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Paths to Recovery

04 December, 00:00

Kyiv’s exhibition life the weekend before last was marked by two projects with an expressed, even aggressive social orientation. The RA Gallery had a sequel to its earlier Social Projections, a photo exhibit titled Hostages. The new exposition and the accompanying performance by Olena Kovylina, “On the Other Side of Delight,” were dedicated to the problem of abortion. At the same time, a photo exhibit by Oleksandr Hliadielov, In Search of Things Lost, opened at the Grand Exhibition Hall of Ukrainian House.

Viktor Suvorov’s series, Hostages, is made up of reportage photos taken at maternity hospitals and gynecological consulting rooms. The technique is simple. The joy of motherhood on the one hand and the horror of cutting pregnancy short on the other. Olena Kovylina in her work used tougher techniques. She started by standing barefoot on broken glass, blindfolded, with a handful of beluga caviar, groping for men in the crowd that was quickly thinning out as everybody fled her trying to treat them to the caviar. The performance ended in the street when a dumbfounded passerby found himself with a mouthful of the discomfiting delicacy. This author happened to witness something similar a year and a half ago at Moscow’s Regina Gallery, when another blindfolded female artist chased the men with tufts of her own hair and bottles Opium perfume.

The way the theme was performed at RA could be criticized as could the theme itself. Now the most active struggle against abortion is being waged by the Catholic Church, abiding by dogmas on the inadmissibility of extramarital sex (and the sanctity of human life —Ed.). Likewise, Catholics are resolutely opposed to the usage of contraceptives when having sex, which is a very absurd, even inhuman approach. Every dogma has its faults; sage as its authors might be, it fits poorly into the realities.

For example, the Western Church pays substantially less attention to children whose parents abandon them after birth, dumping such infants, leaving them at railroad stations, or at best waving their parental rights in the maternity hospital. Such children are the topic of Oleksandr Hliadielov’s exposition. It constitutes something of report on the life of homeless children. Some of the situations and images are simply unbearable. Hliadielov does not aim for the viewer’s pity, nor does he simply state a fact. Above all his works possess artistic strength. Their quality calls forth empathy so much more effectively than could even the most heartfelt writing. There is but one alternative today and Hliadielov depicts it: foster homes. There are families that show such bravery under today’s trying conditions, by accepting street children. Without exaggeration, such people are capable of rescuing Ukraine from reverting to a state of nature. A nation’s soundness is tested by its attitude toward the homeless and needy, toward all those relegated to the gutter.

So far this nation seems afflicted by a grave infirmity of indifference. But there are encouraging signs, and both expositions bear witness to this, each in its own way.

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