The curator of the Ukrainian pavilion escaped by car from kyiv shortly after the invasion began to guarantee the presence of her country at the Venice Biennale
When in the early hours of February 24 Russian bombs began to fall on various Ukrainian cities while Kremlin troops crossed the border, thus starting the war, Maria Lanko had a concern added to that of her compatriots: how to get to Venice the 78 bronze funnels that give shape to the work that represents Ukraine in the Biennale of Art. Curator of the Ukrainian pavilion, Lanko was not resigned to the fact that the invasion left her country out of the most important exhibition of contemporary art, so she loaded the funnels in her car and, accompanied by a friend and her dog, headed towards the city of the Channels.
«The work was in kyiv, where Maria was, and I was in Kharkov when the total war began almost two months ago, since this is the second part of the conflict that began in 2014. Being the only one that had a car available, Maria decided to go to Venice with the funnels before it was too late,” explains Pavlo Makov, author of the ‘Source of Exhaustion’, the pyramidal structure three meters high by three meters wide that constitutes the artistic proposal. of Ukraine in this Biennale. «I had already thought about it in the days before the invasion, but when it started I understood that the time had come. We had no idea which way to go, we just got behind the wheel and started driving,” says Lanko, who opted to leave Ukraine through the border with Romania to avoid the huge queues that formed on the border with Poland. The journey to get the 78 bronze funnels to Venice took more than a week.
Born in Russia but living in the Ukraine since he was three years old, Makov found it more difficult to leave Kharkiv, as the city was closer to the Russian border and a regular target of enemy bombing. He first ran away to the country with her octogenarian mother, and when he managed to convince her of her, he began the long journey to Venice. “When we arrived we had to look for support, because part of the structure of the work remained in kyiv as it did not fit in Maria’s car,” explains Makov, who has words of gratitude for the reception that Italy has given him. “A company has been in charge of completing what was missing from the work in just four weeks, while the Biennale has given us financial help, because we had already spent all our funds,” acknowledges the artist.
Although the work had been conceived before the start of the war to offer a metaphor for the depletion of a resource as vital as water, the invasion has given it a further meaning. “The message that we try to convey with our pavilion is very simple: we must protect our principles and our civilization. This war confronts two cultures. Ukraine is part of European culture and civilization, while Russia, unfortunately, has a culture based on different principles », Makov maintains while several cameras photograph him and various journalists wait for his turn to interview him.
The media attention aroused by the Ukrainian pavilion contrasts with the reality of the Russian, closed tight and with a sworn guard at the door to prevent someone from taking justice into their own hands for the invasion of Ukraine. Shortly after the war began, both the commissioner and the artists chosen by Moscow to represent their country in Venice resigned in protest.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.