“In my situation as a Ukrainian, mobility means not only exchange, but also access to knowledge as such” – 5in10 with Kateryna Mishchenko
Kateryna Mishchenko is a writer, curator and publisher. She was the editor of Prostory, a magazine on art, literature and social critique. She is co-founder and editor of the Ukrainian publishing house Medusa. Kateryna Mishchenko curated exhibitions in Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (GfZK) and Visual Culture Research Center Kyiv (VCRC). She is co-author of the book “Ukrainian Night” (with Miron Zownir). Her essays appeared in international journals as well as in an anthology on the Euromaidan in the Suhrkamp Verlag (“Euromaidan: Was in der Ukraine auf dem Spiel steht”, 2014).
How do you explain your current research project?
Let’s imagine we are moving through various layers of the present – political, personal, visual, social etc. Their interconnections are complex, but there is some figure oozing out that could be a key to this complexity. I consider the figure of island to be such a linking point. There are several ways to “read” islands as, for instance, political spaces. It could be a colonized or a closed territory, a utopia, a projection or a project space. I would like to deepen these different forms of reading and analyze their connection with the creation of new experiences, the re-actualization of existing experiences, and their subjectivity. So, I would like to formulate a theoretical concept of island as a topos of political imagination. And the very first “practical” issue would be Crimea. As an annexed territory and disputed space, Crimea has been moved to the margins of public discourse because of the war in Donbas. But, in my opinion, there is worth in bringing Crimea to the center of discussions about contemporary processes in the rest of Ukraine. The peninsula has become an island. This new status implies the experience of isolation, a new temporality and, at least, a new identity. It created a huge shift in the landscape of Ukraine’s society, and its political and social imagination. There are still so many things to learn about its influence.
What were the inspirations that led to your current research?
2017, last year, was the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, and for me it was an opportunity to reflect upon current Ukrainian revolutionary and counter-revolutionary experiences. Like 100 years ago, we also had the specter of Europe haunting Ukraine. A very powerful Maidan’s intention of integration suddenly became a starting point of disintegration, caused by military aggression. Ukraine wanted to be a part of something bigger than a national state, but was instead partitioned, with some territories annexed and occupied. At that time, Europe faced the consequences of the war in Syria and started planning new border politics.
I was thinking about the original meaning of revolution as a course of the stars, about Europe as an island or an archipelago, and I was “getting signs” from the media, such as through offshore investigations. Then islands became a political and interesting concept to me.
How are you ‘doing’ research?
I try to follow a transdisciplinary approach. So, I am looking for senses in literature and visual arts, as well as in the press and documentaries. All these forms of media offer different types of evidence. Since I work as a curator, creating exhibitions is an important form of research for me. My “island studies” actually started in 2016 as I was organizing the exhibition Sentsov’s Camera at the Museum for Contemporary Art Leipzig. The exhibition was focused on the biogeography of Crimea, which was extended to stories of other conflict-laden spaces.
Which publications or academic events (workshops, conferences, lecture series…) did inspire you recently?
During this winter semester, Susanne Strätling, who recently gained a professorship at the Potsdam University, conducted a seminar on Topos Crimea. She and her students were approaching geopoetics, Crimea’s historical-cultural topology and its appropriation. I took part in two sessions, where we discussed a new design of Crimea and a new language of the big public events after the annexation. The whole concept of the seminar and the materials offered for reading and debating resonate with the questions I am interested in.
Do you think that academic mobility changes the way in which research projects are conceptualized? What are your personal experiences in this regard?
I won’t be original and would say – yes. In my situation as a Ukrainian, mobility means even more, not only exchange, but also an access to knowledge as such. Also important are the institutionalized spaces for discussions which make multiple perspectives on some seemingly obvious questions possible.
Citation: “In my situation as a Ukrainian, mobility means not only exchange, but also access to knowledge as such” – 5in10 with Kateryna Mishchenko, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 21.12.18, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/16710.