The National Art Museum of Ukraine hosts a solo exhibition of Nadia Kaabi-Linke, an internationally renowned artist of Ukrainian-Tunisian descent. The exhibition project Squeezed in Infinity is about the feeling of an unreachable infinity, narrowing the actual space of action. It speaks about the lack of orientation within a world without a horizon constructed by idle narratives of eternity and the end of history. Yet it also opens the space for a program of talks, screenings, and exchanges that invites the public to fill the feeling of emptiness with the community’s social resonance and shared feelings. Nadia Kaabi-Linke and her team worked with the NAMU collection for several years. This multidisciplinary research was funded and supported by Goethe-Institut Ukraine and it resulted in the social sculpture project, Blindstrom, based on works from the Spetsfond. It was a secret collection formed in 1937–1939 with works withdrawn from public display in 1937–1939, which were supposed to be destroyed but miraculously survived.
Initially scheduled to open in March 2022, the exhibition was delayed due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when the museum had to evacuate and hide its collection again to survive another war. The artist, the museum and Goethe-Institut decided to use the halls with the missing paintings from the Spetsfond collection for a public program – a series of events that will showcase historically and thematically related films from the collection of the Dovzhenko Center. Furthermore, it invites contemporary artists from Ukraine and provides the opportunity for exchange.
The exhibition will feature two works created especially for the National Art Museum of Ukraine. The photo series with the same title, Squeezed in Infinity, demonstrates in many steps the optical narrowing of a geometric space that paradoxically seems endless. The artist refers to her biography, namely some unresolved bureaucratic problems that have been going on since her mother’s marriage with a foreigner in the 1960s, what attracted suspicion and systematic obstruction by the Soviet authorities.
The site-specific installation Heaven and Hell was created in direct dialogue with the museum’s historical architecture. Founded in 1899 due to the joint efforts of local public figures, private patrons, and citizens of Kyiv, it became the first public museum in Ukraine. As the installation was almost finished in early 2022, the unfinished artwork became part of the building’s architecture as a mute witness to the interruption of daily life in Ukraine since the Russian invasion. Ironically, the installation deals with feelings of losing orientation and the ability to set a firm foot on the ground.
On 8 September 2023, following the exhibition Squeezed in Infinity at the National Museum in Kyiv, Nadia Kaabi-Linke will open the solo exhibition Seeing without Light at Hamburger Bahnhof – National Gallery for Contemporary Art in Berlin. While martial law in Kyiv prevented the display of Blindstrom in its entirety, she decided to present an altered version in Berlin, reminding of the German-Ukrainian histories and how they overlapped through the existence of these paintings. As the exhibition in Kyiv symbolizes a kind of shock or wake-up moment, the exhibition in Berlin will question dividing narratives that did not allow European people to look into their traumata.