Heart of EarthExhibitions

Heart of Earth

Heart of Earth
Мистецький Арсенал
вул. Лаврська, 10-12
Київ, Київська область 01010

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

Referring to the ancient Greek myth about the gods’ contest over Athens, historian Timothy Snyder wittily asks: if the Athenians chose the olive tree as a gift and planted groves on their lands, where was the bread that they ate with the fruit coming from? And he answers: the grain came from the Northern Black Sea region, from the black earth near Kherson and Mykolaiv. However, for many, the notion of Ukrainian lands as the granary of entire continents seemed to be more of a myth than history, until the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022 highlighted its unexpected relevance as an element of world food security. It also turned out that food comes from the earth, just like gas and oil, and can also be used as a weapon.

Organized food shortages lead to political starvation, and are therefore a tool for controlling people. This is a story that is tragically known in Ukraine, and it is this story that colors the background against which Russia’s blockade of food circulation is currently unfolding. The Holodomor was both an attempted extermination and a consequence of Stalin’s internal colonization that led to further practices of environmental violence. The Chornobyl disaster has become the culmination point. Based on colonial thinking, Soviet industrialization destroyed the ecosystem and increased the sense of threat, abandonment, and betrayal among the people who lived there. Acid rains in Chernivtsi, kilometers of trees burned with toxins near Stebnyk, smoldering slagheaps in Donetsk, radiation spilled into the air—all these make up the discursive reality of late Soviet Ukraine. Even the grown food seemed to be poisonous. That is why, according to historian Serhii Plokhy, the beginning of the Ukrainian democratic movement was based mainly on the feeling of disastrous environmental violence: against the earth and people.

While planning the exhibition and addressing various artists’ practices and reflections, we sought to keep in focus this historical memory and the triangle of relationships: the earth, the people who cherish it, and the food that is born from the interaction between them. Our earth—what kind of land is that and what is known about it from the point of view of food’s importance for the world? In the global colonial transformation, how do exploited territories, extremely influential but powerless and deprived of a voice of their own, acquire agency, that is, the ability to act on their own behalf and in their own interests?

With the beginning of the full-scale war, these terrains, unknown to many, have acquired a detailed expression due to the resistance of their people. The names of local cities, towns, and villages are mentioned on the main world media sites, local correspondents are of great value, and millions of Ukrainians who were forced to flee their homes tell their stories to the world. Through resistance, the influence of mythologized lands and people began to converge with agency. However, we are once again dealing with threats to the earth, lands, life, and the need to talk about food that may become scarce.

And there is one more thing that was not noticed in the Ukrainian information space before the Russian invasion, and it is global, political, and deeply personal at the same time. Blocked ports, burned grain, devastated and poisoned earth in Ukraine, like the flap of a butterfly’s wings, has consequences much farther in other places. They, too, were systematically oppressed and are now suffering from the consequences of industrialization, which was not chosen by the local people. Food, the fragility of the human body, and the condition of the earth are once again tied in a tight knot. The connection between everything became palpable: between very different lands, between people who knew little about each other, between plants and people, between earth and food, and the individual.

Thinking about ourselves and the communities of people who have historically lived on the same lands, raising our voices and telling our own stories, mourning our pain, and laughing at the thousand jokes that are born every moment are all ways to cope with violence. And another important way is the ability to care. For example, about mined fields that need careful demining, about people who deserve to work the land safely and not to know the stories of those blown up by a trip-wire. About everyone who needs food and who carries the memory of hunger in themselves, about the earth that is no longer poisoned either by bombs or unthinking production, about exiles and their gardens somewhere in the southern Ukrainian lands, gardens whose neglect echoes with sharp pain every moment. Care about us all.

The exhibition of comtemporary Ukrainian art “Heart of Earth” presented the artworks (painting, photography, video, sculpture, graphics, installation) of 16 Ukrainian artists. Visitors saw the artworks created between 2014 and 2022, as well as those created specifically for the exhibition.


  • Curatorial group

    Olga Zhuk
    Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta
    Anna Pohribna
    Natasha Chychasova

    Kateryna Aliinyk
    Oleksandr Burlaka
    Katya Buchatska
    Bohdana Voitenko
    Ksenia Hnylytska
    Andrii Dostliev & Lia Dostlieva
    Anna Zvyagintseva
    Nikita Kadan
    Zhanna Kadyrova
    Alevtina Kakhidze
    Kateryna Lysovenko
    Daryna Mamaisur
    Elias Parvulesco
    Anton Saienko
    Olena Turianska

  • Project coordinators
    Andrii Myroshnychenko
    Nadiia Chervinska

    Technical director
    Serhii Diptan

    Graphic design
    Kostyantyn Martsenkivskyi

    Educational program
    Liana Komardenko
    Kateryna Makarova
    Anastasia Yablonska

    PR & communications
    Oleksandra Havryliuk
    Mariia Hromova
    Anastasiia Yevsikova
    Oleksandr Popenko

  • Special thanks
    Larion Lozovoy
    Dmytro Larin and the 60th Separate Ingulets Infantry Brigade — a military formation of the Reserve Corps of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

    Funded by the Stabilisation Fund for Culture and Education 2022 of the German Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut