Crimea. The Third Dimension

“Crimea. The Third Dimension” arose from the need to maintain connections between mainland Ukraine and the Crimean peninsular, which becomes an ever more chimeric, ever less tangible space. To do so required engaging a different system of coordinates, in order to call into being a new sphere of interaction. Often those who took part in the project were situated in different locations — Simferopol, Kyiv, Minsk, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk — but they gave answers to each other’s questions, they took and sent videos, they exchanged recordings, of music and of the sound of waves and grass. As a result, the moods and stylistics of the works involved are very different, but their essence is that of a collective artistic expression on the theme of a Crimea that is at the same time both close and unreachable, in which are united traditions and the contemporary, the artistic and the documentary, the insular and the continental and the explicit and the imagined.

Over the course of September-November 2021, audio-visual works, street art objects, discussions and happenings took place in four locations: at the Border Control Point “Kalanchak” and in Kherson, Kyiv and Ivano-Frankivsk. Each event was different: each was integrated into its local context and interacted with its environment. In this way, the project painted a new dimension of Crimea: one that is artistic, philosophical and shared, although at the same time highly individual. In this context, the most popular hash-tag of the project, the beginning of a verse by the English poet-philosopher John Donne, speaks volumes:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

The theme of Crimea is not new for the ArtPole agency: Crimea has been a recurrent feature of its projects over the last decade. In autumn of 2011 the multi-media festival “Eastern Gate: ArtPole-Crimea” took place in Bakhchisaray, an event which its organising team intended to develop further. But already in the autumn of 2014 we had to carry out “ArtPole-AboutCrimea” in Odessa. The illegal annexation of the peninsular by Russia raised many questions, the answers to which have still not been found. But the search goes on.

“Crimea. The Third Dimension” turned out to be quite open: new ideas and collaborations kept on emerging. However, it all started from three of us – Rustem Skybin, SK.EIN and me. We were all participants in “ArtPole-Crimea”, and we all work in different media. In the projects, there is sound, video, ceramics, urban surfaces and street objects. All of these are different instruments to tell a single story. All of the locations of the project were important, but we were most worried before the presentation of the project in Ivano-Frankivsk. In 2015-2016, people frequently asked us whether it was frightening to work in Crimea. Yes, it was. But much more distressing was the inability to open up the Crimean situation for cities in Western Ukraine: quite often we had to face the opinion that “they chose it themselves” through which “mainlanders” sought to justify their inaction. Our present experience was very different. It seems that we have managed to establish very important artistic connections between different parts of Ukraine.
Olia Mykhailiuk, a multi-disciplinary artist, Kyiv

The last time we were in Crimea was at the beginning of 2014. We performed a concert for Ukrainian servicemen in a military unit under blockade. I remember a cat squinting in the sun and trees blossoming, against a backdrop of anxiety and uncertainty mixed with the heavy spirit of violence. It was something about the contrast between nature and people, how in the blink of an eye you can lose your paradise, dragging in weapons and hatred. “Crimea: The Third Dimension” began for me with an attempt to get through something superficial, constructed by the media, to my Crimea, even if this is a little bit of an imaginary one. And to some sort of basic abstract feeling — like love, which dissolves you, which shows you some untrodden path, which opens up a channel for communication with the place. I think that this passage to an abstract level allowed us to avoid speculation and create our imaginary peninsular, while at the same time not losing connection with the real.
SK.EIN, Siarhei Kravchenko, sound artist, Minsk

My sense of self is built through Crimea. The dream of Crimean Tartars was always to return to their homeland: we are the third generation to find themselves in such a situation. We will do everything for Crimea to be free, happy and open to all. The ArtPole festival always offered inspiration: I remember the edition that took place in Bakhchisaray. We then became great friends with musicians, and they stayed at our homes. We had lots of things to show: our traditions, our national art that has evolved over centuries on the peninsular. And today ArtPole continues to provide motivation. Over the course of several months, we created together in the frame of the project “Crimea: Third Generation”, the final destination of which was Ivano-Frankivsk. A great discovery for me was how engaged people were. I was struck by the way in which, even people who had never been to Crimea, said how much they miss it. People proved to be open, creative and close. They are not indifferent. I came with feelings and love, and started work. And I am very happy with the result
Rustem Skybin, ceramic artist, Simferopol-Kyiv


:::track::: appeared in 2014 at the festival “ArtPole-AboutCrimea”.

