Skip to main content

Garden of Living Things

The Ukrainian pavilion “Garden of Living Things” was named so for a reason. A garden is a deeply sacral concept imprinted in the consciousness of Ukrainians. With its fertility, generosity, and colourful enthusiasm, Mother Earth represents its beauty and grandeur to the world and being the essence of the aesthetic program of Ukrainians with its spatial scale and diversity, it manifests by itself and cherishes the freedom and will of the nation. The strength of the nation’s invincibility, its ability to protect own land and revive despite all circumstances lies in the figurative depths of Garden’s drawings.

The Garden Country – at the crossroads, between heaven and earth, the crucifixion at the crossroads of historical and cultural development – it is the infinite course of inspiration for Ukrainian theatre artists’ creative programs. Pre-Christian symbolism (layers of folk art) is clearly visible in the metahistorical roots of their projects, brightly Byzantine spirituality is manifested, emotional and colourful power of Ukrainian (Cossack) Baroque bursts forth as an embodiment of national inspiration and the power of form-making appears in the playful nature of modernism and spatial experiments of the 1920s.  

Modern Ukrainian theatre is spectacular and emotional with an enhanced role of the artist in the spatial model of the performance. Directing skills, the uniqueness of the author’s approaches, the love for the material, the ability to lay powerful figurative and acting moves into the subtexts of the stage existence, all that reveals their potential in the visual aesthetics of the production and is much appreciated. 

The interactive space of the Garden represents the realities of modern Ukraine – the works of theatre artists are born as air raid alerts howl, in bombed-out cities, in conditions of forced emigration, with some created on the stages of theatres working in shelters. In the unifying space, art objects of famous representatives of the Ukrainian scenographic space are presented – Liudmila Nagorna, Natalya and Serhiy Rydvanetski, Innessa Kulchytska, Oleh Tatarynov, Mariya Pogrebnyak, Juliya Zaulychna, Olesja Golovach and Olenka Polishchuk. There are nine author’s ideas in front of the visitors, vibrations of figurative meanings that will arise at the intersections/interactions of the author and the audience

In the dimensions of “Garden of Living Things”, the art object of the Honoured Artist of Ukraine Liudmila Nagorna is a hand-made felt headgear. This traditional headdress of married Ukrainian women is hovering on the background of the old, peaceful texture of Ukrainian performances as if it is making a vertical take-off. It looks red from the Earth, saturated with the blood of those who did not return from battle, those who did not manage to save themselves and their children, those who did not survive. The artefact, the figurative power of which is like a requiem – it turns on the higher meaning of Tutti tragic sounding.

Behind Liudmila Nagorna is a long-term cooperation with the Kyiv Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre for Children and Youth (Kyiv Opera) and work on the stages of Odesa and Lvov. The artist, being at the same time a researcher and connoisseur of the customs of the Ukrainian people, the traditions of native culture and art knows folklore-ethnographic material inside and out, in a deep-organic way and she is utterly bound to it. The scenographer nicely incorporates into the plot of the performance the historical relevance of the national way of life depicting the specifics and beauty of the national culture. Her scenography is a figurative and colour component of the performance with the colourful solutions, in which the multicolour variability of costumes inscribes organically. A blizzard-swept Ukrainian village, churches and houses, the sky filled with numberless stars, it is the space of her Christmas Eve. The colourful and characteristic heroes of Gogol’s story are doing carolling, singing and courting, they greet the devil and use him as an unconventional vehicle to travel to far away countries. The warm texture of Ukrainian interiors is a contrast to the gray haze of baroque St. Petersburg. Clear-red zhupans of Ukrainian Cossacks (old costumes, coats worn on the territory of Ukraine) in such a space is a challenge, opposition and a conflict.

Sketch of scenography for the opera “The Night Before Christmas”, Mykola Rymskyi-Korsakov, director. Larisa Mospan-Shulsha,
Kyiv Municipal Theater of Opera and Ballet for Children and Youth, 2009

Liudmila Nagorna’s stage decisions for performances for children are colourful and emotional. In the musical “There Lived a Dog” based on the Ukrainian folk tale “Sirko” the stage is a charming Ukrainian village with its unique colourful flavour. A light comedy form, good humour, colourful scenery and bright characters are on the stage. The visual and acting potential of the scenography is organically incorporated into the musical score of the play. On the site, there is a wide palette of colourful folk costumes combined with the funny texture of canine characters. All characters are depicted with the artist’s refined taste, inherent only to her; they are picturesque and organic in the fascinating rhythm of the stage action.

