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Ivan Skoryna, Kseniia Shcherbakova, Viktor Konstantinov, Kseniia Yanus, Maksym Ivanov

Collective sound work by five Ukrainian artists who explored the soundscapes of Ukrainian cities and changes in their own perception of sounds during a full-scale invasion.

During a week in September 2022, Ukrainian artists reflected on how their sound environment changed during the war; how the silence of cities once full of noise and events is disconcerting, alarm signals delineate the daily routine, sudden loud sounds make us listen carefully to the surrounding; how certain sounds can simultaneously remind us of a traumatic experience but also transport us to places we love, miss, and want back.

The work began with a workshop held jointly with the curators of the UK-based organizations SoundCamp and Acoustic Commons. Participants used streamboxes — DIY devices that work as open microphones and broadcast sounds live. The projects were broadcast live on an online map, recording sound experiences from different parts of Ukraine. In this way, we joined the service in an ancient church near Uzhhorod; listened to how Dnipro was getting quiet with the curfew; went on a tour of empty Odesa; travelled on a train from Lviv; heard the sounds of trench digging in the Kyiv region — just like in the first months of the invasion.

Can a shared sonic experience help bridge the gap between people torn apart by war? Listening to the streams became a documentation of personal stories against the background of the soundscapes of a country at war. These records now serve as an archive of stories, places, and our interactions.

We are deeply grateful to the co-curators and co-organisers of the sound project — Glenn Boulter, Mort Drew, Timothy Maxymenko, Grant Smith, and Sam Smith.

Digging Day

Ivan Skoryna

My humble experience of the war is connected to my native district in Kyiv, where I was born. This is the place of my childhood and schooling and of my mother's apartment, a place that can shelter me at any moment. This is how it was during the coronavirus pandemic and how it has been at the beginning of a full-scale war; a safe and caring place to return to.

My native district is full of so many different memories that sometimes I am surprised by how they connect through such banal factors as their physical existence in proximity to one another. Here is my favorite tree; nearby is the house of my first love; further on is the yard in which a terrible detective series was filmed for several years in a row; and across the street is a mulberry tree that feeds the neighbor's children in the summer. Here is my kindergarten and three schools; a park that I still remember as undeveloped; a basketball court where my friends and I used to make holes in our sneakers; a school friend's house, where we once found a cat that still lives with me. It seems as if all these fragments of my life are literally buried in the ground.

This sense of disorientation relating to memories was even stronger in the spring when Kyiv was half surrounded by Russian troops. Who knew that I would find myself visiting several apartments to deliver groceries, visiting a fellow volunteer's garage, and remembering all the glass trash cans in the neighborhood (for making Molotov cocktails, of course)? Who knew that a trench would have to be dug right on the spot where I first listened to The Cure and walked barefoot in the snow (in different years)?

The war mobilized us almost instantly. As soon as the initial panic and confusion passed, I joined a group of volunteers that was helping the territorial defense forces. Currently, the Kyiv region is completely unoccupied, I am no longer involved in volunteering, and the unit we helped with was sent to another region. But that practice of digging trenches remains with me as a fresh memory. Now I want to return to it for one day.

On Friday, September 16th, I dug the trench again, in the same place as I dug in the spring. Despite the retreat of Russian troops, I kept its geolocation a secret. Besides, this particular trench was originally conceived as a decoy structure to divert attention from the real position of the territorial defense forces.

I’m digging the fake trench and think of those who are digging real ones. Where are they now? How did they get used to military life? Are they tired? How many trenches have they dug by now? How often do they pick up a shovel to care for the land we are protecting in such a literal way?


Kseniia Shcherbakova

This work is dedicated to all those who do not currently have their loved ones next to them and feel distanced in a physical and emotional sense. I invite you to board a train with me and to imagine how we will overcome this distance together.

I'm currently in Lviv. I moved here on the 8th of March 2022, traveling by train from Odesa. I don’t feel the same here as I did at home.

When I was walking into the narrow and loud streets of Lviv I thought — ‘It’s not my place’. It’s so weird and unfamiliar in comparison with the places I used to work and live in. For me, it’s so important to feel my surroundings and to play with their edges in order to make my artistic work. Here I still feel like a stranger.

I don't actually understand if it’s because of being in this uncomfortable state of displacement, or whether it's because of the cold walls of buildings and masses of people on its streets. When I walked with my recorder, I became tired. It was something like the way you feel in a dream when you try to do something but can't raise your hands. When you try to open the door but the door handle has disappeared. But I want to wake up.

I decided to try and make the worst possible listening experience by walking through the noisiest and most annoying places on the way to my studio (the route that I take every single day).

