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Open Letter to a Whole Bunch of Curators Invited to Curate ARSENALE 2014 (Kyiv, Ukraine)

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Inasmuch as the individuals previously invited to curate ARSENALE 2014 Boris Groys and Maria Lind refused (saying, respectively, "that the Ukrainian art scene is entirely focused on its internal problems" and "no comment"), and Mystetski Arsenal continues to deny that acts of censorship and vandalism occurred before the opening of the exhibition "Great and Grand," the situation remains impassable.[updated 18 October 2013]

We, the undersigned, are calling you to join us in the boycott of Mystetskyi Arsenal and all of its affiliate organizations that began in July 2013 in response to the situation surrounding the exhibition “Great and Grand.” ПРОЧИТАТИ ТЕКСТ УКРАЇНСЬКОЮ

By organizing this exhibition, Mystetskyi Arsenal revealed itself to be an ideologized, pro-regime institution, as well as an instrument for imitating cultural processes. Such activity does not correspond to the challenges of today’s world and thus does not create space for contemporary art. Proclaiming the exhibition “Great and Grand” a “project of self-awareness and true lesson in national pride in Ukrainian culture,” Mystetskyi Arsenal is creating a precedent for uncritical and simplistic treatment of both the historical narrative and current problems, presenting culture as an attractive object working for the fusion of state and church, which in this instance is encroaching even on artistic space. The censorship of Volodymyr Kuznetsov’s work “Koliivshchyna: Judgment Day” and the exclusion of Vasyl Tsagolov’s painting “Molotov Cocktail” from the exhibition revealed the curatorial and organizational ineptitude of those who work for Mystetskyi Arsenal. On the eve before the exhibition opening, director N. Zabolotna ordered that Kuznetsov's mural be covered in black paint, calling this action her "own performance," enacted to punish “certain artists for their impudence.” This act of censorship has also been detrimental to the international reputation of Mystetskyi Arsenal and has raised doubts about the possibility of holding significant international contemporary art exhibitions within its walls. A state institution cannot serve the caprices and phobias of the authorities; it should represent the critical and discursive knowledge produced by art. However, any critical discourse authorized by Arsenal in the current situation is discredited from the outset. Anyone who has the right to speak during ARSENALE 2014 upholds the stifling of every dissenting voice - both before and after the event. Collaboration with the institution Mystetskyi Arsenal in its current state is impossible. Since the publication of the Open Letter from the Art Workers' Self-defense Initiative to the Ukrainian and International Art Community on July 31, there has been no response to its demands from Mystetskyi Arsenal. Therefore, we reiterate that this boycott of Mystetskyi Arsenal will last until the institution: –declares the principles that underlie the activity of Mystetskyi Arsenal as an Institution; –legalizes relations between the Institution and artists; –publicly acknowledges the situation surrounding the works of Tsagolov and Kuznetsov as, respectively, an act of censorship and censorship and vandalism; –publicly guarantees that similar acts of censorship will not be repeated in the future. In light of the above-mentioned events, we maintain that art is capable of resisting increasing religious fundamentalism and any kind of fundamentalism. We insist on the autonomy of the state art institution, which must not be utilized by any official, religious, ideological or commercial forces.


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