Interested in the social histories of Eastern Europe, Jewish-Ukrainian artist Nikolay Karabinovych approaches collective and personal memory by means of analytical, conceptual, or interventionist tactics. Set in a desolate desert, Ici et ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere) is a work about the artist’s mother, an organ player. Far away from home and in fraught relations with the main passion of her life, music, she is portrayed playing Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani on an invisible organ. Surrounded by silence, she moves her hands—and only the sounds of wind are heard in the background. The piece drew inspiration from extensive conversations between the artist and his mother regarding her dedication to music and the sacrifices she made in pursuit of her career as an organist. Aiming to help reignite her passion for music, Karabinovych created a space of shared grief, with silence being a metaphor for absence. Removed from their home in Ukraine, experiencing the war from afar, silence has become a medium to convey profound loss and address trauma. Another work on display, Even Further, delves into the multicultural roots of the artist’s family, particularly his Greek background on his father’s side and his Jewish roots on his mother’s side, in addition to his family’s ties with the Odesa region, which numerous imperial forces have sought, and some would argue continue to seek, control over.

Continuing HKW’s terrace flags commission, Karabinovych proposes several messages with multiple possible interpretations, containing traces of both irony and melancholy, lighthearted humour and sober seriousness. At once soliloquy, inner monologue, and public discussion, the imagined conversation formed by the sentences on the flags: ‘Do I have a right to be here?’, ‘All the more reason to continue’, and ‘Do what you do be do be do be do be do’ implies degrees of extrapolation and bounces between the existential and the contingent, the personal and the institutional, the intimate and the political. Among many vexed questions and contextual readings, these phrases point to issues of migration, the privilege of being able to choose between safe places, and the constant doubts and revisions of the position from whence artists speak. A third flag, with a tongue-twister-like play of words, echoes the linguistic experiments of Zaum poetry and could be taken as a poetic answer to these questions by accentuating rhythm, musicality, and jouissance.

Works in the exhibition:
Ici et ailleurs (2020), single-channel video installation, sound, colour, 8' 16"; produced with support from Pinchukartcentre. Courtesy of the artist and EIB Art Collection
Even Further (2020), HD video, 15' 14"
All the more reason to continue (2023), digital print on textile, 700 × 450 cm
Do I have a right to be here? (2023), digital print on textile, 700 × 450 cm
Do what you do be do be do be do be do (2023), digital print on textile, 700 × 450 cm