Where democracy is under pressure and crisis reigns, alternative participatory models are developed, as evidenced by the recent worldwide gulf of revolts and protest movements. One of the brightest among them was the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. In times of social and political transitions and disturbances there is an urgent need for art. Not because art can change reality, but because it serves as an ideal tool to visualize and predict changes. Art creates space for reflection and contemplation, where alternative pathways can be imagined and where new, critical perspectives can be developed. Art allows us to ask what we can learn from the recent gulf of protest movements such as the Revolution of Dignity?
‘Revolutionize’ is an international research and exhibition project that brings together art and museum institutions from Ukraine and the Netherlands. 30 contemporary artists and art groups from 15 countries through the language of installation, painting, multimedia, video and photo speak about the revolutionary events, and analyze the revolution as a social phenomenon. A personal, critical, and retrospective view focuses on a special historical event – the Revolution of Dignity. The exhibition also presents artifacts from the National Museum of the Revolution of Dignity collection.
Participants: Francis Alÿs (BE), Lara Baladi (EG), James Beckett (ZA), Maksym Bilousov (UA), Marinus Boezem (NL), Adelita Husni-Bey (IT), Irina Botea (RO), Nazar Bilyk (UA), Latifa Echakhch (MA), Harun Farocki (CZ), Jack Goldstein (CA), Hamza Halloubi (MA), Yuriy Hrytsyna (UA), Iman Issa (EG), Illya Isupov (UA), Alevtina Kakhidze (UA), Lesia Khomenko (UA), Sasha Kurmaz (UA), Dariia Kuzmych (UA), Cristina Lucas (ES), Basim Magdy (EG), Lev Manovich (RU), Olexa Mann (UA), Olaf Nicolai (GE), Maria Plotnikova (UA), Leticia Ramos (BR), Vlada Ralko (UA), Fernando Sanchez Castillo (ES), Wolfgang Tillmans (GE), Mona Vatamanu (RO) &Florin Tudor (RO), Vova Vorotniov (UA), Pavel Wolberg (RU). With the participation of the Planning for Protest, Mystetskyi Barbican, Strike Poster, Piotr Armianovski, Aftermath VR: Euromaidan.
Participants’ and artworks’ diversity is an attempt to go beyond the already acquired patterns of the Revolution of Dignity perception. ‘Revolutionize’ puts Ukrainian events into a wider world context, presenting simultaneously the uniqueness and universality of certain situations, events and phenomena. The exhibition demonstrates that the aspiration for freedom, decent living standards, respect for citizens are the universal values shared by all people.
The project creates a possibility for visitors to explore, recall, discuss, leave their thoughts about the Revolution of Dignity. The exhibition provides a platform for an open discussion about the role of art and artists during the revolution and the ability/capability to talk about recent historical events in the language of art.
Euromaidan was a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev. The protests were sparked by the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend the signing of an association agreement with the European Union, instead choosing closer ties to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. The scope of the protests soon widened, with calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. The protests were fueled by the perception of “widespread government corruption”, “abuse of power”, and “violation of human rights in Ukraine”. Transparency International named President Yanukovych as the top example of corruption in the world. The situation escalated after the violent dispersal of protesters on 30 November, leading to many more protesters joining. The protests led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
During the Euromaidan, there were protests and clashes with police throughout Ukraine, especially at the Maidan (central square) in Kiev, which was occupied and barricaded by protesters, along with some administrative buildings, including Kiev City State Administration. On 8 December the crowd toppled a Lenin statue nearby. Protests and clashes increased in January, after the Ukrainian parliament passed a group of anti-protest laws. Protesters occupied government buildings in many regions of Ukraine. The protests climaxed in mid-February. Riot police advanced towards Maidan and clashed with protesters but did not fully occupy it. Police and activists fired live and rubber ammunition at multiple locations in Kiev. There was fierce fighting in Kiev on 18–20 February, (see List of people killed during Euromaidan). As a result of these events, the Agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine was signed on 21 February 2014 by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition (Vitaly Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk, Oleh Tyahnybok) under the mediation of the European Union and the Russian Federation. The signing was witnessed by the Foreign Ministers of Germany and Poland, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Radosław Sikorski, respectively, and the Director of the Continental Europe Department of the French Foreign Ministry, Eric Fournier. Vladimir Lukin, representing Russia, refused to sign the agreement.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, Yanukovych and other high government officials fled the country. Protesters gained control of the presidential administration and Yanukovych’s private estate. Afterwards, the parliament removed Yanukovych from office, replaced the government with Oleksandr Turchynov, and ordered that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko be released from prison. Events in Kiev were soon followed by the Crimean crisis and pro-Russian unrest in Eastern Ukraine. Despite the ousting of Yanukovych, the installation of a new government, and the adoption of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement’s political provisions, the protests have sustained pressure on the government to reject Russian influence in Ukraine.