waterside contemporary is pleased to present Limits of Responsibility, a solo exhibition by Nikita Kadan, his first in the UK.
In the background of Nikita Kadan’s recent oeuvre are last spring’s events in Independence Square in Kiev, the artist’s native city. As clashes between anti-government protesters and state forces turned the maidan (square) into a battlefield - emblematic of Ukraine’s most intractable time in recent history – the artist documented the barricades, fires, and shelters erected by the pro-democracy activists in a series of photographic slides.
Amongst the remains of monuments, the rubble, and the improvised homesteads, are vegetable patches – small gardens of cabbage, onions and lettuce planted by protesters in the contested ground. As nature epitomises the potential for renewal and metamorphosis, the produce of this occupation of the maidan’s ground contributes to the sustenance of the activists, and roots their claim deep into the soil.
While the views in the slideshow are familiar from news sites and social media, Kadan’s view of the maidan is not restricted to documentation and repetition. In a series of watercolour drawings that at first glance resemble traditional horticultural and anatomical textbooks, the artist intertwines plant bodies with human ones, nature with architecture. Objects that do not connect naturally here gradually dissolve into one another: bones merge with roots, leaves with concrete forms.
The union of forms continues in a large sculptural object modelled after a display-board recommended by a Soviet pamphlet as ideal for showcasing agricultural achievement - which in the exhibition comprises a flowerbed of lettuce and herbs. While the original would have been used to inform the spectator of techniques, conditions and politics of the crop’s cultivation, Kadan’s sculpture is left blank and refuses to engage in a specific propaganda.
By forcibly inserting a contemporary event into a historicised frame, Kadan exposes the limits of the positions we assume as observers and participants. In both the maidan and the exhibition hall, nature’s disinterested permanence levels high and low concerns.