Julia Beliaeva — about the exhibition “The Last Childhood in this City”, the Chernobyl tragedy and the role of art

Apr 24, 2021 by: vart_admin

On April 26 a personal virtual art exhibition of Julia Beliaeva is opening on the V-Art platform as a tribute to the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy.

Girl with cotton candy on the background of the Ferris wheel. She’s in an amusement park, a frozen piece of simple childhood happiness. At first glance, the scene is idyllic, but this is the Ferris wheel of Pripyat.

Perhaps, we are in 27th of April, 1986 …

Julia Beliaeva is a contemporary Ukrainian artist working with a wide range of mediums: digital art, virtual reality, neon and photography. Eternity and Beauty are two motives that Julia often refers to in a documentary and intimate form.

The tragedies of the scale of Chernobyl not only affect thousands of people at the time of their occurrence, but are also passed from generation to generation. How did the disaster affect you and what influenced you to create this exhibition?

I cannot say that my family was directly connected with the Chernobyl tragedy. But I think everyone is somehow familiar with her story since childhood. Every year, on the anniversary of the tragedy emergency drills were held in every school in Ukraine. We put on gas masks and hid in the school basements while a siren was howling. Of course, such things remain in memory.

I was always horrified by the fact that the disaster was kept secret and that people continued to lead their usual lives: they walked in the park, worked, children played in the streets. This very moment, April 26, is at the heart of my work.

The 26th of April is a day of remembrance. Does your exhibition touch upon the topic of collective memory?

Yes, absolutely. The work raises the topic of propaganda. Cotton candy as a symbol of empty, intoxicating promises of an ideology that was already approaching its demise at that time. If we consider the Soviet amusement park — this is a territory for family recreation, it often became a platform for manipulation, a propagandist portrayal of an abstract happy Soviet life.

What, in your opinion, is the role of art in relation to national trauma? How can art help to heal the personal and social wounds inflicted by the Chernobyl disaster?

Art heals, reveals all aspects of trauma, from the global to the most intimate and secret. It illuminates the dark places of society, goes down into the basements with a flashlight or powerfully illuminates the entire night-time darkness. Such works are aimed at identifying the pain-complex both individual and collective. I believe that art liberates making consciousness clearer and clearer. On a subconscious level nightmare become less common.

A frozen scene in monochrome tones resembles a three-dimensional black and white photograph. The digital dimension creates the ephemerality of what is happening. The lonely figure of a girl with happy emotions is contrasted with a huge Ferris wheel. There is definitely something sinister about this landscape. Working with a long-gone time, a frozen moment of personal, shared history before or after a major disaster. Cotton candy in the hands of the girl is a symbol of propaganda, a great power melting under the scorching sun.

The viewer has the opportunity to feel this reality, to come into contact with it. Thus, the story of the last childhood in the Pripyat city becomes real in another dimension.

Julia, why you decided to make this exhibition in digital format? What opportunities does it open for you?

Opportunities that digital gives — you can create anything, depending on the idea. In digital, artistic language is very important. We all know how developed the game industry is but it’s hard to call it art. On the other hand, when an artist uses the language of the game industry to create and express an idea it’s completely different.

Digital is a developing area where everything is possible and it inspires me, gives me energy. Technology is always about pushing boundaries. Back in the day photography caused a lot of controversy and it was not immediately seen as art.

Apr 24, 2021 by: vart_admin

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