My upcoming talk at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs comes from the East European strand of my research.
The talk will be called “Becoming Tuteishyi: Peregrinations in the Zona of Ukraine, with Walter, Gloria, Andrei, Bruno, and Other Explorers.”
The description reads as follows:
Drawing on the author’s research and travels, this talk will consider Ukraine’s ambiguous positioning within global cultural discourse by recourse to theories of borderlands (via Walter Mignolo and Gloria Anzaldua), hybridity and amodernity (via Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway), postcommunism and postcolonialism, and to images of anomalous zones and errant wanderings, with particular attention to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.
The following is an article I originally wrote in 1989, or maybe 1988, after seeing three films by Ukrainian poetic cinema master Yuri Illienko (a.k.a. Iurii/Yurij/Jurij Ilyenko/Ilienko/Illyenko/Il’yenko). Two of the films — A Well for the Thirsty and Eve of Kupalo Night, or St. John’s Eve — had languished unseen under Soviet censorship for some twenty years. They are screening this coming week at New York’s Lincoln Center.
While this doesn’t have much to do with the usual themes of this blog, it is an interesting case study of media culture and political protest (and one that my Ukrainian studies background qualifies me to comment on).
It’s the case of Pussy Riot supporter Inna Shevchenko, an activist with the Ukrainian feminist protest group Femen. Let’s figure it out:
A (western-style) feminist activist-performance group best known for (literally) exposing themselves to gain media exposure (with the help of happily obliging male photographers) chainsaws down a cross commemorating Stalin’s Ukrainian victims as an act of solidarity with anti-authoritarian punk-feminists Pussy Riot. (Those are the three musicians recently sentenced to two years in jail for their “sacrilegious” anti-government performance in a Russian church. More on them later.)
I was going to post something to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, but Sarah Phillips has already posted something so good, saying many of the things I would have wanted to say, that I will simply link to her article at Somatosphere and add some personal notes of my own. The result reads more like a love letter to post-Chernobyl Ukraine than a lament. So be it.
First, a couple of choice bits from Sarah’s article:
Film director Yuri Ilyenko, one of the outstanding cinematographers and directors of the short-lived but significant Ukrainian New Wave, has passed away at age 74. Ilyenko (aka Illienko, Ilienko) first shot into prominence as the cinematographer on Sergei Paradjanov’s epochal Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964), which launched what became known as “Ukrainian Poetic Cinema,” a movement based mainly at Dovzhenko Film Studios in Kyiv. In the years following, Ilyenko directed a series of critically lauded films including “A Well-Spring for the Thirsty” (Krynytsia dlia sprahlykh), considered a sobering, post-Holodomor updating of Aleksander Dovzhenko’s classic “Earth” (Zemlya), the wildly experimental “Eve of Ivan Kupalo” (Vechir na Ivana Kupala), “White Bird with a Black Mark” (Bilyi ptakh iz chornoyu oznakoyu), “A Forest Song (Lisova pisnia: Mavka“), and “Swan Lake: The Zone” (Lebedyne ozero: Zona).
Made in 1966, “Well-Spring” was shelved by Soviet censors for over two decades until it was officially released during the Glasnost era in 1988. “Eve of Ivan Kupalo” (1968) was rarely screened in the Soviet Union as well, but with “White Bird with a Black Mark” (1971) Ilyenko carved out a viable compromise between artistic integrity and a storyline that satisfied the Soviet censors. The film was awarded the Grand Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. Ilyenko’s efforts in recent years, especially the controversial “A Prayer for Hetman Mazepa” (2001), met with more mixed reviews.