Making Plans: Imagining Peace through Art
Ukrainian artist Anna Potsiluyko has been busy with the Motherland Movement to support humanitarian organisations in Ukraine. We visited the Imagine Ukraine exhibition at M HKA to see how the museum presents Ukrainian art and culture and to discuss art’s role in the fight for freedom. Imagine Ukraine at M HKA is showing until 21 August and is part of a wider project supported by the European Parliament and in collaboration with PinchukArtCentre in Kyiv.
Tell us about your own practice.
In my master's studies, I started from my own experiences with body dysmorphia and my interest in the body and plastic surgery. It evolved into a feminist manifest where I make drawings with feminine sexual ornaments and create creatures which are sexual, cute and also very dangerous. I just bought a kiln and my next project will be reinventing weapons, knives and knuckledusters, in a femme way. With femininity, you must protect and arm yourself. The war starts there is an extra layer with respect to protecting yourself, your home, and your country.
I create creatures which are sexual, cute and also very dangerous
How did the Motherland Movement start?
These last months I’ve been doing the motherland movement with Denys Shantar and Kevin Liekens. When it [the invasion] happened, we just started crying. As an artist, I felt really useless. I know people who are sitting in parliament to help fix the sanctions against Russia and I’m here making art. I know Denys from the To Be Antwerp art walk, we talked and decided to fix something together. We did three art sales, one concert and had over 70 artists donating multiple artworks. It was really cool, really chaotic and we raised over 12.000 euros.
So Imagine Ukraine is part of a bigger project and this branch of it is about art as a critical attitude. Do you think it links to the day-to-day life and culture in Ukraine?
There was some information about strikes and wages - it’s tough out there. The war has been happening for a long time and everything has gone to shit, yet a big part was forgotten: to show Ukraine as a great nation. It’s a huge and beautiful country, almost the size of the whole of Europe. I understand that we need to show the war, but it’s important to also show what we are protecting. I felt the importance of what Ukraine brings to the table globally has gotten a little lost.
The project Imagine Ukraine is described as a ‘bridge’ of knowledge between Ukraine and Europe, imagining a shared future. Do you think it's a necessary objective, to make this cultural bridge?
Yes, of course. I’m really happy the exhibition is here, to give a voice and create a context for what is happening in Ukraine. It’s a good starting point. Most of the pieces were still from a few years ago. It would be cool to make it more contemporary and show the reaction to the war from this year by involving people who have just come from Ukraine - to give them a voice and an opportunity to show their works.
Do you think there’s a power in art that can be used? How does it work?
In art, there is freedom of speech to say whatever you want to. It’s not possible in every country and in Ukraine it was possible. The main objective is to protect freedom and our country, and the right to say whatever you want. In Russia, you can’t do that.
In art there is a freedom of speech to say whatever you want to
There’s a workshop as part of Imagine Ukraine where Alevtina Kahidze establishes dialogue through the language of art and asking questions. I thought it’d be nice if I asked you some of them as well. Is the one who does not love his country also a citizen?
That’s a really interesting one. You don’t need to be a patriot to deserve human rights. I heard from a Russian girl that the younger generations who are anti-war and anti-government have their own flag. They still have unity with each other but not with the tainted flag.
You don’t need to be a patriot to deserve human rights
What is the difference between a dream and a plan?
I think we’re all about the plan because Ukraine has been fucked with for so long over centuries. It’s more the objective just to have our own home without anyone taking or destroying it. Is it a dream or a plan? I think, practically, Plan A is to defend ourselves.
And your plans?
To have a rest and then create some new work. Hopefully, in autumn I’ll fix some nice shows, and continue to raise money in a sustainable way which really promotes Ukrainian artists and our heritage. We want to create a dialogue between artist and viewer. The point here is not to be segregated - we want to join forces and learn about each other's cultures. That’s the bigger plan.