Scenography is a blending of architecture and theatre into a time-based spatial art form

Interview with Oksana Zarzhevskaya-Kravchenko from IZOLYATSIA, The Platform for Cultural Initiatives.

"Scenography is a blending of architecture and theatre into a time-based spatial art form evoking all senses, inherently relates to our physical environment, the manifestations, leftovers and the traces of our cultures.”

 

Oksana Zarzhevskaya-Kravchenko studied Donetsk State management academy in Ukraine, working experience by the TOP positions in the commercial business company with the founder from the United Kingdom 2007-2016. Since 2010, she has been working with IZOLYATSIA on different cultural and social projects and since 2016 she has been leading IZOLYATSIA as director.

What was the main reason for joining the Emergence project?

Aims and objectives of this project are in close correspondence with IZOLYATSIA’s mission. We seek to help in the realization of the young or emerging artists, create a strong network of artists and culture workers\institutions in Ukraine and across the world, facilitating the cultural process in general. It was also a great opportunity for us to cooperate with amazing institutions and deepen connections between Ukrainian and European art scene and artistic practice. Last but not least, the topic of history, reframing memory is quite urgent now in Ukraine and our institution in particular. As you may know, IZOLYATSIA is originally from Donetsk, which is now occupied by Russian-backed mercenaries of the self-proclaimed «Donetsk People’s Republic», and our former facilities are now used as a prison. We constantly work with reframing memory and our heritage in different discourses, this is why we were incredibly interested in participation in the project.

What do you think is its main goal? Has this goal been met?

In short, I would describe that the main goal mention above will be matched with the connection of emerging artists with established professionals, increasing international exposure and mobility, development of critical thinking and creative skills through “real world” projects, and so on, under the umbrella of developing a common theme of heritage and reframing memory. This goal could be achieved in many ways, we for example conducted residencies and workshops. Both of these formats are very effective in addressing the project’s goal. They enabled mobility, networking, helped in artists’ career development. During the workshops run by foreign artists in Ukraine, people had active discussions talking about differences and common things in their experiences, exchanged their knowledge, developed new skills and created new connections. During residencies, we gave space and freedom to emerging artists so they could implement their projects with the help of our team.

So, my answer would be yes, I appreciate very much that we could give new opportunities to many people who were participants or visitors of our activities, but it always will be an ongoing process of development.

Could you briefly introduce your activities under the Emergence project? Which one was most important to you and why?

Our activities up to now were 4 residencies and 2 workshops. All of the residencies were with different artists and had some public event that each artist would choose appropriate for his\her project. For example, Yana Novotorova had a performance and exhibition together with her German and Ukrainian colleagues. They had a research on the phenomenon of symbolic violence in the context of the occupation and military conflict in Ukraine. Martin Kufieta who is a photography artist from Germany had a photo field research in Kyiv on the city landscape and gave an artist talk on the results of his project and created an art object on the territory of IZOLYATSIA.  And Vitalii Shupliak had an artist talk but also created his solo exhibition reflecting concepts of identity, society and social media. Each residency was unique, we tried to give the artists as much freedom as possible. As to the workshops, one was by Andrea Ridel called Invisibility where participants created costumes which seem to merge into the townscape of Kyiv and were presented on Prague Quadriennal at 2019, and a second one by Bernadette Anzengruber on performance from a feminist perspective which was conducted online due to quarantine restrictions. Both workshops enhanced networking, knowledge sharing and building of new skills for participants. It is hard to mark one activity as of the most important since even though they had sort of unified format (residency or workshop) each of the activities separately was quite unique and had different impacts that are equally important. I would say the more this kind of activities, the better, and their impact is stronger when formats are diverse.

 

Have you encountered any complications?

Some of our complications were connected to the realization of artists’ projects, like finding necessary materials or keep within the budget, but we faced them with exited creativity and tried to do best in given circumstances.

The most unexpected obstacle we faced was quarantine restrictions in connection with COVID-19 that happened this spring all over the world. We planned our last workshop with Bernadette Anzengruber that had to arrive personally here in Kyiv in April. But it couldn’t happen, so we decided to reformat our workshop to an online event. It was new to us, but we found a lot of positive sides in it - for example, a lot of people from other cities and even countries were able to join the workshop.

The most important is that such kind of extra unexpected breaking situation as with Covid-19 and all the borders closure and stop of international mobilities proves that only strong and reliable partnership between all the partners can maintain such challenge. And we are honestly proud to have such a strong partnership.

Projects often work with a “national heritage” that is linked to different political opinions. Were you not worried that the combination of art and politics could bring some controversy?

In a society we live in Ukraine it is hard to find anything which is out of the political discourse, especially history. Opinions on the positive or negative side of this situation may vary, but I believe that the more people are aware and interested in political situation the more they can be active citizens of their country and can influence its course. 

We expected that some kind of controversy might occur, but were ready for this since it would have been not the first project that rises social discourse that IZOLYATSIA made. For example, we had a project on LGBTQ+ people in Ukrainian military forces in 2018. In general, we are sure that it is important to have constant dialogue in society and look together for the consensus. So IZOLYATSIA was never afraid of complicated topics.

What do you think participants and visitors/viewers should take from the project?

Aside from individual insights, I think it would be a drive to knowledge and bravery for action. Your ideas might be much enriched by the knowledge, but you should not be afraid to try and make mistakes. And cooperation, cooperation is important.

Do you think it is important to have projects like Emergence? Why?

I definitely do think projects like Emergence have sufficient impact on culture development and facilitates connections in the field between artists and throughout the borders. As I mentioned it is very important to start a discussion on relevant topics and artists have the most unique and at the same time most universal tools.