The idea emerged through a conversation that I chanced to overhear between artists from Simferopol and Ivano-Frankivsk. Rustem Skybin and Yarema Stetsyk were speaking about colours and ornaments. And suddenly a feeling appeared that not everything around is as hopeless as it seems. We did not have the words to express it, but we realised that we could seek interaction and understanding through the metaphorical language of ornaments. We decided that we would find and explore places where Crimea, or more precisely, reminders of Crimea might emerge, through prints that would interact with the local context.
Olia Mykhailiuk

At the foundation of this system of signs are laid Rustem Skybin’s Crimean ornaments. Now the :::track::: exists in Berdiansk, Kyiv and Vinnitsa, and also over the course of the last autumn we laid it directly up to Crimea — through Kherson and Kalanchak.

The :::track::: has continued its journey this autumn: opposite the Border Control Point “Kalanchak” and in Kherson. These :::tracks::: constitute reminders of the road to Crimea.

On the railway bridge in Kherson, Alexander Marchenko interwove his own graphic objects with Rustem Skybin’s ornaments. The effect is to conjure the sound of the sea and recall Crimean pomegranates (on the murals are painted the pomegranates that were the symbol of the festival “ArtPole-Crimea”). Alexander is from Crimea, but after the illegal annexation of the peninsular by Russia he lives in Vinnitsa, when he joined the project during the time of the creating of the :::path::: there.

At its closest point to the peninsular – at the Border Control Point, “Kalanchak” — the :::track::: appears in nine tiles created by Rustem Skybin in the Quru isar technique that he has developed himself. The tiles were mounted into the pavement that lines the road to the border.

No Man is an Island

Olia Mykhailiuk, SK.EIN

The audio-visual work “No Man is an Island” is a wordless journey to a near and longed for, but inaccessible territory. It is an attempt to bring it back, by using the means available. This imagined Crimea is assembled from the sound of grasses that grow between the mainland and the peninsular, the Crimean wind and echoes of traditional music recorded in Kyiv. All this is reminiscent of a dream. But this is precisely what Crimea is for many today.

In as much as it is impossible to get to Crimea, we decided at least to get as close to it as we can. To gather sounds, colours and textures on the border in the form of audio and video files and to start working with this
Olia Mykhailiuk, June 2021

Because Belarus itself has now become something of an island, I didn’t manage to go on the summer expedition to the border between Crimea and mainline Ukraine. I am watching and listening to the materials that Olia Mykhailiuk gathered there and transform them into audio-collages. This is a step-by-step strategy through which, almost without words, we have managed to find a space through which to join music, visual images and the senses. As always, at the border. The first sketches are ready and it sometimes seems that they transport us through closed borders, skies and countries
SK.EIN, August 2021

This process of co-creation was joined by Mustafa Kizildeli (Istanbul, saz), Suren Voskanyan (Mariupol, duduk, clarinet) and Andri Levchenko (Kyiv, tambourine). Their improvisations on Crimean motifs were later used like citations in the work. The main audio- and video-materials were recorded on the Khorly peninsular, 30km from Crimea.

I spent so much time on my own with these grasses and the sea, filming and editing them, that the experience of collective viewing during the presentation was for me an exceptionally vivid one. And the feelings generated when people turn out to be ready to accept and experience together a work that is sometimes melancholy, and sometimes harsh and emotional. And then you exhale, and you want to speak and laugh. Together too. For me, this proves that a work of art was formed. It turned out to be not so much about Crimea itself, as about our interconnections with Crimea. It was more like a hallucination or a memory. And through this it was possible to engage even those who have never been to Crimea.
Olia Mykhailiuk, November 2021

