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A War in the Distance. Prologue

An Embattled Ukraine in Video Art and Film

A cooperation between steirischer herbst ’22 and Neue Galerie Graz


Neue Galerie Graz, Joanneumsviertel, 8010 Graz


Curated by Mirela Baciak und David Riff

Opening: 01.07.2022, 7 pm

Duration: 01.07.‒01.08.2022


Info exhibition: +43-316/8017-9100
Info press: +43-316/8017-9213 und DW -9214

About the exhibition


For times immemorial, Styria has been surrounded by wars, many of them only heard echoing in the distance. This autumn, steirischer herbst festival addresses this looming presence of far-off battles. In the summer, a prologue to the 55th edition focuses on Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine—a conflict whose relevance and proximity are impossible to ignore now. In a special exhibition at Neue Galerie Graz running from 1 July to 1 August, steirischer herbst presents historical and contemporary video art and films. They offer a subjective, sobering, and human view of current events otherwise explained in military or geopolitical terms. Today’s war appears as an implosion of an already tragic and violent Ukrainian Soviet history—whose filmic documents belong to the masterpieces of 20th-century avant-garde cinema. Contemporary artists from Ukraine draw upon this history, showing its violent reversal in the present as they reflect upon the war with Russia, ongoing since 2014. Socialist utopia and fascist mobilization appear as embattled notions from the past with which artists critically engage on their own aesthetic terms. Simultaneously, in times of intensified combat, citizen journalism becomes a new form of anonymous activist filmmaking. Documentary films show the human dimension of how the war impacts economically depressed regions and the people who live there, revealing that there is a space for hope, heroism, and poetry in spite of the widespread destruction.
The exhibition’s opening on 1 July is accompanied by panel discussions and artist talks exploring the tragic consequences of imperial histories and the neoliberal present in Central and Eastern Europe, placing the Ukrainian war in its broader context. 


Artists: Pavel Brăila, Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Dana Kavelina, Zoya Laktionova, Kateryna Lysovenko, Mykola Ridnyi, Philip Sotnychenko






Christopher Drexler, Minister for Culture and Europe
“The terrible events caused by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, which is contrary to international law, must be a reason for us to resolutely adhere to the EU peace project as a means of dialogue and international understanding and to continue our exchange across borders. Art too can serve as a peacemaker and mediator between peoples. I am particularly pleased that two of the major ‘players’ in the Styrian and Austrian cultural landscape, Universalmuseum Joanneum and steirischer herbst, are collaborating on a joint exhibition. It shows a war that is often perceived as distant but is actually very close.”


Wolfgang Muchitsch and Alexia Getzinger, Board, Universalmuseum Joanneum
“The terrible events of a war, especially the current attack on Ukraine, need to be contextualized and made tangible. In our role as a cultural and educational institution, we see it as our duty originating from our core responsibility to create a platform for public discourse and to offer artists mainly originating from Ukraine the space to artistically work through their impressions of the war.”  


Peter Peer, Head of Department, Neue Galerie Graz
“The power of words and images, the reduction and simplification of complex relationships, can fan the flames in such situations. With Ekaterina Degot, we have a proven expert on the intricate conflict among us. While collaborating, it became obvious to develop a joint project here, which now places this war of aggression in a broader context in an exhibition and symposium.”


Ekaterina Degot, director and chief curator, steirischer herbst
“I’m very pleased about this year’s collaboration with Universalmuseum Joanneum and Neue Galerie Graz, as well as the opportunity to present this prologue. It already introduces themes of the joint fall exhibition and the entire festival. As I left Russia in 2014 and have clearly positioned myself as a critic of Putin’s regime since then, it’s important to me to give voices from Ukraine a platform. I have deliberately kept myself out of this special exhibition as a curator, but I know many artists personally and value the exchange with them and their perspective on the war that has been ongoing since 2014.”


Mirela Baciak, curator of the special exhibition, steirischer herbst
“It’s very interesting today to engage with artists from Ukraine—especially those who have such a sharp critical view of the larger developments in Eastern Europe. Their work is among the strongest dealing with controversial topics at the moment— and not only in the context of the war.”


David Riff, curator of the special exhibition, steirischer herbst
“Film and video art in particular provide the deepest insights into the political and historical complexity of the war in Ukraine, but also into its human and imaginative dimensions, and have done so since 2014, when the war in the Donbas was still all too often suppressed.” Zoya Laktionova, photographer and filmmaker “In my short films, I use microhistory, autoethnography, and creative storytelling to unpack the complexity of larger events and historical contexts. In doing so, I build a person-to-person language that doesn’t use complex political terms and is understandable by all.”


Kateryna Lysovenko, artist (opening performance)
"Much of my work deals with the history of monumental painting in the former Soviet Union—and its performative aspect. My actions reference ideological shifts after the collapse of the USSR and show how propaganda becomes something personal. Now, with the war, it all takes on a new dimension. Too few people today understand the full extent of the war, and that’s something my opening performance at Neue Galerie will address.



Publication is permitted exclusively in the context of announcements and reviews related to the exhibition. Please avoid any cropping of the images. Thank you for crediting the photographs according to the enclosed indications.

Images for download Expand Box


M. Baciak, D. Riff (Curators), P. Peer (Head of the Department Neue Galerie), E. Degot (Director steirischer herbst), Ch. Drexler (Minister for Culture and Europe), Z. Laktionova (Artist), W. Muchitsch (Director of Science UMJ), K. Lysovenko (Artist), pho
M. Baciak, D. Riff (Curators), P. Peer (Head of the Department Neue Galerie), E. Degot (Director steirischer herbst), Ch. Drexler (Minister for Culture and Europe), Z. Laktionova (Artist), W. Muchitsch (Director of Science UMJ), K. Lysovenko (Artist), pho

Ein Krieg in der Ferne.Prolog Gruppe J.J. Kucek.jpg (2.16 MB)

Dana Kavelina, Letter to a Turtledove (2020),
Dana Kavelina, Letter to a Turtledove (2020),

Filmstill, Courtesy of the artist

Dana Kavelina Letter to a Turtledove 2020 Filmstill-2.jpg (0.21 MB)

Zoya Laktionova, Territory of Empty Windows (2020),
Zoya Laktionova, Territory of Empty Windows (2020),

Filmstill, Courtesy of the artist

Zoya Laktionova Territory of Empty Windows 2020 Filmstill.jpg (0.57 MB)

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