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Ukrainian Sparks

Author: Natalya Beskhlebnaya
Translation: Paul E. Richardson

July/Aug 2014
Page 44   ( 3 pages)

Summary: A renowned Ukrainian artist uses street art to pay tribute to those who fell in his country’s recent uprising.


In Kiev, the Ukrainian performance artist Gennady Gutgarts recently “installed” his project, “Sparks of Holiness.” His Sparks are vivid paint spots applied to the dark facade of the House of Unions, where the headquarters of the Maidan protest was situated during Ukraine’s protests and where, on the night of February 18 and 19, dozens died in a fire.

According to Gutgarts, his main inspiration was the sea of flowers that Kievans brought to the square in memory of those who perished. According to the art project’s website, it was based on two basic ideas: “the value of human life is absolute,” and “think every minute of your life.” As well, Gutgarts said, it alludes to “the horrific game of paint ball, which trains participants to treat life and death lightly... for some, these events were a game, yet real people died.”

Was it difficult to take on this project? How did it come to you? As far as I understand, you have done various actions and conceptual projects, but have never been associated with street art. All that is best in art and elsewhere occurs when one succeeds in turning off the self, in connecting with something truly powerful and important. If we talk about painting, and don’t delve into the underlying causes, this could be the state of nature or a person’s internal world. In any case, we are talking about a disaster. And of course we are talking about a disaster that swept aside the horrible quagmire in which our country was immersed. I perceived the events of last winter, with their inevitable and tragic denouement, as a natural phenomenon. Like a true natural phenomenon, the seasons, say, it does not have an exact ending, it transforms – sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly – into the next phenomenon, which we are now observing. But at that point – the end of winter and the start of spring – there was a massive quiet after the hurricane. The hurricane came when the strong and weak moved mountains in the center of this ancient city. A silence descended on the burned-out streets, the sea of flowers arrived, there was a silence like that after an explosion, and the sense that we – splinters, fragments of something unknown – were soaring over a whirlpool. This, perhaps, is what helped me understand what I had to do. As a result, work on the project proceeded rather easily. It was really a hugely significant project, both for myself and for the city. And it has only a tenuous connection with street art.

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