9.07.2023 – 31.12.2023
в Jøssingfjord Vitenmuseum

Curated by Nathalie Hoyos and Rainald Schumacher
[Office for Art]
in collaboration with the initiator and project manager Per Arne Log.
Maria Kulikovska was born in Kerch, a city on the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, one of the former socialist republics of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), in 1988. Her childhood was shaped by the early consequences of the communist bloc's structural collapse. While a few reaped enormous wealth, most succumbed to poverty and a sense of hopelessness.

Maria Kulikovska studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kyiv from 2007 to 2013, graduating with a master's in architecture. She also completed a further master's degree in fine arts at Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm.

The artist belongs to a generation that welcomes the country's move toward the West, toward an open democracy and the values of the European Union, away from rampant corruption and the control of the economy and politics by a handful of oligarchs. The Ukrainian government's decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union in late 2013 led to an uprising and the "Revolution of Dignity". With the Euromaidan protests from November 2013 until February 2014, Maria Kulikovska's life and work were invariably linked with the resulting political events. Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 rendered her a homeless refugee, registered as number 254. In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the military of the self-proclaimed people's republic occupied an independent art center and destroyed her first major publicly exhibited sculptures from 2012—casts of her body made of perishable soap. In Russia, she was placed on a list of undesirable artists. She has worked together with her partner Oleg Vinnichenko since 2016.

With the start of Russia's open war against Ukraine, Maria Kulikovska fled from Kyiv to western Ukraine. She has been an artist-in-residence at the OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH in Linz, Austria, in 2022, and is currently artist-in-residence at the Helsinki International Artist Program in Helsinki, Finland.
Maria Kulikovksa – My Body is a Battlefield
Figure with Bullets and Flowers
(epoxy resin, flowers, bullets jackets)

The cast of the artist's body from 23. February 2022 - 12 hours before the beginning of the bombing of Kyiv. Under the skin of the sculpture are flowers collected on the border with Crimea occupied by the Russian Federation, as well as shell casings from the east of Ukraine. She is installed looking towards the horizon – waiting to return home.

The exhibition includes artworks from a period of more than ten years. The artist's own body is at the center of the work, concretely, rather than the woman's body as an abstract form. Her body is the battlefield on which and in which often-ambivalent emotions emerge and wrestle with one another. Personal experiences, disappointments, and confrontations carry out their inner struggles in this body. They wrangle over what will provide the stronger motivation: despair and fear, or confidence and courage. Whether hatred and vengeance or love and compassion are the stronger forces will be decided
in this body. The dramas of fears, desires, and hopes take place in this body.

Again and again, she acts in and with her body in performative actions. She seeks reconciliation, but also forgiveness, and looks for a seemingly impossible harmony with life's beauty, per se, which in reality often shows up bloody, smeared, doomed to die, and in a miserable physical state.

The exhibition would like to mediate insight into an artistic life that is understood as action, that consistently tries to reconciliate moral and human catastrophe with respect for the wealth and mystery of life.

"My Body is a Battlefield" was presented with a slightly modified selection of works in 2022 at the FC Francisco Carolinum – Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art in Linz.
The exhibition at the Jøssingfjord Vitenmuseum is realized with the generous support of:

Rogaland Fylkeskommune
Fritt Ord

Rekefjord Stone
Tellenes Vindpark
Dalane Energi

Sogndalstrand Kulturhotel
Arvid Holmen

"I felt abandoned and unprotected. Very often I faced rejection for my queerness and bisexuality."
Since 2016
Long-term performance

"One day we'll wake up.
We will be in an amazing, fantastic world of beauty, freedom, anarchy — love
every speck of dust
of the Universe."

Written in exile in May 2019, Stockholm, Sweden — 3035 km away from the mined beach of Mariupol.

2022 in progress
Academy of Ceramics Gmunden

Manifesta 10 opened in St. Petersburg in 2014. After a covert military operation, Russia had previously forced the integration of Crimea into Russian state territory through annexation on March 18. This was triggered by Euromaidan, the "Revolution of Dignity" in Kyiv. Involved artists and the art scene debated a boycott.

On July 1, 2014, the day of the opening, without an official permit or invitation Maria Kulikovska lay on the stairs of the exhibition hall of the General Staff Building across from the Hermitage under the flag of Ukraine. Only one hand jutted out. The artist is registered in her own country as a refugee from Crimea under the number 254, the title of the performance.

