“The encounter of an unprepared viewer with art is very important” - an interview with Zhanna Kadyrova

By Anna Savitskaya - Wednesday, October 28, 2015
“The encounter of an unprepared viewer with art is very important” - an interview with Zhanna Kadyrova

Zhanna Kadyrova, (1981, Ukraine) forms part of the new generation of Ukrainian artists, who have been deeply influenced by the difficult period of national self-determination during the Orange Revolution of 2004, and who have experienced the entire burden of rethinking of the controversies of the past, reformulating present dangers, and representing hopes for the future. "Hope" also happened to be the name of the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, in which Zhanna participated for the second time.

“The encounter of an unprepared viewer with art is very important” - an interview with Zhanna Kadyrova

Zhanna Kadyrova, (1981, Ukraine) forms part of the new generation of Ukrainian artists, who have been deeply influenced  by the difficult period of national self-determination during the Orange Revolution of 2004, and who have experienced the entire burden of rethinking of the controversies of the past, reformulating present dangers, and representing hopes for the future. "Hope" also happened to be the name of the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, in which Zhanna participated for the second time.

All Zhanna’s work is saturated with the deep emotional drama of political processes that are taking place in her homeland. Artifacts, such as tiles shattered by shots or asphalt pieces, become something more than just objects - with the hand of Zhanna Kadyrova they carry the true pain and fear, weathered by citizens of Ukraine. For the artist it is not a question of being politically involved or not, these issues are simply a big part of her life - they cannot be excluded, they can only be experienced, digested, and shared with others.

Artdependence Magazine talks to Zhanna Kadyrova about her oeuvre, her ideas and her processes of creation, particularly with regards to her choice of a medium, which considerably defines Zhanna Kadyrova as an artist.

Artdependence Magazine: Zhanna, many of your works have a strong political context. I’m thinking in particular of the series exhibited in Galleria Continua,‘Data extraction’ and ‘Shots’. Do you see your art as a podium to express your political ideas?

Zhanna Kadyrova: In my works, I try to refer to actual processes taking place in society and in the world. Often, through art, I draw the viewer's attention towards one problem or another, and I try not to give a clear position, leaving the viewer with enough ‘space’ for their own interpretation.

As for the works you mentioned, the series ‘DATA EXTRACTION’ is inextricably linked with the political processes in Ukraine that took place in 2012, when the country was preparing itself for the football championship - through much corruption the budget was wasted, feigning a reconstruction of the surface of the city.

The serie Shots’ was launched in 2010. Initially I conceived it more as a work on abstraction; now, one can see the link with the fact that in 2014 a war started in Ukraine, and “shots” were directed towards the people. Now, in the works made in 2014-2015 for this series, I’ve used different weapons, among them the Kalashnikov  assault rifle used in the east of Ukraine.

Zhanna Kadyrova. Invisible Forms, 2012. 2 lamps, wooden beams, cement, dimensions variable. Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Photo by Oak Taylor-Smith

AD: You began the ongoing series ‘Data extraction’ by using pieces of asphalt left over from the construction sites for the European Football Championship in 2012, in Ukraine. What objects you are using now for this series?

ZK: This series is not my main focus at the moment, but there is the idea to continue with it, because right now is a time of great political transformations in Ukraine. Given the fact that in the east of the country there is a war, I had the idea to bring « extractions » from there , but this requires some institutional support! I am now thinking, along with the Pinchuk Art Center, if there is an opportunity to realize this kind of project.

AD: For your ‘Shots’ series, the pieces made in 2010 were constructed, whilst the pieces made in 2014 and later, present the actual impact of real firearms. What feelings do you want your audience to experience when looking at the latest works of this series?

ZK: The Shots’  were launched in 2010 as a continuation of a previous experiment with broken plane surfaces, as a documentation of a one-second-moment of destruction. For me, the method of execution, at that moment, was focused on the abstract methods of destruction of the tiles.

Then, because of the events going on in the east of Ukraine, and the shootings of peaceful protesters at the Maidan, firearms became particularly relevant. The holes and cracks that remain in the tiles after firing are the documentation of the force of arms, and, in this case, when I collect the pieces of these tiles, it is impossible not to think about what happens to the human body after a similar hit.

Zhanna Kadyrova. Diamonds, 2012. Tiles, cement, dimensions variable. Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Photo by Ela Bialkowska OKNO STUDIO

AD: How do you see your art evolving from your 2002 ‘Blue Horse’ project up to now?

ZK: Certainly my early works are very different from what I am doing now, but I am glad that I am not dismissing them today.

Considering that I have worked as an artist for the last twelve years, and that I have participated in all kind of experimental projects, group and solo shows, it is evident that there will be various stages, different periods of growth leading to new stages - several projects will continue for a number of years, transforming, eventually finalizing.

I can say that currently I’m focusing on works associated with social and political challenges. These works do not always assume a critical view - sometimes it is an observation of a particular situation that then takes an artistic form.

I am also very interested in projects that take place in public space, because the encounter of an unprepared viewer with art is very important, and I believe that art in an urban environment can have an educational function, as well as an aesthetic and ethical one. Currently, I am working on two public art projects in Ukraine - an antiwar square in the city of Irshansk (in the Zhytomyr region), and a garden for HIV-infected children in a hospital in Kiev.

Zhanna Kadyrova. DATA EXTRACTION - KIEV, 2011. Asphalte, metal, epoxy resin, 160 x 285 x 15 cm. Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Photo by Oak Taylor-Smith

AD: Could you please tell us a bit about R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Space) - what kind of a collective it is, and what is your role within the group?

