Until August 23, there are 6 artists-in-residence programs in Kharkiv under the huge cultural forum «Galicia Kult» – a place where East and West meet, a place for creating projects and above all – for overcoming stereotypes about each other. The curator of one of the residences is a graphic artist PAVLO MAKOV, though there is so much more to say about him than just call him a Kharkiv’s artist. KORYDOR talked to him about the importance of cultural policy, irony and the paradox of patriotism.

My civic duty is to share human and professional experience with other people. And the residence in Kharkiv is for sharing knowledge. The main thing is that we met with each other, and got acquainted with works of art. And each of us will live this experience in his own way. Initially, everyone felt a bit shy, and I think that was because of the studying in our universities, it’s the result of subordination that exists there. Among the colleagues such subordination should be based on the actual respect for each other, but it shouldn’t exist as a mere formality. Respect doesn’t cancel very simple behavior during studies. If you respect a person it doesn’t mean you have to be afraid of this person.

Kharkov’s mentality is fairly pragmatic and that is why there are weapon and antique collectors, but none of the contemporary art. This is a quite risky affair. And as individuals they don’t need it. After all, many people collect because they need it personally and there are personal traumas, psychological problems behind collecting and that person tries to find his own answers. Whereas art actually doesn’t answer questions, it asks them. We are attempting to answer them and by this are trying to overcome ourselves. It is a crucial function which takes place in the process of conversation with art. Obviously, everyone is doing so great in Kharkov that issues like these just don’t arouse. When I am talking about a collector, I do not simply mean a person with money who buys artwork. Any collection potentially can make a museum. A person dies leaving a collection and a museum is getting based on it. If you give it some thought, then all the collection of contemporary art in the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage Museum is the collection of two people – Shchukin and Morozov. Without them there would be no museums.

I can give examples of artistic attempts in mathematics, poetry at an early age. But art is like medicine, it has long lasting effects. People fall ill and you have to treat them, they should get well. And it takes decades, while experience and knowledge about dealing with any given kind of illness accumulate. In the course of it, new ideas are being born. The same applies to art. Tiberius Szilv?si once said that an artist is highly valued because of his background.

I think of Kharkiv with irony as I do of myself in Kharkiv as well. We need irony as a remedy, but you can’t keep doing it indefinitely. It is like a snake’s venom – heals in small quantities, but can kill if it’s too much of it. Irony is destructive towards everything, but if moderated, it helps to look at yourself from the outside, saves you from the obsession with your own self.

I came to Kharkiv at the age 21, and I don’t hold any infantile sentiments which hardly lend itself to irony. For that reason, one day I adore this city, and the other I’m fully recognising all of its drawbacks. These drawbacks are all the same everywhere, but here they are also preconditioned by our post-soviet mentality. Kharkiv is very pragmatic and therefore is very predictable a city which to a large extent would consent to anything if only it was left to be as it is. Kharkiv’s patriotism is very strong, but it is based on the fact that one is alright and leads a wealthy life. But if that situation changes, the patriotism will turn into not so healthy cosmopolitanism – when people are ready to work for anyone who pays well. But it is already a bitter irony. On the whole, «Barabashovo» (one of the biggest markets in Ukraine) has won in Kharkiv, low intellectual activity has succeeded. The majority of intellectuals has left and continues to do so. And the city does nothing to keep them here, but its grip on the people who know how to make money is very strong.

Art owes nothing to anyone. It exists on its own, but as an integral functional part of society. It only seems that anything an artist does is drawing and that is why he exists, but in fact, it is the society that gives birth to him because it needs him. But these things cannot be programmed.

Art is not a life-changing instrument, it is what helps to go through this life. The situation can be changed though the cultural policy though. For it’s the absence of the cultural policy that has led to the current-day situation in the country. If in all these years, there were state programs and money were spent on the culture there wouldn’t be any problems nowadays.

Right now it doesn’t matter if the state is supporting art inside the country. We are capable of supporting ourselves on that minimum level in order to function. We’ve already learnt how. I mean the presence of Ukrainian art abroad, which is only effective when there is a big government-sponsored program, that exists in every country and supposedly doesn’t require any publicity. Take Russia for instance. Whether you like it or not, it’s only in politics that Russia is such a bull in a china shop, but in the cultural field it rents big museums, and exhibits art of Andrei Rublev abroad to the people of my generation. And they are very pragmatic about it. You come to Venice and there is an exhibition of Russian expressionists, free entry. You come to Vicenza, a little town, which is famous only because Andrea Palladio worked there and that is why a lot of people visit it, and there you can find an exhibition of Russian icons collection and, again, it’s free. But Ukrainian government think these things doesn’t matter, everyone will learn about us either way.

Moreover, there is a significant gap in understanding what art is. A major portion of officials who should be concerned with it are stuck somewhere in the first half of the 19th century at best. They fall far behind and don’t give a damn about opinions of curators, art experts or artists. If they are not interested in it personally, they will not be interested at all. Here it all depends on the cultural level of people who deal with it. When even representatives of SMA (State Management of Affairs) insisted that we do not need the Arsenal because it is simply more profitable to make a fortune of this territory now, even though they would lose billions in the future.

Until Ukraine is positioned on the map as a cultural territory, no one will know for sure what we are fighting here for. Over the land with Russia? But everyone fought and still fights over the land. Average German, Frenchman, Hungarian, Polish does not understand what culture he is losing along with Ukraine. But if tomorrow anything like that happened in Poland, something similar to what we have in Donbass, then I know what I’m losing. Not only I will calculate the damage, my emotions will turn on. Until we are not a European cultural until we are not needed. There hasn’t been a single large and powerful exhibition of Ukrainian art abroad. They have to be arranged not once in five years but annually, and to be exhibited in different countries. In 25 years my generation will have gone and everything we have done will end up in either private collections or abroad. As a result, all we have been doing will be gone.