Nikita Kadan as curator: A Letter from the Front, Kunsthalle Münster

10.7. – 11.9.2022

Under the title A Letter from the Front, Kunsthalle Münster presents a selection of videos and filmic works by 16 artists and one artist collective from Ukraine. A Letter from the Front was commissioned and produced by the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The selection, compiled by visual artist Nikita Kadan (born 1982 in Kyiv) together with Giulia Colletti, shows 19 films made in the last 15 years by artists of different generations. Works by AntiGONNA, Yaroslav Futymsky, Nikita Kadan, Nikolay Karabinovych, Dana Kavelina, Lesia Khomenkо, Alina Kleytman, Katya Libkind, Yarema Malashchuk + Roman Himey, Lada Nakonechna, R.E.P., Daniil Revkovsky + Andriy Rachinsky, Mykola Ridnyi, Oleksiy Sai. 

For Kunsthalle Münster, the project is a declaration against war, oppression and all forms of state violence, as well as a commitment to the country’s artists, who use their voices and instruments to show us what we need to see. “This war has been dragging on for eight years now, but the Donbass and Crimea have been rather invisibleor at least not that interesting for the media. It’s a bit like a disaster that is pushed to the periphery so that the centre remains clean and safe,” says Nikita Kadan. The film selection is an attempt to make the situation in Ukraine more comprehensible. At the same time, it underlines our belief in artworks as forms of collective communication and as a means of understanding. It works with mechanisms of intuition and imagination that might help to see the world more distinctly. 

Some of the Ukrainian artists whose works are shown in the Kunsthalle are trapped in the bombed cities or have fled to the border areas or neighbouring countries. They mobilise themselves inside or outside the borders of the war-torn country, defying the distances militantly with their own bodies. Some of them could not save their hard drives before leaving their homes and studios. Therefore, within the framework of this project, the artworks can only be shown in the form in which they were digitally stored on servers, clouds and web platforms. 

“The greater the distances are between all of us, the more united we feel in our demand to stop the Russian aggression in Ukraine. We could not be more solidary then we are now, while we face the fact that years of political struggles are in danger of dissolving and going up in smoke. The selection of filmic works and moving images presented on this occasion do not strictly speak of the new war. They are rather evidence of the work that has been done (or we thought we had done) to prevent the conflict. This works can be seen as a premonition of an evident and inevitable catastrophe, which too often in the history of Ukraine has been tangible.” (participating artists) 

A Letter from the Front is complemented by a reading room, which can be used by all visitors during the opening hours of the Kunsthalle Münster. One can immerse oneself in the available literature, use it as a workplace or place for conversations. During the accompanying events it serves as a place for lectures, readings and discussions. With the exhibition as well as the reading room, the Kunsthalle invites visitors to learn together and to confront open questions, but also to share their own experiences with others. An introduction to the complex historical contexts can also be seen in the front room of the Kunsthalle in a lecture by historian Timothy Snyder on Germany’s historical responsibility for Ukraine, which he gave in 2017 at the invitation of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in the German Bundestag. 

The visual experiences are further enhanced by the audio piece The Labour of Witnessing by Asia Bazdyrieva (born 1986 in Svitlodarsk) based on her war diaries. Written in the anticipation and throughout the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February – April, 2022, first in the bombshelter and then in her room in a family home in central Ukraine, these notes are both a reflection of the ongoing events and an embodied account of being reduced to war physically and mentally. 

Project coordination Kunsthalle Münster: Merle Radtke 
Assistance Kunsthalle Münster: Constanze Venjakob

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