Intervention is a collaborative project by Phil Collins and Oleksiy Radynski, co-commissioned by HOME and Manchester International Festival, re-contextualising the decommissioned statue of Friedrich Engels that stands in the centre of Manchester through the perspectives of writers and activists from Ukraine. Created by an unknown sculptor c.1970 – and located in Mala Pereshchepyna, Eastern Ukraine where it stood until the implementation of decommunisation laws in 2015 – it was transported to the UK as part of Collins’ artwork and film Ceremony in 2017. The project highlights the legacy of this German philosopher in the city where he lived and worked for more than twenty years.
The film follows the retrieval of the statue, its journey to the UK, as well as personal stories of people in Manchester and a large-scale inauguration event organised with local communities, making connections between Engels’ work and present day socio-political conditions in Britain.
In response to Russia’s invasion of its sovereign neighbour, Collins and Radynski transform Engels into a mouthpiece, amplifying the voices of Ukrainian writers and activists. Scrolling across one of two temporarily installed LED panels are texts by Svitlana Matviyenko, Mariia Volotilina, Olexii Kuchanskyi and Radynski, sharing their experiences of the last few harrowing months, and offering perspectives on notions of Russian imperialism.
On the second LED panel a newly commissioned text by social anthropologist Volodymir Artiukh combines analysis on the international economic impact of the war with personal testimonies of those most affected, and excerpts from Engels’ own writings. Together, these voices articulate decolonial and anti-imperialist positions on ideas of power, oppression and resistance, in what is the biggest geopolitical crisis unfolding in Europe since the end of the Cold War.
Accompanying the three month installation, Collins and Radynski have curated a screening programme. There will be a Q&A with Collins and Radynski, along with screening of Ceremony and additional artist shorts by Daniil Revkovsky & Andriy Rachynsky and Radynski on 6 July. A screening of Yael Bartana’s Two Minutes to Midnight, part of What if Women Ruled the World? commissioned by Manchester International Festival, additional short and introduction with Bartana and John McGrath, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival, will take place on 18 July.
Oleksiy Radynski is a filmmaker and writer based in Kyiv. His films have screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam; Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen; Docudays IFF; the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London); and SAVVY Contemporary (Berlin); among others, and have received a number of festival awards. After graduating from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, he studied at the Home Workspace Program (Ashkal Alwan, Beirut). In 2008, he co-founded Visual Culture Research Center, an initiative for art, knowledge and politics in Kyiv. His texts have been published in Proxy Politics: Power and Subversion in a Networked Age (Archive Books, 2017), Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and East Europe: A Critical Anthology (MoMA, 2018), Being Together Precedes Being (Archive Books, 2019), and e-flux Journal.
Phil Collins is a moving-image artist and filmmaker based in Berlin and Wuppertal, Germany. He is Professor of Video and Performance at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Over the last two decades Collins has gained recognition for ambitious projects which explore the intersections of art, politics and popular culture. Manifesting as films, installations, performative situations and live events, his work foregrounds the aspects of lived experience, and voices that have often been disregarded or suppressed. Across geographies, ethnicities, languages and social classes, Collins’ approach is guided by a commitment to long-term process and engagement with the local context. Reflecting critical consciousness and disarming immediacy, his works pull into sharp focus the contradictions which shape our relationships with one another.
Svitlana Matviyenko’s research and teaching are focused on information and cyberwar; political economy of information; media and environment; infrastructure studies; and science and technology studies. She writes about practices of resistance and mobilisation; digital militarism, dis- and misinformation; Internet history; cybernetics; psychoanalysis; posthumanism; the Soviet and the post-Soviet techno-politics; nuclear cultures, including the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion. She is a co-editor of two collections, The Imaginary App (MIT Press, 2014) and Lacan and the Posthuman (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). She is a co-author of Cyberwar and Revolution: Digital Subterfuge in Global Capitalism (Minnesota UP, 2019), a winner of the 2019 book award of the International Studies Association and of the Canadian Communication Association 2020 Gertrude J. Robinson book prize.
Mariia Vorotilina is a researcher and curator from Ukraine, currently based in Hamburg. Her research interests include performative practice and visual arts within the thematic areas of feminist, queer and decolonial approaches. Since 2021, she is one of the co-organisers Decolonise Eastern Europe: Knowledge, Culture and Discourse, a course that aims to explore the potential of postcolonial perspectives in relation to ‘Eastern Europe’.
Volodymyr Artiukh is a Postdoctoral Researcher with the European Research Council funded project EMPTINESS: Living Capitalism and Democracy after (Post)Socialism. Volodymyr completed his PhD in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University in 2020. His dissertation is an historically-informed analysis of labour in Belarus centred on workers’ agency in the context of bureaucratic labour control. He has also written on the circulation of populist idioms in the dominant and opposition ideologies in Belarus in 2017-20. Currently, Artiukh is studying the movement of Ukrainian migrants between Donbass, central Ukraine and Belarus. His project situates their laboural and migratory experiences in the divergent political-economic trajectories of the two countries. Other research interests include the anthropology of work and labour organisations in post-Soviet countries, the anthropology of populism, and the comparative study of hegemonic practices in Eastern Europe.
Olexii Kuchanskyi is a Kyiv-based essayist, independent researcher and art writer. Born in Vinnytsia, studied at the Cultural Studies department of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Their main interests are in the Spinoza’s philosophy, posthumanist feminism, Early Soviet philosophy and film theory, experimental moving-image art, philosophy of image, and visual culture. Contributed to Prostory, Your Art, TransitoryWhite, Political Critique, East-European Film Bulletin, Arts of the Working Class, Moscow Art Magazine, e-flux Notes, and others publications.
Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy are an artist-duo based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Their projects are based on structuring and rethinking materials found in urban space, archives, and social networks. Their works have been shown at Kmytiv Museum, Artsvit Gallery (Dnipro), Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz (Berlin), etc galerie (Prague), Yermilov Center (Kharkiv), and Galeria Labirynt (Lublin), among other venues. In 2020, they received the public choice award of the PinchukArtCentre Prize for their project Mischievous.
Intervention was produced by Sinisa Mitrovic and Clarissa Corfe.
Image: Joel Fildes