Theatrical costumes of Liudmila Nagorna is an expressive element of the figurative development of the performance, a figurative and psychological aspect of the life of its characters. Creative developments of scenography in the classics of Ukrainian drama – “Natalka Poltavka” and “The Kaydashev Family” have the accentuated sound of recognizable ethno-cultural particularity and “concreteness”. They are authentic because they were kept in old chests and passed down from generation to generation. Assessing the work of the artist, critics noted her “great scenographic experience and extensive knowledge in the realm of Ukrainian folklore, which the artist skilfully applies in performances <…>. Of course, the ethnographic authenticity of the costumes is not an end in itself, although they convey the features of the cut, embroidery, and decorations of the regions where the action takes place. The theatrical taste of the artist is very important because each dress, skirt, shirt or headdress also reflects the character and manner of behaviour of the character”. [1, p. 274].

Lyudmila Nagorna, the head of the Department of Scenography and Screen Arts of the National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture so she imparts her unique knowledge in the field of Ukrainian culture to her students – future artists of the national theatre. She introduces them to the depths of folk art, teaches them how to model costumes in space and the basics of scenography.

About one hundred performances on the stage of T. Shevchenko Cherkasy Music and Drama Theatre are on the creative account of Serhiy and Natalya Rydvanetskis not to mention fruitful cooperation with many theatre groups of the country. The artists’ duo is unique – he is a scenographer and she is a costume designer. He is in charge of figurative framing of the idea, in which all elements – scenery, costumes, light, sound, mise-en-scène connected into a living and integral stage organism. She is in charge of the visual information of the character, an exquisite play of silhouettes, lines and colours in the scenographic space. Moreover, together they are involved in intersection of creative positions, which brings the benefit of mutual enrichment, intelligence of approaches and high professionalism.

The scenographic content of the Rydvanetskis is a visual and plastic formula of the play always opened to director’s interpretations and acting. The essence of their plasticity lies in a precisely chosen texture. Reading the deep subtexts of drama they work with symbols rooted in the cultural codes of the nation and humanity. Their spaces are created of objects/textures that have been present in the everyday life of Ukrainians for a long time such as wood, canvas, ceramics and soil. The accents of Serhiy Rydvanetski’s play module in the performance “Marusia Churai” is a metaphorical and meaningful game of the world of things. The cart, around which the artist will spin the scenographic ups and downs of the plot will become a symbol of the heroine’s imprisonment. The stage designer shows the emotional outbursts of the play (defining the realities of the plot) with the help of the visual images of wooden piles, the compositional play of fabrics and trees. Natalia Rydvanetska’s costumes bring into action the specifics of the Cossack life of the 17th century. The silhouettes of the characters in the pastel sketches of the artist are almost monochromic – a women’s group, a girl’s group, Cossacks, Cossack chiefs… The colour flares up only in the festive or tragic-story costumes of the heroine, it sounds in the light score developing along with the imaginative plot line and breathing with its rhythms.

Photo from the play “Marusya Churai”, Lina Kostenko, director. Serhiy Pavlyuk,
Kyiv National Academic Operetta Theater, 2018

In the stage version of “The Rhinoceros” plot, the Rydvanetskis create their version of the “theatre of the absurd” space. The compositional game of black and white cubes – the conventionality of scenography game, the main idea of the drama, the compositional variability of director’s programs and actors’ mise-en-scenes are in the space. The artist will fill in this world with the geometry of patchwork, fermented costumes where the shape of the clothes is a measure of the absorption of white by black and is a sign of the character’s tolerance for the power. “Our performance is without colour, there is white and there is black,” Natalya Rydvanetska said. All costumes are in black and white. It is the combination of contrasts that provides the viewer with scope for imagination, associations and fantasy.

The object of artists in “Garden of Living Things” is the Boat. Its form, texture, and rhythm vary with figurative subtexts of earthly and heavenly, life and death, faith and hope… Its playfulness, effectiveness and figurative associativeness appeal to the depths of the viewer’s inner world. Touch, feel and realize…

Photo from the performance “Rhinos”, Eugene Ionesco, director. Stanislav Sadakliev,
Cherkasy Academic Regional Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater named after T.G. Shevchenko, 2022

The creative location of puppet theatre by designer Innessa Kulchytska is not limited to the Lviv Regional Theatre. The amazing sculptural play worlds of her performances ignited the imagination of viewers not only in Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivne, Uzhhorod, Khmelnytskyi, Chernihiv in Ukraine but also abroad as well. “I use symbols, metaphors and signs in my performances. I use the code of the nation and carry it through time,” Innessa Kulchytska says. The symbols appear from the material environment, costume, props, light, kinetics, plastic, and sound accompaniment. Her puppet and fairy-tale world is infinitely diverse, it lives and is reincarnated by the hands of actors and playful interaction with dolls. The three-dimensional sculptural formats of her play compositions are either figuratively exaggerated or planarly conditional, they are effective participants in the performances organically incorporated into the play canvas of director’ decisions.