ZK: The R.E.P. group emerged in the wake of the Orange Revolution that took place in 2004. Initially, it had a free list of members, who actively participated in Maidan protests. After our first show we formed a collective of 20 people and worked for 2 years under the wing of the center of Modern Art. During this period we were also actively engaged in public actions.

Since 2006 we are six members. We recently celebrated 10 years of activity, and a retrospective took place the a Polish gallery Labyrinth. The role of R.E.Pis very important for the Ukrainian art scene - we were the first to begin actively asserting our political positions, and to go out onto the streets performing public actions. I cannot say that I have a special role to play within the group, we’ve accomplished much, and we act as a single organism.

From 2006 to 2009 I was also a member of a performative music band - Penoplast - it was a completely different experience, but the need to work within a collective was representative of this period.

Now all members of the group have their own individual artistic activity, and the work of the group has gone into the background - it is very difficult for us to meet in the same city, as everybody is constantly moving. We are forced to have our meetings through Skype.

The most fruitful period for us, when we were travelling and living together as a big family, is now behind us. But this experience for each of us was crucial- our artistic practice was formed in these years.

Zhanna Kadyrova. Shot GM1, 2010. Ceramic tile, plaster of Paris, hardboard, glue. 66 x 64 cm. Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Photo by Oak Taylor-Smith

 

AD: You were trained in sculpture, however, you’ve worked throughout the years with different media. Have you found your favorite one and what does this search for form mean to you?

ZK: It is important at this point to talk about the system of art education in Ukraine, which is conservative and academic. Everything works on a Soviet era system! The global reforms didn’t take place.

Contemporary universities in Kiev began to open a couple of years ago and they are all private. When I was studying, there were no alternative options in Ukraine.

I got a secondary education in the sculpture department of a public school named after Shevchenko, in Kiev. I then tried to go to the Academy of Arts (the main art school), but I failed to enter, twice (even to enter the restauration department, the less prestigious one).

With all my love for the visual component, the ‘idea’ remains the major impulse in the creation of an artwork. The shape and material, chosen afterwards to precise the expression of this idea. That’s why I can’t say that my search is done and that I found a favorite material.

Zhanna Kadyrova. Crowd. Day., 2015. Glass, newspapers. 140x600cm. Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Production GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana and PinchukArtCentre. Ukrainian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale

AD: How did it feel to participate in the Venice Biennale in 2013 and 2015? Does it feel like a huge responsibility?

ZK: In both 2013 and 2015 the Ukrainian Pavilion organized a group exhibition of young artists. In 2013 the curator was Alexander Solovyov, and everything was under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture. Despite the huge lack of professionalism in the field of contemporary art within the Ministry of Culture, and problems that occurred during the mantling and the display of the works, the show was a great step forward for the representation of Ukraine as a Pavilion in the Venice Biennale (I think previously Ukraine had participated only 8 times). Also, 2013 saw the first time that the Ukrainian pavilion focused exclusively on young artists.

The exhibition space was very small, which reduced a lot of possibilities. We didn’t even have time to ask permission for the work I proposed to be built in front of the Pavilion, as all the administrative process begun very late.

The participation of Ukraine in the Venice Biennale of 2015 was a totally different story - the government cut the budget, and then completely refused to finance the whole participation of the country.

The Ministry loudly declared that it will only support projects related to the support of the army and soldiers.

The Pinchuk Art Center, a private institution, then took the initiative to take charge of the project. Bjorn Geldhof became the Ukrainian pavilion’s curator. For the first time, the exhibition was shown in a glass pavilion built specially for the occasion, located on the shore of the lagoon.

Works by 8 young artists were exhibited, 7 of whom work in the field of art that have critical views on social aspects.

To name the exhibition, “Hope”, was the curator’s idea. The artists didn’t participate in the birth of the idea for the project.

In both 2013 and 2015, the preparation for the project was difficult: in the first case because of the ministry, in the second case due to technical reasons, since the building was constructed at the same time as the build-up. At the opening of the exhibition we were so tired that we didn’t have special feelings! The task was to do our job as good as it is possible.

Zhanna Kadyrova. Crowd. Day., 2015. Glass, newspapers. 140x600cm. Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Production GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana and PinchukArtCentre. Ukrainian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale

AD: What are you artistic plans for the future? What will be the idea of your new project?

ZK: It is difficult to say what projects I'm going to do, but certainly what is happening in Ukraine takes most of my attention.

In between  2014 and 2015 there have been several series of works related to the latest developments in the country. This is an attempt to understand what is happening, which is very difficult as the situation is constantly changing, with no end in sight.

There are projects that are already under construction, and others that are for the moment only sketches and ideas. Also, I'm working on two public gardens (mentioned above).

AD: Thank you Zhanna and good luck!

We would like to thank Galleria Continua for arranging the interview. Zhanna Kadyrova's personal site is here.

Anna is a graduate of Moscow’s Photo Academy, with a previous background in intellectual property rights. In 2012 she founded the company Perspectiva Art, dealing in art consultancy, curatorship, and the coordination of exhibitions. During the bilateral year between Russia and The Netherlands in 2013, Perspectiva Art organized a tour for a Dutch artist across Russia, as well as putting together several exhibitions in the Netherlands, curated by Anna. Since October 2014, Anna has taken an active role the development and management of ArtDependence Magazine. Anna interviews curators and artists, in addition to reviewing books and events, and collaborating with museums and art fairs.

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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