‘Even in times of war, you have to live’: Kyiv’s art scene is determined to celebrate | Music


NOTnestled in a green and peaceful glen, hidden under a glowing canopy of hardwoods, the morning sun shines on the ancient river port of Kyiv. Beams of light stream into the courtyard of a bright red Soviet-era ribbon factory, cleverly remodeled during wartime.

For more than a decade, the 19th-century factory buildings on Nyzhnoiurkivska 31 in the Podil district have been Kyiv’s favorite spot for raves and youth subcultures all weekend long, hosted by the resident discotheques Closer, Mezzanine and Otel’. Everything fell apart when Russia invaded Ukraine and most of the people who worked and socialized here left for safe haven, joined the army or started volunteering to help the war effort. . But today is a new dawn for the Ribbon Factory, with On Time, the country’s first large-scale alternative music and arts event since the invasion five months ago.

Festival guests hang out in front of the Mezzanine Club.
On Time guests dance and relax in the factory courtyard.

As we watch an art installation by Kyiv artist Igor GoRa, On Time curator Andrii Siguntsov says it brings together those “who use art as a weapon to expose war for what it is and like a kind of therapy for people trapped”. in the war.

Ukrainian artist Misha Alekseenko watches his Broken Window installation from one of the windows at Closer nightclub.
The artist Igor GoRa during his installation in the Closer nightclub.

“These events and artists are there for the same purpose: to harness art and music as a force against the disinformation and violence that devastates our lives, our land and our cultures, and in the process to raise funds for our military, our volunteer groups, and our artists whose lives have been as badly affected by war as anyone else.

The Closer, Mezzanine and Otel’ nightclubs participate by sharing their spaces and pooling their resources. Together they created the NGO The Ribbon Factory, which will manage the territory and a bi-weekly artistic event. According to Otel co-founder Pablo Derhachov, the pre-war nightlife and music of that era is not the right tone for the new reality. “After we win the war, maybe we can have techno parties again. But the techno scene before was becoming very commercial and revolved around big names and powerful promoters. Right now we need experimental music and art that is connected to our society and has a social conscience, so it’s all about building a closer community. The war brought us closer and this festival is built on this unity.

Otel's founding director Pavlo Derhachov dances on the floor during one of the live shows

Live on stage at Otel’ we see metalcore band State 62, named after the postcode of their much-missed birthplace and home of Donetsk, which they left in 2014 when Russian proxies ran away. are captured for the first time. “All our music is about the war and the lies that made possible the theft of our lands, the killings, the genocide,” says singer Denis when we meet after the concert. “We write about the importance of truth and knowledge because, if we don’t understand the war they waged in people’s heads, then we are brain dead in society, and on the battlefield, we too will die.”

State 62 performs live at the Otel nightclub.
State 62's Denis Zadiprovsky backstage after the band's live performance.

In another corner of the Ribbon Factory is a brick vaulted tunnel where nightclubs once came to hang out or smoke. Today, it’s a gallery and art studio rolled into a cylinder, where 26-year-old artist Nastya Trofimova – along with fellow Thugs Rugs founders Taya and Hlib – is one of many artists selling unique handicrafts with a hard-hitting war theme. “We make custom rugs with designs that feature funny, weird, but often powerful symbols of our youth and society; many were born out of collaborations with different local artists,” says Trofimova, or Nancy Broccoli as she calls herself on Etsy.

Visitors check out some of the many works of art from the Ribbon Factory on display at the On Time festival.
Visitors admire the works of artisanal producers who sell their wares in the ribbon shop.

“It has been so difficult for everyone. Losing people we love and also watching helplessly as our affairs evaporate. At the end of February we already thought it was all over – because who needs carpets when people lose their homes and leave the country? We take each day as our last day and try not to worry more than that, but we’ve been lucky enough to find some great new customers overseas, mostly from the US, Canada and overseas. ‘Europe. It’s not as much as before, but we’re really grateful for that.

The Thugs Rugs team presents some of their new designs with war motifs.
A tufting gun in a workshop run by the Odesa rug manufacturing company, Thugs Rugs.
The Thugs Rugs team show how it's done in their On Time workshop

Taking the tufting gun in her hands, Trofimova sews a bright yellow yarn on a heart-shaped pattern and offers a try. “Take it and shoot to love, because with this workshop we want visitors to not only understand how to use the gun, but above all what lies behind our work.”

