„We would love to cause something unexpected, a disruption from normality“
Lesezeit 10 Minuten
Valeria Schiller and Liuba Dyvak are art historians from Kyiv, Ukraine. When the war broke out, they fled and landed in Berlin. Thanks to a fellowship program, they found a home in the Neue Nationalgalerie – and have been developing wild ideas for the house ever since.
Lera: We are art historians and we were studying together at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kyiv. We also worked together at the PinchukArtCentre, which is one of the largest art spaces in Eastern Europe. I was working there for almost five years as a tour guide, then as a coordinator, associate researcher, and then in the team of curators. I was also teaching at the Kyiv Academy of Media Arts. It’s a non-governmental organization, and I was giving a course about art history, focussing mostly on contemporary contexts.
Liuba: After working at the PinchukArtCentre, I left the art field to work in a creative agency —Drama Queen Agency. I was a junior copywriter and manager, so my job was to come up with brand names and slogans and help to organize the working process.
What is your content focus? Do you have a certain period or field of art, that you are specializing in?
Lera: There are certain topics that I am more interested in, but I prefer a trans-disciplinary approach. In general, for me everything is connected to the topic of mediation. When you’re curating an art show, you’re thinking about how to reach a wider audience, how to be heard and understood, and when you are giving lectures or writing an article, it is the same – you are thinking about how to build a good narrative so that readers would be interested in what you’re saying. I think of this as a sort of manipulation, when you ask questions or provoke the audience and keep them interested and focused. So, it’s always about how to engage the audience and that is mediation.
You came to Berlin because of the war in Ukraine. Did you leave immediately when it started?
Lera: I was living in Kyiv, but I’m originally from Crimea, so I had already fled from there in 2014. For several months before the full-scale war started in February, I already felt that something was coming. I couldn’t work properly and plan anything because I kind of felt the uncertainty. I think there were many Ukrainians who had the same PTSD as me and felt the same – many people in Ukraine had had to leave their homes in Donbas or Crimea after 2014 and had to experience it all over again in February this year. . It is something you can’t quite comprehend – it is 2022 in Europe, how can something like this happen? I remember that I was meeting my friends and we talked about preparing to leave just in case. Many friends thought that I was overreacting. I remember talking to Liuba the day before the full-scale war started and we were both scared. So I was prepared, I had my suitcase packed and when the war actually started, when everyone woke up from sounds of explosions, I just left instantly. It was very tough, emotionally, and I think it takes a toll on everyone who experienced it. We still live our lives, we go out and have fun, but there is something deep inside me that is lingering and won’t go away, and someday we will have to face it and deal with it.
Liuba: Yes, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it again because it’s a very traumatic experience for me. I will send you an interview in which I shared my experience of facing the war.
“It’s such a strange feeling when you realize that everything will change from a certain point on. When the war started, I realized that my life would probably change, but I didn’t know how yet, and I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that now I have this potential to die. So I was listening to music going back home when I see these child’s swings. So I just sit on the swings to listen to a few songs and breathe. And then I hear some sounds far away. Explosions. And I was like, okay, I can hear the explosions. And then three armoured personnel carriers drove down my streets. And I say like okay — I really need to pack my things” – from the interview for hundhund.
And then you arrived in Berlin. How did you learn about the fellowship program when you came here?
Liuba: I had just lost everything I get used to, including my job.I lived my best life in Kyiv, I had everything I need: family, friends, job, apartment and even such extras as a therapist. I didn’t know what to do when I got here. I was shocked and confused, so I started to do some chaotic moves and began looking for opportunities: was mentioning my work experiences during casual conversations and sending my CV to everyone. Finally, a friend of a friend told me about the fellowship program in the NNG. At first, I thought it would be more suitable for Lera, because I had left the art field a few years ago and started working in the creative industry, but then we thought it would be fascinating to do it together. We can combine our expertise and knowledge between art mediation and advertisement and try to reach a younger audience with the current Sascha Wiederhold’s exhibition, which is cool.
What do you have planned in regard to the exhibition?
Liuba: We are part of the museum’s educational department, and our basic task involves thinking about events, workshops or social media interventions that we can create to involve more young people and get them to explore the National Gallery and the exhibition.
