Home Arts Artists who stayed in Ukraine navigate culture war and real war in new documentary

Artists who stayed in Ukraine navigate culture war and real war in new documentary

by godlove4241
0 comment

Two walls rule, directed by David Gutnik and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, follows artists of all genres in Ukraine in 2022. The title includes advice on the safest place to be during an attack, between two walls . The film is a jumble of visits with artists who have been there.

The artistic landscapes here are as vulnerable, if not as damaged, as the general war-torn landscape of Ukraine. We get a chilling aerial view of the Donetsk Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol, as we hear from an actress, now relocated, who talks about continuing her work despite the destruction of the neoclassical building in April last year that killed some 300 people who lived there. The facade of the structure is still recognizable, unlike the buildings visible around it.

A drone – in an unlikely twist, given the way drones have damaged Russian targets – walks through empty museum galleries at the Kyiv National Museum. An occasional sculpture seems stuck in a corner, perhaps waiting to be transported. The remaining works of art are packed. Many Ukrainian artists have packed their bags, a fact that the media doesn’t talk about much these days. The artists who remained in Ukraine whom Gutnik interviews constantly remind him that they chose to stay, for the sake of preserving and rebuilding an under attack Ukrainian culture.

The artists in Two walls rule are the infantry, the grunts in this culture war. Grunt might be the right word, although shouting is better when it comes to a Ukrainian rapper, Stepan Burban, who young people gather to hear. With art collectors and many artists overseas, materials are in short supply and works of art made under wartime conditions might as well be called experiments.

One of Gutnik’s guides is Lyana Mitsko, director of the Lviv Municipal Art Center, a place where artists from western Ukraine gather to depict war. “Our exhibition spaces are places where people can take shelter during air raids,” she says. Many like her have family who cannot be moved out of the country.

Lyana Mytsko, as seen in Two walls ruledirected by David Gutnik. Courtesy of New Town/Old Town.

Gutnik’s film is a hodgepodge that moves from person to person, from bustling cities like Lviv and Kiev to cities in ruins, from smiling children to burning buildings to unearthed corpses. If it sometimes seems to lack center, that’s normal. These artists work on the fly, often with found materials, sometimes with surprising results. Yet at the heart of the film is a commitment to a culture and language that its subjects say the Soviets (i.e. Russians) suppressed for decades.

If there’s a real-time musical score, besides Stepan Burban’s war raps, it’s the hard-hitting gunfire and aerial alarms. Russian bombs seem to work indiscriminately, sometimes ravaging blocks of Soviet-era buildings that Russified Ukraine. On a smaller scale, the artists show how the Ukrainian details of the interior murals were covered with layers of whitewash during the Soviet era. We watch as restorers scrape away this painting by hand, revealing colorful patterns. These recovered treasures still risk being bombarded.

Other artists, unidentified, are pictured producing works in progress. An anonymous woman paints scenes of women being pierced with nails or awaiting sexual assault and another of a woman painting in blood. She ponders how to depict the death of children, all in eerie combinations of violent detail and soft, warm colors. Another burly bearded man makes leather masks, studies of fright that might frighten someone if there wasn’t a real war raging outside.

Like so many documentaries filmed in Ukraine these days, “Rule of Two Walls” looks like a bundle of dispatches, stuffed with personal testimonies, sometimes urgent, sometimes tender, interspersed most of the time with corpses. Gutnik even includes photographs of previous generations of his own Ukrainian-born family. As the film samples the culture’s soft power and its clear boundaries, no one doubts whose side it is.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

@2022 – All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by artworlddaily