Right-Wing Extremists Vandalize Politically Charged Art Exhibition in Kiev

The show depicted right-wing nationalism on either side of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine had marked the third anniversary of the start of three months of protests that resulted in the country's Russian-backed former president being ousted in February 2014 as the former Soviet republic set on a pro-European Union course. / AFP / Sergei SUPINSKY /Getty

On Tuesday, February 8, masked perpetrators attacked the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC) in Kiev, destroying an exhibition by the Ukrainian artist David Tschitschkan. According to APA, the center itself has repeatedly been criticized and attacked by right-wing extremists in recent years.

The targeted exhibition featured artworks with political content in which the artist expressed a critical view on nationalism, and a sense of a missed opportunity in the Maidan Movement and Ukrainian Revolution of 2014.

Surveillance footage from the site shows two women and 12 masked men appearing at the VCRC shortly before 6 p.m. The group attacked a security guard and immediately began to destroy artworks in the show. The attack lasted two minutes, after which the squad left the premises. In addition to tearing and spraying over collages, the vandals scrawled slogans such as “Moscow’s Mouthpiece,” “Servants of Separatists,” or “Glory to Ukraine.” VCRC Director Wassyl Tscherepanyn told APA on Wednesday that the police arrived 40 minutes after the incident and initially refused to search for the perpetrators.

The show, which opened on February 2, had received threats from right-wing extremists prior to the attack. A guided tour with the artist slated for February 4 had been called off, but right-wing radicals reportedly attacked a visitor that day and tore down posters advertising the show.

Artist David Tschitschkan, born in 1986, is a representative of a younger generation of artists in Kiev and positions himself politically as an anarchist. His vandalized exhibition revolved around the question of what the impact of the Maidan protests of 2013-2014 could have been, and included drawings depicting right-wing nationalists on both sides of the Eastern-Ukrainian front line, each using identical slogans, differing only in the language used: Ukrainian or Russian.

According to VCRC director Tscherepanyn, the exhibition, which will remain on view in its current vandalized form, also critically confronts a current ideological policy in Ukraine, which, with a state-ordered removal of symbols and designations from Soviet times, propagates the “decommunization” of public space.

The non-government VCRC, which has been supported by the Austrian Erste Foundation since October 2014, has been a constant target. In 2012, right-wing demonstrators protested against an exhibition on Ukrainian Body Art, and in 2013, a show by the Kiev-based photographer Jewgenija Belorusez depicting gay and lesbian couples was destroyed. In the autumn of 2014, the left-wing intellectual and VCRC director Tscherepanyn was himself violently attacked by right-wing extremists.

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