Do you have an event already planned?
Liuba: Actually, we have a lot of ideas, and it is very fascinating and challenging to come up with new ways to form connections between the creative trends of the youngsters and this exhibition. One of the things that we have planned will be a speed dating event. It was inspired by one of the main paintings in the exhibition, which features dancing people and couples. We thought about a dance event, but then we also wanted to include the networking aspect that is native to the creative scene, so the idea of a speed dating event was born.
Lera: We wanted to take the idea of networking, which can be rather awkward and sickeningly artificial at times, to another level and make it more exciting. So we thought if we add a romantic context, people can also get to know each other, but there is more fun and playfulness. But we can’t tell you exactly what we have planned, because it would spoil the surprise.
Not even a little bit?
Lera: Okay, maybe we can tell you a little bit. For instance, there is this popular concept of “36 questions to fall in love”, which people use on dates oftentimes. It contains slightly uncomfortable questions, like “When was the last time you cried?”, or “How do you think you will die?” and other frank questions that are designed to make people become more intimate with each other. We edited these questions a little bit and contextualized them with Sascha Wiederhold and the exhibition. It will be a nice and slightly absurd icebreaker which would hopefully get people to engage with the exhibition and fall in love with the art.
Liuba: We would also like to do some social media projects. The Nationalgalerie is such a huge institution and it has the certain rules that these kinds of institutions naturally have to keep the typical seriousness. And of course this is important, because some topics here are complex and need this approach, but on the other hand, if you compare this to the way young people get their information today on social media, it is the complete opposite. So we find it interesting to play around with these things and challenge these rules a bit.
How is the experience of working in this institution for you in general?
Liuba: It is honestly the best job in the world for us right now. We have gorgeous supervisor Julia Freiboth, supportive colleagues and our own office. We are very thankful for this opportunity. Of course, it requires some patience sometimes, working in such a big institution. Decisions take longer than in smaller organizations and we have to discuss our ideas with colleagues from different departments and have them approved. But we can adjust and we are very excited, when something is decided and we can proceed.
Do you feel like your colleagues here at the Nationalgalerie appreciate your approach and your way of thinking about younger people?
Lera: We hope so. Actually, we are pleasantly shocked: every time we were attending a meeting, we were so surprised how nice everyone was to us. We felt very appreciated, it is so cool. And of course, all our ideas get discussed and altered, so that we find a common ground. But we are still very happy with how these projects turn out in the end.
Liuba: I feel like here I have more freedom of expression than I had when I was working in advertisement. But it is still early to talk about it, because some of our ideas are still in the approval process and we are excited to see if everything will turn out as we planned it. I just hope that it won’t become too smooth, because that would be missing the point.
Lera: It’s so exciting, because this whole issue of becoming more attractive as an art institution to young people and getting out of these serious and safe ways of outreach is an enormous topic. I talk to a lot of people from different museums and some of them are struggling with the same problems at the moment. So it’s very inspiring to see that this is very welcomed topic to discuss here in the National Gallery.
What are your plans for the next future? Are planning more events or social media interventions?
Liuba: We hope to do more events, and this month we’ll have an intervention in the Instagram of Neue Nationalgalerie. The only sad thing is that we are limited in time to realize all the ideas we have already had since we started here.
Lera: One thing that also interests me is the question of neutrality, standing aside and desire to be super nice as an art institution. Because sometimes museums are following trends and try to please everyone a bit too much, as I feel. I would love to see more informal and emotional things to happen in a museum, I would love to cause something unexpected, a disruption from normality. Because, otherwise, what’s the point in having a collection of contemporary art? I think art institutions could be a bit more controversial and not be afraid to provoke people to think about disputable topics. The Neue Nationalgalerie is mostly a place for modern art, but it is still important to use the platform it has to provoke audience to form an opinion about the contemporary discourse. And I think it’s so nice that the Neue Nationalgalerie makes attempts not to stand aside even though neutrality here might seem alledgedly justified.
When the war broke out, Ukrainian archaeologist Iryna Chechulina fled from Kiev to Berlin. She now continues her research on… weiterlesen
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