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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Art underground in Donetsk

The Murzylky group started to operate in July. The artists place satirical silhouettes of terrorists of plywood all over the city
11 August, 2014 - 17:40

Some of them can be very easily recognized. So, the wall of the former cinema “Komsomolets” in the central street of the city was decorated with a picture of the “self-defense minister of DNR” Igor Girkin (Strelkov), who aims to shoot himself in the head, and below there is a caption: “Just do it!” Near the Donetsk Oblast Palace of Marriages, where the fighter Motorolla and Olena the Beautiful got married, “the first couple registered in the DNR,” a silhouette of the newlywed appeared, where the fiance is depicted as a half-devil. People have also seen Sharikov with a grenade launcher, Death-Novorossia, and an evil clown with an automatic gun.

Placing of these satirical objects in the city these days is heroism, because if the artists get caught, they will face digging of trenches at minimum, but it is more likely that they will stay for a long time in the torture chambers. To find out how does it feel to create public satire about the armed representatives of the DNR, The Day has talked to one of the creators of the cultural underground of Donetsk on the condition of anonymity.

For how long has your art group existed?

“The artistic group has emerged as a response to what is going on in the city. We could respond only with the help of street art as the most demonstrative kind of figurative arts. Before that there have been no graffiti or street installations in our creative experience.”

Why did you decide to call yourself Murzylky?

“As it usually happens, the title of the group was chosen as a result of inspiration. However, the fact that the well-known children’s magazine turned 90 this year implicates that we are not children either.”

Why have you chosen namely these materials and namely this format?

“It takes too long to paint on the walls with aerosol paint and stencils. That is why we have chosen the version with separate silhouettes made of plywood, which can be placed practically in a matter of several seconds. This is followed by the work of photographers who must be taking a bigger risk than the rest.”

Which of your work is best remembered?

“We consider that our best work is Strelkov who shoots himself. One of our favorite characters was the picture of Death placed in the opposite to the shopping center Kontynent. It even had an audience: usually they are torn away very quickly. The Evil Clown was removed in 30 minutes.”

How do Donetsk residents react to such kind of creative work?

“We not always manage to observe the reaction of people and we haven’t seen the process of removing of the silhouettes. I wonder what they do to them. Most likely they take them to their places, because the waste bins nearby were empty. The first Sharikov pleased us with the number of admirers: the pedestrians had their photo made near it. Another Sharikov was placed far from motorways, but in a crowded place – at the end stop of tram routes. We know that it stayed there for two days at  minimum, but we cannot check this now.”

How do you choose the images for your works?

“The images for imagination ask for being depicted: they are around us. There are many of them every day. We have a huge number of sketches and ideas. However, the situation gets more complicated, because we have no possibility to get the materials we need, both financially, and due to their deficit in the empty Donetsk. We have the characters which will go to the street in peaceful time. For example, the Omnipresent, the image that pees in the corners. Or benches staffed with old women, to create the number of peaceful population. However, it may be topical namely today.”

Many creative people always underline that creative work is beyond politics. In this situation you are expressing your civic stand.

“Any creative work in politics lives for one day, and it is not remembered well by the admirers. But it is necessary, like the work of journalists of printed and online media, television. Of course, we traditionally create more chamber works and they are dedicated absolutely to different topics. But street art is exciting, you get addicted to it.”

How do you feel in a situation when no centers of culture, especially informal, have left in the city? Do you feel scared, in particular, at the moment of placing the objects? What is your motivation to continue to do this?

“Every time when we are placing these objects I have an unpleasant feeling of fear. Not just adrenaline rush for thrill-seekers: this is a real fear. At the moment we are staying on the territory which is beyond legal framework, therefore if we are caught, our punishment will not be a fine. In the film Exit Through the Gift Shop Banksy’s field trip to Disneyland was shown as a heroic deed. For us it was not simple entertainment. During the first action, when one of the characters was in the trunk of our car, we were stopped by a DNR patrol. Thank God, nothing happened.

“Only one thing can be a motivation: the unwilling to sit idle and silently watch your city turn into a desert and center of fear.

“On the whole, this stressful situation for the city should become a good catalyst of splash and growth of cultural life.”

Your works can be called local ironic vaccination from separatism. In case the military actions are over on the territory of Ukraine, what large-scale vaccinations from separatism can be made (cultural actions, educational projects, etc.)? Will this help, in your opinion?

“Vaccination from separatism will be of no help: there is a need for vaccination from silliness. And this is a task for all educational and cultural institutions.”

By Kateryna ZHEMCHUZHNYKOVA, The Day. Photos courtesy of the art group “Murzylky”