Dreamcatcher Video and the Kyiv International Media Art Festivals
Nina Czegledy

The end of June in Kiev marked the finale of the Dreamcatcher Video Festival and the Pope's visit to Ukraine. Despite torrential showers, the city was in a buzz. The foul weather did not hinder the faithful, nor the anti-demonstrators nor the police -on the contrary. More importantly for the festival organizers (and me, the presenter), the unprecedented security measures did not intimidate the prospective audience of the last video screening .

Dreamcatcher opened on June 1st at 7 pm and ended with a wet but cheerful outdoor barbecue on Sunday, June 24, 2001. The week-end may have symbolized the end of the fourth festival, but certainly not the end of a dream to be captured and realized.

For the last years information has been available on the current media art activities of Poland, Hungary or Bulgaria, however we had paltry news from Ukraine. Arts System (Toronto) presented "Found Stuff:The newest Art of Ukraine" at Contact2001and this is a Kiev activity update focusing on the two major media festivals.

Dreamcatcher was initiated by Nadya Prigodich in 1998. In its first two years -while focusing on a national competition- it was held outdoors and lasted one day only. Olga Zhuk joined Nadya two years later, together they aimed to enlarge the international scope of the event. This year, as a result of their collaboration, over 200 videos were submitted from about 15 countries. Of these, eighty were entered in the international juried competition. "As a measure of its growth, -said Olga - Dreamcatcher2001included a three day intense program of exhibitions, site specific presentations, a combined form of symposium, screenings and of course parties ...."

While the screening of a Taste of Landscape, my selection of Canadian videos by women, was the very last festival presentation, (I missed the early June screenings entirely), I still arrived in time to Kiev to enjoy the "Video vs. Video" exhibition of installations. The exhibited works were gutsy, unpretentious and often infused with humour. "Absolutely normal", Cecilia Lundqvist 's seemingly simple animations, and the hilarious "Doctor Yakamoto" by Kyupi Kyupi (produced by a visual performance group from Kyoto) uncannily complimented "Hostages" the multimedia installation by Ukrainian Vasily Tsagolov.

"The opposition laid in the title of the exhibition 'Video against Video' - wrote Nadya in her introductory text- suggests a destruction of old and already standard models of representation and perception saturated with certain mythology."

"Video art in Ukraine, as in many countries in East Europe, -said Olga- emerged in the early nineties. Later with more access to information, the founding of Dreamcatcher as well as the support of the Soros Contemporary Art Center, (SCA) -artists began to use the medium in a more sophisticated way than documentation. Not necessarily in a technical sense, since most productions are still very low tech and low budget. The lack of media education in art academies remains a problem as higher education or media art studies are still not available. Equipment, if accessible, is outdated. Currently, access is partially provided in the Media Lab at SCA, Kiev and partially through technical sponsorship arrangements. It still remains however a difficult situation because SCA can provide only minimum equipment and resources - nevertheless it does provide some encouragement. Over the last year most of the art productions were initiated in workshops. The situation starts to be very intense and reveals not only the difficulties of hands-on-experience, but also networking questions, distribution and the construction of a media scene in Ukraine. The festival tries to fill a gap, tries to resolve for artists, video's absence from the regular terrain."

"Dreamcatcher, -said Nadya- remains to be the single forum for video art in Ukraine."

But not entirely, -recently (2000), the Kyiv International Media Art Festival (KIMAF) emerged on the scene. The two festivals compliment each other. The first KIMAF last year was a great success. 500 people came to the opening and over 5000 visited the exhibition.

"Before these festivals -said Katja Stukalova, one of the chief catalysts of KIMAF - this was a very esoteric place. But now, more and more young people come, creating a challenge to the existing situation. In addition to radio and hard copy media coverage, we had seven TV reports. Presentations of very current international developments were included in the program, however due to constrained funding, this had to be sometimes limited to speakers to from East Europe.

KIMAF first functioned as a program to support media development and to provide opportunities for working in new media in Ukraine. It all began in 1998, when SCA established a media lab to provide access to artists. They were given opportunities to propose their concepts and a small jury granted support to facilitate work. The results of the realized projects were presented (if at all possible) outside the "white cube" of gallery spaces, in cafes, nightclubs or other public spaces. Simultaneous with the support of Ukrainian media artists, it became important to show international media work, organize lectures and workshops involving international artists. It became clear, and a decision was reached in 1999, that there is a potential to transform this program to the more flexible form of the festival. Luckily, the concept of this initiative was very much supported by other cultural organizations in Kiev such as Goethe Inst. Pro Helvetia and other Foundations. In Ukraine a large attendance at contemporary art events is unusual. The fact that many young people came to the KIMAF events as well as people from computer industries -made the festival a truly interdisciplinary collaboration."

The second Kyiv International Media Art Festival (KIMAF) is scheduled for October, 2001. A comrehensive program is planned. Based on the successful public response of last year, Katja hopes that KIMAF2001 will also be of public interest. The main problem for the organizers is to find financial support for the Ukrainian projects.

Rounding off Dreamcatcher on that last Sunday -the very successful, extremely low tech, Ukrainian barbecue project, (complete with beer and sausages roasted on open fire in the middle of a meadow) was self supported by an enthusiastic group of Kiev activists. At a distance from the madding crowds -despite the rain - we all had a grand time.

I left Ukraine with deep admiration for the work accomplished by this proficient, devoted group of people, carrying with me high hopes for their future.

- Nina Czegledy 8.01

Forum Index

Top: video still from: 'Absolutely Normal' Cecilia Lundquivist
Bottom: selections from 'Ukraine Video Art or the 90's' curated by Olya Zhuk and Nadya Prigodich

Words: Nina Czegledy
Place: Kiev, Ukraine
Time: 6.01