For illustrator and architect Natalia Shulga, showing her work with several other artists in the Closer club gallery, the turmoil and resurgence of the art community reflects her own experience of living under an invasion. She moved to Lviv with a close friend who has children. “Life is turned upside down. Some of my best friends are in the military, so every day I worry about them. A kind of normality has returned in a way, but in the foreground there is always the concern of these people who are fighting for our survival.

Architect and illustrator Natalia Shulga sits next to a piano in the Lada Garden.

“To help me survive, I have to be creative, so after a while I started working again. During the first weeks of the war, I couldn’t even listen to music, but eventually I thought, OK, and a song,” Shulga says with a smile. “Even in times of war we have to live, and that means appreciating others, nature, art and music too which can comfort us and open doors for us, so really without those things we can hardly be alive.” She says her artistic practice was not just work, but “a kind of self-therapy, but when the viewer sees my work on Bucha and Mariupol , I don’t want him to think of me, but of all the people, for example, who were killed when the maternity ward was bombed. It’s literally about that horror and all the pain and anguish that goes into it.

Friends Kara from Kyiv (left) and Zay (right) from New Jesery are delighted with the festival.  According to Zay, Kyiv is special:

  • Friends Kara from Kyiv (left) and Zay (right) from New Jersey are delighted with the festival. According to Zay, Kyiv is special: “It’s such an amazing place for art and culture, and so bright and interesting. I love the people, the country and the culture.

Festival applied tattoos.

Sorrow, fear, anxiety, depression. This is what clinical psychologist and photographer Alla Datsiuk set out to fight a month after the start of the war. I meet her in one of the many corridors connecting different parts of the ribbon factory; originally from the currently occupied southern city of Kherson, Datsiuk moved to Kyiv where she studied psychology at Vernadsky University. After the war started, she says she quickly began thinking about new approaches to her work and the climate of war.

Clinical psychologist and photographer Alla Datsiuk

“I decided to combine my two passions, photography and psychology. And began to organize therapeutic photo sessions, which help people to feel the contact with their body; for support and compassion. Since then, Datsiuk has been busy helping trauma patients. “Vulnerable, lovely, sensitive people of all genders come to me for these sessions and it can get quite intense, with tears of pain and anguish, but also resolution and acceptance at the end. I mostly hope that they will leave feeling compassion and love for themselves and for others.

Tetiana, from Khabarovsk in Russia's far east, decorates the branches of a tree in Lada Gardens.

In the gardens of Closer’s dance terrace, there are beaming faces and smiles of people who seem determined to hug and kiss after a long and forced separation. One of them introduces herself as Tetiana, 25, a physiotherapist from Khabarovsk in the far east of Russia. “It’s wonderful to be back here after such a long difficult time,” she said, decorating the trees with trinkets and colored foil. “I lost six people who were very close to me, I couldn’t speak for a week and almost went mad with grief, but this place of art and music and the community of people here fills me up again with so much love.”

According to Tetiana, many Russians seem to live under the spell of propaganda. “I don’t talk to a lot of my family and old friends, who you can’t reason with: they say Ukraine attacked Russia first, it doesn’t make sense.”

Old friends reunite on Closer's outdoor patio and dance floor.

As the sun begins to set and curfew approaches, we move under the lush gardens next to one of the outdoor bars, where behind my back someone is whispering softly in my ear. “Death comes in many forms,” ​​says the festival-goer who introduces himself as Lucifer. “To die while still alive is the worst death – these are the people who support Putin. My mother lives under occupied Enerhodar, my friends were killed, including a dear friend whose whole family was shot. His voice becomes contemptuous. “You know what, people used to look at me and be scared or say I was evil, but I would never kill peaceful people and steal their lives. And now all of a sudden the same people think I’m an angel.

Lucifer near one of Closer's outdoor bars.

He shuffles a deck of tarot cards and offers a glass of whisky. “Despite all this darkness – in fact precisely because of it – love will emerge brighter than before and unlike those zombies that have invaded our lands, we will live forever.”


theguardian Gt

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