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"We have no time. For us time is converted into death."
(Oleksandra Matviichuk, Centre for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize)
What does freedom mean in the Netherlands? In the democracy we inherited from our parents, we find ourselves still searching for the balance between individual freedom and social citizenship. A complicated quest, when a growing distrust in the state and its institutions puts pressure on our identity. When emotions have become more important than facts. How to look after each other when everyone seems to be becoming more individualistic?
Ukrainians are unwilling to trade their freedom for economic benefits, promises of security or personal comfort. They are aware that the international peace and security system does not work, but believe that you can always rely on people. Self-critical people who uphold the value of freedom—giving young people the chance to develop their culture, language and symbols into a resilient democracy.
Since the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion, Ukrainian artists and photographers have focused on the intersection of (political) activism, pop culture, journalism, documentation projects and even forensics. The brutality of the Russian genocidal system prompted them to see strengthening their own identity as a matter of national security. Many joined the army and territorial forces, and thus have direct war experience. Others express Ukrainian identity in idiosyncratic artworks and music, poetry and essays, or as humanitarian aid workers or volunteers. A generation of empowered makers and doers has emerged who can appreciate the enormous emotional amplitude of war. A form of life that requires life itself as a stake.
There are no safe places in Ukraine—only more and less dangerous areas. Russia has created a traumatising war space by taking large chunks of land and moving Ukraine's borders. Within them, constant mental and physical stress is experienced, and it is difficult to move freely and express yourself creatively. Time itself has also changed. For a Ukrainian, time has never felt as heavy as it does now. The war—filling every inch of space and weighing down with its full weight—is a constant source of unbearable pain that affects Ukrainians on a daily basis. As a result, the security of your own home, your workplace, your city has degenerated into a deadly unhealthy living environment.
On one February night, the shortest month of the year turned into an immeasurably long month that just won't turn into the next. At the beginning of the war, Ukrainians joked on social media and asked each other, "What day in February is it today?" On the day Forever and a Day opens, it will be February 688 on Friday. Meanwhile, it became spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring, summer, autumn and winter again. And despite everything, many Ukrainians chose to continue to see Ukraine as their home, where survival is a shared experiencecommon thing, and every individual is significant.
Forever and a Day showcases projects made in Ukraine over the past two years, in which it becomes palpable how difficult it is to get a grip on the here and now. Plans and dreams have been postponed. Of the fourteen, mostly young, participating artists, most chose to stay in Ukraine during the ongoing war. Several works depict the loss of future prospects, and anticipate the fact that Ukrainians does not know when the war will end. The desire for a spot on the horizon, for a future without occupiers, is part of a desire for meaningful reconstruction. After all, war is not just about destruction, mutilation and homelessness; it is above all the loss of the fundamental sense of security and, as a result, confidence in one's own ability to read and influence situations.
Participating artists are:
Lesha Berezovskiy, Igor Chekachkov, Marynka Dovhanych, Nazar Furyk, Open Group, Evgeniya Laptii, Viacheslav Poliakov, Julie Poly, Daria Svertilova, Marta Syrko, Mila Teshaieva, Dima Tolkachov, Valerii Veduta and Kris Voitkiv.