The Kiev Arts Council (Khudsovet), founded in summer 2008, unites a number of young artists, architects, translators, political activists, literary theorists, curators, designers, and journalists—a total of nineteen people.* The Arts Council functions as a curatorial group and, at the same time, as a discussion and self- (mutual-) education community. The projects of the Arts Council are based on communication, which the participants perceive as something intrinsically valuable, as a source of pleasure, and as an opportunity to go beyond the limits of alienated fields of specialized knowledge. The work of the Arts Council is built on total verbalization and clear argumentation. Decisions made in this non-authoritarian space are repeatedly bathed and formed by the flow of words. This obviously restricts the mobility of the Arts Council: produced via irregular meetings and written correspondence, its activity can attain only a quite limited velocity. But such deceleration also holds us back from the competitive environment of today’s culture industry, where the speed of production and exposition renders the artistic utterance completely empty and senseless.
The first public project of the Arts Council was the exhibition Views, at the NaUKMA Center for Contemporary Art. In addition to the works of artists selected by the Arts Council, it incorporated excerpts from the working correspondence of the collective’s members. In other words, the organizational process itself, the arguments and motivations for the selection were made publicly accessible. The exhibition and the accompanying discussions, round tables, excursions, and urban interventions (participation in protests against redevelopment of a public square) were meant to revive the category “the artist’s views,” which had almost entirely fallen into disuse in Kiev’s artistic circles. Views provoked a number of publications that were at times sharply polemical, and it became a meeting place for the art and activist communities, a site for creating a new public.
The second part of this text is an attempt at a situational self-description of the Arts Council. Members explain their reasons for participating. It should be kept in mind that we are continually reviewing these motivations in the process of spending time together, interaction and work, attraction and repulsion, fragmentation and association. But it cannot be said that this snapshot of the current state of the community is devoid of programmatic attributes: it is a program in the making. Ossification is disastrous for it. It can continue to be relevant only as long as it continues to develop.
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Aside from everything else, I see my participation in the Arts Council as a rare chance to act as a spectator. Amidst the total atomization of the individual, culture, and politics—which is felt especially acutely in Kiev—it is difficult, if not impossible, to be a viewer. Because the value of judgment or opinion is falling in value, plunging into a steady drift, and along with them goes the desire and need to see anything. In the best case, perception is locked within the walls of the hermetic individual, which remains for itself a living and vulnerable archive of values under attack.
The different areas of activity and knowledge of the Arts Council participants and their dialogue create the prerequisites for a fundamental change in optics, an alternative to multimonologism. The work of art is often developed and exists in the space of conversation about it, but now it can be seen in the refractions of our interaction. It becomes the core for an entire series of phenomena grouped around it, a multitude of centers arising in the field of the centrifugal and centripetal force of discussion.
Evgenia Belorusets, editor of PROSTORY webzine
For me, participation in the Arts Council means that there is a kind of cultural front. It is an opportunity to actualize in public space topics that usually cannot be verbalized in the press, academia or daily life. The Arts Council is an association of people with similar views. It is a union of individuals who share ethical positions. And that is why they are prepared to expose the ills of our society, to allow the streets into their creative work and thereby attempt to rethink reality. For me, the Arts Council is an opportunity to declare that there is a space of millions where the struggle goes on daily. This is a moment when the new generation of Ukrainian artists is verbalizing everything the paintings of their predecessors were silent about.
Andrei Movchan, political activist, journalist, member of the New Leftists movement
For me, collective work is always an effort. You have to deal with a common goal and common views that aren’t always clearly defined in the beginning and require a huge amount of patience to clarify. It’s the clarification that is attractive about the Arts Council. Usually, what is held in common isn’t really held in common, in the sense of one thing for everyone, such as a point of view, but is rather structured by the multitude, where the structure and limitation of the multitude is the common element. I would like to learn how to make the right choice, in other words, while being part of the multitude, to find this same place for the individual in which the common cause will be most effective.
