MONUMENT to a NEW MONUMENT

Sharhorod, Vinnytsia oblast, Ukrain. 2007–2009

More than twenty years after gaining independence, Ukrainian society is still experiencing a deep conflict of interpretation in relation to the (non)acceptance of various aspects of its historical heritage. One striking indication of this controversy is manifested in relation to historical monuments. Should the monuments to heroes of previous eras, whose positive influence on Ukraine’s development is disputed today, be dismantled? Should monuments be erected to those whose activities were previously censored and effaced from historical memory? 

With her characteristic sense of irony, Kadyrova created the Monument to a New Monument, a sculpture the size of a person, made from white tile, which looks like a monument covered with a white sheet just before its unveiling. The shape of a standing human body can certainly be inferred from the mass of white tile, but the identity of the “new hero” is unrecognizable. Anyone could be hidden beneath the metaphorical white covering. In this way Kadyrova’s sculpture, rather than commenting on the historical-political games of contemporary Ukraine, activates the psychological-mental matter of every viewer. The viewers begin to see whatever they want and are capable of seeing in the monument: one sees an undeservingly forgotten Ukrainian cultural figure, one sees their own children, and one sees a new god, according to the artist, who collected comments from those present at the opening of the monument in Sharhorod in summer 2009. 

Observing the process of creating the Monument to a New Monument, the residents of Sharhorod could not agree on one interpretation of the identity of the “new hero.” Still, Kadyrova’s sculpture drew local residents closer together through their active work fixing up the small, abandoned square where the monument now stands. They laid out paths paved with stones, installed new benches and lamps and even removed the network of gas pipes that had crossed the square. This process united the municipal utilities, the gas company and local activists, drawing them into one constructive team of people with diverse political views and cultural expectations who were quickly imbued with enthusiasm for beautifying their local community’s terrain. In the end, Sharhorod’s residents awarded Kadyrova a diploma for town improvement without fully realizing that the artist’s sculpture merely catalyzed their own concern for their surroundings. 

This cooperation is the main effect of Kadyrova’s work. Is it possible to extrapolate to the entire, linguistically and culturally varied Ukrainian society? If Ukraine can’t manage to reach consensus on the language issue or the interpretations of many traumatic past events, then perhaps Ukrainian society’s unifying social-cultural elements should be localized in something else – for example, in taking care of the local – one’s own home, yard, street or city, which is impossible to do without entering into dialogue with one’s neighbors. And what is civil society but good neighborliness? 

 

Project made during Alexander Pogorelsky's "Shargororafinad" art residency

© Тексты о работах: Олена Червонык, Виталий Атанасов

© Дизайн: Денис Рубан 

© Переводы: Лариса Бабий,

Екатерина Кочеткова, Марьяна Матвейчук,

Куролай Абдухаликова