The Pink Rider – The Line ‘Portraits of the People of the Donbas in Ukraine’ – Donbas trail in Toruń – AN EXHIBITION.
Open now at Projtk Nano – ul. Podmurna 17 A i WEJŚCIÓWKA ul. Plac Teatralny 1 / Open to the end of Febuary.
I have been making an independent documentary about the situation in Donbas, Ukraine, focused on the socio-philosophic aftermath of this war for 7 years now. In this process I use my own cognitive methodology and innovative artistic techniques on the verge of absurdity. Currently (October-December, 2020) I am realising the artistic “The Pink Rider” performance, during which I am cycling around the military zone to create “Premortal portraits” of the forgotten inhabitants of Donbas. “The Pink Rider” is an alter ego created especially for the purpose of my work. It is the result of the absurd of the reality found there as well as an experimental attempt to reflect on the essence of humanity in the modern world. A world dominated by large urban centres and sterile, calculated media headlines, which imitate reality rather than describe it.
A province is a pejorative term instilled by the townsmen. I do not know why, it is believed that the province is a barbaric place, almost backward, with little culture. At least this is what one of my friends, a Ukrainian director living in Kiev, thinks when he says – “The people of Donbas are the problem of the Donbas itself”. But when you look closely and get rid of all stereotypes, this “province” occurs an area that is visually extremely rich in terms of space and people. I live in Glasgow, Scotland, where Ukraine is considered a hyper-province, not to mention Donbas.
Glasgow or Kiev are one great reproduction. The city thinks what it looks like, what it does and what it should do. The city is constantly recreating and copying. The flow of life is constantly mechanically documented and symbolised.
In contrast to a city, a “province” like Donbas is unreflective, self-determined. And when I enter its environment, I act as an agent who records a trace on myself, an index of this reality and transfers this imprint through various communication channels, from a film to photography, to the imagery sphere. I make a breach in its hermetic structure and collect its artefacts. Let’s face it, I formally belong to the bourgeoisie living in a post-industrial city like Glasgow. I learn communication through experience. I am interested in everything happening here and now. And between such culturally and spatially vast areas as Scotland and Donbas, you have to learn fast, really fast to survive.
“The Pink Rider” is a kind of my alter ego, especially created for the project’s purpose. In “The Pink Rider” performance I cycle around Donbas, as a bicycle is a natural transport for the people in the “provinces”. This bicycle symbol is a kind of a link between the “province” and the city. I also cycle in Glasgow. The bicycle allows me to experience direct contact with the road, nature and people. I have with me only the essentials for survival and photographic equipment to record (which is also a form of an interaction) everything that I encounter on my way. I try to move from village to village without setting myself any particular time frame, giving in to the situation and the road. I do my work in quite specific conditions, on the front line, so I take into account all the adversities of this situation. I want to create photographic portraits of the people of Donbas, already a little forgotten and left on the margins of history, of the aforementioned considered unnecessary “province”. I will present the result of my work in bourgeois conditions – warm and sterile galleries of Western Europe. And this dissonance, contrast and provincial-city confrontation are also in the sphere of my interests.
Officially, there is no “art” involved. The path I take to reach my heroes (present and future ones) may be associated with an adventure, tourism or sport (bicycle), something that is not directly related to art, but in this case the choreography of the moment is important. And my work synchronises all its components. My own corporeal presence, experiencing this path, people, situations and reality is like a framework. Therefore, I find this process very personal. For me, it is an internally important, individual challenge, in which it is impossible to escape from a certain pathos.
My work even sins with absurd to some extent, it has elements of daydreaming and nonsense, it is “useless” in a documentary form. However, it is also a reflection of the absurd situation found there, which war belongs to. An example of the absurdity and symbolism is, among others, a silver-coloured bicycle – reflective, it is not only my current means of transport, but also a medium for experiencing Donbas in the most primal way. Part of the symbolism constitutes also a pink bicycle helmet. It is an intermediate colour between white and red. It is a symbol of love and serenity, but pink also causes uncomfortable associations in some people.
