Spectral Poetry [Ukraine]

Video studies. Pablo Valbuena, 2023. In collaboration with Ukrainian poets Ostap Slyvynsky, Iryna Tsilyk and Lyuba Yakimchuk.

Spectral Poetry [Ukraine] brings together poetry and architecture, using light and sound to create contemporary rituals. This project uses digital light to project the voice of Ukrainian poets onto sites damaged during the war initiated by Russia.

These interventions ritualize places affected by the war, functioning as transient memorials for those lost and displaced. They also preserve the memory of the wounds inflicted on the urban fabric and architectural heritage. The destruction of schools, libraries, cultural centres, theatres, religious places and residential buildings bears witness to the brutal social, civil and cultural aggression taking place.

To the question of whether culture is possible in times of war, Ukrainian writer and poet Serhiy Zhadan responded that culture is not only possible but more necessary than ever... culture is what makes us human. When culture is absent and leaves a void, fear takes its place.

The voices of poets who are experiencing and writing about the war since its beginning in 2014 transform perceptually these spaces and buildings. Poets are especially sensitive to how we collectively create meaning and can detect changes earlier and more accurately. Ilya Kaminsky, quoting Zbigniew Herbert in Words of War, writes: a poet is like a barometer for the psyche of a nation. In their hands, language becomes a tool of cultural and vital resistance.

Spectral Poetry has several parts: the first one is this video as a sketch in motion, which explores locations and poems for a future on-site intervention to be realized soon around Kyiv.

Poem in the video Spectral Poetry [car cemetery]: Crow, Wheels by Lyuba Yakimchuk with double bassist Mark Tokar.
Background photography by Dmytro Malyshev. His work documenting attacks in Ukrainian cities is online at 360war.in.ua
Locations: Car cemetery in Irpin, residential buildings in Kyiv, school num. 134 in Kharkiv.