"At first, there was only a wavy horizon of the steppe, then – an uneven and unstable history. Peasant hamlets grew in the steppe, and later blocks of factories began to be constructed; Cossacks and Red Army soldiers marched on it, it was dug with mines and covered with waste heaps that grew from the ground like mountains.
The steppe was a blank page on which History wrote its unpredictable scenarios" – from the curatorial narrative to the visual program of the Forum.
DonCult Forum in Kyiv in 2014 was the first in our series of multidisciplinary forums of interregional communication that resulted from our reaction to the first year of the war and the Russian occupation of the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Donetsk and Luhansk regions are the territories very little known to the rest of Ukraine, and what is known is built mostly on stereotypes. When something is unknown, you don't really want to fight for it. So we organized DonCult to show Ukraine a different Donbas and generally to start introducing Ukraine to Ukraine.
Arkhip Kuindzhi, Petro Konchalovsky, Anatoliy Lymarev, Petro Antyp, Moses Wolstein, Arsen Savadov, Viktor Marushchenko, Roman Minin, Alevtyna Kakhidze, Maria Kulikovskaya; Serhey Prokofiev, Ivan Karabyts, Anatoliy Solovyanenko; Vasyl Stus, Volodymyr Sosyura, Ivan Svitlychny, Volodymyr Rafeenko, Serhiy Zhadan, Lyuba Yakymchuk, Oleksiy Chupa … Various ethnic communities – Greeks, Armenians, Germans… Rich and ironically disturbing mining mythology. Incredible diversity of the landscape – steppe coast, forests, chalk mountains, industrial landscapes with heaps and pipes, and a number of nature reserves, many of which were severely injured by the war. Legends of the Wild Field, the memory of the Cossack Army, the workers' vanguard that transformed nature with immense enthusiasm, and then with a soot-black face were knocking helmets at the governmental offices. And also – opera and drama theatres, children's parks and group trips to the sea somewhere in the vicinity of Mariupol. We found and showed different Donbas.
DonCult 2014 differed from the following forums not only by its program that was compiled in less than a month, but also by the fact that its programs were not so much a curatorial product, but were rather platforms that gave an opportunity to speak: first of all, for people who were forced to move from the temporarily occupied territories – artists, social activists, researchers and scholars.
Since it was not just about the region, but about the region in a state of war that affects us all, the program included many art projects whose authors did not live in Donbass, but created their own artistic reflections on the war.
The forum was located on several floors of the Museum "Spiritual Treasures of Ukraine" (now – D12 exhibition centre).
Our goal was not only to present works of art to the public, but also to create a communication platform to discuss issues related to cultural sphere functioning in the region, understanding the humanitarian causes and consequences of the events in eastern Ukraine, and defining strategies and methods of counteraction by means of culture.
One example of such work was initiation of a closed meeting of Directors of 11-museum of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the then Ministry of Culture dedicated to the fate of museum collections, which remained on occupied territories which was also is a matter of national security.
"What cultural institutions does Donbas need?" – a round table of similar importance was held with the participation of various public organizations in the region and the Ministry of Culture.
One of the most important consequences of the forum was probably that many artistic and cultural associations, which found themselves in crisis due to war, gained a new life, found partners in Kyiv and other cities, and presented themselves to new audiences.
And also – the fact that most of the team that quickly gathered around the idea at that time, stayed with us in future forums and other projects.
Curatorial team of the forum: Oksana Barshynova and Dmytro Golets (visual program; are still working with us today), Lyubov Morozova (music program; also supervised the program of the following two forums), Iryna Slavinska (literature), Olga Papash and Nadia Parfan (cinema), Maria Lanko and Lizaveta Herman (lecture and discussion program, and at the next DonCult - a photo project), Zoya Zvinyatskivskaya (permanent curator of fashion program).
The initiative to hold the DonCult forum was supported by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and Kyiv City Department of Culture.
Our main financial sponsor was the Swiss Cooperation Office at the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation.
In addition, financial and technical support was provided by the companies:
Hewlett Packard , Whirpool , Leroy Merlin , LoraShen , Foundation for Cultural Initiatives ArtHuss, Slava Frolova-Group fund for development and support of young art of Ukraine , La Piazza restaurant, Orion Catering, Creative Rent, PRevent group.
Our humanitarian partners were:
House of Education and Culture "Master Class", Institut Francais d'Ukraine , "Antikvar" and "Novoe Vremya" magazines, "GogolFest", Dukat gallery, I-gallery, Art-residence "House of mechanics" (Donetsk) MiTeTs website, DOCUDAYS festival, the Bereznytskys’ Private collection, "Open archive" Foundation , "Ukho", Art and Exhibition centre "Art-Donbass" (Donetsk), restoration studio "Music Salon".