As part of the artistic interventions ‘SUPLEMENT’, we continue to talk to migrant artists about art, sensitivity to change and the challenging circumstances experienced by migrants. This time, we present “Cel pobytu” [The Purpose of Stay] by Ukrainian visual artist and curator Yuriy Biley.
The question about the purpose of staying, heard when crossing the Polish border, inspired the artist Yuriy Biley to title his work, which tells the story of emigrant life, in this way. The exhibition consists of more than 160 objects brought during the move from Ukraine to Poland. Favourite clothes, worn-out shoes, books and albums, coins, photographs, documents, an old typewriter or artworks received from friends combine to create a subjective, sentimental and at the same time intriguing biographical self-portrait of the artist. The work explores the theme of identity, memories and collective memory.
Yuriy Biley, born in 1988 in Uzhhorod (Transcarpathia, Ukraine), creates installations, digital collages and prints, works of a post-conceptual nature, as well as carries out post-artistic performances. Beyond the theme of migration, the works are a reaction to current social and political events. They contain ideas of a world stripped of the fundamental problems of today. The pieces are based on personal experiences, which the artist builds up by means of borrowings and quotations. He is interested in the text and the impact of language as a factor in the culture-building process. In the content of these messages we detect a civic-minded attitude as well as a constant reference to the author’s personal identity motifs.
On 16 July, at 17:00, a meeting with the artist will be held, hosted by curator and researcher, Aleksandra Grzonkowska.
On this day, the permanent exhibition will remain open until 20:00, and from 17:30 to 20:00 admission will be free of charge. A free-of-charge admission ticket which is required to access the permanent exhibition can be collected at the box office.
“Cel pobytu” [Purpose of Stay]
2019 – now
installation + audio
“Purpose of stay?” – is what Yuriy Biley hears every time he crosses the Polish border, even though he has made Poland his home for years. The question, which at the outset distinguishes between “foreigners” and “residents”, and which for the new arrivals serves as an introduction to a migrant fairy tale with many possible endings, takes on a particular significance for the artist.
A multiplicity of objects of different value and provenance, such as clothes brought in suitcases, worn-out shoes, books and albums, coins, photographs, documents, an old typewriter, a packet of sugar, a neat, nowadays considered a “designer” coffee table or a polypropylene bag from the bazaar, next to dozens of works of art, gifted by befriended artists, compose a kind of a still-life sculptural arrangement, and at the same time, a biographical self-portrait. Speaking of Ukrainian roots and immigrant life, this work touches on the theme of identity, personal memories as well as the collective memory.
In this painstaking process of recalling events and impressions from the past, just as important as the facts themselves, is a peculiar sense of oblivion – that which has been blurred by the passage of time and returns in a form which has been altered by longing. However, it would be more correct to talk about a ostalgia* that is peculiar to the post-Soviet bloc countries, than about nostalgia in its more “generic” sense. For Yuriy Biley, memories of those times are inseparable from his childhood. One of the tangible, physical ‘carriers’ for this story, or items that “transmit” and tell it, is a toy Soviet plane from a bazaar in Dnipro. Together with other elements of the installation, it provides a medium for what we might call irretrievability.
Sylwia Hejno / Galeria Labirynt Archive
*The term “ostalgia” comes from German and consists of the words “ost”, meaning “east” and “nostalgia”. It was used for the first time by the cabaret artist Uwe Steimle in 1992. An example of a cultural “ostalgia” is Wolfgang Becker’s film “Good Bye, Lenin”.