Kateryna Botanova

The great power of art

Unspoiled by visits by foreign stars, Ukrainian cultural figures continue to remarkably manage to preserve a provincial soul in their reception of guests.

 The cultural program of the lucky westerner (or more uncommonly easterner) without fail consists of some homestyle warm tea in a studio with a circle of the owner’s closest friends and sincere conversations about: So what Ukrainian artists do you now? and Real art can truly change the world.

And no matter how the poor guest politely choking from tea doesn’t recall the greatness of Malevich and Kandinsky and doesn’t try to say that art, like the outside world, has changed greatly over the last one hundred years, he is seldom heard. After they leave, the masters, sadly shaking their heads, confirm that the West (East) doesn’t want to know anything about them. But the guest remarkably observers that art in this hospitable country, which seems to rejoice in its own isolation from the world, is happily stuck, at best, in the Soviet tradition of the previous century, when art not only belonged to the people, but actively remade its consciousness.    

 Roger Buergel, the curator of one of the most prestigious contemporary art forums Documenta XII, was even luckier. He got an earful about the “saving power of art” from the rather young audience at his Kyiv master-class. “With all due respect to art, I’m not sure that it’s capable of saving someone or changing the world,” he carefully noted.

What a strange thing this belief in the great power of art! It’s a peculiar pass into eternity with a test on spirituality, because when art is capable of changing the world then the artist is almost a god, who has to know the answer to all questions. And for those who have all the answers, continuing to think is an unjustified waste of time. One pleasure remains – drinking tea and talking about real art being able to change the world and how the West (and the East) don’t know and don’t understand anything about us.




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