Show Promise curator Oleksandr Solovyov: Today the world consists of those who haven’t finished playing “war and peace”

10 February 2018

In Palace of Arts, Show Promise has opened; this is an exhibition vividly presenting a slice of Ukrainian contemporary art, its search, instability, and fluidity.

An important aspect is not just different ages but also varying categories of artists working both in conceptual art and beyond it. The exhibition showcases both new works and older ones which we interpret in a new light today; they still haven’t lost their relevance and even seem somewhat prophetic.

We come across numerous hot topics in artworks; at first glance, they cannot be combined in one concept, but this smooth flow-over, dissonances from silence to screams, from fun to war, the opposition of order and chaos are all firmly present in our reality.

Oleksandr Solovyov, one of Show Promise curators, told us about the exhibition and its conceptual basis.

 How did you form this exhibition and select artists? Is it a slice of art?

To some extent, though the founding concept is “liquid modernity,” a term coined by Zygmunt Bauman, a well-known Polish sociologist and philosopher. He invented this term in 2011; this notion is a metaphor of lost world order, everything flowing over. The liquid can be given a form, but this form cannot be preserved. This is the state we are now in… In Ukrainian, this term has been interpreted as “fluid reality.”

We (Igor Abramovych, Oleksandr Solovyov) thought that it is very characteristic of today. On the one hand, this means a state of increased turbulence; on the other, the term by this philosopher sounds like a “container of opportunities,” both those yet to arrive and those already lost, paradoxical as it may seem. We live by hopes and promises. Hope can be deceitful and illusionary, and therefore destructive. At the same time, it can be a symbol of salvation dragging us out of the abyss and sustaining the will to live even in the darkest times. Art does not make promises like politicians do, but it can provide some landmarks, putting a diagnosis at the same time. This is what our concept is about.

Show Promise fragment of the exposition

Our method of selecting works was to represent the whole of Ukraine. There are artists from almost all our regions: Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhgorod, and many others. The ages of artists also differ: there are both younger and more mature ones. Viktor Sydorenko, Arsen Savadov, Pavlo Kerestey belong to the older generation; the youngsters include Stepan Ryabchenko and Yulia Kisil; the latter produced an installation with shells from the ATO under the title Death Calibre. This is a ready-made death tool the artist can use in a sharply symbolic form. From the point of technologies and genres, there is everything here – from video projections of collages and documentation of performances to classic paintings.

There are lots of works in this exhibition, which have this state of destruction present in this or that form. Even Insects Base by Vasyl Tsagolov (2012) chimes with “terrorist base” of today. Or, for example, Gulliver’s Dream by Arsen Savadov is also relevant now. These works are more on the allegoric side, but there are others containing very straightforward images and statements about hot topics, and they aim very well.

Arsen Savadov Gullivers Dream

If we compare it with the previous exhibition in these halls, I meanThe Carpet,” we can say that the war theme is now being actively integrated into the artistsworks

Here we have a whole room dedicated to this topic. And the artists interpret it in different ways. There is Death Calibre and at the same time video art by Andriy Sydorenko where children play with military machinery in Kyiv Victory Park. For them, it is just fun, but for others the same objects are weapons.

Unfortunately, now the world consists of those who haven’t finished playing “war and peace” – everyone is bound by the same chain, and this is a tragedy. When the country is in a state of war, such things become habitual. There are lots of things we call “hybrid war,” and this is exactly what “liquid modernity” is, I mean this “hybrid twinkling,” flow-over, a complex image. Everything is based on collages where incompatible elements are put next to each other…

In this sense, the exhibition showcases the moods and reflections on the one hand and a particular state on the other… Last year we had The Carpet in just one hall, and this time it is a micro-biennale of contemporary art. We did not have a task to gather everyone but aspired for showing the state of Ukrainian contemporary art as such. It is also fluid to some extent, so we wanted to concentrate on the fluidity of different aspects.

Can you make a forecast about the future of Ukrainian art in the state of war? History knows different art trends emerging in opposition to the war or as a reflection about it – in particular, expressionism… Can something similar happen in Ukrainian art?

– There was also Dadaism, born as a consequence of World War I. Naturally, the artists cannot stay on the sidelines. All these events influence them – indirectly, in context, in some complicated subtext – and the war enters our minds.

Show Promise fragment of the exposition

Comment from Igor Abramovych:

 We live in hopes and promises. Hope can be deceitful, illusionary and therefore destructive, but can also be a symbol of salvation dragging us out of the abyss and sustaining our will to live even in the darkest times. In the period of total show erasing the boundary between reality and fiction and substituting the meanings of fundamental life categories, among all perturbations the aspiration of a human towards better future stands strong. Instability and fall of established schemes and relationships, pushing the ground from under our feet along with confidence in the coming days open up more space for the immaterial – faith or nihilism, doubts, fears, and expectations. Searching for hints and supports in this ephemeral and changeable space, art turns out to be one of the most reliable and at times needle-sharp instruments despite its subjectivity and even abstraction. Without breaking a straight and clear path, it is still able to sketch a preliminary route and establish landmarks.

Interviewed by Maryana MAKSYMIV

Interview published at © on June 16, 2017