the proxies shot away and violently destroyed Maria Kulikovska's figures: the Army of Clones
and the Homo Bulla
. The sculptures were declared 'degenerative' for portraying the real naked female body. Nothing, but pieces were left from the artworks.
Throughout human history, a massacre of the innocent is an omen of the dictatorship establishing itself. The radical power is manifested in bloodthirsty domination over everything that seems to be defenseless, fragile, or feminine. The biblical story of Herod, who ordered the slaughter of all the babies of Bethlehem, served European culture to describe the incredible cruelty of the war. Fra Angelico, Rubens, and Bruegel reflected on the darkest periods of the wars distancing themselves through this narrative. One of the canonical Christian sermons describes how mothers in Bethlehem are trying to protect the bodies of the children, who cannot stand up for themselves. As the soldiers attempt to get the babies with their swords, mothers offer such powerful resistance that the children are torn to pieces. When the little children have eventually all been killed, their mothers gather their limbs and kiss them in utter dismay, crying out loud .
Dmytro, a friend of Maria Kulikovska, had been captured by the pro-Russian armed men and was kept in the Izolyatsia basement in inhumane conditions for several months. He was forced to clean the yard from the blood and flesh of people, who were tortured there. One day he found a limb from Maria's destroyed soap sculpture. It was a small part of a foot, which he decided to keep secret. Dmytro was certain that it had been a sign of good luck. The following night his captors got drunk and blacked out. Dmytro managed to escape. This story was commemorated by the artist, as Maria has made a series of sculptures and performances where she moans over the casts of her limbs –
hands, feet, breasts, being gathered after a slaughter.
In 2014 a 4-kilometer buffer zone was established between the occupied Crimea and Ukraine, with block posts on both sides. Those who wanted to visit their homeland had to cross the Russian border and pass the interrogation with the inspection. After the series of protest performances, Maria Kulikovska's name was added to the wanted blacklist by the Russian special services. Thus, Maria lost her home to Russian invaders for the first time. In Ukraine, her Crimean registration provoked many questions from the authorities. Ukrainians with a Crimean registration fall into a special category of Ukrainian citizens, but non-residents. Despite her active and articulated pro-Ukrainian position, Maria has faced accusations of betrayal and has often been denied her basic rights by the state system.
The beginning of the war, the annexation of Crimea, and the events in Izolyatsia deeply affected the artist. Maria started to look for ways to cope with the violence, that cannot be embraced, explained, or understood. Also, what to do when the friends choose to protect the homeland in a battle with a cruel and dangerous enemy? How to live after the first funeral of a friend? After meeting the tenth coffin, carrying your friend's body from a battlefield? This sorrow and rage turned into a long desperate scream, that Maria growled in the sand of the Azov Sea, lying on the ground. This action War and Pea€e,
2016, was held on the mined beach in Mariupol, where local people, separated from the actual war by only a 20-kilometer zone, were chilling as if nothing was wrong.
Working between Kyiv and Stockholm, and floating in a limbo of various state identities undefined by the governments, Maria started the production of the new sculptures for the project UK/RAINE, organized by Saatchi Gallery in London in 2015. She was searching for a contractor in Sweden, who could provide 300 kilograms of soap. One of the manufacturers asked about the purpose of such an order. Maria briefly described the human-sized sculptures. The manufacturer said that the prototypes are usually made to test the weapon, as the ballistic soap has almost the same density as the human body. Thus, the circle has closed. Maria made a replica of Homo Bulla
— three sculptures of herself — from a ballistic soap. The group exhibition in Saatchi Gallery was aimed to reflect the revolution, war, and geopolitical situation in Ukraine. During the project's official presentation, a naked woman, wearing a rose wig and sunglasses, burst into an exhibition space. She started to smash one of the Homo Bulla
figures with a hammer. The green sculpture was seriously damaged — the hammer blows left many scars and gouges. The woman ended up covering the sculpture's head with a black T-shirt with a print of the pussy. This was a Happy Birthday
performance, held by Maria Kulikovska. Only the Saatchi Gallery director was warned by the artist. The visitors and participants were caught off-guard.
