“Monumental Propaganda”: Ukraine’s parting with Soviet aesthetics. Book launch, talk and discussion
Date: 13 September 2017
Venue: Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU
Registration: Registration for this event will be opened shortly.
Ukraine has been going through an intense period of identity consolidation, bolstered by the tumultuous events of the Kyiv’s Revolution of Dignity, the subsequent annexation of Crimea and the war in the east of the country. Its relationship with the Soviet past is a hotly-debated topic inside Ukraine, coupled with the government-supported policies of “de-communisation.”
The event will analyse Ukraine’s parting with the Soviet aesthetics and symbols from the point of view of cultural history. Myroslava Hartmond, a cultural practitioner spending her time between Oxford and Kyiv, will look at the “Leninopad” (toppling of Lenin statues) around Ukraine as an “esoteric practise” and an expression of collective unconscious of Ukrainians.
Dana Pavlychko, Director of Kyiv-based “Osnovy” publishing house, will unveil “Decommunized: Ukrainian Soviet Mosaics,” a freshly-published book of Soviet mosaics photographed around Ukraine, which provide a snapshot of the passing era.
The presentation will initiate a discussion on Ukraine’s current relationship with the visual artefacts of the totalitarian past and new meanings they generate in the cultural context of today’s Ukraine.
About the book
The book presents the first comprehensive study of Soviet monumental mosaics, outstanding artefacts of the cultural heritage of the era. Photographer Yevgen Nikiforov spent three years traveling all around Ukraine (including the presently occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts) in search of the most interesting art pieces of the 1950s–1980s within the context of Soviet Modernism. He covered 35,000 km of Ukrainian roads and visited 109 cities and villages to discover more than 1,000 surviving mosaics.
The book includes around 200 unique photographs of monumental panels: officially sanctioned gigantic images of workers, farmers, astronauts and athletes of coloured smalto or ceramics illustrate Soviet life as it was meant to be represented. Some of the pieces featured here were demolished shortly after the photographs were taken: they fell afoul of the so-called decommunization laws that ban communist symbols and slogans. Though the content of Soviet art was meticulously controlled by state propaganda, Ukrainian artists managed to develop a visual language that transcends the Socialist Realist canon. Today these works serve as historical testimony, and show a new important page in the 20th-century art history.
All events of the series