A new digital exhibition, part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute, will display Ukrainian mosaics, some of which have been destroyed by the war, onto the walls of the Old Royal Naval College at this year’s Greenwich+Docklands International Festival in London.
Running from 26 to 29 August 2022, the audio-visual installation Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed will immerse visitors in a motion-activated spectacle of 56 monumental mosaics created by Ukrainian artists between the 1960s and the 1980s. The exhibition is produced by the Ukrainian Institute and the creative team of Rock 'n' Light Studio, with music provided by Ukrainian multi-genre instrumental duo Ptakh Jung and images captured by Kyiv-based photographer Yevgen Nikiforov.
Brightly coloured, hyper-intricate digital projections of mosaics will mask an alarming message, that most of them have been destroyed by the ongoing war. The fleeting projections will be accompanied by striking sounds, which will draw attention to both Ukraine’s cultural legacy and losses.
Among the mosaics to be brought back to life at the exhibition are the Tree of Life and the Boryviter (Kestrel) by Alla Horska, a significant figure of the Ukrainian dissident movement of the 1960s, created in Mariupol in 1967 – both of which were destroyed by the Russian shelling on 22 July 2022.
Mosaics are an important architectural feature of Ukrainian public spaces. The current installation was originally created in 2019 as a celebration of the Ukrainian mosaic tradition. It now attempts to reimagine the mosaic art form with the purpose of raising awareness about the destruction of cultural heritage and the importance of preservation.
The exhibition expands on Yevgen’s Ukrainian Soviet Mosaic project, developed over eight years and covering towns across Ukraine, which examines the Soviet cultural heritage in Ukraine and the critical local attitude towards it.
“Three years ago, we collected dozens of the most interesting mosaics for an animated projection to take a new look at the monumental art of Ukraine in the 20th century,” said Yevgen Nikiforov, the curator, ahead of the exhibition.
He continued: “Now, these unique objects are under threat, like the entire Ukrainian heritage. Through the display of these works in London, we will inscribe this layer of Ukrainian culture, still not sufficiently studied, in the history of world art.”
Commenting on the exhibition, David Codling, Ukraine UK Season Director at the British Council, said: “With its focus on art in public space, highly appropriate for the setting of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, this installation is an urgent reminder both of the danger to Ukraine’s cultural heritage and the vitality which sustains it.”
David added: “The British Council’s commitment to cultural exchange between the UK and Ukraine has strong foundations, on which the UK/Ukraine Season will build looking towards the future.”
Speaking from Ukraine, Tetyana Filevska, Creative Director of the Ukrainian Institute, said: “Ukrainian culture is one of the targets in the Russian war against Ukraine. Since 24 February, we have lost hundreds of cultural objects around the whole country.”
“Art project Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed is animating images of the Ukrainian mosaics that were created in the middle of the 20th century,” she added. “This part of our heritage is difficult to preserve during the devastating war. A significant part of mosaics will not survive in it.”
Tetyana continued: “This project allows us to learn about Ukraine’s art that is being demolished by Russian bombs every day. It is a way to keep at least a memory of it as part of Ukraine’s rich heritage that the world has just started to discover.”
The exhibition is presented under the umbrella of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, which the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute launched this June to mark 30 years of UK/Ukraine diplomatic relations. Through a year-long programme of activity, the season focuses on the emerging needs of the Ukrainian cultural sector and gives a voice to Ukrainian creatives, both in the UK and online.
The Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed Exhibition at the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is free to attend from 26 to 29 August 2022 at 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 pm each night. The duration of the show is 15 minutes. For more information, visit the event page.