It is not the shroud, it has a heart that beats down

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By: Ingeborg Ruthe


Under the flag: Maria Kulikovska in 2014 in her Manifesta campaign at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. © Dana Kosmina

Maria Kulikovska’s eight-day performance “254” on the terrace of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin will be an art protest against Putin’s war.

The symbolism of this body is calm but strong. He lies lying on the stone, covered by the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine. A lantern. A protest. Against the war of aggressor Putin.

In a few hours we will have this view on the terrace of the museum in front of the Mies van der Rohe building of the New National Gallery in Berlin. Spring days are still cool, in the shade or when the sun is stingy. Maria Kulikovska will freeze under the thin cloth. But the artist born in 1988, educated at the Academy of Arts in Kiev from Crimea – from Kerch, a cape east of the peninsula and a refugee from there since the annexation of Russia in 2014 – will have no sense of temperature. she performs her Body and the flag are her only material. She wants to show us that this banner is not shroud. You can clearly see that the body is breathing down. Sometimes her hand comes out from under the fabric as a sign of life. Makes you know that under the shell beats a passionate heart.

Maria Kulikovska knows that art is not a weapon. Art can always be only symbolic, metaphor, allegory, parable, paraphrase. expression of sadness. Or encouragement. Art does not fire from armored pipes, rocket launchers, or rifles and pistols. Art targets the mind and heart, enlightens, awakens thoughts and emotions. But the war against their country and the consequences for Europe and the world are the central theme of their art, now eight years, since the invasion of Crimea and the fighting in eastern Ukraine, this war that the world naively or out of indifference. so I did not want to believe for a long time.

Kulikovska gave her performance the number “254”. This is her refugee registration number, which she received in Kiev after fleeing Crimea. She then founded the international group of artists and the open feminist platform Flowers of Democracy and in 2017 the School of Political Performance. In 2019, together with Uleg Vinnichenko, she initiated the international non-binary art space GARAGE33 in Kiev, a gallery shelter for contemporary artists.

When the first missiles hit Kiev in March, she fled again, this time to Austria, where she eagerly hoped for an end to the war and a return to an invincible Ukraine. She has now arrived in Berlin from Linz, with this performance invited by Klaus Biesenbach, director of the Neue Nationalgalerie. The campaign is a collaboration between the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Gallery Weekend Berlin to raise donations for Be an Angel e. V. – an organization working for the sustainable integration of people of refugee origin.

After leaving Crimea in 2014, friends from Kiev took him. The apartment, says Kulikovska, is in the center of the city, opposite the municipality. Since then, who knows how many times, the coffins of fallen soldiers in eastern Ukraine have been lined up, covered with blue and yellow flags. Each of the ceremonies made a deep impression on her.

Later that year, the St. Manifesta International Art Exhibition was held in St. Petersburg. There she lay on the stone steps of the Hermitage, wrapped in her country’s flag, which had been hit by Putin’s army, and protested against the violence the neighboring state was exerting against her. It was in front of the sanctuary of Russian culture, people were opening the gap – or they thought it was good. But her unauthorized action caused outrage among Putin’s art guards. She was arrested, declared persona non grata in Russia – and deported.

Now, eight years later and in the background of the war, the body art of the Ukrainian woman, which looks both political and sacred, is of paramount importance. Before the eyes of the German public, she will lie wounded on the museum plates. From Wednesday to May 4th. Every day – noon, afternoon, towards evening, always for almost an hour.

New National Gallery, Berlin: April 27 to May 4, at 12:00, 15:00 and 17:00.

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