Saturday, September 22, 2018 - 12:48

Source: Krytyka Magazine, Print Edition, Year XX, Issue 5-6 (223-224), pages 37-39

God and a Can of Spray Paint Are With Us: Post-Revolutionary Activist Street Art in Ukraine

August 2016

Ukraine’s 2013—2014 Revolution of Dignity triggered an outpouring of creative expression in Ukraine. The revolution itself, a grass-roots improvisation of carnivalesque activity, induced an abundance of creativity, which primarily appeared in the public space of Kyiv’s central square. Somewhat naturally, street art served as a means of this public expression and became a mode of expression throughout the country beyond the space of the Maidan itself.1 

As the revolution came to an end and traumatic events such as the shooting of the Heavenly Hundred, the annexation of Crimea, and the start of the war in the Donbas unfolded, street art continued to serve as a form of public expression in Ukraine, resulting in a great quantity and range of public art being produced in a relatively short span of time. Much of this work involves images of Cossacks, Ukraine’s national poet, Taras Shevchenko, and the colors of the Ukrainian flag. At first glance, these images seem like monolithic representations of identity, militancy, or the upholding of nationalist ideology. As scholars like Yaroslav Hrytsak and others claim, I find that these pieces and their means of production indicate a set of values other than nationalist ideology that were articulated during the revolution and became part of the activist discourse in the formation of a post-revolutionary society. Like the name given to the revolution itself, political activism in Ukraine in the post-revolutionary period seems to be value oriented, focusing on principles such as dignity, freedom, solidarity, cooperation, social responsibility, and the celebration of multi-culturalism in a diverse land. Post-revolutionary activist street art in Ukraine not only articulates and propagates this value system in the wake of substantial turmoil facing the country, but also establishes public space as a place for conversation and community engagement.

Art in Revolutionary Space 

"Hot Dance" mural in Kamyanets-Podilsky, Respublica Fest 2014

Artists of all kinds were operating and creating in the public space of Maidan during the revolution ...