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  • Kyiv Perennial: “War is brought to our doorstep”

Exhibition review

Kyiv Perennial: “War is brought to our doorstep”

The second year of the Kyiv Biennale brings the atrocities of war to the forefront.

Courtesy of the artist

War is brought to our doorstep through the hard-hitting Kyiv ‘24 Perennial, the second Kyiv Biennale to be dispersed around a number of cities throughout the EU. The nGbK is the main location but it’s worth visiting Wolfgang Tillmans’ space, Between Bridges. Here, an ardent video work tells the legend of Ukrainian military leader Ivan Mazepa in the style of a rap battle. Admittedly, it sounds awful on paper, but Mykola Ridnyi’s ‘The Battle Over Mazepa’ is saved by the confident charm of its performers and its tight camerawork.

A just-married couple – the husband a soldier – kiss and embrace with artillery guns firing around them

Adapted from poems by Byron and Pushkin, it demonstrates the crude manipulation of historical figures for political ends – just avoid the accompanying video, which is a bit cringe. Nothing, however, prepares you for the horrors down in the basement, where the 30-minute anonymous compilation of found footage ‘to watch a war’ plays on repeat: tours through houses filled with soldiers; graves on ugly, stoney soil; rubble and callously killed civilians.

At one point, a just-married couple – the husband a soldier – kiss and embrace with artillery guns firing around them. As distraught people wonder how their lives have changed, the brilliantly green, fertile lands of Ukraine are never far from view.

★★★

  • Between Bridges, Adalbertstr. 43, Mitte, through May 5, details.