How can you dream? When can you dream? Who can dream? The gardens need care.
The plane Dream will fly over the Giardini della Biennale but it will not cast a shadow.
It is unclear what will happen in the Giardini on that day, and fortunately, no one knows this.
The sun rises over the Giardini della Biennale. And the tired security guard stands in the middle of the garden. The curator of the Biennale tells someone nearby that he isn’t tired at all.
When we are told that it is necessary to dream, we agree. But all too often we are told that dreaming is also expensive, irrational, not for now. What place does a real, audacious dream have in this new world? Should everything continue being subordinated to what Alain Badiou calls the “combination of obedience before what is necessary and negative will”? Or can a country in a deep economic crisis and an open military conflict dream (of a shadow over the Giardini della Biennale)? Can this country allow itself to think about spending 300,000 euros on two minutes of shadow over the Giardini della Biennale? Where is the dream stopped and where does it stop itself? And if the threshold of politics or economics can yet be overcome, then does the project cross the threshold of the ethics of an ecological crisis? Where, at what stage, does the dream about Dream and its shadow crash into ordinary bureaucracy, pragmatism, the rational use of resources and the ethics of the 21st century?
But what does the Biennale have to do with this? Why this flight? Is it perhaps worth defining what a dream is in this context? The Giardini della Biennale? The Biennale as a celebration of the Western market art? Is there in fact something greater beyond it, some banal, funny yet sensitive attachment to the global professional community with all its advantages and disadvantages? We simultaneously ask ourselves if the Biennale was really the dream for artists in the Soviet Union. Maybe it is only now, to us descendants, after the fact, that it seems like being excluded from the community of our colleagues in the West is experienced in different ways, sometimes traumatically, sometimes on the contrary. Yet it seems like it was precisely this period of isolation that created the peculiar face of the culture we grew up in. These different generations, teachers and students, conformists and outsiders, created a very particular community in Ukraine, a community that still cannot delineate itself and within which dialogs occur in fragments and snippets since they always start from different beliefs in different myths, yet still come from a single, branching mythology.
Almost two months ago we announced an open call for all who wanted to take part in an unjuried Ukrainian pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale. We appealed to Ukrainian artists as to a single, yet “imagined community” and at the same time to every individual who felt marginalized from the process or vice versa. We invited them to take part in the project irrespective of technique, idea, education, or age. Perhaps this was an attempt to again “imagine the community itself” where “everyone” is an artist — it is a demonstration of presence, a meeting, a march on Venice. We employ a rhetoric at the level of a mayor of a city: “all artists”, “Dream”, “Flight”. Our choice of symbols can be found on mildewy posters from the nineties in this young, post-Soviet republic, in the description of some sort of regional festival. It is with this understanding that we approach the Venice Biennale with the dreams of provincial Ukraine. In this regard, our project is the death of professionalism, the victory of the “dark” in the sense of the uneducated, the victory of intuition and the half-sleep that remains without interpretation by a dream book, and it is even no longer entirely clear who had this dream. We are making a call to the living, assuring them that they will be there, that they will cast their shadow on the Giardini simply by filling out an application and becoming participants in the Venice Biennale and thereby accelerating the inflation of the Biennale. In the words of Joseph Brodsky, every epoch, every period, every century, if you like, appoints a main poet, one for the epoch because it’s easier that way, simpler. We are against this, we are for every story and this gesture again questions the Biennale and its politics of inclusivity/exclusivity.
In 1993, after 70 years of the Soviet Union and two years of independent Ukraine, there was an exhibition of Ukrainian artists in the Ujazdów Castle in Warsaw. For the first time, they were not artists of the socialist doctrine, but “contemporary artists”, participants of Parkomuna, so-called Ukrainian transavantgarde, different artists from the east and west of the country. Curated by Jerzy Onuch, the exhibition was called Steppes of Europe and although only faint traces of the works themselves remain online, the prophetic title was fated to become yet another term in the local mythology.
In 2018, MoMA published an academic book (Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: A Critical Anthology. Janevski, Ana, et al, 2018) on the critical art discourse in the post-Soviet space of central eastern Europe. A careful reader flipping through the end pages of this book would land on maps of the cities that the members of the research team and curators from the institution visited. Amidst all the notable capitals of central-eastern European countries (and not just capitals), a glaringly blank space appears in the place of Ukraine. It is those same steppes of Europe and just 25 years later they are totally blanketed in snow — even the capital is hidden under a thick blanket. This is not the first instance of an authoritative global institution’s exclusion of Ukrainian art, seemingly from its own context as a key community in the region. And of course the question arises: why is our legitimization by institutionally developed countries so important to us? Or, to be blunt, by the influential professional community and the global market? As an art collective and the curators of this pavilion, we make use of mythology precisely because it is the clearest and most verified thing we have. In 25 years of independence, culture has continued to exist within its own convenient and closed paradigm, thereby generating critically few points of “entry” for those who were ready to go inside. The steppes of Europe have begun to thaw from the snow, but this process is taking place, of course like everything important, through unexpected discoveries, pain, and self-acceptance, through artists’ blunders and the community’s defeats, and through creating a dream and contemplating its burning. Yet as a reminder of those who were excluded, half-manifested, or even could not dream, we decided to cast a shadow on the Giardini della Biennale to remind us of all those other shadows that fall upon it, upon the global market, and upon the entire system of the colonialism of contemporary art.
The pavilion’s final appearance acknowledges these difficulties. It is a result of both the apparent and obscured actions of five main players. The result of these complicated relationships, confrontations, and coalitions will be reflected as “a station” for the transfer of myth — the myth about the flight of Dream over the Giardini della Biennale. Performers within the pavilion, as authorized transmitters of the story of this project, will know about the exhibition the most, and will save and store a new continuation of the myth. The result of open call for all ukrainian artists became a telephone book listing 1,143 artists and art groups. In this directory, a careful reader flipping through, will encounter a connection to the artists who have submitted their information. Perhaps they are unknown to you, perhaps they are friends. Or perhaps simply acknowledging their existence is be enough.
As Waldemar Tatarchuk correctly said before: "The pavilion became a shadow of a shadow".