End to the Beginning: Towards Peace, Towards Art… / Evrim Altuğ

About two hours before I signed these lines, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was giving the message “3rd World War is a Real Risk”, while also referring to the probability of a nuclear war ( https://www.bbc.com/turkce/61229687 )

The endless pursuit of immortality between art and the history of humanity, this prolific source of tragedy, always strove to record the ethnical, national and belief struggles of the sore memory, along with losses, disgraces, justified humane reactions in many media from literature to visual arts, from architecture to music. Culture and art vowed to teach us peace and fellowship in the name of future generations; over thousands of musicians, writers, designers, architects, sculptors, video artists and stage and cinema figure became warning symbols, living archives, tokens of existence and source of expression with their paintings, sculptures, games, films and of course, memories, just so that the pains of the past would not repeat.

The tension between Russia and Ukraine, which has brought the world on edge for the last two months, prompted the world to question the pulse, stance and existence of many prominent culture and art activities, and express itself in the quickest, most honest and inclusive way possible.

When we go back from the end to the beginning, that is, towards peace and towards art, we can see that time and again, peace found a common ground among legions of culture and art labourers, regardless of their nationalities and ethnicities, so that they can outspeak for the humanity of the future. You know, we can easily ignore anything in this flood of information and even disinformation, so such valuable projects are listed in this article in reaction to all polarisation so they become shining examples.

For example, on April 10, 2022, musicians and stage performers of Russian and Ukrainian origin, who came together at the Steiner House in London, the capital of England, applauded the power of expression for peace only. The world-famous Ukrainian baritone Yuriy Yurchuk, accompanying violinist Ben Gilmore, well-known pianists Mikhail Shilyaev and Olga Jegunova and dancer and choreographer Kirill Burlov shared the stage with the Russian theatre team Xameleon. On that night, the artists came before the audience in the name of a common repertoire reflecting Russian and Ukrainian culture and art. The same night also witnessed young musicians from London, who are members of the Russian Music School, standing shoulder to shoulder in the name of peace.

All of the ticket revenues from this event were used for the non-governmental aid organization known as “DEC” in short, which previously provided extensive support to Afghanistan on behalf of the civilians in England. DEC held another huge concert with similar intentions on March 30, 2022 in Birmingham, England. The Eurovision winner, the Ukrainian artist Jamala, performed live with many artists at the concert, and the concert received a donation of 13.4 million pounds in one evening for the benefit of the Ukrainian people. So much so that DEC’s current civil society initiative reached £300 million as of April 21, 2022, and on this occasion, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge even paid a congratulatory visit to the institution’s headquarters. ( https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal )

The reflex of culture and art towards this crisis was not limited to this, of course. The world-famous Pink Floyd stepped back into the studio, with a sense of inspiration and comradeship from a Ukrainian musician named Andrei Klyuvniek, who was present at the microphone as a member of the ‘Front Band’ at one of their concerts and is currently defending his homeland. After nearly 30 years,

Pink Floyd covered this musician’s ‘Hey Hey! ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7otpIF8TcgE ) with the title ‘Rise Up’. Again, the copyright of this song serves the same purpose, and it still does…

But speaking of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, the founder and former member of the band, re-recorded The Gunner’s Dream as the ever-peace envoy he is, as a response to the open letter sent to him by Alina Mitrofanova, a nine-year-old Ukrainian fan of him. You can find the record at (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/roger-water-russia-ukraine-1319000/).

On the other hand, the 59th Venice Biennial, taking place on November 22nd, regarded as one of the most highly placed organizations of the world’s contemporary art scene, where we were proudly represented by Füsun Onur with Bige Örer as curator, many artists who demonstrated solidarity with Ukraine performed a “last-minute” project titled “Piazza Ukraine” which was also supported by the Ukraine Emergency Art Fund and Viktor Pinchuk Foundation. This project, which was presented in Giardini (https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2022/04/16/venice-biennale-ukraine-artists/ ) received support from many artists from the Turner award-holder Damien Hrist to anonymous artist “Kinder Album” (https://kinder-album.com/about/ ) who currently performs in Lviv-Ukraine.

Of course, while all this was happening, the artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kiril Savchenkov, who were expected to present projects in the Russian pavilion, voluntarily withdrew in the first days of the crisis, together with the curator Raimundas Malasaukas. The reaction of the curator, in their statement to the international press on the subject was exemplary in one sentence: “This war is politically and emotionally unbearable”.

On the other hand, in the Ukrainian pavilion, surrounded at the front by sandbags for protection and solidarity, featured the 63-year-old artist Pavlo Makov’s ironic work ( https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-61186014 ) “Fountain of Exhaustion”, dated 1996, “salvaged” by Maria Lanko in February in a car trunk, for which Makov used the expression “A metaphor in the name of exhaustion of humanity and democracy” to BBC, so an artist who previously represented Russia protested their country in writing, by way of exposing themselves, which took a reaction out all audience.

In addition, the Contemporary İstanbul Foundation joins forces for the “Make Art for Peace” project for Ukrainian children and their families to be present at the Fişekhane Camlı Gallery in Zeytinburnu, İstanbul. Organized in cooperation with İstanbul Artist Residency, which brings international artists together with their Ukrainian colleagues, and the Ukrainian curator Polina Somochkina, the event collects donations for Ukrainian children with the participation of artists.

Yevgeniy Kostrytskyy and Rustam Rahmedov from the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra are also expected to take part in the event, which will be attended by local and international art collectors, artists, organizations, social entrepreneurs and representatives of diplomatic missions. The entire proceeds of the exhibition, which will take place between 11:00 and 19:00 and can be visited between April 28 and May 1, is aimed to be donated to UNICEF. Those who are interested can also access the exhibition catalogue here (https://stock.setrow.com/photo/2546/files/MAFP.pdf ). Click here to purchase tickets for support for the exhibition.

Speaking of the end to the beginning, art towards peace, all of these developments remind me of a very precious project. The “People Power: Fighting for Peace” exhibition ( https://www.iwm.org.uk/sites/default/files/press-release/People%20Power%20Fighting%20for%20Peace_Press%20Release.pdf ), organized by the Imperial War Museum in London between March 23rd and August 28th 2017, deserves to be fully remembered, unfortunately, with its gruesome image, as it has recorded anti-war reflections on culture and art since the First World War.