Kyiv Biennale curators Georg Schöllhammer and Hedwig Saxenhuber discussed their intention to show the world a different Ukraine and about the mission of culture during crisis and military conflict

Project relevance

Today it’s crucial to create conditions for general understanding and discussion of what is going on. We are well aware that the country is experiencing tough times, and people are struggling to survive, but we believe a public space is necessary for people to get together. This will allow Ukraine to be seen from another angle.

Our biennial project is not a customary mega event involving international glamour arts. The project will present arts that certainly relate to what is happening now, but also demonstrate what Ukraine contributed to the international intellectual and artistic heritage over the last 150 years. Kyiv has always been one of the capitals of the European thought, just like Kharkiv and Lviv. Their contribution to the European project and the European avant-garde is invaluable. And now, as we reconsider these processes, we understand that young Ukrainian art is just as powerful as that in London or Berlin. I believe it’s very important to demonstrate this to an international audience, since currently, Western mass media write only about the war, poverty and unhealthy economy in Ukraine.

Format and scope

This won’t be a conventional biennial. Artists will interact with people, discuss and present their projects, attracting foreign students, scientists and public activists and creating a platform to exchange experiences and visions of the future. The project includes six theme platforms for meetings, panel debates and trainings, which may be attended by anyone who wishes to participate. The Platforms, or Schools, will be established not only in Kyiv, but in thirteen other European cities simultaneously. All Schools will be a part of the biennial. So, this won’t only be a Ukrainian project, but rather a multi-voice project intended for different audiences and territories.

The role of culture during the crisis

Culture creates and offers new horizons for imagination, in contrast to those offered by crises in reality. On the one hand, they are poetic, and on the other, they are quite probable versions of the future or the present that can overcome the crisis.

Art makes reflection possible in crisis, it does not just illustrate or document that reflection. Art is ambivalent, presents diverse viewpoints, empowers different voices and must not be limited to one trend or a single ideological past.

Art deals with the entire complexity of reality – sometimes directly, sometimes from a poetic perspective that may be difficult to understand right away.


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