States of the Arts


May That Nuclear War Be Cursed!

by Maria Prymachenko

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We see a fantastical creature, swollen to fill the canvas, its skin lurid pink with orange and yellow spots and stripes. Within a drooping womb, a clutch of missile-like eggs gestate, emerging from its mouth in the form of green, scaly snakes. The beast may be a clawed, fanged abomination, but it seems pained, its face twisted into an expression of suffering. It gazes outwards and upwards into the empty, black void that surrounds it, hoping that its distress will end. Maria Prymachenko makes it clear that this monster, a creator of destruction and violence, is ultimately a victim too.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe

Man with a Movie Camera

directed by Dziga Vertov

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Dziga Vertov’s documentary opens with the image of a man filming atop a giant camera, and closes with a dizzying montage of accelerated crowds, carriages, clocks, and clouds. The cameraman-protagonist is an observer and an actor, appearing onscreen via the reflections of windows, mirrors, and lenses. The film silently paints a portrait of contemporary culture, as Vertov presents a futuristic city of his own invention, celebrating labour and industrialisation. Using various post-production techniques to intercut and reverse his footage, he creates wonder from the mundane.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe


by Anna Akhmátova

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'Requiem' eschews any clear succession of events or ideas. Instead, it launches us into a disturbing chain of images devoid of explanation, expressed with brutal simplicity and directness: ‘On your lips, the chill of a cross / On your brow a deathly pall.’ A poem in ten sections, the work is the writer’s response to the terrors experienced during the Stalinist regime. The evasion of narrative logic mirrors the senselessness of the Great Purge, eased only by a few precious moments of empathy and warmth glimpsed beneath the surface.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe

Concerto for Orchestra No. 3 (‘Holosinnya’)

by Ivan Karabits

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The ‘Holosinnya’ Concerto grows out of distant bells and sighing strings, with a few wisps of melody teased out by various soloists. Its colourful orchestration is spatially conceived, creating the effect of simultaneous distance and proximity. But the calmness of the work’s opening is short-lived. Propelled by rhythmic forcefulness, it builds to a series of shuddering climaxes, which in turn collapse into a terrifying, percussive toccata. As the lamentation nears its end, the musicians lay down their instruments to sing a simple, descending phrase, repeating and overlapping, fading into silence.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe

More to discover

May This Nuclear War Be Cursed!: You can visit Maria Prymachenko's official website here, and watch a video compilation of her works here.

Man with a Movie Camera: You can watch the film here. Brian Winstonhas written about the film for Sight & Sound, as have Ben Nicholson for Sight & Sound, Jonathan Dawson for Senses of Cinema, and Roger Ebert (linked here).

Requiem: You can read 'Requiem', along with other poems by Anna Akhmátova, here. You can listen to a spoken version of 'Requiem' here. Other resources include a biography for the poet on Encyclopaedia Britannica, and an analysis of 'Requiem' by Anaya M. Baker for LetterPile.

Concerto for Orchestra No. 3: You can listen to the 'Holosinnya' Concerto here, visit the official website of Ivan Karabits here, and read a review of the Naxos CD release by The Classical Reviewer.

Question of the day

Which Ukrainian artworks would you recommend, and why?
Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

The Tribe, a film directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, entirely in sign language without subtitles. It reveals that we understand body language and facial expressions better than we give ourselves credit for. (→)

– Claire Carré, film director and editor (Embers) (via The Brief →)


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