Victories of the Defeated

The “Victories of the Defeated” project is the result of the artist’s personal investigations. It speaks about communities which continue to exist in Eastern Ukraine on the very edge of military conflict in spite of the legitimised violence of war.

One of the heroes of the project – Vera Iastrebova - a rights activist and lawyer from Lysychansk in Eastern Ukraine, and founder of the organisation “Public Labour Control” – is a dialog partner in the video.

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The project is devoted to post-industrial Ukraine, to work in coal mines on the edge of the war zone, and to contemporary forms of labour in a period of military conflict in Donbas. Besides social problems, the exhibition is concerned with the meaning and role of a document in Art and the Media.

“Victories of the Defeated” is a cycle of more than 150 photographs and texts created by Yevgenia Belorusets during the war in Donbas in the towns of Debaltseve, Lysychansk, Vuhlehirsk, Dmitrov, Krasnoarmeysk, Pryvillia, Novodruzhevsk and Popasna. The artist has been working on the project since 2014, in close collaboration with trade unions, volunteers and human rights groups.

The goal of the project is to focus attention on people and communities, the very existence of which has at times served as an invincible barrier to the spreading of further military violence.

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They say that history is written by the victorious. But might it be possible to read or listen to a history written by the defeated? How can we hear the unwritten stories of those, who for one reason or another are not ready to speak? Ludwig Wittgenstein finished his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the ideas for which arose in the trenches of the First World War, with the thesis: "The unspeakable is that about which we must remain silent." Silence is inherent in a document which presents a reality, yet does not interpret it.

In conditions of the global and localised violence of war, and the divisiveness of any information, it is essential that we find a way back to the demands of the legal and ethical inviolability of human beings. Precisely thanks to a document, we can begin to see connections between authenticity and responsibility. The importance of these connections was written about by philosophers whose work is key to this exhibition – Hannah Arendt and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Excerpts from this series of photographs, taken in the so-called “liberated towns” of eastern Ukraine during 2015-16, have been shown at the memorial to the Berlin wall in Berlin, at the Federal Exhibition Hall in Bonn, and at the Ukrainian National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and in the Kyiv National Shevchenko Museum.

 


Dmitrov and Krasnoarmeysk were renamed Myrnohrad and Pokrovsk respectively in May 2016, as part of Ukraine’s decommunization laws.

The project was realised in 2014 -2017 with the support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and consists of several chapters, including discussions not detailed below:

Chapter 1

"Please don't take my picture! Or they'll shoot me tomorrow!” was shown at la Biennale di Venezia, at the 56th International Art Exhibition 2015, in the exhibition “Hope!” in the Ukrainian Pavilion;

and in the exhibition “Das ist nicht meine Geschichte!” at ROTOR Center for Contemporary Arts in Graz, Austria as part of Steirischer Herbst, 2015

Chapter 2

Versöhnung, die wir verpasst haben – was shown at the Kapelle der Versöhnung / Chapel of Reconciliation in Berlin during August-November 2015

Chapter 3

Untitled was shown during the Kyiv Biennale 2015 at the National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre, as part of the School of Image and Evidence.

Chapter 4

“Victories of the Defeated” show with contribution of Ivan Melnichuk and Tatiana Kochubinska in the National Shevchenko Museum of Ukraine, Kiev, Aug – Sept. 2016     

 

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