The Art of Understanding: What Will the Cultural Program of X LMF Be Like?

When discussing the polarization of the contemporary world, we need to decide what will serve as its opposite or remedy. Maybe, in today’s globally interconnected and multipolar landscape, achieving solidarity seems increasingly challenging. Yet, we hold onto the hope that fostering understanding remains feasible. Or, at the very least, the willingness to understand.

The notion that thorough explanations are necessary for understanding is widespread. However, in practice, especially for those who vigorously articulate themselves in a world where everything seems presumed understood, this approach is increasingly met with skepticism. Surprisingly, there are many things and encounters that defy explanation entirely, whether presented up close or elucidated in historical or contemporary contexts.

What’s more, it has become evident that shared experiences extend beyond those who have undergone specific trials together. They transcend to unexpectedly distant communities or individuals, surpassing mere factual experiences. Understanding between such divergent yet resonant experiences hinges on something deeper than the superficial aspects of an event.

Contemplating the cultural program of the LMF conference in 2024, we aimed to explain as little as possible and allow participants to experience firsthand as much as possible. Through art, we sought to create communicative situations in which there would be space and time for shared moments, and the freedom to make these moments exactly what they should be here and now.

The intensity of the present moment in Ukraine’s eternal now is almost palpable.  Tomorrow may not come — everyone is already aware of this. Yet, today exists, and within this present moment, LMF will once again unfold in spaces that were devastated in July 2023 following a rocket attack by Russia on a nearby residential building.

Today, Kharkiv, one of Ukraine’s largest cities with a population of over a million even now, and prior to the full-scale invasion, about one and a half million people lived there, bears the brunt of daily rocket attacks and direct threats of occupation by Russian forces. Despite the turmoil, one of Ukraine’s most renowned children’s art studios, Aza Nizi Maza, remains operational. At LMF 2024, within an underground shelter, you’ll witness a fragment of their exhibition “The Hideaway.” These are artworks crafted by children aged 6 to 14, produced during the summer of 2022 when the studio team resumed work in their basement premises after returning from the metro bomb shelter. The shelters in Kharkiv are akin to those in Lviv, and in certain ones, miracles are unfolding.

Experiencing the profound wonder of life is perhaps a moment that has occurred with everyone at least once. While it might seem ordinary when put into words, its unmistakable essence sets it apart from anything else. It is “unspeakable weight”, a multichannel audiovisual installation by Andriy Linik, Ostap Manuliak, Yurii Vovkohon, Yevhenia Nesterovych, that will be performed at the LMF 2024 opening. Together, we will immerse ourselves in the sounds of life recorded during the Russian-Ukrainian war by Yevhen Hulevych, a journalist, intellectual and artist who tragically passed away near Bakhmut on 31 December 2022. 

Journalists, and more broadly, cultural figures, are individuals who transcend boundaries, thinking in terms of a globalized world, infusing it with the local perspectives of their country, culture, and community. What divides and what unites people across different corners of the globe, on different continents, in varying contexts? What role do political, cultural, and tangible borders play in this dynamic? To illustrate this, we encourage participants of LMF 2024 to personally populate the “canvas” of their countries on the world map with relevant tags and concepts. This interactive installation will be showcased within the LMF space, adjacent to the exhibition “The Walls of Europe,” presenting the European Union’s migrant-friendly ethos juxtaposed against over 2000 kilometers of border barriers.

Instrumental music is often regarded as an art form that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries. It has also been utilized for healing purposes throughout history, making it a significant component of art therapy. Professor Nigel Osborne, the keynote guest for the opening night of LMF 2024, after a successful musical career as a composer, has dedicated over thirty years to developing participatory music art therapy practices for children affected by conflict and war. Over the past two years, he has been extensively involved in this work in Ukraine. Therefore, during World Music Night, attendees of the forum will not only listen to and recognize melodies from diverse regions of the world but will also collaborate in creating them together in an impromptu musical session, under the open sky, without the need for rehearsals or musical scores.

Participatory and community-oriented cultural practices are gaining significant traction today because they are demanded by the very “former audience” themselves. No longer passive spectators, the audience — essentially, citizens — collaborate with cultural practitioners to co-create what is most essential for us all in the present moment. Often, the process itself holds more significance than the final artistic output. It’s about the art of the moment and shared experiences. This ethos guides the operations of the Jam Factory Art Center, established in Lviv in 2023, nestled in the historic district of Pidzamche. During the forum, attendees will dedicate their second evening to acquainting themselves with the institution’s team and projects, engaging with Lviv’s specially invited intellectual and artistic community. Alongside tours of the Jam Factory, housed within the revitalized spaces of a century-old neo-Gothic factory, the evening program features a “Horizon collapsed” performance by Yaryna Shumska — a Lviv-based artist, performer, and educator known for her work with participatory practices, diverse communities both in Ukraine and beyond, and themes of understanding and personal poignant experiences that resonate universally in their depth.

The quest for a common language in our contemporary world, amidst a series of upheavals and global transformations, is intricately linked to the quest for a new language — one that can articulate these changes, label emerging trends, and delineate evolving structures. The effectiveness of this endeavor increases with the inclusion of diverse voices and attentive listening to each. In a world where attention is arguably the scarcest resource, the ability to foster genuine shared experiences and engage in inclusive, mindful listening to each other emerges as one of the paramount arts of our time.

The Art of Understanding: What Will the Cultural Program of X LMF Be Like?

Yevheniia Nesterovych

April 2024