So, I put on the live stream and went out. The first few minutes of my route are on the quiet street where I live (Ivana Vyshenskogo), where fewer noises from the rest of the city can seep through. From there, it was a long journey with thousands of competing sound sources — trams, cars, buses, street lights, different people, crying babies. All of these, for me, became an endless flood of noise. I was also very lucky to capture two alarms sounding (thanx to our emancipators!).

I made my way back home, where I then started to feel sick. I understand that I need to go through this, but I need a force. I need my closest people to be here with me, but they are currently at a distance. During these months I have become a home for myself, but I feel that I don't exist without my family and friends. This home has also been taken from me.

I really enjoyed listening to the recording of my stream from last night for a long time. This fitful noise mysteriously explained my impressions even better than I could have imagined. But I will not go to the city again. This experience has exhausted me, and I would not like to broadcast it to the masses.

Yesterday, after listening, I clearly felt what a stream is, especially when other people told me that they were there with me at certain intervals. It's like a video, but more abstract. It feels closer to me personally.

Then I began to imagine how good it would be to distribute streamboxes to my relatives and friends and communicate through such unpredictable sounds of the environment. But unfortunately, the closest person to me cannot currently transmit the sounds around him and his location. Therefore, the only way to establish a stream channel with him is to materialize the connection into a train journey that will connect us.

Autumn Excursion

Viktor Konstantinov

In 2022, for the first time in my life, I saw summer Odesa almost without tourists. The war changed my sound perception of the urban space: everywhere now reigns an alarming silence, and the usually uncomfortable noises of traffic jams, crowds and audio garbage have become a melancholy memory. As part of the Autumn Excursion, we are visiting several locations that have become my personal markers of Ukrainian identity in this multicultural city.

① The cemetery of Sotnykivska Sich is a Cossack cemetery on the outskirts of the city, founded in the middle of the 18th century, even before Odesa got its current name.
~ Travel by the 20th "reed" tram, which often appears in films shot in Odesa.
~ Ascent by Marinesko descent (the name has not yet been decommunized).

② A wall with graffiti on the building of the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum (OFAM), from which my friends and I helped evacuate pieces of art at the beginning of the war.

③ The house at 52 Pastera Street, where we spent the first months of the war. Also, in 1917–18, Ukranian People’s Republic activists Ivan and Yurii Lypa lived there.

④ The star of the half-forgotten poet and writer Borys Necherda on the Alley of Stars (yes, almost like in Los Angeles) near the Opera House.

Rotunda—Church Shelter

Kseniia Yanus

Despite the fact that there are currently no safe places in Ukraine, Uzhhorod is one of the most peaceful and tranquil cities. Since the very beginning of the war in 2014, it has become a refuge for many displaced people and since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the population has increased by 1.5 times due to incoming refugees. For me, Uzhhorod became a refuge and salvation for the second time: in 2014 I moved here from Donetsk, and in 2022 from Odesa.

Usually in my musical practice I work with themes of alienation, internal migration and reflection on childhood experiences in an industrial region. My music is multi-layered, full of noise, glitches, and disturbing synth parts. However, for the workshop, I decided to choose a calm and mystical area — the park around the Horyany Rotunda.

Horyany is a district on the outskirts of Uzhhorod, 9 kilometers from the border with Slovakia. At different times, this area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia and Ukraine. Here, on the last hill of the Ukrainian Carpathians, there is an architectural monument — the Horyany Rotunda. This is one of the oldest churches in Ukraine, according to some studies it was built in the 10th-11th century. It is located on a hill, nearby is an ancient cemetery laid in the late Middle Ages, the ruins of a castle and a view of the Uzhhorod industrial zone.

The doors of the Rotunda are closed all week except Sunday — you can visit the church inside only during worship. And although actual war has bypassed this place (no air raid sirens can be heard from here), the spirit of war is always present — believers here pray for peace, mourn the dead. Around the park there is a private sector with houses, but the sound from them does not extend to the park, it is mostly quiet here.

Hidden Sounds

Maksym Ivanov

War is trauma. The trauma is so deep that a person hides in order to heal it. On February 24th, millions suffered this injury. Children, women, men, everyone suffered alone with their thoughts, like a hermit crab hiding in its shell. As a result of the start of full-scale armed aggression, many people left their homes in search of safe shelter, and those who remained hid at home, in basements and bomb shelters. Due to this, houses with taped windows or boarded up windows became a symbol of finding safety, finding a place to hide. In my work, I broadcasted one hour after curfew. The first hour of a long night of silence.


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