The exhibition „Ukraine. A different angle ona neighbourhood” in International Cultural Centre Gallery in Krakow (Galeria Międzynarodowego Centrum Kultury w Krakowie, MCK) is a unique chance to look at Ukraine through the both: polish and ukainian eyes. The subject is worth exploring, especially considering that Ukrainian art is virtually unknown in Europe and that relations between Eastern European neighbours are always sensitive and subject to political manipulation.
Following the Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 Poland has experienced an influx of Ukrainians - some of them arrive looking to make some money and go back, others to start a new life here. Ukrainian language can be heard in the streets of every major Polish town. Just as often one can hear Polish spoken fluently, with just a hint of accent revealing that it may not be the speaker’s mother tongue.
Our two nations have a lot of shared history, but as it is often the case with neighbours, its perception and appraisal can be quite different, especially in official narration. In particular, Poland has yet to come to terms with its history of exploitation of Ukrainian lands.
In spite of this close neighborship the knowledge of Ukrainian art and culture in Poland is no better than elsewhere in Europe. The MCK together with National Art Museum of Ukaraine (NAMU) has created an exhibition aimed at introducing the work of Ukrainian artists to the public - and not only Polish public, as it is located at the Krakow City Square, one of the places in Poland most visited by foreign tourists.
It is not, however, a textbook presentation of artistic achievements in chronological or problematic order. The works of (mainly contemporary) Urkainian artists are confronted with the their Polish counterparts. Thus two voices weave a story about their neighborhood: about a common fate, a common imaginary, about what unites us and what makes us different.
The exhibition focuses on several themes that the curators have distinguished as Ukrainian myths (Landscape, Bread, Cossacks-Sarmatians, Conquests, The State and Khata - the cottage). Within these themes, there are some very topical issues, such as the problem of the devastation of the natural environment (recurring often in works on exhibition at the MCK), but perhaps the most moving are contemporary works about war (drawings from the series "Stravberry Andreevna" by Alevtina Kakhidze and "Branch" by Nikita Kadan, Oleg Chorny’s "Summer 2014").
The works chosen by the curators operate with a very universal and evocative symbolic language, making the exhibition accessible to everyone. Those looking to understand a deeper context will find help in an exellent, three-language (Polish-Ukrainian-English) catalogue. The orange-blue color scheme of its cover is a reference to one of the pieces on display - "Ukrainian - Polish Flag” by Oksana Briukhovetska, in which, according to the author "by blending the colors of the Polish and Ukrinian flags, we get the fictiious flag of a non-existetnt country, but of an actually existing community” (). And the exhibition is one of the proofs that such a community does indeed exist.
„Ukraine. A different angle ona neighbourhood”
International Cultural Centre Gallery in Krakow (Galeria Międzynarodowego Centrum Kultury w Kranowie)
Oksana Barshynova (NAMU)
Żanna Komar (MCK)
I would like to thank the MCK for invitation to te exhibition and catalog as well as providing the reproductions and photos of the exhibition.