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Venice Biennale

Story and photos: Borys Filonenko

Illustration: #OleksandrShatokhin


The artwork Fountain of Exhaustion by Pavlo Makov represents Ukraine in 2022 at one of the most famous exhibitions of contemporary art, the Venice Biennale. Project curators Borys Filonenko, Lizaveta German, and Maria Lanko emphasized the importance of not to leave the Ukrainian pavilion empty in a time when it became critically important to tell Europe about Ukraine. The main task of the curators was to outline the common space where Ukraine and the European Union were positioned together.

For this purpose, another temporary pavilion, Piazza Ucraina, was created in the very center of Giardini (the venue of the biennale) with the participation of architect Dana Kosmina and the team of the Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund military archive.

Objects lined with sandbags were installed in the center of the lawn, in the same way that monuments in Ukrainian cities are protected. Burnt wooden panels, with the works of Ukrainian artists created after February 24, were placed around the center. The staff assembling the sculpture from bags asked co-curator Borys Filonenko what exactly they were constructing—they wanted to understand the meaning of their work. The story about the preservation of cultural monuments interested them, and then they continued to work with greater enthusiasm.

Borys was also called to Italian television for an interview about Piazza Ucraina. He had only two minutes to present the temporary pavilion. The co-curator took the time to tell the Italians their own story. The Italians used the same sandbags to protect the fresco The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan during World War II. According to Filonenko, the common experience affected the locals. "Their eyes ceased to be professionally oriented and cold, and became the eyes of interested partners," Borys said. The protection of art, after all, has become not an abstract idea, but physical work, that literally demonstrates the importance of the work of cultural workers—both Ukrainian and Italian.


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