Regular Places (2015 / 2022)
The film Regular Places was made in 2015, shortly after Russia annexed Crimea and ignited the war in Donbas. The confrontation between supporters of an independent Ukraine and European integration on the one hand and “separatists” who wanted to join Russia on the other strongly affected the city of Kharkiv. The street confrontations that ended with the defeat of the pro-Russian movement left behind traumas that marked the city for several years. In the film, the sounds of violence from the past break into scenes of the relatively peaceful life that followed. However, in the case of both Kharkiv and the whole of Ukraine, it was a mistake to believe that violence and confrontation with Russia had been overcome. The public places in the city center of Kharkiv where activists fought some years ago were destroyed by Russian artillery in this year. The film was extended to include images of this destruction because the current war is a continuation of the outbreaks from the past and will forever change our future.
Facing the Wall (2018 – )
Black and white print, chewing gum
Facing the Wall series related to the problem of emerging rightwing radicalism in Europe. Printed symbols used by number of neo-Nazi and post-Fascist organizations and groups obscured the chewing gum. Alongside with European parliamentary right-wing parties like French National Front or Hungarian Jobbik there are radical groups like Polish National Radical Camp, Ukrainian Socialist-National Assembly, Russian National Unity who caused violence on streets towards LGBTQ+ activists, migrants and other minorities.
Both Ukrainian and Russian radical nationalists went at the frontline when the war outbreak in the eastern regions of Ukraine in 2014. Since the time their controversial symbolic referring to Nazi symbols, particularly in the case of Azov movement, were largely discussed in the Western media and cased a shadow to the image of Ukrainian army. The significant change in perception of right wing symbols happened in 2022 with appearance of letter Z which is largely used by Russian army and its supporters. It doesn’t refer to any historical fascist visuality but even the opposite: letter Z usually formed out of St. Georgian ribbon associated with Soviet veterans of the WWII. This way Russian state undercovers own hybrid fascist ideology in order to appropriate symbols and historical events significant for the political left.
Ukrainian researcher Katerina Yakovlenko wrote, that “Chewing gum is the perfect symbol for youth culture in its associations with carefree lifestyles, an unwillingness to assume responsibility for one’s actions, and cultural or ideological immaturity. Ridnyi’s work shows that chewing gum eventually hardens into a fairly durable substance. Similar things can occur with ideology, as long as it isn’t questioned.”
Everyone understands their mission during the war in their own way. With the beginning of the Russian invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, some people joined the army to defend the country, some became a part of the volunteer movement and began to help displaced people and victims, some simply tried to save their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. In what way can artists continue their professional activity and reflect on the surrounding extreme reality? First months of the invasion I felt apathy towards doing any art work. Although many of my older works related to this war because it started in 2014 from the Russian annexation of Crimea and ignition of war in Donbas. Alongside with the invasion the interest to that works from the international art system was rising which helped to collect donations for the army and volunteers out of culture field.
But how to reflect on the ongoing war with means of art? Previously I was directly reacting with art statements to the political events. Now there are so many tragic events changing each other with enormous speed! I don’t have a desire, neither a resource to capture every moment and get into the epicenter of events like contemporary journalist do. For the artist there is not enough distance regarding time and space to create a critical reflection. The same time this war has its continuity – Ukrainian society live with it for a long 8 years. The enlargement of the calamity changed a perception of works made in this period and provokes me to rethink and even prolong some of them.
Mykola Ridnyi (born in Kharkiv, Ukraine) is an artist, filmmaker, and curator. In 2008 he graduated from the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Art. Ridnyi is a founding member of the artist collective SOSka group. In 2022, he curated several screening programmes of Ukrainian film and video art in MAXXI Rome, Museum Folkwang Essen, National Gallery in Sofia.
Ridnyi works across media ranging from site-specific installations and sculpture to photography and experimental films. His works were shown at exhibitions and film festivals including Survival Kit 13 in Riga (2022), Transmediale at HKW in Berlin (2019), All the World’s Futures at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015) and other venues.