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Sleepless Ukraine: Exhibition reflects reality of war on first anniversary of conflict
Marking one year on from the Russian invasion of the country, Sleepless Ukraine is showing at the new KULT XL Ateliers art centre in Ixelles from 17 to 26 February.
It features more than 25 works by Ukrainian photographers, film makers and artists, each reflecting their own personal insights into the horrific spoils of war.
Exhibitors include the acclaimed visual artist VK, Anton Abo, Pash Velychko, Bohdana Davydiuk and Yulia Danilevska, among others. The word ‘sleepless’ in the exhibition’s title encapsulates the mood of those whose lives were torn apart by the conflict. Many survivors - by their own admission - have suffered acute insomnia since Russian troops moved in on 24 February 2022.
Artists focus on the first few weeks of the invasion when the impact of the conflict totally upturned lives. As well as photo series, illustrations and an audio coverage of eye witness accounts, visitors are invited to wear headsets for the virtual reality immersive experience ‘Wer Ukraine’. It provides a 360-degree view of the destruction to cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv, revealing almost first-hand the scenes Ukrainian nationals have endured during 12 months of fighting.
Olivier Baumard, co-ordinator of the exhibition with Maxence Peniguet, worked in Ukraine before the war and retains a deep fondness for the people and the country. He told The Bulletin the exhibition provides a unique opportunity for visitors to discover captivating works that might be utterly harrowing to some, but were a necessary inclusion. “Since the early days of the invasion, the artists have continued to create powerful, sarcastic and emotionally charged works denouncing the invasion, sometimes at the risk to their own lives.”
Many of the artists returned to the devastation of targetted cities, to capture on film or on canvas, the struggles people are still facing today. “We want to reflect the courage of the Ukrainian people and the artists who have told their story by capturing their thoughts and feelings,” said Baumard.
The choice of insomnia as a theme reflected the reality for many of the country’s citizens. “People have got stuck into a nightmare of trauma and stress. Even those who fled the war, have been unable to sleep through depression, stress and worry since it began.”
Among the exhibits is a visual installation Meta History: Museum of War, a series of interconnected digital scenes detailing the chronology of the war. Its inclusion was important to preserve the memory of the victims and an accurate piece of history for future archives, pointed out Baumard.
“Essentially this is a conflict which has gone on for nine years [the Russo-Ukrainan war initially started in 2014] so the whole picture needs to be told. It is not just a war in Ukraine; the impact is felt among people across Europe and the world.”
Entrance to the exhibition is free but visitors can donate a sum of their choice with all proceeds going to Ukraine charities.
Rue Wiertz 23
Photos: (main image) Karkhiv - Yurii Veres; Maria Kinovych