MICHAEL MURPHENKO

Mavka or Ukraine still hasn’t died

kostyantyn doroshenko [art critic text]

When art in our days turns to national themes, it often runs the risk of appearing kitschy. Kitsch peers out of the pathos of realism, makes postmodernist sarcasm seem caricature-like and turns conceptual installation into a pop object. Kitsch is where art does not appeal to the individual but flirts with the general perception. And it does not matter whether it acts in the manner of apologetics or scandal. Therefore, working with the national theme is a dangerous ground for artist and curator alike. 

However, contemporary art cannot exist without a dialogue with society in the here and now. I am not referring to market trends which, just like kitsch, provide answers before questions are asked. Real art provokes questions rather than gives answers. It offers unease in place of catharsis. The latter erupts through personal reflection only, which is not always pleasant and easy, yet it provides a qualitatively different kind of satisfaction than consumption. Now, this cannot be done without deconstructing the usual. One such subtler approach is to combine the unexpected. And I do not mean the use of surrealist oxymoron, absurdism or eclecticism. Phenomena and processes, existing synchronically, yet as if in different sociocultural settings, together can show a different picture of the world, once we allow ourselves to move away from the dominant discourse. The most exciting revelations about ourselves and the world are made not by encountering the unknown, but by discovering it in the familiar.

In a year when Ukraine has once again found itself at the crossroads of fate, curator Oksana Gryshchenko boldly addresses the national. Combining the pictorial voluntarism of Michael Murphenko, the symbolism of Oleksa Zakharchuk's landscapes, the shamanism of music, noise and cries of Alla Zagaykevych and video art, in which cinematic poetics absorbs the hyperrealism of the everyday, she creates an alternative to the banality of the national. Her project challenges us to break through automatism and simulation - towards ourselves, towards Ukraine inside us.  Towards what still has not died.

Kostyantyn Doroshenko, curator, art critic