Over the past two weeks, from May 15-29, Berliners and guests of the German capital were treated to the photo exhibition Ukraine: War and Resistance at the newly opened Hotel Continental – Art Space in Exile, a former piano factory that has been renovated and repurposed as a cultural hub and artistic residency specifically in response to the war. This exhibition was made possible through the collaboration of the Fulbright Program in Ukraine, the Institute of International Education (IIE) Kyiv office, and the German-American Fulbright Commission (Fulbright Germany). This opening marks the exhibit’s E.U. premiere and the continuation of this traveling project’s journey through Europe, having initially been presented at the Museum of the City of Vinnytsia in the fall of 2022. The seven featured photographers, including J.T. Blatty, Alexey (Oleksii) Furman, Brendan Hoffman, Serhii Korovayny, Joseph Sywenkyj, Emine Ziyatdinova, and Oksana Parafeniuk, are nearly all Fulbright Alumni. Their 40 photographs were carefully curated and installed by Fulbright Ukraine staff member Marian Luniv and resident curator Tania Stas at the Hotel Continental – Art Space in Exile. Each photograph found its own unique space on the walls of the exhibition, creating a truly impressive and moving display.
On May 15th, at the opening of the exhibition, we were delighted to see a bustling lobby filled with guests from diverse backgrounds and institutions, including many Fulbright Germany alumni and Ukrainian refugees living in Berlin. We were honored to have the opportunity to meet and speak with Dr. Amy Gutman, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany and her team. Following her visit, Ambassador Gutman Tweeted: “I was moved by the exhibition Ukraine: War and Resistance. Taken by American and Ukrainian @FulbrightPrgrm alumni, its photos capture the devastation wrought on Ukraine by Russia’s brutal war of aggression. I’m proud to #StandWIthUkraine with @fulbright_de, @FulbrightUA, and @IIEglobal.”
The opening night started from the welcoming address by Dr. Cathleen Fisher, Executive Director of the German-American Fulbright Commission (Fulbright Germany) and Dr. Jessica Zychowicz, Director of Fulbright Ukraine & IIE Kyiv office. Dr. Fisher spoke about the core mission and historic origins of the Fulbright Program, as well as underlined the significant role of photographers and images in documenting war and war crimes dating back to the first widely photographed war, the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865. Dr. Zychowicz shared some of the history of Fulbright since 1947, and Fulbright Ukraine since 1991. She also spoke about the story of how Ukraine: War and Resistance was conceptualized and has evolved since the start of the all-out invasion by Russia on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, emphasizing the extensive team effort by Fulbright Ukraine in creating the exhibition in all of its iterations and formats as it continues to travel to different locations. She especially thanked all colleagues from Fulbright Germany who helped to realize the project in Berlin.
The event continued with virtual presentations from four of the exhibited photographers, J.T. Blatty, Joseph Sywenkyj, Alexey (Oleksii) Furman, and Serhii Korovayny. All of these voices shed light on the particularities, challenges, and aims of a war photographer’s work and the unique features of their individual focal points and themes they encounter in their own practices and trajectories, highlighting a few of the issues within the present war that have become the most important for each personally.
Additionally, invited Fulbright Alumni also gave brief presentations. Oleksandra Oliinyk, founder of the Actors Lab Ukraine, and her talented student Anastasiya Levkun presented and read from their art project Clear Blue Skies: Diaries from Ukraine. Dr. Margarita Balmaceda, current U.S. Fulbright Scholar at Helmholtz Center Potsdam, Germany, shared her expertise on energy and sustainability issues, providing a long-range view of the war and Russia’s ongoing aggression toward all of Europe in terms of critical disruptions and deeply concerning futures for energy and food security stretching even far beyond Europe.
The presentations culminated with both a virtual and in-person live tour of the exhibition (the virtual tour is permanently available on Fulbright Ukraine YouTube channel).
The event marked a remarkable co-creation and affirmation of the words of founder of the Fulbright Program, Senator J. William Fulbright: “our future is not in the stars but in our own minds and hearts.” This affirmation is renewed today, and this exhibit in particular is part of wider efforts among all Fulbright Alumni in their respective areas of expertise to increase support for Ukraine in all countries standing up for the future of democracy.
Special thanks to our colleagues at Fulbright Germany: Dr Cathleen Fisher, Kerstin Oswald, Charlotte Securius-Carr, Melanie Guther, Ines Horbert and Jennifer Witt.
We are also grateful to the entire team at the Hotel Continental – Art Space in Exile, especially its Director Christine Dissmann. Ukraine: War and Resistance will be available until Fall 2023 at the Hotel Continental – Art Space in Exile, Elsenstraße 87, 12435 Berlin. All are welcome to visit and experience this powerful exhibition firsthand.