This action was a direct response to what happened at Izolyatsia. Maria's attempt to restore control over her body intervened with the intention to reflect the absurdness of ferocity, torture, and destruction. Government — read, the Russian Federation — may authorize torture, but it is the society that runs forward with the demand and supplies the required techniques. These are the people who perform violence, by the order or acting of their own will. Torture does not simply destroy the lives of victims and the torturers. It is most often covered by social amnesia coming from the fear that greatly enhances social corrosion . The female body's service to dreamscapes of symbolic phallic privilege is made explicit, but the savagery of the actions cannot be described or totally healed by any medium. Tortured body, damaged or filled with an unbearable amount of pain, became since then a major line in Kulikovska's work. In different variations of the self-molds, made in recent years, the artist is trying to measure the limit of suffering that the body can physically endure, filling the sculptures with chains, firing cartridge shells from the Ukrainian frontier, and ammunition belts. Some of Maria's sculptures contain flowers — as an actual memento mori, emphasizing that every living creature will inevitably meet death. During the work on one of the sculptural projects in Kyiv in 2016, Maria met the engineer Uleg Vinnichenko. As the sympathy between them grew into love, the artist decided to end her Swedish marriage. Maria and Uleg are now working together as partners and spouses under the brand MKUV Studio.
It happened that pain is deeply explored and embraced by Ukrainian culture. The memory of overcoming long, exhausting suffering goes through numerous resistance narratives from the Cossack era to the Ukrainian dissidents to the Soviet regime. Staying clean from empires' ideology and sticking to the truth was possible, but through incredible physical pain, that had nothing to do with the sweet martyrdom of the saint's body. One of the first Cossack leaders, Bayda, was thrown from the Galata fortress to the hook on the wall by the Osman sultan. The hook passed through Bayda's ribs, he was wasting a lot of blood. Three days the Cossack was hanging on a hook, and — as the popular 16th-century ballad says — was mocking and cursing his guards, trying even to start a rebellion. The Turkish soldiers were humiliated by Bayda's swearing and shot him on the third day . This folk story, based on historical events , is a classical example of resistance to empire through pain. Vasyl Stus, one of the brightest Ukrainian poets, died in his second GULAG incarceration during the hunger strike he declared to protest 'to the end' . The same year, in 1985, Stus was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, as the jury was unaware of his death — the Soviet prison didn't intend to report on his passing. Thousands of people shared this kind of destiny, refusing to break or bend. This cultural code and the attitude to pain also explain much of the Ukrainian resistance to the full-scale Russian invasion in 2022.
Exploration of executing power over the female body and variations of strike or resistance, turning the situation vice versa, led Maria Kulikovska to the performance Let Me Say: It's Not Forgotten
in 2019. Before making the performance, Maria took lessons in shooting from the Ukrainian sniper Alexander Suvorov. On the 9th of June, on the fifth anniversary of the seizure of Izolyatsia, Maria went on a safari on her own sculptures. She shot six figures from the ballistic soap, performing the deadly strikes. The bullets hit the hearts, throats, and heads of Maria's clones. The artist wanted to act as the invaders, who shot the sculptures — to see what they saw and to feel what they felt. Maria repeated the action for the movie Forgotten
, directed by Daria Onyshenko. This time the artist went to the edge, acting as a pro-Russian proxy, dressed in a military uniform of the Lugansk Republic, and shooting the sculptures from the rifle. Maria was able to feel the power that the weapon gives people and finished the statement by finally gaining control over her body back. Alexander, Maria's instructor, was killed in the war after the full-scale Russian invasion.
