PIOTR ARMIANOVSKI (B. 1985 IN DONETSK) IS A UKRAINIAN ARTIST, PERFORMER AND FILM DIRECTOR. IN HIS WORKS, ARMIANOVSKI EXPLORES THE TOPICS OF MEMORY, LOSS, SOCIAL AND SYMBOLIC CONSTRUCTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE. HE LIVES AND WORKS IN KYIV.
In the first room, two documentary films are presented, which, through unveiling the intricately interwoven lace of personal experiences, portray two Ukrainian cities: Bucha and Mariupol. One of them suffered occupation during February and March 2022. The other was occupied and subsequently liberated in 2014 but remained on the front line of Russia's ongoing war of aggression. In late May 2022, it was seized by the Russian army after fierce battles.
Piotr Armianovski. Me and Mariupol. 2017
Produced by the International Festival of Film and Urbanism "86" as part of the MyStreetFilms workshop Courtesy of the artist
Me and Mariupol is a poetic video essay verging on investigative documentary dedicated to the eponymous city on the Azov Sea shore. Piotr Armianovski has personal sentiments about the place. Born and raised in nearby Donetsk, he used to attend youth sailing club in Mariupol twenty years ago. He came back in 2017, only to find most of the places from his childhood memories either abandoned or partly destroyed.
A Balance of Sadness and Joy. 2022
Courtesy of the artist
After the liberation of the Kyiv region in April 2022, Piotr Armianovski went to Bucha aiming to document Russia's war crimes and talk with witnesses. The film A Balance of Sadness and Joy combines footage of devastation left behind by the Russian army with materials showing restoration of buildings damaged by shelling and scenes of peaceful life, like wedding and birthday celebrations. Armianovski captures the attitude of mutual support and care, a connection that grew between people who did not even know each other before the war united them.
In the second room, the narrative goes further back into the recent past of Ukraine, with works representing the first half of the 2010s. The videos serve as a testimony of the artist's desperate acts of dissent during the protests against injustice that took place when Ukraine's civil society was yet to emancipate itself through the Revolution of Dignity.
How Long Could You Scream? 2011
Video documentation of a performance, 6'27'' Courtesy of the artist
Soon after Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential election in February 2010, a wave of protests swept through the country, showing widespread resentment towards the drastic rise of corruption, benefit cuts and pro-Russian reforms of the new government. Remembering the success of the 2004 Orange Revolution and recognising the power of mass action, Ukraine's civil society was increasingly active in expressing its dissatisfaction with the political situation.
This video shows Piotr Armianovski's performance entitled How Long Could You Scream? which is dedicated to anti-government protests in Spring 2011. Armianovski stands in front of a metal railing that protects the entrance to the building of Ukrainian parliament and screams at the top of his lungs. Security police officers guarding the area approach Armianovski, try to talk to him, shove him. Paying no attention to their efforts, the artist keeps screaming incessantly. Gradually, he loses his voice; the scream becomes more of a quiet gurgling.
Chornobyl Liquidators. 2011
Courtesy of the artist
This complicated context gave rise to the Revolution of Dignity, which began in November 2013 and ended in February 2014, leading to the removal of Yanukovych from the presidency and extensive revision of Ukraine's political system. Due to these outcomes, the Revolution of Dignity now epitomises the development of civil society in the country: this was in its very essence a mass mobilisation of people demanding democratic changes, which facilitated the progress towards civil rights and freedoms. During those years, Piotr Armianovski have been both documenting the protests and expressing his own civic consciousness through activism and performance.
Piotr Armianovski. Kalaripayattu. 2014
Video documentation of a performance, 5'57'' (video by Volodymyr Usyk)
Courtesy of the artist
The performance Kalaripayattu took place in January 2014, the next day after the viral incident with Mykhailo Havryliuk. Havryliuk was a participant in the Revolution of Dignity. He was captured by officers of Berkut (a special unit of riot police), stripped naked in temperatures approaching –15 °C and brutally beaten. The officers tortured the activist in front of their fellow servicemen in an overt act of humiliation. Armianovski responds to this with a desperate feat: he undresses while standing in the crowd of protesters and heads towards the formation of riot police in an attempt to show that even an unarmed and completely naked person is strong.
The journey through the exhibition culminates in a screening programme that comprises documentary films about several events, which took place after the Revolution of Dignity. The perspective of the films may appear unusual for the viewer, as they depict the political context through personal experiences of the participants rather than by praising unity of the civil society. The artist shows the fragmented nature of collective memory and explores how the official narrative erases individual stories from the media.
Piotr Armianovski. Black Cleaning. 2019
Courtesy of the artist
In his documentary films the artist critically analyses the socio-political environment of contemporary Ukraine. It includes: Black Cleaning (2014), showing that the Revolution of Dignity was a collective effort of people with very different agendas; Election That Didn't Happen (2017), examining the striking scale of consequences of Russia's interference with Ukrainian politics; Sloviansk (2014), revealing the war's imprint on the subconsciousness of its witnesses. Focusing on current challenges while not forgetting the past, Armianovski encourages us to learn and think about the future of post-war Ukraine.
Piotr Armianovski: "Silence currently seems to be absent from our lives. Silence means safety and now it is always disturbed by some sort of noise. However, people who have survived mass shelling say that silence is the worst. Still, we sometimes need a space to hear our own heartbeat. On the other hand, our lives often lack a place allowing us to release emotions, to scream or cry without being judged."
The exhibition is intended to foster personal reflection and public discussion. At the same time, it has a subtle gesture of care incorporated in its structure. Understanding that thinking about Ukraine's recent history can be quite unsettling, Armianovski offers the viewers a space that can be used to release emotions or as a safe place to restore peace of mind. It is a soundproof room where the viewers can express their feelings by screaming and crying, or simply sit down and spend some time in absolute silence away from the crowd.
Oleksandra Pogrebnyak, curator of the exhibition: "This exhibition discovers what unites us as a civil society in our desire to make the world a better place. You will encounter many dreamers in the films presented at the exhibition, – one of them is Piotr himself. Ukrainians have never stopped fighting for a better future. And now, we are moving towards an unbreakable Ukraine after the victory in the war of aggression initiated by Russia."
The exhibition is curated by Oleksandra Pogrenbyak, Junior Curator of the PinchukArtCentre.
The exhibition will be open from June 30 to October 1, 2023.Admission is free.