All of a sudden, in one place and time and with different moods, settings and expectations, everyone turned their attention to one object. In our case, it was an abstract-meditative canvas, in which there is a lot of space for memories and, of course, questions: from philosophical and political ones to those that are deeply personal. The first joint viewing freed us from the awkwardness and ambiguity of possible answers. In the shadows and intimacy of a small space, everyone was transported to the border with Crimea, on the verge of the unreachable and hidden, somewhere deep inside yourself. Or simply to the grasses of the steppe
SK.EIN, November 2021

Haytarma. Return

Rustem Skybin

This edifice of timber and roof felt symbolises return. Such temporary, hastily assembled buildings were the first homes of the Crimean tartars who returned from deportation to their homeland. Through the window opens up such constructions’ inner meaning: life, traditions, a unique culture. The temporary building stands without a roof, underlining its unfinished status and the process of creation, while the roof itself lies next to the house, ready to be installed. The shape of the roof repeats the form of the eight-pointed star which in Crimean Tartar culture symbolises dreams, light, knowledge and the acquisition of experience. Up to the building runs a road – a railway, steps, the path of life… Beyond it, the future, which can be seen in bright colours. This installation is intended to communicate both to those on the mainland and those on the peninsular.


Olia Mykhailiuk, Rustem Skybin

A pattern — is an image, a small element of a greater whole. Patterns repeat. Some are rhythmic and structured, others are chaotic and fleeting. Patterns help reveal what the whole might be like, and at the same time plunge us deep into the details. Consider, complete, look for connections and regularity. Patterns in nature include spirals, meanders, waves, foam, cracks, and also patterns created thanks to the symmetry of rotation and reflection.

When I was in Crimea for the last time, in 2016, I had a mirror with me and took photos by pointing my camera at it, because photographing on the streets was dangerous. In the process I became interesting in shooting in this way: each time you construct an installation that exists only for a few minutes. I enjoyed capturing fragments of reality, focussing solely on them, changing the angle and then considering the images inscribed in the circle of the lens
Olia Mykhailiuk

Cracks – are a rupture in the continuity of the environment. The appearance of cracks in a material are a harbinger of its fragile ruination. For the further broadening of the crack, it is necessary that, due to the energy of the load, the inter-atomic connections are further broken apart. Every day we see how due to the information load the connections between the peninsular and the mainland are broken.

Fire is always a co-author of the works of a ceramic artist, and sometimes it is impossible to control. It is possible only to see its traces. And these are cracks. It is a moment when the ceramic product loses its utilitarian function, but does not lose its beauty. And this is a new dimension of the object, which requires a fresh attitude to it
Rustem Skybin

Observing new combinations and the emphases they create provokes a reflection on the transient quality of nature and circumstances. The motifs for combination become colours, lines, cracks and joint reflections. Not to hide, but to accept, even in some way to highlight that which could seem a flaw, to demonstrate that it is this very “flaw” that makes the object unique. Just as it is in society. Those who have similar experiences, even if they are painful and undesirable, but unique, are able to understand in their own unique ways.

Looking Crimea in the Eye

Olia Mykhailiuk

In spring of 2014, we were set to begin preparation for the next “ArtPole-Crimea” Festival. But the reality on the eve of the sudden pseudo-referendum was so intense and so absurdly bitter, that it was clear that for some time it would be impossible to believe in it. Therefore, its documentation seemed the most relevant, or even the most urgent task.

: I met with people of different nationalities, confessions, professions, we talked, and they didn’t forbid recording. The heroes of these interviews are the most invaluable proof of how brutal and unequivocal the invasion was. Their emotions, intonations, the expressions on their faces… Thus, unexpectedly was painted a kind of multicultural portrait of resistance, as they all, for completely different reasons, did not recognise the referendum
Olia Mykhailiuk

Seven and a half years later, in autumn 2021, we decided to complete the interviews, to continue the conversations. Some people had stayed with the positions they held in 2014, some had quite radically changed them, some ostentatiously avoided direct questions. Only those who had left Crimea allowed you to look them in the eye. Those who remained, independently of the positions they expressed, preferred to answer exclusively in the “chat” format: they agreed to the interviews being published, but without giving their names.

Project “Crimea. The Third Dimension” is implemented by the ArtPole agency with the support of USAID. The communication of the project is supported by the proto produkciia agency.