This silent performance, which points to the violation of Ukraine's national sovereignty, was performed again from April 27 to May 4, 2022, in Berlin in front of the Neue Nationalgalerie and from March 09 to 12, 2023 in front of the City Hall in Bremen.

2014 / 2022 / 2023
Performance documentation

The model for this Figure (2016) was used from the first-ever mold (2010) of the artist's body, which was the only one that lasted after the shooting by pro-russians militia in the occupied territories. This sculpture is the first artwork created together with Oleg Vinnichenko and it's a symbol of their love, life, and work together.
2010 / 2016
Epoxy resin, metal chains
PRESIDENT OF CRIMEA (from the series)

"The human body becomes political, even without its consent."
Iron, casts of the artist's body and the artist's mom's face

Izolyatsia — Platform for Cultural Initiatives was founded on the dormant grounds of a factory in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in 2010. There, in 2013, Kulikovska installed the first casts of her body made from raw soap, "Homo Bulla — Human as a Bubble." In June 2014 the center was occupied by self-appointed rebels of the Donetsk People's Republic. The sculptures were shot. Five years after the iconoclastic event, the artist realized the performance "Let Me Say: It's Not Forgotten" in a park in Kyiv.
2017 / 2019
Cast of artist's body, soap, metal

The replicas of the sculptures made of ballistic soap were created in collaboration with Oleg Vinnichenko, like all casts of her body since 2016.
MY BEAUTIFUL. WIFE? (from the series)

On January 11, 2014, Kulikovska's marriage to the Swedish-Assyrian artist J-G.S. was registered in Malmö. The "marriage-performance" forms the starting note of "Body and Borders", the same-sex couple's long-term performance that comprises different actions in Ukraine.

After the marriage, when the artist returned to Kyiv, her father called her from Kerch to tell her about Crimea's occupation by military groups, about the controls and arrests, and that they were looking for her and she should in no case return. The drawings, "My Beautiful. Wife?" arose in the two sleepless nights after this call.

Watercolour and ink on paper

"Washing and cleaning by my own hands is a reference to invisible women's labor, which the society imagines as something beautiful, normal, and natural, woven into the skin of every woman, but which also quietly dissolves her."

Maria Kulikovska began a series of performances entitled "Lustration / Ablution" in 2018. The artist sits in a bathtub with a cast of her bust made of soap and washes off her doppelganger. The washing process and intimate contact with her double are a cleansing process, a ritual, and also atonement.

Behind this is the desire to be free of the pain, political conflicts, discrimination, problems, and chaos of this world. It is the yearning for inner reconciliation as well as the attempt to tame her own fury and wash clean the disturbing thoughts of revenge and vengeance provoked by suffering, displacement, and war.

2018 / 2022

Maria Kulikovska frequently uses official forms or Soviet-era sketch paper for her paintings. With a good dose of humor and honesty, she sketched out the physical and mental changes during her pregnancy on her medical reports. Opposite the physical abundance of a "Venus von Willendorf," she reduces the "pregnant" partner to a rather delicate and consistently lustful figure. The watercolors are an expression of her inner conflict between worries and fears and the joy of a difficult pregnancy.
Watercolors on paper

Is one of the earliest preserved works of the artist, who was living in Kerch in Crimea until the illegal annexation by Russia. It is the only work that Maria Kulikovska was able to take with her when she escaped in 2014.
In addition, she has been on Russia's list of banned artists since 2014. The study and copying of Old Masters of the Renaissance was part of the training at Western academies for centuries, and in many Eastern European academies has been maintained beyond Communism, until the present.

Acrylic, oil on fabric
Invisible body, invisible injury,
Invisible work of women, the invisible world of colors,
The unknown planet of flowers, unknown peace...

Oh, freedom and acceptance!
Oh, a fantastic world of equality, where injury does not exist,
And every scar on my skin has healed and polished!

I want to change my skin at any moment, at any time,
Continuously and endlessly.
Change its color, its structure,
Choose on my own how it should be and look like.

The scars on my free body will no longer be a sign of violence,
And of the pain from the past,
And it will no longer be a sign of a second-class body or "other".

It will be a privilege, it will be a beauty, it will be a memory,
It will be history, it will be a struggle, it will be freedom.
Oh, where are you freedom and love? I am, I am alive, and I will always be!
2022 in progress
Ceramic, glaze, cast of artist's body
23 February 2022
Epoxy resin, flowers, bullet jackets
After the end of the exhibition "My Body – the Battlefield", it is planned continue the project – to install several new Figures along the coast and on the slopes of the fjords of this region...
follow the Instagram page of this exhibition and its continuation in the future