FIFTH EDITION OF THE KYIV BIENNALE: AGAINST THE LOGIC OF WAR
The fifth edition of the Kyiv Biennial is taking place across Europe: in Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhhorod, Berlin, Vienna as the main exhibition venue, and Warsaw.
In view of the brutal Russian attack on Ukraine, a comprehensive biennial project in Kyiv long seemed deeply uncertain, if not impossible. But, with a cascade of openings—starting in Kyiv and Vienna in October 2023, finishing in Berlin in 2024—the fifth Kyiv Biennial will take place. This Biennial edition is conceived as a European event, with dispersed exhibitions and public programs in a number of Ukrainian and EU cities, and realized in partnership with leading European institutions in the field of contemporary art.
“Instead of abandoning the project and thus submitting to the logic of war that attacks everything civil, the 2023 Biennial draws upon its founding idea: that of being a multi-centric initiative in a European, interconnected and solidary form,” say the organizers and curators, who had to re-schedule the concept and format of the Biennial at short notice.
A Europe-wide solidarity commitment by art institutions
Art institutions in Ukraine (in Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Uzhhorod) organize presentations and events in their endangered yet working infrastructures. Despite the late start of planning due to the war, museums and exhibition halls in Vienna (the main exhibition spot), Warsaw and Berlin, together with venues in other European cities, have freed up their spaces and platforms for exhibitions and events with Ukrainian and international artists as well as for discursive, performative and educational activities. Together, the institutions have formed a curatorial consortium to jointly create a conceptual framework within which they develop their respective Kyiv Biennial programs.
How can a country at war address political, social, cultural and societal issues? Today, the experience of artists and cultural workers in Ukraine is profoundly marked by war trauma, displacement, lack of access to basic resources and, in many cases, direct involvement in armed resistance or the experience of life under military occupation. This poses existential challenges for the future of art and cultural production in Ukraine.
A bridge between European and Ukrainian artistic communities—towards an emancipatory future
The upcoming Biennial aims at reintegrating the Ukrainian artistic community, divided and scattered throughout Europe by the war, in order to empower its actors to work and reflect collectively and together with international colleagues on cultural, social and environmental challenges Ukraine is currently facing and to imagine scenarios for an emancipatory future within a global context.
The Kyiv Biennial strategy, developed in the course of its four previous editions, merges artistic production, critical knowledge and social engagement in the times of emergency, where curatorship goes far beyond its contemporary meaning of an artistic and organizational practice and becomes resignified with its original sense of restoration, rehabilitation and relief, thus suggesting not a biennial, but a perennial long-run international project, a “Kyiv Perennial”.