In June 2022, as an independent artist, I embarked on a self-organised trip to the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) along with a few companions. Most of my time was spent in Mariupol, a city that used to be one of Ukraine's most developed with a population of around 425,000. However, it was almost destroyed due to the aggression and violence of the Russian army's full-scale invasion. My goal was to personally document the events, listen to those who had survived the bloody horrors, and witness what the residents were left with after the so-called "liberation."
The trip carried certain risks, as the intense fighting had only recently ended. Mariupol had been reduced to ruins, with burnt and demolished houses, and the air was filled with smoke. It was hazardous to move around because unexploded ordnances still littered the streets. Even encounters with the military posed a potential danger, as their reactions were unpredictable. The "liberated" streets and lawlessness could spark any situation.
During the conflict, the city was systematically cleared, destroying everything. The lives of the peaceful population held no value. A series of photographs captured the houses in Mariupol, adorned with messages left by residents. Stripped of their homes and basic necessities, the civilians sought shelter in basements for months, enduring bombings and shelling, often without access to warm water for weeks. The basements were crowded with women, men, children, the elderly, and even animals. To signify their presence in these hiding places, they would inscribe messages on the exterior of buildings, proclaiming, "We are here, we exist"; These people did not want to perish and held onto the hope that their voices would be heard, and another shell would not reduce their buildings to ruins, burying innocent lives beneath the rubble.
I want to quote Oleg, a resident of Mariupol, who said "We had enough before, and we didn't need anything... They decided to liberate us from something we ourselves don't understand. They liberated us from gas, electricity, water, everything... from comfort, from medical care..."
Currently, I split my time between two countries, the UK and Russia. I continue to consider it crucial to create anti-war artworks within the aggressor's territory, resisting the absurd Kremlin propaganda that shapes the everyday lives of citizens and conceals atrocious crimes. Any expression of an anti-war position in Russia is met with persecution by the authorities, whether it's social media posts supporting Ukraine or conversations with acquaintances, resulting in criminal charges for Russians.
The diptych in video format was filmed in Mariupol in June 2022. Projections of images inside murky and demolished living areas, where action is developing around the main symbol of Russian state authority – the national emblem tattooed on a body – are shown in the video. The background to this action, through the window panes, is the ruined city of Ukraine, Mariupol, destroyed during a full-scale invasion by the Russian army. Under the effect and influence of propaganda, which distorts the history and understanding of the homeland, the Russian military is destroying cities in Ukraine. Oleg, Mariupol’s citizen, said: “(Russian army) Decided to set us free from something, we don’t understand what (we have been freed from). (They) Freed us from gas, light, water, everything, everything, everything…from convenience, medicine.
Governing apparatus of Russia is structured so that the pleasing and playing up of the higher authority is deranged - the principal occupation of its participants. It represents as the reason for murders, violence, human tragedies, and the destruction of Ukrainian cities. The act of licking and onanism in the video becomes a metaphor for playing up the government.
Andrey Andreev is a multidisciplinary artist, driven by a desire to examine and portray the diverse facets of society and culture through a unique and thought-provoking lens. His artistic practice encompasses a wide range of themes and approaches – from social ambiguities, re-thinking of everyday living to
community engagement regarding environmental issues. He embraces the notion that art serves as a powerful platform for amplifying the voices of vulnerable and marginalized segments of society.
Primary mediums: immersive situations, performance art, videos, installations, and graphics.