Interview with Marichka Yurchak

The ARTIФ team had spoken to Marichka Yurchak, a young artist and art researcher from Ternopil, western Ukraine. During the quarantine, Marichka directed her attention to social topics and in the framework of the ARTIФ workshop developed a concept of a performance on gender inequality and the role of women in Kyrgyz society, jointly with a human rights activist from Kyrgyzstan.

Hello, Marichka! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We found the concept of the project you worked on within ARTIФ workshop deeply inspiring (a performance where a girl wearing a white attire resembling a Kyrgyz national dress peels pomegranates, as a metaphor of the traditional society relying on patriarchy and veiling women’s potential  (pomegranate seeds) under the ‘skin of inequality’, ed. note)

What directed your attention to the topic of women’s rights? Do you consider yourself a femenist-artist or activist? 

I work in traditional media (graphics, oil painting) but I also have many ideas on participative art — installations and performances — which I have never done before. ARTIФ has became an opportunity for me to work on these ideas. The topic of women rights was new both for me and my partner — a human rights defender from Kyrgyzstan, Dinara Oshurakhunova. But this is just one of my multiple social interests, as reflection on contemporary life is the main subject for my artistic practice.

How did life in Ukraine influence your artistic practice? What inspires you in Ukrainian context and what do you see as an obstacle for your development? 

Oh, this is an eternal source of inspiration for me. I cannot imagine what I would do in a different country where nothing ever happens — say, in Canada or Australia. 

The world fascinates me every day with its absurdity and this is exactly the thing I want to play around in my art work. However, I am now only at the beginning of this path. Since we have so many undeveloped fields in Ukraine, I see plenty of opportunities for growth. This is a plus. The only obstacles in my development are inner insecurities and lack of courage to be an artist. 

What problems in your hometown (Ternopil) would you like to raise through art? What do you want to tell the world? 

I think the problems of my city could be united under one definition: a limitation. 

Termopil is a very beautiful and cozy city but not for all. Unfortunately, inclusion is completely absent here. The obstacles for people with disabilities, parents with children, and tourists with large suitcases are everywhere.

Ternopil is situated very conveniently in the center of different routes but it is on the periphery of culture. Yes, you can easily go to Kyiv or Lviv to get your bit of culture and contemporary art, but  bringing it to Ternopil turns out to be very hard. 

The problem is in the limited perception potential of the city’s general population and lack of taste.

In addition, our society is trying to stay in the comfort zone by following well-known and easily controllable paths instead of building trust. One could feel it strongly during the quarantine. The CCTV cameras have caught my attention: there were cases in Moscow when people received fines for violation of the isolation regime; they were traced with the cameras. 

In Ternopil, the municipality offered to put cameras in the public transport. This was another unjustified violation of people’s privacy and personal freedom which was hard for me to accept. That’s how I created my series ‘An All-seeing Eye’. The other topics will be covered soon, too.

What advice would you give to those in the beginning of their artistic journey and choosing what kind of art they would like to master? 

Eventhough I graduated from an artschool, this is not professional education, so I consider myself an amateur in the art sphere. I’m trying myself in different genres and techniques, as I believe this is the only way to find my path. I am a bit jealous of artists who have found their own tools and styles but I’m not upset because I am still searching. Andy Warhol found his world-famous style only after his 40s. 

I am looking for my way through studying the history of arts. And I think it is good advice: if you want to work in contemporary art, you need to learn from old masters. 

In sum, one should not be afraid of doing whatever they want, learning new things, and trying things out. For such amateurs in art (and first of all, for myself) I created a Telegram-channel  t.me/plumpartist , where I only post free opportunities for artists and something for inspiration. 

Where do you get inspiration and what makes you understand that you are on the right path? 

I get it from everywhere, I let it go through myself. I find topics in my surroundings. I get my ideas thanks to a deep study of art. I love to travel and to spend time in nature. As Marina Abramovich said in her manifesto, ‘An artist should spend a lot of time, looking at quick rivers, the horizon, where the ocean meets the sea, watching stars in the night sky’. There is no ocean in Ternopil, but there is a river and a lake right in the city centre!

It doesn’t mean that one inspired by the mountains should draw them: inspiration is rarely direct and always very personal. But, as I mentioned before, I lack confidence in my art, I don’t always realise my ideas to their fullest, as I am afraid to be misunderstood. Support of my family and friends helps me overcome this struggle.

How was your experience of participation in ARTIФ? How did it influence your motivation to work with human rights topics and are there any recommendations you could give to the organisers? 

Working remotely is another thing to adapt to for artists that we all had to face. However, I decided to participate in this online workshop and was very happy about this new experience. It allowed me to see the role of art in the modern world from a new angle. In the past, art had to be aesthetic, not it does not need to be beautiful. But then, what’s the purpose of it? Maybe, change the world? Certainly, I will try to promote art-activism in my city and beyond.