The Right to Truth: Conversations on Art and Feminism

About the Right to Truth

Oksana Briukhovetska, Lesia Kulchynska

Оксана Брюховецька, Леся Кульчинська

The idea of conducting a study through personal conversations arose during our participation in the Tandem Ukraine program, where our French partner was Ségolène Pruvot from the organization European Alternatives. At the time we had started doing feminist projects at the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC), which was something new. We were investigating the Ukrainian art scene, especially the part that had become politically active following the Orange Revolution. Critical art, born out of the protest movement, responded to reality, political changes and social problems. These artists began rethinking the gender hierarchy that has long been dominant (and still is) in Ukrainian art. The feminist narrative is articulated in Ukrainian art after the 2010s, in part due to the influence of activist groups. Beginning in 2008, the unusual and often ambiguous actions of FEMEN would shake up Ukraine’s media space. The possibility (or impossibility) of using the female body as a symbol of protest was raised as an issue in public discourse.

In 2011, the grassroots initiative Feminist Ofenzyva was formed in Kyiv and organized the Women’s Workshop exhibition at the VCRC. Feminist groups were created in other cities, such as Feminist Workshop in Lviv, which still exists. The voices of some of its participants are presented in this book. Three feminist exhibitions were later held at the VCRC: Motherhood (2015), What in Me is Feminine? (2015) and TEXTUS. Embroidery, Textile, Feminism (2017), all curated by Oksana Briukhovetska. Along with the new activist initiatives, for an increasing number of female artists feminism had a decisive influence on their work. You will find a selection of their stories in this book. Preparing these exhibitions helped to build ties, particularly with Polish artists. It was also interesting for us to search wider—in neighboring and distant countries—for sisterhood and solidarity.

We had read about the legendary Western feminist art of the 1970s and about the feminist movement in general and wanted to hear from the women directly involved about their personal experience and their views on the present. At the same time, we were interested in new modern forms of feminist art. It was clear that somewhere between Eastern and Western Europe lies an invisible line, to the west of which feminist art is a phenomenon of the recent past, while to the east it is something completely new. However, if we look deeper into the past, into the history of each country, we find women associated with the movement for women’s liberation and emancipation and different works that embodied the struggle for women’s liberation.

At the same time, there is no country in the world today where feminism isn’t raising new issues. We looked for women with whom we wanted to talk about all this. They can be found everywhere, and this study would have had no boundaries were it not for limited time, space and material resources. We were lucky to meet in Paris with philosopher Geneviève Fraisse (her texts, and also Martha Rosler’s, have never been published in Ukrainian before).

In our conversation, Fraisse talked about chance and coincidence in the history of women’s emancipation. You can say the same about this book. This collection was largely the result of coincidence and luck. 

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