Early September saw the opening of the 14th Istanbul Biennial featuring the staggering installation The Shelter, 2015 by the Ukrainian born artist, Nikita Kadan. Much of Kadan's work expresses his deep concern for Russia's continued political influence on the society and culture of his homeland. At a press conference on the day of the Biennial opening the curator Christov-Bakargiev stated, "The one reason I am not in politics but in art is because I feel that art has a possibility of shaping the souls of people". Kadan's The Shelter echoes the words of the curator with the artist's portrayal of the survival of art and life, against the hollow self-preservation of the political elite.
In Kadan's popular multiple, Procedure Room, 2009-10 (click here), he tackles the issue of the Ukraine police's continued cooperation with the Russian authorities and their use of torture as a matter of daily practice. Each of these eight gold-rimmed plates features a deadpan illustration of a different and unspeakable act of torture reportedly perpetrated by the police. Kadan uses the same graphic style as the Popular Medical Dictionary of the Soviet Era, featuring illustrations of characters whose serene faces contrast strongly with the immensely painful operations they are undergoing.
Where the Procedure Room highlights the influence of Russian-influenced human rights abuses in the Ukraine, Kadan's Istanbul Biennial installation The Shelter focuses on the country's continued cultural stranglehold. Taking his story from a museum in Eastern Ukraine that was decimated during the recent conflict with Russia, Kadan creates an installation reminiscent of a bomb shelter—the type normally reserved for the political class. Out of the bunk beds arranged around the perimeter of the room, celery plants have taken root and are growing upwards. Out of the rubble of the fallen museum surfaces a new kind of culture, a nurturing culture, for plants and new life. It is clear that the Ukraine needs artists like Nikita Kadan if it is to finally emerge from the continued dominance of Soviet culture.