For far too often in the last 11 months has the sky above Ukraine been scarred by shooting, shells, and surges. A brand-new exhibition of Ukrainian war photography at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston takes that exact same sky as a metaphor– and turns it into a kind of call to action.
“Who Holds Up the Sky?“, as the program is called, was arranged by a trio of curators from the Wartime Art Archive at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) NGO in Kyiv, and brought to the U.S. through a partnership with the MFA. It gathers the work of Ukrainian artists who have actually documented the war given that Russia’s intrusion in February of last year.
“Getting rid of the darkness of death, shelling, genocide, and blackouts, photography records the several realities of war,” the exhibition’s 3 MOCA NGO curators– Halyna Hleba, Olga Balashova, and Tetiana Lysun– wrote in the introductory wall text. The program, they discussed, was conceived as a homage to “everybody who is holding up the sky over Ukraine.”
On view are shots of rockets being introduced from Russia, taken by photographer Vadym Belikov from the window of his own high-rise building, along with a picture of the damage that comparable rockets have dealt with Ukrainian farmland, captured by war reporter Efrem Lukatsky.
Those two artists’ works are punctuated by a number of photos from Yana Kononova’s X-Scapes series, which record the physical destruction in Kyiv’s northern regions– twisted sheet metal, cratered housing structures– however are each cropped to the point of abstraction. Gone are direct signs of war, leaving the psychological devastation of the wreckage increased.
Pillars in the MFA’s gallery are lined with illustrations from Inga Levi’s ongoing Double Direct exposure series, which started simply days after Russia’s unprovoked intrusion. Each entry in the collection portrays 2 truths: among everyday life in Ukraine, one of war.
Rounding out the program is a video about the “Behind Blue Eyes” task, a charitable effort that offers Ukrainian kids with non reusable cameras. They’re asked to carry around their electronic cameras for a week, photographing their everyday regimens. The goal, according to the view’s label, is to project a “coherent and intricate footprint of the war” from the point of view of those whose lives will forever be shaped by it.
The name of the project originates from the tune of the exact same name by The Who. The managers recommend that heaven of the title is also indicated to mention the sky– a pointer, maybe, that we’re all unified by the firmament above us, even if it looks different.
See more images from “Who Holds Up the Sky?” listed below.
“Who Holds Up the Sky?” is on view at the Museum of Arts Boston through May 21, 2023.
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