Is decommunisation a form of iconoclasm? Is real change even possible? And what happens when you fuse Renaissance graphics with Soviet propaganda?
Ukrainian artist Mykyta Kadan asks all these questions and more. Always socially engaged and intellectually challenging, his work testifies to an acute historical consciousness. Featuring charcoal drawings, photographs, objects, and works with neon, Kadan’s latest exhibition – “The Sweetest Song of Sorrow” – opens today at Kyiv’s Voloshyn Gallery.
Kadan’s works explore ‘the spirit of protest’ and ‘the spirit of melancholy’, and the relationship between the two. The former can easily transform into the latter: the critical, fighting spirit of protest segues into the passive negativity of endless mourning. The result is residual melancholy, politicised depression, and collective trauma that cannot be separated from history. All this is already the stuff of literature, but there is still a heavy burden to carry and the topic is as relevant as ever. Young people are suffering the loss of the Soviet heritage (whether or not they know it), while the older generation mourns the existence of an entire country.
One of Kadan’s major themes is decommunisation: can the destruction of monuments really lead the way to discussion, openness, and warmth? Or is it just part of an unending cycle? In the artist’s view, the only monument that can take us into a better future is a clear and confident “No”. Kadan’s idea is that this ‘pure negativity’ will allow us to refine our sense of the past and the future, to wake up and stop the agony of the past from corrupting the present, and gain the momentum we need to make things better.
Even if you don’t agree with all of Kadan’s ideas, his works will set your thoughts in motion and throw old ideas into question. And that’s exactly how new ideas are born.
Mykyta Kadan – The Sweetest Song of Sorrow
Until 15 November (11.00 – 18.00)
Metro: Ploshcha Lva Tolstoho