Ukraine. A Different Angle on Neighbourh

Friday, September 17, 2021 - Sunday, January 16, 2022

  • Friday, September 17, 2021 - Sunday, January 16, 2022
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Ukraine has been independent for thirty years. It is also close to us, bold, multi-faceted and surprising. Equally so is the exhibition Ukraine. A Different Angle on Neighbourhood, organised at the International Cultural Centre.

Our current relations with our eastern neighbours are shaped by our complicated common history and our shared present-day reality: we encounter the lovely melodious accent every day, on public transport, in shops, schools and universities, at work and at concerts. The situation is observed by the International Cultural Centre, presenting an insight into “Ukrainian myths” widespread in Poland and in Ukraine itself. We will explore how Ukraine is popularly perceived through art made over the centuries until the present day. The exhibition Ukraine. A Different Angle on Neighbourhood has been prepared jointly with the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU) in Kyiv, and mainly focuses on its most important collection of Ukrainian art in the world. We will also see Polish and Ukrainian artworks held at other institutions and private collections in both countries. Russian Orthodox, Uniate and Catholic traditions occasionally encounter the world of Islam, and of course there are influences from Soviet Union’s social realism.

The oldest works date back to the late 17th century – a period of close ties between Ukraine and the rest of Europe and the blossoming of Ukrainian Baroque. We will see portraits inspired by Sarmatism: just as Polish nobility saw itself as having descended from Sarmatians, Ukrainian Cossacks were said to be the successors of the Khazars. Both myths aimed to explain their “exclusive” roots, innate nobleness and nobility, and both remain present in mass culture. The 19th-century apotheosis of the Cossack myth, widely regarded as the foundation of national revival, is reflected in poems by the bard Taras Shevchenko as well as the Polish battle painter Józef Brandt and the Russian artist Ilya Repin who drew inspiration from works by Jan Matejko. His Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire from 1890 is a national icon in Ukraine; the exhibition features a sketch of the work.

The exhibition takes us through the most important “myths” and important themes from Ukrainian culture and history, all the way to their current emanations. Such mythologised visions of an endless steppe are juxtaposed with contemporary artists’ concerns over the environment, and the ancient image of a fertile agricultural land with the still visible scars of the Holodomor and repressions from the communist period. The multicultural society of Ukraine and its disruption during Soviet-era deportations, resettlement and persecution returns in contemporary voices from the Maidan and the “Revolution of Dignity”. In turn, the centuries-old image of Ukraine as a borderland connecting the civilised West with Asian nomads resound in contemporary descriptions of the political situation beyond our eastern border.

Dr. Żanna Komar, curator of the exhibition from the ICC, stresses, “The exhibition is not a lecture on the history of Ukrainian art, nor a reconstruction of mythology key to Ukrainian identity. It provides a unique insight into the imaginations of Ukrainians, aware of their myths and boldly taking up challenges posed by the all-too-frequently tragic contemporary events.” (Dorota Dziunikowska)

The text published in the 3/2021 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.

International Cultural Centre

Rynek Główny 25

This historical mansion on the Main Market Square is more than just a place where research and educational projects are conducted, as it is an important venue for major presentations of art.

The International Cultural Centre (ICC), the first state institution of culture in Poland established after the fall of the Iron Curtain, was launched to support cultural integration in Europe and to carry out activities furthering the protection of cultural heritage. The scientific and educational projects conducted here, and the publications and exhibitions organised concern a vast array of questions from the essence of European civilisation, via national stereotypes, national identity in the face of globalisation, collective memory, the multiculturalism of Central and Eastern Europe, the place of Poland in Europe, to the cultural heritage and the new philosophy of its protection, and the phenomenon of a historical city. The institution has made its home in the modernised historical mansion in the Main Market Square. The ICC Gallery organises temporary exhibitions, frequently based on original phenomena in art and architecture of the previous century.

Tickets: normal PLN 13, concessions  PLN 8, family PLN 20

 

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