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Coexisting with darkness

The exhibition «Coexisting with darkness» is dedicated to transformations of Ukrainian cultural institutions during the war and russian attacks on civil energy infrastructure.


Curator: Anton Usanov, Natasha Chychasova.

Artists: Tereza Barabash, Sergiy Petlyuk, Dasha Podoltseva and Alexey Shmurak, Anton Saienko, Ivan Svitlychnyi, Fedir Tetyanych, Maksym Khodak, Tereza Yakovyna, Photinus studio.

Exhibition architecture; Ivan Svitlychnyi.

Technical director; Serhii Diptan.

Graphic design; Kostyantyn Martsenkivskyi.

Project manager; Anastasiia Garazd.

Project coordinator; Andrii Myroshnychenko.

PR & communications; Sophia Bela, Oleksandra Havryliuk, Oksana Matsiuk, Oleksandr Popenko.

Special thanks to Bohdan-Liubomyr Tetyanych-Bublyk, Galeria Arsenał w Białymstoku, Asortymentna kimnata, Jam Factory Art Center, PinchukArtCentre.

The exhibition was created in partnership with Art Arsenal Community NGO as part of the project funded by aid from the governments of Canada, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

In October 2022, Russia began to systemically target the objects of the Ukrainian critical infrastructure, disrupting the supply of electricity, water, heat, and telecommunication. Missiles and UAV strikes led to the introduction of rolling blackouts, causing cities and villages to be periodically engulfed in darkness. ‘Energy terrorism’ tactics aimed to disrupt Ukraine’s ‘mental infrastructure’: to break people’s faith in their own strength and their trust in government.

In reaction to the disruption, the government introduced ‘Points of Invincibility’ in every oblast, while Ukrainians started buying power banks, chargers, and generators. These low-level infrastructure solutions joined together into the hum of generators and the smell of gas, likened Ukrainian cities to those of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Kenya, Afghanistan, and South Africa. The fragile infrastructure was supported by joint efforts, sending impulses to one another by the networks of cables and wires. Meanwhile, cafés and flats turned into alternative ‘Points of Invincibility’ — beacons for blackout wanderers.

Art that sought to reflect upon social changes, itself became engulfed in the darkness, and forced to reinvent itself as a means to organize an independent world of living. Habitable spaces shrinking down to the ‘Points of Invincibility’ actualized Fedir Tetyanych’s dream of autonomous living space, a biotechnosphere, capable of standing against the cold cosmos. The sphere transforms from a particular engineering structure into a social formation. Cafés, neighbors’ houses, friends, and offices that supplied themselves with generators and Starlinks (or solved the telecommunication problem by any other means), form utopian infrastructural hubs. Art objects too became inevitably connected to the ‘endless body’ of communications. Thus, this exhibition is dedicated to highlighting the strategies, dependencies, and weaknesses in their ways of coexisting with the darkness in times of total uncertainty.

The newly created improvised infrastructure of private ‘Points of Invincibility – biotechnospheres’ propagated via uncontrollable streams of cables. Wandering along their routes, one could take in the multi-faceted vastness of human activity. One could find there the art objects too, hidden somewhere among the embraces of wires, clustered around emanating sources of light and energy. But what should art be to avoid vanishing in the darkness? This existential tension once again underscores the importance of communal infrastructure and solidarity ethics. Instead of crying into the darkness the questions of the meaning of new sufferings, the artists answer by inventing the light inside themselves and the community around.

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