Art Workers Throughout Russia Condemn Putin’s War in Ukraine
February 28, 2022
Artists, curators, and cultural workers across Russia are protesting President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine by stepping back from their roles as the country’s cultural representatives on both the local and global stage. Their actions come as pressures for a boycott of Russian art institutions and Russian participation in prestigious international events mount, with the strongest urging coming from Kyiv.
Raimundas Malašauskas resigned as curator of the Russian Pavilion at the fast-upcoming Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale, posting, “I cannot advance on working on this project in light of Russia’s military invasion and bombing of Ukraine. This war is politically and emotionally unbearable. As you know,” he continued, “I was born and formed in Lithuania when it was part of the Soviet Union. I have lived through the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1989 and have witnessed and enjoyed my country’s development ever since. The idea of going back to or forward with living under a Russian or any other empire is simply intolerable.”
Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov, who were to present their work at the pavilion, withdrew as well. Wrote the pair on social media, “There is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles, when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters, when Russian protesters are getting silenced.” The news was confirmed on the Russian pavilion’s Instagram, where it was announced that the pavilion would “remain closed”; as of this writing, word was circulating that the pavilion was to be canceled entirely.
In Moscow, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art said that it would “stop work on all exhibitions until the human and political tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine has ceased,” noting, “We cannot support the illusion of normality when such events are taking place. . . . The Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design today announced that it was putting all programming on hold, acknowledging, “We consider it impermissible to carry on business as usual in the present situation while lives in Ukraine are being lost.” Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson halted his exhibition at Moscow’s GES-2 House of Culture a month early. “It is not possible to have this work when this horror begins,” he told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
The New York Times yesterday reported that Alexei Ratmansky, the former director of the Bolshoi Ballet and now an artist in residence at the American Ballet Theater, departed Moscow, where he was working, for New York shortly after news of the invasion broke, taking his team with him. The Kyiv-raised Ratmansky was working on two ballets there, one for Moscow’s Bolshoi slated to premiere March 30 and the other for St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Ballet to open mid-May. Both projects are now on hold, with the latter projected not to take place at all. Said Ratmansky, who has many family members living in Ukraine, “Both of these projects are very close to my heart. But at the moment, the only thing that matters is that Ukraine survives, keeps its independence, and that our families stay alive.”
Dmitry Vilensky, a founder of Russian collective Chto Delat?, noted that more than seven thousand artists and cultural workers had signed a declaration against the war; artist Victoria Marchenkova announced that her solo exhibition at a Moscow gallery had been delayed until the end of the war. “Please let’s save the world all together,” wrote Marchenkova on her site. “STOP THE WAR.”