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Seminar Celebrating the Launching of the Book:


Jubilant Experimentation
edited by Irena R. Makaryk and Virlana Tkacz

The Shevchenko Scientific Society (NTSh) - Canada
at St. Vladimir's Institute, 620 Spadina Ave, Toronto
Saturday, October 16, 2010

1:00 Opening and Introduction
by IRENA R. MAKARYK (University of Ottawa)

1:10-1:55 "Kyiv or Kharkiv: Geo-genesis of the Ukrainian Avant-garde"
by MYROSLAVA MUDRAK (Ohio State University)

1:55-2:40 "Vadym Meller: The Life of an Avant-garde Theatre Artist as Seen in Images and Archival Material"
by MYROSLAV SHKANDRIJ (University of Manitoba)

2:40-3:25 "Dreamy and Covered with Golden Domes: Kyiv in the Poetry of Ukrainian Modernists"
by TARAS KOZNARSKY (University of Toronto)

3:25-4:00 Modernism in Kyiv: Jubilant Experimentation
book launch

4:00-4:45 "Ukrainian Music of the 1920s: Between the Atlantyda and the Round Dance"
by DAGMARA TURCHYN-DUVIRAK (formerly of the Insititute of Arts, Folklore and Ethnography in Kyiv)

4:45-5:30 "Les Kurbas's Production of the Nativity Puppet Play and the Re-Defintion of Theatre at the Young Theatre in Kyiv"
by VIRLANA TKACZ (Artistic Director of Yara Arts Group at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York)

5:30-6:20 "Kurbas's Berezil Theatre in Paris and New York"
by IRENA R. MAKARYK (University of Ottawa)

Modernism in Kyiv


Symposium focuses on Ukrainian Modernism in international context
by Oksana Zakydalsky
Ukrainian Weekly, October 31, 2010

"Modernism in Kyiv," a just-published monumental work, contains articles by twenty scholars whose aim is to examine the cultural development in Ukraine (specifically in Kyiv) in the significant years 1905-1926, when the political situation was defined by the existence of two powerful revolutionary movements - socialism and nationalism -with competing social visions.

To help launch this work, the Shevchenko Scientific Society of Canada organized a symposium in Toronto titled "Ukrainian Modernism in an International Setting," inviting both editors of the book. Prof. Irena Makaryk from Ottawa and theater director Virlana Tkacz from New York as well as four other contributors to the book to offer modernism for discussion and provide a taste of the book's contents. The October 16 symposium highlighted the wide-ranging aim of the publication was highlighted at the symposium - to learn about the historical, intellectual and artistic complexity of Kyiv in the early years of the 20th century and to examine the variety of cultural activities of its multicultural population.

The central figure in this examination of Kyiv modernism is theater director Les Kurbas. Virlana Tkacz analyzed Kurbas's new vision of the theater by examining his early work at the Young Theater (Molodyi Teatr). Kurbas, the son of two actors, had arrived in Kyiv in March 1916 from western Ukraine and started playing romantic leads in existing theaters. In less than ten years, he would reshape the vision of Ukrainian theater. Along with other young theater artists, he became dissatisfied with the theater productions of the time, which were created around the star performers. In September 1917 Kurbas and his actors organized themselves formally as the Young Theater. The group agreed that style was primary in art, so in their first productions each one experimented with different style. Their approach encompassed ensemble acting and psychological exploration, and the task of the theater shifted: the actors and director now served the text by creating another reality on stage. They jettisoned the idea that the purpose of theater was to illustrate the text or mimic reality. Instead, theater was to be a series of stage images created by the director. Although the Young Theater existed for only two seasons - it was dissolved by the Bolsheviks - it redefined Ukrainian theater. In the book, Ms. Tkacz goes to the next stage of Kurbas' exploration of the theater, his founding in March 1922 of the Berezil Artistic Theater Association, which was intended to be a theater center that would produce plays, develop theater research and conduct experiments.

Prof. Myroslav Shkandrij spoke about painter, avant-garde Cubist and Constructivist artist, book illustrator, architect and theatrical designer Vadym Meller, who worked on theater design in Kurbas' most successful productions based on the works of Mykola Kulish "Myna Mazailo" and the "People's Malakhy." Meller was born in St. Petersburg, studied at Kyiv University, acquired an artistic education in the Munich Academy of Fine Arts and exhibŽited in Paris before returning to Kyiv.

Berezil established itself as the most innovative theater in Kyiv and took part, along with other Soviet theaters, in the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels (better known by its shortened name Art Deco) in Paris - the topic of Prof. Irena Makaryk's presentation at the symposium. Over 20 drawings and photos from Berezil productions formed part of the Soviet Theater Arts display. Soviet art presented the USSR as a modern, dynamŽic, industrial state."The wide-reaching influence of the Paris exhibition is hard to overestimate." said Prof. Mudrak. Over 15 million people visited the site in its six months, and it brought the attention of the world to the new aesthetic. But as the USSR was still a new political entity, in the catalogue it was listed under "Russie" and commenta-tors did not distinguish between the theaters of the various republics. Although many people from Moscow came, no one from Ukraine had been permitted to travel to Paris. Meller received the gold medal for his model of the Berezil production of "The Secretary of the Labour Union" so Kurbas's long-standing desire "to astonish the world" had been fulfilled, but at the price of near anonymity. The Soviet theater exhibit was then taken to New York and it "completely stunned American viewers." Prof. Makaryk continued. A special edition of the influential journal The Little Review devoted one issue to the exposition, and eight images from the Berezil productions were reproduced, including Meller's gold-winning set model. Again there was consistent identification of Berezil artists with Russian theater and the designation of Kyiv as "Kiew, Russia."

Musicologist Dagmara Turchyn-Duvirak spoke about "Modernism in Music." Between January 1921 and April 1922, three of the most notable Ukrainian composers died under tragic circumstances - Mykola Leontovych was shot by the Cheka; Yakiv Stepovy and Kyryio Stetsenko both died of typhus. Thus, the music created in Ukraine in the 1920s was represented by a new young generaŽtion, although Ukrainian music had already become involved with the modŽernist movements and currents in the preŽvious decades.Music was further stimulated by the opening of music conservatories in Kyiv and Odesa (in 1913) and Kharkiv (in 1917). Although the Bolshevik period in Kyiv began in 1921, the Ukrainian music intelligentsia continued to pursue agendas formulated in previous years, especially during those of Ukrainian independence. "The alliance of national ideas with modernist aesthetics became one of the most characteristic traits of Ukrainian musical modernism in the 1920s," said Dr. Turchyn-Duvirak.

Some additional topics were considered at the symposium. As the Bolsheviks established their power in 1919, at first in Kharkiv, before the formation of the Soviet Union Kharkiv was made the capital of Soviet Ukraine, in opposition to the Ukrainian National Republic's capital of Kyiv. Prof. Myroslava Mudrak , in her presentation, examined the consequences of the establishment of this new capital. Prof. Taras Koznarsky examined the poetry of Ukrainian modernists through their portrayal of the city of Kyiv. It was impossible to introduce all the topics covered in the book "Modernism in Kyiv" at the symposium or to present them in the detail provided therein. But the symposium was a helpful introduction to the creative richness of Ukrainian history in a period of relative autonom.


on book Modernism in Kyiv: Jubilant Experimentation
edited by Irena Makaryk and Virlana Tkacz, University of Toronto Press, 2010

to order

List of related events launching Modenism in Kyiv

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