Most of Maria's works are organized as a public self-reflection on identity and the body. But among them, the special place holds The Raft Crimea
, a long-term multicomponent action, consisting of performances and expositions, that gather the collective experiences of the displaced people, the immigrants, and the refugees. The Raft CrimeA
travels with the artist around the world as a water vessel that carries her and as a medium through which Maria locates herself in the events of Crimean and European newest history as an artist, a woman, a refugee, a fighter, and one of the many people with the same-shaped destiny. In August 2016 the Displaced Parliament of the Displaced
launched its work on an inflatable life raft that was moored to the Dnipro quay in the center of Kyiv. Maria Kulikovska, as the representative of the Parliament of the Displaced
, was living on the raft, using only the resources that the local community brought her. The Raft CrimeA
immediately became the place for meetings. It was open for all the migrants, who needed a help or free place, and functioned as a space for discussions. At the end of August, the raft departed down the river, carrying those who wanted to cross the invisible water border with the European Union and move further West by the rivers. The raft was stopped by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine in Vylkovo village in the South-West of Ukraine, therefore the travelers had to return to Kyiv. Maria gathered the artifacts, brought as signs of solidarity or support, the stories from the people, who visited the Parliament of the Displaced
during the journey down the Dnipro, and the documents in which she explained their actions to the Border Guards Service. This collection, with the video documentation of the performance, became the material for the first exhibition, held at Visual Culture Research Centre in Kyiv and curated by Lesia Kulchinska. The gallery space was transformed into a non-existent seashore with sand and golden foil blankets, often used in refugee camps. The raft, as a safe space for care, and a platform for discussion and collaboration, has traveled during major exhibition events to water reservoirs in Odessa, Prague, Vienna, Liverpool, and Barcelona. During the inauguration of the illegally established 19-kilometer-long Crimean bridge that connects the Kerch and Taman peninsula, the Displaced Parliament of the Displaced
on the Raft CrimeA
opened its agency in Malmö, near the Oresund bridge. The protest action questioned the values that are brought by the bridges when the connection is established and the legitimacy of ignoring the borders — Ukraine and Europe didn't acknowledge Russian claims on Crimea, though the Kerch bridge functioned as a huge smuggling artery.
Maria spent most of her time in Ukraine from 2020 to 2022, launching their together with Uleg their own gallery. Garage 33 is an artist-run gallery shelter with a hybrid, independent, international, non-binary program. The institution started functioning online, and the carefully designed gallery space was about to open by the beginning of 2022. But the full-scale Russian invasion forced the artists to put this initiative on pause and leave Ukraine.
The winter of 2022 in Ukraine was filled with angst. Russian forces gathered on the Eastern borders, forming an impact army of a scale unseen before. On February 24, at 5 a.m. Ukrainian cities woke up from the missile attacks. A few days before the military experts tried to convince the world that Russia will never risk bombing peaceful cities. Yet, it did, and with incredible cynicism. The real scale of the destruction and the deaths brought to Ukraine since that day are to be calculated after the de-occupation of the destroyed Mariupol, of Lugansk and Donetsk. As I'm writing this text, the Ukrainian army is leading the successful counteroffensive in Kherson. Kyiv is in a blackout — the critical energy infrastructure is destroyed by continuous missile hits — and I'm using a lantern, placed on the temporary working table, as I don't live here anymore.
Like millions of Ukrainians, Maria Kulikovska was forced to leave the country in March 2022, fleeing to Austria with her 6-month-old daughter. There has been no safe place in Ukraine since 24 February as every home is a target. Thus, Maria lost her home to Russian invaders for the second time. With the support of the curators Rainald Schumacher, Nathalie Hoyos and Dr. Alfred Weidinger, the Director of Francisco Carolinum Museum in Linz, Maria continued her artistic practices, preparing for the big solo exhibition. During the residency in Gmunden, the artist started to work on a project The Table of Negotiations
. The difference between the life of the resisting country, where everything has been immediately set on the war rails and the peaceful European cities were dramatic. Spring 2022 was marked by the debates, held by European intellectuals on how Ukraine should reconcile with Russia and fulfill the aggressor's requirements. The Absurdness of these claims became obvious after the genocide evidence was revealed in Irpin, Bucha, Borodyanka, Izium, and other cities. The Table of Negotiations
is a ceramic entity of limbs, torn bodies, and bruised flesh, symbolically stretching from the East to the last point, visible on the Western horizon. The table is covered by the body juices, ichor, blood, and flowers, made by the female refugees. Suffering fills the artwork over the limit, which makes the pain emit light, shining through the physical materials of the installation. And this is the same pain of resistance, that is connected by its very essence with the knowledge of final overcoming of the challenge — tortured, but unbend; of passing through the battlefield — as a warrior, not as a saint. Maria Vtorushina
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