Kyiv to LA, a new residency program promoting contemporary art from Ukraine, launches at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA) this week. Founded by LA-based curator Asha Bukojemsky, the program will bring six artists from Ukraine to the city for a series of screenings, discussions, and meals.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Bukojemsky, whose father and maternal grandparents emigrated from Ukraine to Toronto, “was frozen to her computer every day, stressed out, trying to get ahold of cousins [living] in Ukraine,” she told Hyperallergic. She found herself explaining the complex conflict between the two countries to friends in LA, “compressing centuries of history,” and ended up creating a Google Doc with resources, articles, and aid organizations. In April, she organized a fundraiser, Pierogies and Prints, at the ICA LA with artists Tanya Brodsky and Julia Tcharfas, both of whom were born in Ukraine and live in LA.
At the fundraiser, Bukojemsky was connected to philanthropist Nora McNeely Hurley, who was searching for a way to support Ukrainian artists. The new residency is funded through a grant from Hurley and the Manitou Fund. Over the next six months, venues participating in Kyiv to LA — including the ICA LA, 18th Street Arts Center, and the Villa Aurora — will host programs with the visiting Ukrainian artists-in-residence. Their travel costs, lodging, studio space, and a $1,500 stipend are covered by the residency.
“It’s not just about showing work,” Bukojemsky explains. “We need them to be present, to connect with people. They need a break.”
A launch event this Wednesday, January 11 will include a screening of three films by the collaborative duo Roman Khimei and Yarema Malashchuk that reflect changes in Ukrainian society between the Maidan Revolution of 2014 to the current war. “Dedicated to the Youth of the World II” (2019) meshes footage of a rave party in Kyiv, followed by scenes of the morning after, reflecting “the escape from a war-torn country after the first Russian invasion, the aftermath of a party,” Malashchuk told Hyperallergic. “How It’s Made” (2021) documents the transformation of a factory, as the “creative class” replaces older, industrial workers, and “The Wanderer” (2022) was filmed in the Carpathian Mountains, where the artists had fled after Kyiv was bombarded during the early days of the war. The multi-screen work depicts Khimei and Malashchuk lying in poses copied from footage of dead Russian soldiers, a common occurrence on nightly news that results in a desensitization to these images of death.
The other participants in the residency are art historian Asia Bazdyrieva, filmmaker and animator Dana Kavelina, director and screenwriter Zhanna Ozirna, and filmmaker Oleksiy Radynski, who will present his documentary film Infinity According to Florian (2022) about the late visionary artist and architect Florian Yuriev.
Both Radynski and Malaschuk said they hope the residency will allow them to share their perspective on the current war, and its roots in the long-contested history between the two nations.
“Art is one of the powerful tools of decolonial critique, as well as anti-fascist and anti-extractivist awareness,” Radynski told Hyperallergic. “For me, the most important role that art can play now is to help frame the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a neo-colonial, neo-fascist war, and to inscribe the struggle against this invasion into the global framework of decolonial resistance, which necessarily includes ecological, feminist and anti-fascist stances.”
For Bukojemsky, the realization of Kyiv to LA is somewhat bittersweet. “The sad reality is that this war has given me the opportunity to get funding to work with these artists … that it took a war for people to take an interest in Ukrainian art and culture.”