This secret, underground camp has been established by the Nazi regime in 1943 to support production for the armaments industry. About 2000 female prisoners were stationed here and used as forced labour. The living conditions have been described as inhumane and horrible, and many women have died.
When I researched the history of this place, one small detail grabbed my attention: several combs or pieces of combs were found hidden here. Ex-prisoners who described the conditions, shared, that they were not allowed to have combs in these camps. Being found with a comb could be punished with death. The women secretly made their own combs out of leftovers from the production materials and these were shared amongst them. Unfortunately the self-made combs were not helpful against the fleas – the big problem in the unhealthy living conditions. One lady was able to smuggle in a fine comb and one had to pay half a ration of bread for the use of this comb.
This story of the combs made me aware that the women, despite all their suffering, still had the will to try and create ways to make their lives a little better. Through my art I wanted to restore some of their dignity and also commemorate their strength. It was also important that visitors could relate to these women as fellow human beings on a very personal level.
Therefore my eight life-sized female figures, which have been installed in small groups at different places in the forest, seem to dissolve on one side into the shape of a broken comb.
The women stand proud and strong, while at the same time they fade into the background and are only clearly visible from a certain angle. Making us aware that history can be forgotten quickly, if we make no effort to remember.
Visitors at the first public event – I love how the “historic women” stand silently amongst the guests:
Die wenigen Fundstücke, die direkt auf die Frauen deuten, bestehen aus Resten von Kämmen. Durch die Kämme, die eingeschmuggelt oder vor Ort heimlich aus Produktionsmaterial hergestellt und versteckt werden mussten, haben die Frauen sich ein klein wenig ihrer Würde zurückerobert.
Mit dem Kunstwerk möchte ich den Frauen symbolisch die Achtung zukommen lassen,die sie damals nicht bekamen. Mein Wunsch ist es ihnen ein positives Andenken zu setzen, an dem man aber auch das durchgemachte Leid erkennt.
Angelehnt an die Fundstücke der oft zerbrochenen Kämme, die sich heute im Regionalmuseum befinden, stellen meine abstrakten Frauensilhouetteneine Verbindung zwischen Frauenkörper und Kamm her.
Diese etwa lebensgroßen, abstrakten Silhouetten erinnern an einfach erkennbare, weibliche (Ur)Figuren. Sie sind wie ein Kamm flach gehalten. Die Auflösung der Figur in die Zähne der Kämme deutet auf die Vergänglichkeit, das Leid und auch unsere verblichene Erinnerung an diese Frauen und ihr Schicksal hin.
Als erste Installation die am Waldbau Gedenkort errichtet wird sollen die Silhouetten neugierig machen und auch schon auf die Geschichte des Ortes hindeuten.
(*a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration)
Finally I am back in Germany and need to catch up on so much news to share with you! So, without further ado, I jump in with news from the Ukraine: On the 28th of September (while I was busy creating land art in South Africa) my public sculpture project “Three Young Muses” has been unveiled in Dnipro City.
I was invited by the German Consulate of Donezk and Artsvit Gallery to create a public artwork as a gift to the city. It was a challenging project, due to several logistical, time, budget and planning constraints, but with such a great team working together it all was successfully completed in time for the German Weeks. The artwork was installed opposite of the Yavornytsky National Historical Museum.
Three Young Muses, Art project of Artsvit Gallery and German Consulate of Donezk. Artist: Imke Rust
The Three Young Muses have been installed here to create a direct visual and conceptual link to the ancient Baba figurines. They are three young, modern-day women who relax on the grass of the park and contemplate the future.
In dialog with the ancient Babas, these young Muses hope to inspire modern society to re-embrace the female wisdom and power in order to balance the male and female energies in society. They also remind us that our generations are responsible to consciously envision and co-create our future.
Unlike their ancient stone counterparts, the Three Young Muses are made out of ash wood. Their wooden nature is symbolic for life, growth and transformation. The wood’s vulnerability and semi-permanent nature also represents our fast-paced modern times and reminds us to live in the present moment, as reality changes faster than ever. By focussing on the Now we have the power to determine and shape the future according to our highest vision. If you would like to know more about my thoughts behind this work, I have added some at the bottom.
