Biruchiy Borowiec 433-447. See You on the Other Side of the Border

23 may, 2023

Yevgenia Laptii, from the series The Allowed Roads, photo, 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and Biruchiy residency
 The lights are on in the old mill building. I can hear the sound of the river murmuring outside. The videos are edited inside the building, paint is stirred, and canvases are stretched. The space is filled with vivid talks and ongoing discussions.

Having become a nomadic symposium since the pandemic, Biruchiy Art Residency takes place in different countries and cities, keeping its original concept and atmosphere that have attracted artists worldwide for seventeen years. Today, the Biruchiy island, a natural reserve where the symposium and artists’ residency were held, is systematically destroyed by the occupiers. Not long before the full-scale war broke out, the conveners were forced to search for a new location due to the chaotic development of the protected territory. Now the island and its nature are suffering from the Russian invaders. However, the curators and founders of the festival found a way out and decided to explore new locations to keep Biruchiy going. 433-447 is the second residency since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. In the Summer of 2022, Biruchiy Transcarpathia took place. Forty artists from different countries gathered in the Zakarpattia region to show their solidarity and demonstrate the power of art as an alternative to the war. This spring, the residency takes place in the small Andrzejowa village, where artists from Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic were invited to work on the local context of the Borowiec area, to reflect on the shared past of our countries, to find collective traumas and to fantasize about the future that awaits us after the war. For every Ukrainian, the running of time is now perceived as counting the days of a full-scale war.  433-447 — these are the days of the Biruchiy Borowiec art residency. Another period of life that was defined by Russian aggression. Full of anticipation, pain, fear, hope, love, and the physical impossibility of detaching oneself from the topic of war, which has metastasized into all spheres of life. Each residency participant reflected on invasion, self-identification, debunking the myth of "russian culture" and the spectrum of traumas that the war has left and continues to produce daily.
Andriy Rachynsky, from the series Buffed and Cropped Traffic Signs, photo, 2022. Photo courtesy of the artist and the residency Biruchiy
Here, in the peaceful and comfortable surrounding of the Polish countryside, borders are blurred, the sense of otherness, of being "abroad" disappears, and the commonality and closeness of our cultures and traditions are rediscovered. The only significant difference is the safety of the sky and forests that do not pose a threat. But this security is more relative than ever. Photographer Yevgenia Laptii reflects on this topic in her series The Allowed Roads. Yevgenia spent the first month of the war under occupation. Looking at the mined forests and roads of her native village in the Kharkiv region, she gradually realized that she had become a hostage, losing her freedom of movement along the paths she had known since childhood. After all, there is a mortal danger there."What once seemed so mundane and familiar became out of reach at once — walking through a quiet forest, avoiding a well-trodden path, and entering a wild, blooming meadow. But, unfortunately, that's impossible for most of the citizens of the regions in the East of Ukraine, as the deadly danger lurks there. This danger is hiding and waiting for someone to step on a mine", the artist says about her series of photographs. Usually, though, Yevgenia’s practice is an ode to the mysticism of nature, physicality, and their interconnection. The photographer complements reality with fiction, blurs the boundaries between the imaginary world and reality, and assimilates the body into the space of her fairy-tale fantasy. As a result, her models seem to dissolve into the environment, and nature becomes not just a background but a full-fledged character in the image.
Yuriy Yefanov, still from the video Watermill, 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and residency Biruchiy
The artist Apl315 works with the remains of the artifacts left by wars. The history beneath our feet reveals itself in the fragments that Apl315 collects with a metal detector. The Tryzub installation is made of pieces that the artist found in Borowiec shells, bullets, and other objects that have forever left a scar on the earth. In recent years, Apl315 has realized that the traditional language of street art became depleted to him, so the artist started to discover new territories and create his post-graffiti practices, exploring the urban environment from a new angle. Unlike many artists with a graffiti background, he did not replace the street with the walls of the studio, but continued the research with alternative media. In these interdisciplinary art projects, Apl315 combines his knowledge of entomology, passion for amateur archaeology and the search for metals in the earth's interior. Thus, the metal detector becomes a tool of artistic exploration, and the found artifacts are transformed into multimedia installations that reveal deep historical traumas and question the fragility of modern ecosystems. Apl315 focuses its research on the Balkan Peninsula and Eastern Europe, the places most intensely affected by the collective trauma left by war.
Apl315, Tryzub, found objects, shell casings, bullets, Borowiec, 2023. Nikita Kravtsov, "...Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe..." John 20:25 Amplified Bible, painting, 2023.
Andriy Rachynsky's series of photos Buffed and Cropped Traffic Signs is a record of the war, a historical document that is also a collective artwork. Painted and cropped traffic signs, documented as a weapon against the enemy, in their diversity, make up a canvas of abstract spots across the country. Yuri Yefanov's video Watermill is a memory of a lost home that comes to us in illusory dreams. The landscapes of the occupied territories are erased from memory and shifted to the other side of consciousness. The nature of Borowiec reminded the artist of familiar landscapes that are no longer accessible due to the war. In his triptych painting, the Polish artist Blazej Rusin reflects on the Ukrainian soul, contrasting it to the "russian soul" concept popular in European culture. Angelica Yefanova and the Czech artist Jan Zdvorak depicted in their work the psychological trauma of war and the tools to process the abstraction.  In her installation series Sunflower Life. What are You Dying For? Oksana Solop uses the well-known symbol of the sunflower, giving it a new tough sound and asking the question: what are Russians dying for? Yulia Danilevska created her artwork during the occupation of Kherson. The artist compares Ukrainians to matches: some are still intact, others are already burning on the battlefield, fighting the enemy, and some of us have already burned out. Alina Yakubenko, Nikita Kravtsov, and the newly formed art group Sexual Alcoholics delivered statements addressing the insignificance of the myth of great Russian culture, as well as the collective distrust and absurdity of our enemy's actions.
Yuriy Yefanov, still from the video Watermill, 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and residency Biruchiy

The final exhibition of the project was presented on 17 May 2023 at the Nadwiślańskie Museum in Kazimierzu Dolnym.

The article was prepared thanks to the Emergency Support Initiative launched by the Kyiv Biennial for the Ukrainian artistic community. 

At the time this article is published, the Azov National Park, which borders Biruchiy's residence (the park is located on the coast of the Molochnyi Estuary of the Azov Sea), is completely ruined.
The occupiers have set up a military training ground on the territory of the reserve, where they are training mobilized soldiers. The Russian military is destroying the land with mortar fire, cutting down forests to build fortifications, and killing animals and fish.
The island where the Red Book pelicans nested was completely destroyed.