The project conceived by Raimundas Malasauskas for the Pavilion of the Russian Federation at La Biennale di Venezia - 59th International Art Exhibition (23 April - 27 November 2022) would have been titled "914", but in the light of the war just begun, it will no longer be realized.
Raimundas Malasauskas, the curator, with Kirill Savchenkov and Alexandra Sukhareva, the artists invited to develop the exhibition project on 'transition', have, in fact, resigned.
Raimundas Malasauskas, on Sunday 27 February, writes on Instagram:
He is also joined by the artist Kirill Savchenkov, who posts:
The Russian Federation Pavilion declares in a post:
This is the official communication of the Venice Biennale on the decision of the curator and the artists:
"La Biennale di Venezia has been informed of the decision by the curator and artists of the Pavilion of the Russian Federation who have resigned from their positions, thereby cancelling the participation in the 59th International Art Exhibition.
La Biennale expresses its complete solidarity for this noble act of courage and stands beside the motivations that have led to this decision, which dramatically epitomizes the tragedy that has beset the entire population of Ukraine.
La Biennale remains a place where peoples meet in art and culture, and condemns all those who use violence to prevent dialogue and peace.".
On February 24, the day the conflict between Ukraine and Russia began, the artist Pavlo Makov and the Lizaveta German, Maira Lanko and Borys Filonenko, curators of the Ukrainian Pavilion at the next Venice Biennale, signed a press release announcing the suspension of preparations for the exhibition:
The work that the Kharkiv artist Pavlo Makov, famous for his innovations in etching and printing techniques, had chosen to represent at the Biennale was his kinetic sculpture: the Fountain of Exhaustion. High water.
The story of the Fountain of Exhaustion dates back to the ‘90s in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Its ruined infrastructure, typical of the post-Soviet city, constant water supply disruptions and neglected public spaces contributed to an atmosphere of decay. None of the public fountains in Kharkiv were working. Once, an accident at the local treatment facility caused a four-week shutdown of the water supply and subsequent flooding.
Those events became the settings for Makov’s developing practice. It was focused on the topic of Place surrounded by water bodies – rivers, fountains, lakes.
The place where the Lopan' and Kharkiv rivers confluence gradually led the artist to the concept of the funnel that splits into two and exhausts the water flow. Put together in a multiple-level construction, the funnels constitute "The Fountain of Exhaustion« — a paradoxical symbol of life in the place in Makov's works. Its water from the top funnel splits till only a few drops reach the bottom — just like two rivers that merge but still exhaust themselves.
Makov's local experience of being in his own place and his careful observation of its changes are inherent in his practices. They make the fountain relevant to the current global agenda by representing depletion of earth's resources, post-pandemic burnout, social media fatigue, and exhaustion by wars.
Fountain of Exhaustion has never been executed as a working fountain despite the artist's attempts to put it up in Kharkiv. Symbolically, for the first time, it will be presented in the city that is too familiar with high waters and exhaustion from human occupation — Venice.
"Changing water levels and peoples’ attempts to master the uneven flow of the 'liquid world' are common metaphors to describe modernity, that has a very real embodiment in Venice. The alternation of flooding and drought that led to a lively discussion about the future of the city are important components of the project context in the Ukrainian pavilion" commented the curators of the Ukrainian pavilion Lizaveta German, Maria Lanko and Borys Filonenko.
The curators decided to stay away from flashy installations and digital solutions. Instead, they will give the audience a break and a chance to look inside and reflect on the current moment.
"Art, embodying the symbolic value of the modern era, helps people to realize pressing problems. Sometimes this is the best way to bring sensitive issues to the fore. The art project by the artist Pavlo Makov reflects very symbolically the problem that affects every citizen of our planet. I am convinced that the project will worthily represent Ukraine at the exhibition and will resonate with everyone's heart," comments the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Olexandr Tkachenko.
We just have to hope that the conflict will be resolved quickly and that the Ukrainian Pavilion can be built.
Cover photo: ©Marco Cappelletti