Forms of presenceExhibitions

Forms of presence

Forms of presence
Мистецький Арсенал
вул. Лаврська, 10-12
Київ, Київська область 01010

[To view a virtual tour of the exhibition, click on the image]

One day the world we knew disappeared. At least that’s how it felt when we woke up to the explosions on the night of February 24. That moment of the beginning of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war disrupted time by turning it into a rush of history that took on an almost merciless speed and the malleability of anticipation at the same time. In that storm, things that surrounded us for years, familiar streets, cities, outlines of our apartments, and houses became translucent, fragile, and able to disappear at any moment. A hidden threat that had been accumulating forces for years was revealed, and one could feel its presence with their own skin. Hard decisions had to be made almost every minute: whether to flee or stay, whether to compress a peaceful life to the size of a backpack, and whether to take up arms. There was no room left for thinking about the future — only the rattling today, in which the former life was nullified and everything had to be learned
anew. Despite the fact that the future dissolved, in its place, the past appeared more and more clear with its memory of violence, which erased the traces of human existence, eliminated them physically and destroyed any heritage. This totality and cyclicality of evil generated collective resistance by proving one’s own presence.

According to the philosopher Hans Ulrich Humbrecht, presence is a moment of feeling time, a spatial relationship with the world and objects— something tangible. While human activity is generally aimed at the production of presence, war produces absence. Absence is a void that takes away bits of memory which used to remind us of life, weakens self-awareness, and interrupts history. That is why, in times of war, of particular importance are two practices of countermeasures — collecting and creating. Collecting helps accumulate the artifacts of being and prevents forgetting, and creating opposes life to destruction.

Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, artists have found themselves in a situation where art practice seems to be a privilege, and reality trumps all attempts to depict it. Some of them chose to volunteer without material production, some became soldiers, some directed their efforts to humanitarian projects, and some continued their daily art practice to record the surrounding changes and sense of time. By that time, many artists lost their artworks and the artworks of their friends, as well as their studios. This increased the sense of irreversibility and loss. In such a situation, material production became a way of resisting and evidencing the war. This phenomenon was aptly described by artist Lesia Khomenko: “In times of physical destruction, we will create physically”. Thus, working with the material became therapy, a document of time, and a return to oneself.

This exhibition is an attempt to bring together yearly observations and conversations about the experiences and feelings that Ukrainian artists have had and the practices they have used since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion. Speaking became both a method of research and a practice of care that helped connect the shreds of reality giving them a certain form. As we talked, we often returned to childhood as a place of comfort and a tool for overcoming fear; to family history, family ties and mutual assistance; we discussed how the material one works with becomes a reflection of the fragility of life; we talked about how everyday things were rediscovered. In the exhibition space, each of the creators is present not only through their artworks but also through their personal stories, which allows a broader understanding of the conditions in which these artworks were made possible. In them, the presence of war is felt through the materials: torn paper, concrete, embroidery on fabric or a plastic bag, a house made of sand and glass, crumbs of earth and raw wood. All of these are ways of the war’s presence and acts of defiance against injustice and violence, through which life pulsates as opposed to the void of absence.

The exhibition will run from April 20 to July 30, 2023.

The exhibition is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 12:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.


  • Curatorial group
    Oleksandr Soloviov
    Natasha Chychasova


    Yuriy Bolsa
    Andrii Denysenko
    Anastasiia Dytso and Sasha Roshen
    Anton Karyuk
    Yana Kononova
    Olena Kurzel
    Maksym Mazur
    Daria Molokoiedova
    Daniil Nemyrovskyi
    Karina Synytsia
    Leo Trotsenko
    Tamara Turliun
    Sana Shakhmuradova-Tanska
    Vitaly Yankovy
    Three practices of realism
    commercial public art and Svitlanka Konoplyova
    Open place

  • Project manager
    Andrii Myroshnychenko


    Project coordinator
    Anastasia Garazd


    Olga Zhuk


    Technical director
    Serhii Diptan


    Graphic design
    Alla Sorochan


    Educational program
    Liana Komardenko
    Kateryna Makarova


    PR & communications
    Oleksandra Havryliuk
    Mariia Liubytska
    Anastasiia Yevsikova
    Oleksandr Popenko

  • Text editing
    Oleksandr Stukalo


    Tania Rodionova


    Special thanks
    Asortymentna kimnata
    Jam Factory Art Center


    The exhibition was created in partnership with Art Arsenal Community NGO as part of the project supported by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine.