How a Scream sounds like Thin Silence

The voice of the generation that came into this world roughly between 1980 and 1995 is heard best in the Pinchuk Art Gallery in the Besarabka area of Kiev. It is the generation that was born when Ukraine was still part of the gigantic USSR, but actually matured in the years that followed the collapse of one of the two dominant world powers. It is a generation with a voice, and I was happy to learn that the Pinchuk Art Gallery gives this voice a place to swell loud and uncensored. As all good and titillating art should be free. My dear fiancée Nadya took me there when I visited Kiev in April 2018.

A Lonely Place of Dying in Kazakhstan

‘The Voice of the Thin Silence’ by Mykola Karabinovych is an example of an expression that is channeled through generations. It tells the story of his great-grandfather who was an ethnic Greek. He was arrested and deported to far away Kazakhstan in 1949, only to die there 5 years later. Just like the blues in the United States was the music of the sad and desperate, so too emerged a musical style from this period of deportation (or “relocation”, as it was called…). The music associated with this time was called rebetiko. This gave Karabinovych the idea to ask musician Yuriy Gurzhy to create a rebetiko song. He then travelled to a town formerly known as Chilik, in Kazakhstan. Karabinivych installed a monument there that broadcasts the song over the silent and vast stretches of Kazakhstan emptiness. A symbol to the victims of repression, who died sad and alone, far away from home. The Pinchuk Art Gallery simply had a photograph of the monument (which itself is nothing more than a speaker on a high pole) on display. The song was on repeat indefinitely in an overwhelmingly empty room. It tore a hole in my heart. You will hear my scream from the settlement of Chilik, this song is my trace, while I have passed away.

An Objective Look at How Things Were/Are

The birth year of Karabinovych is late in the 80s, as he is 29 years old. I read he is described as a media artist, which seems fitting. Some of his contemporaries who were exhibiting their work during my visit seem to be predominantly born in the middle to late 80s. Just like my Nadya. Some displays were a delight of warming nostalgia to her, seeing the interior of a typical (Soviet) recreated kitchen for instance. For a westerner like myself it is a confrontation that behind the infamous Iron Curtain there were just … people. Trying to make a living. After seeing numerous installations and documentations, I concluded that this batch of artists had one thing in common. They felt a need to show, not tell, and certainly not judge. Curiously, I found myself immersed in a tram accident somewhere in Ukraine. How could it happen, how many people died or were wounded, who was the particular constructor of the carriage? Almost like an episode of a good detective show. In the next room I stumbled upon a moist collection of soil, things growing, getting trampled, being shaped of being deliberately shapeless. The earth around us is as potent as the world inside our heads. Katerina Yermolaeva put her 9 personalities – described as avatars – on display, male and female. A fascinating look behind the masks we all wear every day.

A Must for Art Lovers

A visit to the Pinchuk Art Gallery is a must for art lovers from all over the world. Not only for the collections that exist because businessman and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk put a hand over his heart in 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed the young men and women, students I suspect, who were deployed at each installation to tell you all about what you were seeing. They seemed so eager; to inform me but to also display their decent knowledge of the English languages. With thick accents, you are fed insights you could not reach solely on your own. It shows that art is not lost on the future generation of Kiev, and Ukraine. I walked home full of hope, with Nadya’s warm hand in mine.

This story was written by...
Lester Wolf

Lester Wolf is the pseudonym of an almost 40-year-old writer of provocative fiction, old-school journalist and active liberal politician. His passion lies in everything "outside the ordinary", usually combined with Love & Lust. He is the father of at least two children and lives in the Netherlands.