Galeria Labirynt: Exhibition ‘Old New Gaze’ exploring consequences of appropriation and destruction of artworks
10 May 2022
Parallel to military warfare, there is a symbolic struggle for the protection of the identity and cultural heritage of Ukrainian culture. The independence of Eastern European countries and Baltic states has long been under pressure from Russian cultural expansion during the Soviet period and after. Now more than ever, culture is becoming the basis for developing a narrative about Ukrainian identity.
To resist processes of cultural appropriation and counteract forces of fragmentation, Poland-based municipal art gallery Galeria Labirynt is organising the exhibition ‘Old New Gaze’ with the support of European Cultural Foundation’s Culture of Solidarity Fund. Organised by a Ukrainian and Polish team of curators (Valerie Karpan, Maryna Khrypun, Krystian Kaminski and Agata Sztorc-Gromaszek), the show will represent the consequences of appropriation and destruction of artworks during the 20th–21st centuries.
A history of Russian appropriation
‘There are many examples of artists who were born and educated in Ukraine but who have been called Russian in institutions around the world,’ says Krystian Kamiński, our correspondent from Galeria Labirynt. ‘The Guggenheim NY calls Odessa a Russian city in the labels of a Kandinsky exhibition; and MoMA calls Alexandra Ekster, Vladimir Tatlin, and Sonia Delaunay Russian artists. Ukrainian-born artist Kazimir Malevich has long been referred to as part of Russian culture, as well as so-called “Russian avant-garde” which in fact represents avant-garde artists with different origins.’ To counteract such appropriative discourses, ‘Old New Gaze’ will show artefacts from private collections that have long been misinterpreted as Russian and make such manipulation visible.
The main part of the exhibition will consist of works made by contemporary Ukrainian artists as part of the rethinking of cultural heritage. It will have both a theoretical and spatial focus. Articles, thoughts and ideas of professionals who critically reflect on the Russian war against Ukraine and its influence on Ukrainian culture will be accompanied by the physical representation of works and ideas. This will bolster a multimodal perception.
Parallel to the exhibition, there will be a public program with lectures and workshops by Ukrainian and European art historians and cultural theorists, museum staff, and specialists working with memory.
A culture of solidarity
Krystian tells us that ‘[solidarity] means collective action aimed at the experiences of “others”. To identify the meaning of the “culture of solidarity”, we highlight aspects such as art, activism, political expression, metaphor, performativity, and work with memory, heritage, and space. Culture of solidarity brings the strategies which aim to draw attention to the painful issues and unmet needs of a particular social group and initiate change through collective creative action.’
Galeria Labirynt’s past, present and upcoming activities can be found here.