Zhanna Kadyrova, Russian Rocket, 2022–23 / Courtesy of Kunstverein Hannover / Photo Mathias Völzke
Zhanna Kadyrova: Border Memory
Feb 17 – May 5, 2024
Uppsala Art Museum
Uppsala, Sweden

Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova lets urban materials such as asphalt, concrete and tiles bear witness to history’s many layers of rearrangements, visions and shattered dreams. The artist works in a post-minimalist tradition, and the spatial installations refer both to utopian movements and to how abstraction in art is linked to the modern project. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, Kadyrova’s art has focused entirely on psychological and sociological aspects of the war. The destruction, the displacement of refugees, and the vulnerability, but also the gap between being present in the midst of the war and following the events from a safe distance.

The exhibition Border Memory is Zhanna Kadyrova’s first solo exhibition in Sweden. Through large-scale installations, video and drawings, Kadyrova depicts the new reality for the Ukrainian people. The war started in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea and Donbas, but it is also a repeated historical pattern of Russian imperialism. In approaching this ongoing trauma, Kadyrova lets infrastructure – the framework of our society of roads, houses and barriers – speak of the horrors and desperation of war. The artist has a particular sensitivity to the inherent agency of materials, where the wound in the asphalt caused by a shell, or a shot-up sheet metal, can represent human suffering and attempts to annihilate a nation.

The geopolitical game is ultimately about boundaries. The border between two brother nations, the border with the sea, freedom, trade or democracy. Right now, the war is in a destructive phase where the grinding trench line moves a few meters east or west. In the exhibition Border Memory, Kadyrova asks what defending the integrity of the nation state means on a deeper level. Does a border have a memory? And what are the metaphysics behind these boundary lines that have dissolved and shifted over the centuries?

The exhibition Border Memory is a continuation of a series of exhibitions where Uppsala Art Museum explores post-Soviet narratives with artists such as Taus Makhacheva (In)sidenotes (2015), Katazyna Kozyra Identity Bending (2018), and Pavel Otdelnov’s Promzona (2022). Text by Rebecka Wigh Abrahamsson.

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