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Censorship at the Kiev Biennale: "Apocalypse and Renaissance at the Chocolate House" Closes Its Doors

Rumors have circulated that one of the current Kiev Biennale’s events, “Apocalypse and Renaissance at the Chocolate House,” was torn down on government orders. Officially, the decision to close the exhibition came from the Chocolate House–which is owned by the Kiev National Museum of Russian Art. However, it is believed that the Ukrainian National Expert Committee for the Protection of Social Morality forced the museum to close its doors.

The project was to take place as part of ARSENALE 2012, the first Kiev international biennale of contemporary art. The project was conceived by renowned contemporary artist Oleg Kulik, which turned a prominent turn of the century estate into a gallery space for the work of 43 Ukrainian and Russian artists, whose often politically and socially subversive work presented “a vision of a rebellious world in a state of transient calmness.”

It appears to have been Andrey Kuzkin’s video installation “Natural Phenomemon”–widely considered to be the best work in the show–that sealed the fate for the exhibition. The work presented naked figures with their upper bodies buried in various landscapes. It was also seen at last year’s Venice Biennale. Other acts of censorship at the exhibit included the removal of protest figures from an installation by Aleksey Knedlyakovsky and Lusine Janyan before the exhibition opened, and the removal of portions of an audio track for Dmitry Gutov’s installation “I’m Stepping on Concealed Spots.”

Tatyana Syrda, Chocolate House directors, and Yuiry Vakulenko, director of the Kiev National Museum of Russian Art released a statement that the National Expert Committee concluded that the exhibition’s pornographic material would “cause harm to the physical health and emotional well-being of visitors and museum staff.” The exhibition’s curators, Konstantin Doroshenko and Anastasia Shavlohova, wryly pointed out that the process of closing the exhibit down was carried out through covert methods in the “best Soviet traditions.”