Social media give us responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine almost instantly, but some of the most moving responses I’ve seen come from the young Ukrainian artists who’ve managed to make new work documenting events as they unfold.
What follows are four accounts run by Ukrainian artists — one currently in Austria, and three still in the country — and one by Ukrainian Americans, all working to keep the world’s attention on what’s happening on the ground.
I’ve also been following the wave of relief efforts centered in New York, among them the Moldovan-born artist Alexandra Borovski’s sale of beautiful, obsessive ink drawings to help the American artist Clemens Poole ferry relief supplies from Poland. A collective called Spilka, co-founded by the Ukrainian American multimedia artist Betty Roytburd, is reaching isolated Ukrainians overlooked by larger aid groups — and organizing Ukrainian-food-themed fund-raisers in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Ekaterina Lisovenko @lisovenko_ekaterina
The painter Ekaterina Lisovenko recently took on the Russian slogan “mozhem povtorit,” literally, “we can repeat,” which refers to the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II and has been revived in the hopes of convincing Russian people that the war in Ukraine is a similarly heroic undertaking. Lisovenko posted a single image four times. Captioned as “a raped and murdered woman and her murdered child,” the supine, yellowish, slightly abstracted figures on a dark gray ground are assigned to four different Russian invasions — the current one; the 2014 incursions into the Donbas region; the 2008 invasion of the Republic of Georgia; and the first Chechen war. It’s a shocking, extremely effective way to remind us what’s really at stake when we talk about sanctions, negotiations and troop movements.
Asia Bazdyrieva @asiabazdyrieva
For the last six or seven weeks, the writer Asia Bazdyrieva has been keeping a mostly English-language online diary from somewhere outside Kyiv. Posted in white sans-serif letters on a black background — like iPhone notes adjusted for low light — the diary captures the mind-bending dissonance of life in a war zone. One entry notes that Bazdyrieva has slept for seven hours, delivered Molotov cocktail supplies to the Territorial Defense Forces, and repotted a plant; another, which uses the phrase “Russian roulette,” is captioned “Felt cute might delete later.” The different tones are impossible to reconcile, and that’s exactly what makes the diary so evocative.
Andrey Rachinskiy @andrey_rachinskiy
Before the invasion, the new media artist Andrey Rachinskiy was making photo and video work about the stranger corners of post-Soviet reality with his longtime collaborator Daniil Revkovskiy, like one fascinating investigation into the duel between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian graffiti in their native city of Kharkiv. Now Rachinskiy is in Lviv, buying piles of food, diapers and medical supplies to send home — and keeping account of the piles with handsome, heartbreaking photographs. His feed is also a good place to find some of the billboards Ukraine has erected for its invaders, like the one telling them, “We are on our land, but you will be in it.”
Ukrainian Modernism @ukrainianmodernism
Before the war, this popular account run by the photographer and educator Dmytro Soloviov was dedicated to celebrating the sharp corners and enormous chandeliers of Ukraine’s grandest 20th century buildings. Now it’s chronicling their violent destruction, as well as fund-raising for the preservation of cultural properties, like this stained glass in the Kyiv Funicular — and promoting the architectural tours Soloviov is conducting even now. Images of bombed out buildings, unfortunately, are easy enough to find, but the context of Soloviov’s account makes them into something slightly different. He’s not only adding to the record of airstrikes on apartment buildings and other civilian targets, as important as that is. He’s also found a way of picturing the harder to reckon with cultural damage that comes with loss of life and property.
How the Ukraine War Is Affecting the Cultural World
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Valentin Silvestrov. Ukraine’s best-known living composer, Mr. Silvestrov made his way from his home in Kyiv to Berlin, where he is now sheltering. In recent weeks, his consoling music has taken on new significance for listeners in his war-torn country.
Alexei Ratmansky. The choreographer, who grew up in Kyiv, was preparing a new ballet at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow when the invasion began, and immediately decided to leave Moscow. The ballet, whose premiere was set for March 30, was postponed indefinitely.
Ukrainian Artists @ukrainianartists