maria kulikovska
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Maria Kulikovska

Maria Kulikovska was born in Kerch (Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine), studied in Kyiv and Stockholm, created several architectural projects, and gave lectures and workshops on contemporary art in Ukraine and abroad. She is known as a multimedia artist, performance artist, and master of political performance (a new direction for contemporary Ukrainian artists). She creates sculptures using original ballistic soap and natural materials. Her main themes are gender, queer, the body and its borders, women in a patriarchal society, war, and migration.

February: the war goes on

February 24, 2022, was not the beginning of the war for Maria. Her “personal” war started in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea and Maria was forced to leave her hometown of Kerch, to become a migrant in her country. Since then, the artist has felt like a wanderer, deprived of her home. For nine years, the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation for her was not “out there”, in a few regions in the southeast of the country, but in her own heart. Maria had dreams where bombs were falling from the sky, and she was sure that great trials would be ahead.

Maria’s forced departure from Ukraine with her parents and tiny daughter was a continuation of years of wandering. She profoundly feels the separation from her beloved man and co-writer Uleg Vinnychenko, and feels the isolation from her homeland even more desperately in this double-exile: “Again I am a lonely nomad, but this time with a little one”.

"Homo Bulla/Grün" by Maria Kulikovska
Sculpture Maria Kulikovska Homo Bulla/ Grün

“I don’t know where to go back to.”

Over the past year, Maria’s work has been shown in New York, Karlsruhe, Copenhagen, Wien, and Linz, at the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale… In April the artist was invited to the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, where she performed her performance “254”. Maria was lying motionless on the steps of the museum for many hours, covered by a Ukrainian flag and feeling the aches in her stiffened body. This unauthorized performance was first shown in 2014 during the opening of “Manifesta 10” in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the time, the artist dedicated it to refugees from Crimea to Ukraine, as 254 is her registration number as an internally displaced person.

Today, as millions of people have evacuated from burning Ukraine and dispersed worldwide, the performance has become even more relevant. Maria’s dreams now include a jumble of unfamiliar streets. “Everything is foreign and I don’t know where to go, I don’t know where to go back to. The scariest part is that it’s not just a horrible dream, but the reality of millions of people,” says the artist.

"Homo Bulla/Pink" by Maria Kulikovska
Photography Maria Kulikovska Homo Bulla/Pink

Shot sculptures

At the exhibition “Hardened. The Ukrainian Phenomenon”, viewers will see Maria Kulikovska’s sculptures made of ballistic soap. A female figure is shot through and through, an image that visualizes defencelessness in the face of violence. It did not emerge by chance. 20 plaster sculpture-casts replicating the figure of Maria herself (the Army of Clones project)-were in Donetsk in 2014 at the famous Izolyatsia Art Centre. The pro-Russian militants, who had taken over the city and ravaged the cultural center, started a war on contemporary women artists! They declared these works “pornography pretending to be art that has deprived the Slavs” and shot them down. And in the building where the Izolyatsia Art Centre was located, the main Donetsk prison was set up, where people are held illegally and tortured.  

“Homo Bulla – Human as Soap Bubble” by Maria Kulikovska – like the other sculptures, are casts of the artist’s body

This endlessly multiplying femininity – women under fire, women in exile, women in pain – is one of the most expressive techniques of Ukrainian art about war. Maria Kulikovska thanks every Ukrainian woman for her resilience in times of trials: “Because we, Ukrainian women, are a pure and strong love, we are caring and independent, just like our beautiful country”.

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