The First Biennale of Modern Art Opens in Kyiv
Kyiv, May 25, 2012. For the first time in its history, Ukraine hosts the magnificent Biennale of Modern Art exhibition at her capital’s art center Mystetskyi Arsenal. Featuring works of art by 100 artists from 30 countries, the Biennale Exhibition was truly a monumental affair. 250 pieces stretched across 2,400 square meters of exposition, coupled with 40 new pieces that were specifically created for Arsenal 2012. Special featured projects were created by 25 Ukrainian and 13 Polish artists. In addition, 45 “parallel projects” are scheduled to move onto other venues in 36 locations scattered among the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Odessa, Kherson, and Dnepropetrovsk and will feature the works of 170 of the most important and influential Ukrainian artists of our time. Lastly, a collection of ancient Ukrainian sculptures from 10 national museums were showcased at the event as well.
The Biennale of Modern Art was organized into four main ideas: The Restless Spirit, In the Name of Order, Flesh, and The Unquiet Dream. The Restless Spirit looks at the way in which we derive strength from beliefs, myths and concepts of the universe that are not governed by material need. In the Name of Order examines how under the pretext of rationalism, power attempts to dominate culture through the creation of self-serving hierarchies. Flesh takes the human body, its appetites, desires and limitations as its central theme, and The Unquiet Dream focuses on nightmares and premonitions of disaster, without which we are unable to change. And so wrote David Elliot, Curator of the Biennale of Modern Art Exhibition, in a preliminary press release published in January, “echoing the first words of A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Charles Dickens’ famous novel, set at the time of the French Revolution, this exhibition jumps forward to the present to consider how contemporary art and aesthetics use the past to express the future.”
Many of the artists featured, come from countries that once were, still are, and are moving forward from the inflicted devastations of the once Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and many of the artists come from independent states of the North, South, and West. Although so different in their backgrounds, culture, and heritage, they assembled together their incredible works of art depicting sometimes funny, critical, controversial, and all together clarity in the truth of art itself. The exhibition reflects the dream of utopian human rights, the dream of free expression, and the dream of equal opportunity. “Within the “worst” redemption lies dormant, while the “best” may be an illusion that harbors the seeds of its own destruction,” said David Elliot at the opening press conference in the Mystetskyi Arsenal courtyard, referencing the complex ideology of Human Philosophy. In fact, there are many angles to understanding our Eurasian worlds. It is typical, in most cases, that one may never understand them unless they learn to live them, breathe them, taste them, and be them.
What looked like a roomful of junk, was a scene of old window panes, rustic mirrors, a mountainous stack of old wooden bed frames, and a permeating aroma of dry bars of soap. All items lay meticulous in detail, yet still of commotion, and careful in their meaning. Waste Not was the fascinating self-entitled collection by artist Song Dong of China, of which explores the notion of poverty and powerlessness. Waste Not, a symbol of his social class upbringing and life lessons by his mother Zhao Xiangyuan, portrays “the wisdom of the poor;” in it, its ingenuity and cunning community dynamics. “Borrowing rights is more than a method by which everyday people leverage their intelligence to expand their rights; it is the spirit that animates our whole philosophy of existence,” wrote Song Dong in the collection’s description. Above all, when people live through difficult times, either in need to supply for a hungry family or simply living through the daily struggles of an oppressive society, these people tend to demonstrate extreme frugality, keeping anything that might seem useful. Song Dong’s message is not that these people display a sense of self through these items; rather it is their mere collecting that displays their grasp on originality.
Artist Erbossyn Meldibekov from Kazakhstan displayed his old soviet bathtubs; three is a row, dented by his repeated blows of a single hammer. Each represented the three tallest peaks in East Asia and each represented three political circumstances: Communism, Garamanlay, and Stalin. “When I hammer these scraps of metal, it’s through the noise that I make with my hammer that the sound of Eastern character comes out. It’s like an ornament. After all, it’s not that you see a simple white mountain, rather it’s how the sound is saying an old expression, “the East is a delicate matter,” said Meldibekov. Erbossyn Meldibekov executes affordance in his exhibition, which is more or less a performance one can only achieve in his or her own environment.
These pieces by artists Song Dong and Erbossyn Meldibekov are just a few examples of the eclectic views unveiled at the Biennale of Modern Art Exhibition. This collection of unbelievable, detailed, some not so detailed, and all a representation of the different views of this world, will be on display from May 24, 2012 to June 31, 2012. Alas, in his final speech at the opening press conference, curator David Elliot said, “Look at this exhibit and its various collections as if it’s a single living cell, the basic and smallest organism of all human life. This is what your brain is made-up of. A cell is a place you’re sentenced to, a place of infinite captivity, containing all concepts of our universe. Don’t look at this exhibit for its answers, look at it and discover the questions they [collections] pose.”