Every year, YES and the PinchukArtCentre present contemporary art at the YES Annual Meeting. The artworks found throughout the conference and inside the main conference room are there to provoke thought and discussion.
Each and every work carries a message about our world, and more specifically they talk about subjects that are at the heart of political debate.
Some of the works are created expressly for the conference and connect directly to important topics in Ukraine; others are already existing works on urgent global issues.
We invite all participants to engage with us in a discussion about the works, their meaning and the reason to have them in the conference.
Rollercoaster, E.J. Hill
Inspired by the predecessors of roller-coasters known in seventeenth-century Russia as “Russian Mountains” (and in modern times referred to as “American Mountains”), the work is an elaborate outcome of the artist’s research into complicated levels of physical and emotional states, featuring a lonely performer who engages in the risky endeavour of crawling for hours in a row over the fragile roller-coaster.
At YES, this living monument represents the dangerous trajectory that Ukraine is on, including the cyclical character of its politics. By extension, it is a metaphor for the movements in global economics and the continuous balancing act within geopolitics.
Moises, Damian Ortega
Moises presents a few hundred found and used tools hanging in suspense, forming a narrow corridor to walk through. The title, Moises, is the Spanish translation of Moses, the man who, in the Book of Exodus, led the Israelites out of Egypt. Their escape led them to cross the Red Sea that was parted through devine intervention, allowing the Israelites to walk through, and that sub-sequently closed behind them, blocking the Egyptians pursuit.
The Israelites were at that time refugees, fleeing from slavery. Today’s refugees face similar challenges in their escape, often meeting walls and borders that stop them in their tracks. However, like the parting of the sea by Moses, one moment in recent European history remind us of this singular moment of bravery and believe: Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das”.
99 Cents, Andreas Gursky
Andreas Gursky’s two-part photograph 99 Cent II (2001) shows the display of a discount store, dazzlingly revealing the world as a public marketplace. The work is an investigation of the commercial structures that surround us, with an exceptional sharpness and detail, celebrating the seductive powers of mass-produced goods and their presentation in the supermarket.
It represents the world as a marketplace with an endless line of production and sales, bringing the same goods to every corner of the earth. It shows us how consumerism has become a force of globalization, both positive and negative.
PyongYang, Andreas Gursky
In PyongYang, Gursky photographed the Arirang Festival, or ‘mass games’. These are stadium performances involving 50,000 gymnasts and soldiers, back-dropped by an equal number of schoolchildren holding colored panels in the air to form an enormous human video wall. Arirang epitomizes communist culture, with its kitsch militarism and emphasis on group dynamics over individual prowess, while reflecting on its own understanding of globalism.
PyongYang, the capital of North Korea, represents today more than any time before a real threat. Not just referring to a conflict of ideologies but in reference to the increased wargames and sharpening tensions with both China and the USA. The diptych depicts the choice the world has to make: “war or peace?” This questions is relevant both to North Korea as well as to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The boat, Abdalla Al Omari
“We’re in the same boat”: there are few expressions that characterize the underlying meaning of the newly produced painting by Abdalla Al Omari better than that. Al Omari himself is a refugee, having fled the Syrian conflict. Painting world leaders together in a rickety wooden boat as refugees trying to find a better future emphasizes the shared responsibility for the state of the world.
The painting can be viewed as a work in progress, as leadership is passed on and all problems inherited. One can find the faces of Xi, Trump, Obama, Merkel, Macron, Orban, Assad, May, Trudeau, Kim Jun Ung, Cameron, Putin, Modi, King Salman, El Khameini. The leaders are often shown in provocative combinations, ironically challenging current relations between them.
25,000,000 Hryvnia, Santiago Sierra
The performance is a ceremonial act of counting 1,000,000 USD in the local currency of Ukraine, representing about 25,000,000 Hryvnia. The performance takes 12 hours to complete and will be on display throughout the entire first day of the conference. It continues a series of thought-provoking performances where Sierra balances between what is legal and what is not.
The work reflects on the value of money: counting 1,000,000 USD in cash reminds us of what still rules in the back-chambers of power. In Ukraine in particular, bribery and corruption have inhibited modernization, reform efforts and the rule of law, continuing behaviors from before Euromaidan in 2014.