This festival has its own, rather dramatic history. The first festivals took place in then half-renovated “Art Arsenal,” then in 2010 it had to move, with some pretty bad consequences, to the Dovzhenko Film Studio. And in 2011 it got a permanent location – idle Experimental and Mechanical Plant on Inzhenerna Street.
This is a world practice to use abandoned industrial zones for artistic and social projects. The most famous project is the art gallery “Tate” in London converted from a power plant. In the 2000s the trend has finally reached Ukraine: we got “Art Arsenal” in Kyiv, Platform for Cultural Initiatives “Isolation” on the premises of the former factory for the production of insulation materials in Donetsk. Another thing is that in the West, they retain the industrial atmosphere in such places, while the infrastructure is changed completely to make people feel cozy, safe, and comfortable, so that the roof wouldn’t leak, the toilets would not be disgusting, and the concert halls could have sound proofing and other amenities. And in that there is an unfortunate difference: it is yet impossible in our situation, because there is no desire to make our own “Tates,” and even if there is a desire, there is no money for that and so it makes a vicious circle.
Money, even if it wasn’t enough for the proper rearrangement of the premises, has been found by the founder and the director of the festival Vlad Troitsky. After getting access to the plant on Inzhenerna Street, he finally got a place, which he can use, without having to consider the officials’ position.
So, even if it is not always warm enough at the festival, it is always fun there. As in previous years, the freedom of genres prevailed at the plant: from origami master classes to theatrical performances, however the most interesting events were connected with music.
For example, one of the central events of the first days of the festival – film performance Kolo Dzyhy. Khlib (Dzyha Circle. Bread), which consisted of the premiere of the restored copy of the film Khlib (Bread. Directed by Mykola Shpykovsky, 1929) and performance of Belarusian band Port Mone as tapers – they created an original accompaniment especially for this screening. The film Khlib also has a dramatic fate: it had been put on a shelf for long years, but still one can’t overestimate its importance in the history of Ukrainian cinema – that’s why this screening was extremely important. Then, the best part of the performance Captain John Smith, staged by Ukrainian-American director Virlana Tkacz, apart from the video elements provided by a young artist Mykhailo Shraga (New York), were the Ukrainian ballads performed by an American singer and bandurist of the Ukrainian origin Yulian Kytasty. In the literary division of the festival great deal of the audience attention was drawn to the performance Albert, or the Highest Form of Execution presented by Yurii Andrukhovych (text, voice) together with Uliana Horbachevska (vocals), Mark Tokar (bass, vocals), Kyiv eccentric artist Anatoliy Belov (graphics), and a visual assistance group CUBE.
GogolFest opened with a performance titled Neither God, Nor Caesar, Nor Tribune presented by Kyiv bands DakhaBrakha, Dakh Daughters (both have emerged on the basis of the “Dakh” studio led by Troitsky), and a band from Belarus Port Mone. Apart from the main stage, there were also a street stage where rock bands presented their music, and chamber stage.
On the second day of the festival one of the largest rock concerts of the event was held. “The Map of the River” was created on the stage by DakhaBrakha and the Polish band Karbido (which, by the way, together with Yurii Andrukhovych created a poetic, musical, and visual trilogy “Moonshine-Cinnamon-Absinthe”). Totally different artists – ethnographic DakhaBrakha and jazz-rock Karbido presented an extremely rich texture of folk, rock, and electronic noise passages.
But, of course, a true furor was caused by the concert of the favorite bands of Kyiv audience – freak-cabaret Dakh Daughters (read an interview with them in The Day’s issue No. 49 from August 29, 2013). There is nothing to add to what was seen and heard there. Dakh Daughters gain more energy and skill with every performance. Theatrical character of their performances is relevant and witty. Plus, they have a smart repertoire selection (this time they presented a new song in French), an unmistakable sense of humor, and consistency of scenic images. Dakh Daughters is a sure discovery of the season.
Academic program was equally good with the mass genres. Here, the main event was the concert of music of the famous Russian composer Eduard Artemyev with the Ukraine’s State Academic Symphony Orchestra (conductor – Mykola Lysenko). In general, the “academic” division had the chamber stage – “Music Nave” for themselves. It is nice that nearly every day compositions of the best Ukrainian composers were performed there. The premiere of a new choral piece of Viktoria Poliova Anheloholossia (Marian Humns) was performed by the National Academic Choir of Ukraine “Dumka” (conductor – Oksana Nykytiuk), and the instrumental compositions of Poliova were performed by the National Chamber Ensemble “Kyivski Solisty” (conductor – Volodymyr Sirenko, soloist – Myroslav Kotorovych).
Kyiv pianist Yevhenii Hromov prepared an elegant and outstanding program, making A Ritual in Memory of Oleksandr Nesterov (Meditation 1) from the best repertoire: plays by Karlheinz Stockhausen (Germany), Leonid Hrabovsky (Ukraine-USA), Morton Feldman (USA), John Cage (USA), Gyorgy Kurtag (Hungary-France). The avant-garde line was continued by the newly established ensemble Duo nostri temporis (Dmytro Pashynsky – clarinet, Ihor Yermak – flute, Oleksii Shmurak – piano) with compositions by Sofia Gubaidulina, Olivier Messiaen, Giacinto Scelsi, and Ukrainian-Swiss pianist Volodymyr Lavrynenko, who gave a concert of works by Paul Hindemith, John Cage, and Kyiv composers Sviatoslav Luniov and Oleksii Retynsky.
As for the rest of the genres, the visual program this year seemed modest in the light of the scale of the art exhibitions of previous GogolFests: a bit of photography, graphics, paintings, sculptures made of foam plastic painted by the audience, and an extremely expensive sports car with a picture scratched on the hood titled Future Has Been Abolished. The most conceptually interesting visual section was “Rainbow Hut” set almost up to the ceiling of a giant plant workshop. This exhibition dedicated to the subject of LGBT, feminism, and gender issues featured somewhat naive, but totally sincere works, which due to the unusual space gained topical meaning.
Overall, the space, similar to the plant, is very fit and favorable for any subcultures. You can do whatever you want here, express yourself the way you see it. Semi-legal genre of graffiti and industrial zone fit well together by definition. The most important thing is to leave young artists to themselves: they highly value freedom, thus, instead of usual and far from aesthetic taste daubing, you can see some mature paintings. In this sense, it was particularly striking to see two gigantic murals at the entrance to the factory painted by French street artist Roti and Ukrainian young artist Oleksii Kyslov. The first one came up with an almost monochrome, full of exquisite details story of the creation of the world, the other one drew a fabulous tree with birds of paradise. The last three days these murals served as a fantastic gateway to the festival, and generally on the walls and windows on 7 Inzhenerna Street, there is now a literally magnificent exhibitions of graffiti paintings, which could attract tourist tours.
You can criticize some specific flaws in the organization and inequities of repertoire, but under any circumstances GogolFest has the quality, which other art festivals in Kyiv lack – the adequate environment. It is important for people to experience art as a way of life. Hence, the main result of the festival – the atmosphere of festivities and freedom – very valuable thing in Ukraine today.