Art Under Attack

Visual Culture Research Center received one of the award grants within the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2018.


Today we find ourselves at a time when the conditions of political reaction, violence and extreme right-wing populism are harshly challenging the modus operandi of the artistic and cultural field.

We all have been used to the model, in which art becomes politicized and socially engaged when it steps out of its territory and meets politics – meaning facing a real ideological conflict, sometimes even in a violent form.

But now a major shift is that it is rather not art that is stepping out but political violence that is stepping in. Art and culture ceased to be a safe haven, today censorship of all sorts, political persecution or physical violence step onto the territory of art and knowledge and attack.

We are living in the age of a new violent iconoclasm, and art as such is at stake. From Palmira to Budapest, from Moscow to Istanbul, from Kassel to Kyiv, the artistic image is under severe assault, and that is inscribed in the attack on civil society, which has already become a global trend.

Photo by Oleksandr Kovalenko

Critical artistic position is under threat, it has to fight for its survival. Nowadays, when art is often the only territory for free thinking and critical reflection left, one of the main tasks for all of us, especially those affiliated with institutions and structures in the artistic and cultural field, is to counter and struggle against this violent censorship in all the forms where it’s possible and impossible, because it means the main thing – establishing a really functioning freedom.

If we are not able to achieve that in art, we will never be able to do that in the political life of our societies.


Visual Culture Research Center Speech at the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2018 Ceremony by Vasyl Cherepanyn

Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, 7 December 2018


Vasyl Cherepanyn
Vasyl Cherepanyn is Head of the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC), an institutional organizer of the Kyiv Biennial, and the editor in chief of Ukrainian Political Critique magazine.