Italian art curator Alessandra Troncone made her first visit to Ukraine in 2016. Intrigued by the Ukrainian contemporary art scene, she applied for a cultural mobility grant from Culture Bridges to conduct a more detailed study, completing her study-tour this past fall.

One outcome of her exploration was The Corrosion of Character (L'uomo flessibile) exhibit was opened on 13 September at Kyiv's IZONE. Read on for more about the project and Alessandra's impressions of her time in Ukraine.

'In 2016, I travelled to Ukraine for the first time. On that occasion, I was a curator-in-residence within the Curatorial Program for Research and we travelled to Kiev and Lviv, before heading to Poland and Czech Republic. I was very impressed by what I saw in Ukraine, particularly recent events like the Revolution of Dignity. To me the place seemed to be changing very fast and you could sense the tension between past and future. I was also intrigued by the contemporary art scene here and felt that I'd have liked to have explored it more closely. That's why I applied for a grant from Culture Bridges.'

According to Alessandra, the contemporary art scene in Ukraine is very vibrant and it's expanding, looking at European models. If the art market is probably not well developed still, Ukrainian artists are exhibiting in the most relevant international exhibitions and the general interest in the country is definitely increasing.

During the mobility tour was taken up in meetings with artists and other professionals in the cultural sphere, by visiting museums, arts institutes and galleries. Among those artists Alessandra got to know were STO art group, Yevgenia Belorusetz, Lada Nakonechna, Alevtina Kakhidze, Egor Anzygin, Anna Zvyagintseva, Mykola Ridnyi, and Alina Kleitman. With each successive meeting she learned about the Ukrainian contemporary arts scene and got a good look at each artist's work and their presence in cultural production and education in Ukraine. Alessandra also visited contemporary art venues like IZOLYATSIA – Platform for Cultural Initiatives, Pinchuk Art Centre, Bursa Gallery, YA Gallery, Voloshyn Gallery, White World Gallery, Mala Gallery of Mystetskyi Arsenal National Art and Culture Museum Complex. She met separately with Anna Pastore, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Kyiv, Tetyana Filevska, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute, curators Liza Herman, Maria Lanko and art historian Asia Bazdyrieva.

The Corrosion of Character is a group exhibit about labour, particularly how it affects personal privacy in the era of "flexibility" and "precarity". The exhibition will feature together Ukrainian and Italian artists. Potential visitors will have the chance to learn about artists they eventually don't know yet, but also to follow the plural narrations included in the show.

'The Corrosion of Character is a group art exhibition that speaks about the labour, and especially about how labour affects private life in the era of "flexibility" and "precarity". I was already researching this subject and IZOLYATSIA gave me the opportunity to shape it in a project that is deeply routed in the context of IZOLYATSIA itself. The foundation is located on the territory of a working shipbuilding concern and also serves as the IZONE co-working space. The coexistence of these two distinct work concepts in one confined space provided an excellent source of inspiration in which to develop my concept. I'm very grateful to Katerina Filyuk, my co-curator – it was she who first introduced me to the world of Ukrainian contemporary art. I would be happy if the show might work both ways, promoting the work by Italian artists abroad and at the same time let the Italian audience know about the interesting history and activities of IZOLYATSIA in Kyiv, as well as about the practice of the invited Ukrainian artists'

During her mobility tour Alessandra got to know Ukrainian artist Mykola Ridniy. She invited him to take part in the 12th Kaunas Biennial at which she serves as co-curator. Mykola's ambitious Lost Baggage installation project also received support from the Ukrainian Institute, whose work, Alessandra stresses, is vital to Ukrainian artists' ability to implement projects outside Ukraine. She noted that state support for art is also very important in Italy. According to Alessandra, all forms of state support are vital to the promotion of contemporary art on the international stage. It should be a part of every country's programme.

 'All forms of state support are vital to the promotion of contemporary art on the international stage. It should be a part of every country's programme'

Currently, Alessandra is working on a new project with Italian artist Gian Maria Tosatti, to be realised in Ukraine as a part of his larger and ongoing project called My Heart is a Void, the Void is a Mirror. Gian Maria will visit Ukraine this fall to research the Ukrainian context, particularly that of Kyiv, Odessa and Eastern Ukraine. The project is targeted for its Ukrainian debut in summer-autumn 2020.

For the mobility tour Alessandra was financed only by the British Council. Later on, she fundraised for The Corrosion of Character, and got financial support from the Fondazione Quadriennale di Roma and the Ambasciata d'Italia and Istituto Italiano di Cultura a Kiev.

Alessandra recommend artists to research the Ukrainian context and history before getting there, and to draft a subject that might be further developed during a stay and afterward.

Among media focusing on contemporary art Alessandra advises international platforms like Frieze, Artforum and Flash Art. There's also the Calvert Journal that offers a good overview of the social context of "the New East" – eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia.

Photos by Alessandra Troncone