A short video documentation about the Three Young Muses Art Project Video: Serge Ostrianyn, With the kind permission of Artsvit Gallery
I would like to thank the German consul Mr Mössinger and the team of the German Consulate of Donezk, Ms Iryna Polikarchuk, Director of the Artsvit Gallery and her team and the City of Dnipro for this opportunity. Also thank you to Bazarenko Yuriy (Architect), Serge Ostrianyn (Video), Vita Popova (Photos), Nikita Shalenny (Studio space) and Liosha (Assistance).
Some pictures (click on images to see a larger view):
Imke Rust working on the Three Young Muses
Imke Rust with the Three Young Muses in the studio.
Installing the bases
Insatllation of the 3 figures
Still hidden from view.
German Consulate Mr and Mrs Mössinger and Iryna Polikarchuk, Director Artsvit Gallery
Ms Iryna Polikarchuk, Director Artsvit Gallery, giving a TV Interview with the Baba Figures in the background
The Three Young Muses
More Info regarding the background of the Three Young Muses (if you are interested in the nitty-gritty details 😉 ):
Cooperation / Together we are stronger.
They are a small group of three women, named: Love, Hope and Gratitude. I believe that these three qualities are essential to our peaceful future.
The three women are also symbolic of the three backgrounds coming together in the creation of the sculpture through a German- Namibian artist creating in the Ukraine. Together we are stronger and the more we understand that there are no differences between people, no matter where they come from or who they are, the easier we can co-exist and co-create a better future for all. Each lady is symbolical for one of the three countries connected here: Ukraine, Germany and Namibia.
The third dimension – we do things in threes so they will manifest in our physical realm.
It’s roots stem from the meaning of multiplicity. Creative power; growth. Three is a moving forward of energy, overcoming duality, expression, manifestation and synthesis. Three is the first number to which the meaning “all” was given. It is The Triad, being the number of the whole as it contains the beginning, a middle and an end.
The power of three is universal. Body, mind and soul. Birth, life and death. Heaven, earth and hell. Three is a complete cycle unto itself. It is past, present, future.
There are three wishes, and in many fairytales there are three sisters…
Past, Present and Future
The Babas look towards the Three Young Muses and put their hope and expectations into the young generation, especially the women, to get engaged and empowered to change our destiny.
The viewer, when passing the Three Young Muses on the park walkway, will be located between the past (Babas) and the future (Three Young Muses), and will become the link, the present moment, which shapes our future. I hope that we learn from the past, but look towards the future.
Size and Material
The Three Young Muses are created only slightly larger than real-life women. I hope this invites people to engage on eye-level with the artwork and ideas behind it. Possibly to sit between or around these figures and get inspired…
I believe that unlike older, monumental public sculptures, which create a distance to the viewer, contemporary art should be more interactive and accessible. The size and the vulnerable material highlight these ideas.
When faced with the obvious ‘weakness’ of the material, the responsibility to treat these figures with respect and care now lies with each member of the public. It will be interesting to see, if and how people ‘accept this challenge’ of openly displayed vulnerability. Will they be treated according to our inherent deep-seated values towards women, art or public property? Can we trust each other with our vulnerability? Do we let ourselves be inspired by their openness, confidence and soft strength that these Muses display?
The choice of wood (symbolism of the Ash tree):
According to different sources that I found on the Internet, Ash wood is a symbol of healing and especially transformation and empowerment in matters of destiny.
It is also considered to be “the key to healing the loneliness of the human spirit, forming a link between the gods, humans, and the dead in the spirit world. Ash holds the key to Universal Truth and Cosmic Wisdom, and it takes on the important role as a Tree of Initiation.”
Relation to and inspiration by the stone Babas:
The specific form in which the Three Young Muses were conceptualised has been inspired by the Baba figures, of which I have read:
“A widespread form of sculptures were steles of a simplified anthropomorphic type that were formed of flat right-angled stone plates. Their lower part was not worked as it was meant to be dug into the ground, though they had carefully shaped shoulders and heads with well-carved facial characteristics. …
…are Polovtsian (Cuman) stone babas. There are about two thousand of them left. They are usually found in groups of 2 – 3 statues on the highest parts of steppe – on the sanctuaries of the funeral cult of ancestors. Polovtsian statues symbolized their ancestors and were not directly connected with the burial ritual.
… At the end of the century a visible simplification of form took place when the back of the statue was not decorated, also the details of haircuts and costumes were missing on the front side.