“Made in Chernobyl”: a different perspective on the tragedy

Oleg Atayants
Nov 26, 2019 · 4 min read

November 22 at the Kyiv History Museum, a unique exhibition “Made in Chernobyl” opened. I have been hatching this idea for a long time: I was thinking about the format, the names of the artists who I would like to attract. As a result, about two dozen Ukrainian and foreign artists gathered in an art residence organized in the Exclusion Zone. The aim of the challenge was to try to recreate the atmosphere of this mysterious place 33 years after the tragedy. I’ll be honest: it was a daring experiment, but the results exceeded all expectations.

There was no need to persuade the artists to participate in the Chernobyl art residence. Such a sacred place with its historical memory and energy is a real treasure for creative people, and they willingly agreed to express their thoughts and feelings on the canvas. The names of these creators are well known to people who love art. These are Ukrainian artists Ilya Chichkan, Masha Shubina, Ksenia Oksin, Yulia Kisel, Yulia Savenko, Awhoivan Ivanovich, Olga Drozd, Olga Vysotskaya, Stanislav Kvitko, Dmitry Motuzko, Alexey Burdiy, Anna Lugovskaya. They were joined by Arazyan Bagrat from Armenia, Peter Lagler from Austria, Ekaterina Burlina and Eduard Belsky from Slovenia, Paride Di Stefano from Italy, Sergey Savchenko from Poland, Mike Renard from the USA.

The works of some of these artists are represented in the Atayants Gallery. I carefully choose the creations of non-standard masters who can push the boundaries of everyday life. The peculiarity of my gallery is that there are paintings and sculptures that shock, provoke, and loudly declare themselves. The artists and sculptors whose works are represented in my gallery include Mike Renard, Bruno, Eduard Belsky and others. The main credo of these artists is to go against the tide, break out of all possible frames and patterns.

That is how I see the world, and I have a lot of creative like-minded people who agree with me. The Made in Chernobyl project is in our style. There are no familiar standards, stereotypes and patterns. It was important to show the Exclusion Zone from an unusual perspective, to help unleash the potential of invited artists, to look differently at the tragedy that divided the world into “before” and “after”.

Personally, Chernobyl inspires me, and I feel completely free here. People are sure that this is some terrible place where a terrible tragedy happened. But for me as an artist, it is more important to focus not on the tragedy itself, but on how this place has managed to survive and be reborn. After all, this is truly a wonderful transformation, which is worth it to be depicted in works of art.

Each of the invited artists had their own vision and understanding of what Chernobyl was for Ukraine and the world in 1986 and what it is now. However, upon arrival at the Exclusion Zone, they were forced to admit: many views were stereotyped, and opinions were biased. These thoughts are reflected in their work.

For example, Bagrat Arazyan said that he wanted to show how in Pripyat, burned to the ground, life was reborn over 30 years. And Ilya Chichkan decided to portray primates, which, although guided by instincts, also have feelings. That is how the creator saw evolution that goes in the opposite direction.

Many people who survived the Chernobyl tragedy have their own memories of these events. For example, the curator of our exhibition, Victoria Burlaka, still remembers the taste of cookies that her mother sent to her to a pioneer camp somewhere in the North Caucasus, where they, Kyiv schoolchildren, were urgently taken after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. At the same time, the main conclusion that all participants in our project made was that yes, 33 years ago, we all experienced truly terrible events, but life goes on! And the remaining psychological trauma is perfectly healed by an art therapy.

The exhibition at the Museum of the History of Kiev, which will be open until December 8, promises to be a unique event in the world of art. The artists and I tried to challenge the familiar view of things, to look at Chernobyl like no one else had tried before.

It seems to me worthy of attention.

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