As artist-curator in the Ukraine

What an exhilarating time it has been!

And I realise that I have been neglecting this blog a bit, with the last post being almost a month back… my apologies to all of you.

I just came back from my second visit to Kharkiv/Kharkow in the eastern Ukraine. The first time I came here in June, on a research and introductory visit for a project initiated by partners Osteuropa gGmbH. Together with the wonderful Tatyana Tumasyan and her dedicated staff at the Municipal Gallery of Kharkiv we planned and curated an exhibition, to be opened in September. The exhibition’s opening and the German-Ukrainian cooperation marked the start of the German Weeks in the Ukraine.

The exhibition ‘Understanding – Понимание’ featured installations and performances in public spaces. Eight young, but well-known Kharkiv artists were selected by us to present new works for this exhibition. They are Gamlet Zinkovsky, Konstantin Zorkin, Uliana Alimova, Boba Group, Vladislav Krasnoshchok, Oksana Solop, Vitaly Kokhan and Daria Rakova. The Municipal Gallery did an incredible job at preparing the show and I was very happy and grateful to be able to be present at the opening on the 24th of September.

Here are some pictures of the exhibition (please click on the images to see the full view and read my descriptions):

And a short video of the Boba-Group performance:

Besides the exhibition, I was also invited to present a workshop for a group of 12 young curators, who were selected from all over the Ukraine.

Together with Monika Szewczyk, director of the gallery Arsenal in Bialystok, Poland (www.galeria-arsenal.pl) and Viktor Misiano (http://www.re-aligned.net/viktor-misiano/?lang=en). Each of us had 2 days to work with the young curators…

Honestly, when I was first asked to do this, I wanted to say NO. Although I have been working as a curator in the National Art Gallery of Namibia, have curated a few independent exhibitions and art projects and have experience in large international bi-lateral projects like the p.art.ners berlin-windhoek ‘Shared Experiences’ Artistic and Cultural Exchange project between Namibia and Germany, I did not feel that I was really qualified to be in this world-class company of other ‘real’ full-time curators. I wondered what I could possibly teach these young curators, which the other presenters would not be able to do better, as they work with the subject every day.

Then I thought, if I am invited for this, there must be something valuable and special which I can add to this workshop. The organisers believed in me and trusted that I am exactly the right person for this. They would not have approached me if it was otherwise. And I realised that yes, I always believed that I have so much to share that would be helpful and inspirational to others, and now I have the chance to do it. We all have a specific combination of superpowers that make us who we are and let us live our life’s purpose. And I have unique experiences, views and ideas that are worth sharing with others (and so have each of you, by the way).

So I chose to share my personal experiences related to the challenges as an artist in Namibia and in the world and the solutions and alternatives that I have found for myself. I shared what worked for me and why, and what did not. Suddenly I realised that even my frustrations and failures had value in guiding me in a perfect way on my journey and by sharing these (and how I have been able to overcome them, or move on from them) I can really help others.

From the feedback and the many ‘thank you’s’, which I got, I am deeply honoured and can say with gratitude that my aim to inspire and enrich these young curators was successful. Here are messages I received from two of the participants, which so much warmed my heart:

“Thank you to incredible Imke Rust for the fact that no matter what the circumstances, not taking into account any impossibility, seeking the most noble and most necessary to improve this planet. For her contagious faith in something that everyone is able to change the world for the better. For her projects, for her unique experience and most importantly, for her desire to share this experience.” Владислава Ильинская
Dear Imke, thank you so much for the workshop you did in Kharkiv! It was really inspiring and motivating. You have a very particular charm and energy, that there are no doubts that you can make it rain. 🙂
Thank you a lot and wish you all the best in your projects! Olena Kasperovych/ Kharkiv, Ukraine

(They were both translated from Ukrainian to English via the Google translator.)

Even though I had a positive feeling about the workshop, I cannot tell you how much it means  to me to get personal feedback and assurance like this! Because unfortunately, no matter how much I have achieved or how confident I appear to be, I often feel so insecure and am worrying if what I am doing is good enough… (Note to self: give more positive feedback to others when it is merited. Not only will it be appreciated, but very often it helps that person to overcome their insecurities and doubts a little bit more. And I guess we all have some of those.)

While the participants could hopefully take many lessons home, I can say for sure that I did too.

I learned that

  • it is important to share ones experiences in a way which inspires others.
  • we need to trust in our unique strengths and talents and use them like superpowers.
  • We need to stay true to ourselves.
  • It is a beautiful gift to be able to understand each other (even if that means you need a translator)
  • Little by little all our actions can and do add up, so make even the smallest one count.
  • there are so many young, engaged people out there who are ready to change the world.
  • Even if outer circumstances differ, usually the patterns of the problems we are facing seem to be very similar. After all we are all human and struggle with similar issues.
  • my name looks like this in Ukrainian letters:  Имке Руст

Besides the workshop and exhibition, I also have been interviewed for an hour by the Ukrainian National television, as well as giving two interviews for local magazines, about my art and I presented an open public lecture at the gallery… Working hard and loving it! The TV interview was really surreal and I am very curious to see the show and I will forever wonder how much got lost or changed in translation? But I do believe the essence will always seep through if we share and receive with an open heart.

I am grateful for having had this opportunity, for meeting so many new and special people and artists, for getting to know a new country and culture, for being able to inspire others and be a blessing in their lives, for realising that it is indeed possible for me to travel with hand-baggage only and how empowering it can be to face and overcome my own fears (like being alone in a foreign country of which I do not understand the language).

I realised that I enjoy sharing my ideas and knowledge in order to help, enrich and inspire others, so I hope that life will present me with many more similar opportunities.

My very special thanks goes to Nastia, who is the kindest, hardworking and committed young curator of the Municipal Gallery of Kharkiv, who also has been my very capable Ukrainian voice (translator) most of the time.

And here are some Kharkiv impressions:

I hope you enjoyed this summary and pictures of my trip to the Ukraine.

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