Vladislav Goldakovsky, architect
The Arts Council emerged naturally amongst a group people who weren’t set up comfortably within the existing cultural situation, but who have an influence on it in one way or another. The Arts Council is capable of becoming the basis for a principally new dimension in the contemporary art of Ukraine, and, thanks to the diversity of the group, not only visual art. For me, participation is an attempt to realize my dream of achieving of what seemed impossible even to me.
Tatiana Filevskya, art projects coordinator, curator
For me, the Arts Council is an experiment. The trust factor plays a major part in it. Each person has their own degree of responsibility, as well as personal ambitions, but at the same time there is a striving to discover something new by means of collective discussion. I see the Arts Council as a voluntarily cultivated artistic organism. The view of each person in the Arts Council is important, and the viability of that view is tested in discussion.
Vladimir Kuznetsov, artist
The Arts Council gives me the opportunity to communicate within the artistic milieu. Not to simply hang out, but a higher quality of contact. It’s like a hiking trip where it’s one for all and all for one, and situations in which people prove themselves are easily modeled. It’s a kind of role-playing game.
Dmitri Ermolov, artist, designer
Working on the first project, even taking part passively in it (by rereading the correspondence of others), one way or another I formed and reinforced my views and positions on various utterances. Sometimes the Arts Council acts as a source of objective critique for me. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, particularly in Kiev, there are very few lucid critics, and occasionally some members of the artistic community take on that role, which is an important element in acquiring professional qualities and developing curatorial skills.
Alina Zazimko, art projects coordinator, curator
I will leave the group as soon as orders start coming from above, or if other members start having maniacal ideas about their own importance and they get that gleam in their eyes. And, of course, if that starts happening to me, my friends and comrades will help me stop.
Ivan Melnichuk, architect
The artist is capable in his practice of giving expression to ideological conflicts and contradictions, and also of formulating for society possible ways of solving them. Exchange of knowledge from different disciplines makes it possible to raise the bar of openness in society. It is a quest for new ways of developing society.
Vasily Lozinsky, translator, literary scholar
Theorists and practitioners gathered in one pot—that’s a caustic mixture that erodes boundaries. You turn from a sarcastic critic into a sympathetic coworker. The Arts Council is a space from which you expect a lot, including from yourself.
Galina Erko, production editor of the journal ACC (Architecture, Criticism, Culture)
I’m interested in [finding out] what this complex, seemingly clumsy construction woven from a multitude of relationships, desires, aspirations and ambitions is capable of. What dangers lie in wait for this organism and how can they be overcome?
I now see openness and potentiality in the Arts Council, but also wariness and fear. I am frightened by minor conflicts and suspicions. I fear lest emotional intensity prevents us from taking a realistic view of things and events. I am frightened by romanticism, but also by the collision with concrete reality. On paper, in the imagination, and at a distance everything seems totally different and a lot easier. At times I think that it is impossible to create anything specific and sufficiently stable and powerful through collective effort. The work is so hard, there have been so many attempts and so many decisions made, but the result is so unclear and ambiguous. And only flashes of a very intimate, even physical sensation that the results are not somewhere in the future but every day and right now keep me from experiencing many disappointments. In the final analysis it turns out that the hardest thing is not making some kind of “product” together, but preserving the relationships we have already formed. Maintaining respect and love for one another in every minute of close contact so they don’t turn into material for achieving “higher” goals of some sort.
Lada Nakonechnaya, artist
* The members of the Arts Council are: Evgenia Belorusets (editor of PROSTORY webzine www.prostory.net.ua), Alexander Burlaka, Vladislav Goldakovsky, Ivan Melnichuk (architects, members of the Group of Objects), Vasily Lozinsky (literary scholar, translator), Andre Movchan (journalist, political activist, member of the New Leftists movement), Galina Erko (production editor of ACC (Architecture, Criticism, Culture), Yuri Kruchak & Yulia Kostereva (artists, members of the OPEN PLACE group), Dmitri Ermolov, (artist, designer), Alina Zazimko (art projects coordinator, curator), Tatiana Filevskaya (art projects coordinator, curator), Anton Smirnov (designer), Ksenia Gnilitskaya, Lesya Khomenko, Vladimir Kuznetsov, Zhanna Kadyrova, Lada Nakonechnaya, Nikita Kadan (artists, members of the group R.E.P.)