Exhibition Becomes Politics. How Art Exhibitions About the Ukrainian Crisis Bring Up Diplomatic Contradictions

  • Abstract:

    The paper scrutinizes two art exhibitions in Berlin and Kiev about the current political crisis in Ukraine in light of their implications for transcultural understanding. Not only did the art exhibitions called “The Ukrainians” (DAAD gallery, Berlin) and “Fear and Hope” (Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev) want to foster alternative views and a critical focus on the crisis, but the art institutions themselves emphasize the importance of a transcultural approach that exceeds political borders. The artworks presented in the exhibitions, especially the works in Berlin, counteracted these particular institutional goals. The paper analyzes selected, exemplary artworks from Nikita Kadan, Zhanna Kadyrova, Yuri Leiderman and the artist group “Revolutionary Experimental Space”, as well as the curatorial and discoursive framework of the shows, and examines their consequences for the institutional goals. As the paper will demonstrate, the exhibitions result in contradictions in terms of the higher purpose of cultural diplomacy, updating a persistent narrative of the barbaric East as enemy stereotype. The paper is complemented by a short methodological chapter which suggests a broader theoretical approach to cultural diplomacy.