I try to devote this path to reflection and observation, to read metaphors and be their natural, symbolising component. I try to unify the time without being distracted by tourism. Donbass exists as a symbol and I try to capture a fragment of it, which I personally experience.
I do not want to dramatise my work, it has nothing to do with heroism. I see myself as a privileged person – not only for financial reasons, but also because of the opportunity to spend my time. I am an independent artist, so I can allow it myself, I will return to “safe” Glasgow in a moment. I use the official press card authorising me to enter the military zone, and I am also a member of the British Association of Journalists. I believe that what I do is a response to my privileged position, but also an effect of an artistic alienation.
The situation in Donbas has not changed for the last 8 years, currently it has just disappeared from the mainstream of information. I believe in my work, I do not know if it changes anything, but I know that every action showing the nonsense and degradative properties of war is important and necessary.
I experienced Donbas, both on the Ukrainian side of the Luhansk People’s Republic and the People’s Republic of Ukraine at the time when the war was already in its prime. I have developed my own methodology of documentary art, based on the idea of interacting with the environment by being an integral part of it, and not only an observer, as opposed to the correspondents from all over the world found there. Documentaries are intended to present a fragment of reality that is subject to the least possible interference by a director. However, my cinematographic vision is as realistic as it is creative – excluding any form of uniformity. One of my workshop features is an incomplete control over the reality being filmed and reacting to it. My work is based on the tradition of constructivism and conceptualism, deriving from the achievements of conceptual art, which prefers purely intellectual speculations over sensual impressions. However, I treat the formalistic and conceptual approach as natural and inseparable components of media art, containing forms and concepts that constantly create the changing act of communication. So I treat the area, which I am moving in as an area of philosophical confrontation between art and the reality. I confront myself with the reality, in which also “me” myself, during this project realisation, I am the subject and object of the cognition.
I am interested in the criticism of the substantial concept of a man, the meaning of his or her individuality. Stanisław Judycki looks for the foundations of individuality in the analysis of direct experience. He asks about the reason for the presence of “I” in human consciousness, i.e. the subject of consciousness processes. In metaphysical thinking there is a place to analyse inner experience, focus on the problem of consciousness and the way of experiencing oneself as a human being. One of the errors of systemic thinking is (after Tischner) the use of the term “substance” towards humans. This results in their objectification. In Donbas I experienced exactly such an “objectification” of a man. The area of the philosophical confrontation of art with the reality, I treat as a form of my authorial experiment. These are very private and personal experiences. However, artefacts in the form of a movie and photography become a public activity.
The “content” resulting from the form of its acquisition seems more important to me than the content as an autonomous category. An art tool – a type of a transmitter that is a mobile phone with videos recording ability. A mobile phone in the first phase of my film was very important in the creative process, definitely more desirable than the professional camera that I am currently filming the rest of the documentary with. It is the camera in the mobile phone, although it has a limited artistic quality of the acquired image, it also has the most important and desired property in documentary production (which is absent in a professional camera) – intimacy.
I am aware that my work is exposed to a whole range of interpretations, I am not indifferent to them and I want to interact with them. However, one has to distinguish between artistic and political work, although each form of art in some is way political, especially when dealing with such a delicate topic as war. Contrary to the correspondents or journalists found there, my activity in Donbas is always focused on daily, natural matters. I experience a situation through its inevitability and the continuity of my path. I live with the people of Donbas and experience their everyday life by cooking dinners with them or helping them with their work. I have lived both with the civilian population and in various military battalions – submitting to this process and almost glorifying it.
“The Pink Rider – Linia Rozgraniczenia: Przedśmiertne Portrety mieszkańców wojny w Donbasie – 2020” – Donbaski szlak w Toruniu.
What I Did
Performance artystyczny, fotografia, film dokumentalny, idea/.