On Wednesday, 18 October, during the annual Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), the group exhibition Recharge and Revolt will open. This exhibition has been curated by two Ukrainian guest curators - Maria Vtorushina and Anton Shebetko - and explores how rave culture in Ukraine serves as an expression of (queer) resistance. It features works from a variety of contemporary Ukrainian multimedia artists and collectives, including:
Jan Bačynsjkyi/Yana Bachynska, Vic Bakin, Lesha Berezovskiy, Illia Chernysh, Kateryna Lysovenko, Oleksandr Halishchuk, Alex King, Zoya Laktionova, Mariia Leonenko, Rebel Queers, Anton Shebetko, Nick J. Swarth, Angelika Ustymenko, as well as documentation of a Queer-Cabaret Magic Infant performance (Creative directors: Alina Kleytman, Bogdana Ukraina. Performers: Anatoly Belov, Boji Moroz, Vlad Shast, Panda aka Masha Volkova, AntiGonna. Music: George Babanski).
During the opening night of Recharge and Revolt on 18 October from 7 to 10 PM, there will be a Q&A session with both guest curators Anton Shebetko and Maria Vtorushina, discussing queer and rave culture in Ukraine, moderated by Bogomir Doringer. This evening will provide (historical) context for the exhibited works. Thought provoking questions will be asked, such as: what happens to a queer body in times of war and conflict? And: how can raves become a protest practice?
In addition to this in-depth and informative discussion, Ukrainian drag queens Sletlana and Grizolda will take over Melkweg Expo with a drag show, and Ukrainian DJ and activist Katro Zauber will provide us with her 'raving' music. Listen, talk, and drink with us. To support these communities in their ongoing fight for freedom, to come together and feel the resistance.
During ADE, Melkweg recognizes the importance of acknowledging that rave culture is not a given and carefree experience for everyone, but for some (queer) youth, it serves as a necessary means of expressing resistance. The Ukrainian techno scene is known for its values of freedom, self-expression, and acceptance, which are shared by the queer community. In techno clubs and during raves, Ukrainian queers feel safe to be their authentic selves.
The starting point of this exhibition is the year 2014. It marks the year of the Revolution of Dignity, the Russian occupation of Ukrainian Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions, and the outbreak of war. It's also the year when Ukrainian society definitively chose the path of democratic development. Following this revolution, the techno and rave scenes flourished, and major clubs and parties were established and organized. Raves became so crucial that local protests in Kyiv in 2021, and even that year's Pride, took the form of raves.
Politically engaged artists see queerness not only as a manifestation of their identity but also as a way to envision the future community. However, due to the urgency of protecting the country and Ukrainian identity, there often isn't space for the acceptance of queer identities that is necessary for an equitable society. That's why Ukrainian queers are currently not only fighting against Russian invaders but also for equal rights. For this reason, Melkweg Expo provides a space during 'Recharge and Revolt' to explore and celebrate concepts such as identity, visibility, utopia, queer time, and, most importantly, togetherness.
Anton Shebetko (he/him) is a Ukrainian artist, photographer, curator, and writer from Kyiiev currently residing in Amsterdam. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. His work focuses on the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in Ukraine, including themes of memory, loss of identity, and the role photography and archival material can play in revealing these stories. Much of his research is dedicated to the forgotten queer history of Ukraine; some of it was recently published in his book 'A Very Brief and Subjective Queer History of Ukraine.' His work has been exhibited at Foam Fotografiemuseum and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands; Frei_raum Q21 Exhibition Space in Vienna, Austria; Photo Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland; CENTQUATRE-PARIS in Paris, France; BWA Studio in Wroclaw, Poland; Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart, Germany; and Mystetskyi Arsenal in Kyiv, Ukraine. He has given lectures at the University of Maastricht, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and the Between Bridges Gallery. He received the RM Residency Award and the Where Love Is Illegal Fellowship.
Maria Vtorushina (they/them) is a curator, researcher, and writer. Their curatorial projects are based on the analysis of concepts and practices of freedom, while their research field encompasses the history of queer art and the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in societies that have experienced Soviet colonialism. In their ongoing research, Maria aims to uncover and articulate the voices and practices of queer people censored or suppressed by totalitarian regimes since the early 20th century. With an MA in Art Theory from the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kyiv, Maria continues to write in collaboration with the Centre for Gender and Diversity, a research platform at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University. Maria is the editor-in-chief of Artslooker, an international magazine founded in Kyiv. Artslooker aims to provide a source and platform for multidisciplinary analysis of contemporary culture and to support the focus on Ukrainian art in the global discourse.
This opening program is part of the public program of Refresh Amsterdam, a biennial manifestation of the Amsterdam Museum around Amsterdam city culture with the work of contemporary creators. The theme of this edition is War & Conflict.