In her projects, the artist turns to the ancient theatre, the stylistics of Ukrainian folklore, the nativity scene and she immerses herself in the poetics of folk art. The ornament of the Hutsul carpet is a code for future generations – the overall image of the performance in “The Golden Horned Deer.” The elements of the ornament come to life in space, trees, mountains, water, sun, clouds and animals and they are transformed acquiring new features. The mask and costume scenography here consists of actors’ costumes that represent natural elements, spirits and molfars (ancient knowledge beares/healers in the Hutsuls the culture). Sacral and ethnic signs come to life; magical rituals are created in the action.

Photo from the play “The Golden Horned Deer” by D. Pavlychk, directed by S. Bryzhan, Lviv Academic Regional Puppet Theater, 2018

The scenographer is capable of reincarnations and the variability of the spatial play; it can freely play poetic theatre and sound semitones of archaic depths. The central idea of the old fairy tale about “Ivasik-Telesik” are the sculptural hands of the mother – the metaphor that turns on the polyphonic sound of the deep score of the performance. They are a timeless talisman, dedication and protection. Clearly defined details of the play game often present the whole. The artist works with the objective world, understanding its ability to acquire new characteristics in the conditions of stage action. Everything follows the artistic image – dolls that talk with their hands, actors’ costumes, texture, props, and sound design in harmony for polyphony of ritual lullabies. The task of stage art is the spatial activation of image and energy dimensions, in which children and adults can discover their meanings.

Photo from the performance “Ivasyk Telesyk” based on the play by L. Tkachuk, directed by L. Tkachuk,
Rivne Academic Regional Puppet Theater, 2023

 Innessa Kulchytska’s theatre is a sophisticated play with space, textures, objectivity and associativity. The artistic solution lays down the language of symbols – the basis of the actors’ story about Taras Shevchenko (“My Thoughts, My Thoughts”). Separating the real world (exile) and the imaginary world (the poet’s dreams), the artist activates sand animation and “enlivens” the scenery with the help of light. It combines details/textures, forms figurative and plastic integrity and provides the atmosphere of the performance. The architecture of the scenography is a broken boat and silhouettes of ancestors rising from the sands of the Kazakh desert. There is a symbol of the last journey of a man at the beginning of the performance. In the finale of the action, it appears as a whole, turning into a symbol of knowledge and strength. Achromatic by its decision, the space in the poet’s memories bursts with colours. Stained-glass compositions with shades of green, red and blue become the image of the poet’s “cherry garden”, colours of greenery, flowers, sky, sun and water are applied representing the uniqueness of the beauty of Ukraine and its people. In the finale, a “monumental bas-relief wall of scenery elements, costumes and dolls appears in front of the audience. This composition will become an image of the invincibility of the Ukrainian people and the strength of their spirit,” the artist concludes.

The object of Innessa Kulchytska in the national pavilion is called “Reading the Landscape”, it is all about the material and spiritual in the authenticity of the Ukrainian nation, about the imperishability of ethnic dimensions of the people, which are able to be reborn in time and space.

Oleh Tatarinov is a scenographer, production designer at the Kyiv Theatre of the Young Spectator on Lypky, he is a master of theatrical costumes. The geography of his theatre and stage projects are the stages of Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipro, Mykolaiv and Cherkassy. Being an active creative person, he is a long-term curator of creative projects of D. Lyder Scenography Triennial and a participant of scenographic forums significant for Ukraine. His areas of interest include painting, drawing and land art.

Oleh Tatarinov is an artist of a wide range and expressive thought, the artist who knows how to immerse himself in the subtexts of the play proposed by the playwright. The figurative component of his projects is worked out down to the details. The scenographer directs the development of the plastic play formula from the moment of the birth of the initial impulses to the introduction of the plastic idea into the play element of the performance. According to the definition of Ukrainian critics, he is characterized by “an individual search, spontaneity and even unpredictability, and at the same time respect for theatrical traditions, which he inherited from his teacher, a famous theatre artist and teacher Danylo Lyder” [1, p. 298].

Tatarinov thinks dynamically, his works are meaningful and content-emotional. In the play “All Mice Love Cheese”, the artist unfolds chains of figurative transformations. The game object is a large piece of cheese, which is disassembled into pieces with the actors acting out in a touching, funny and ingenious way. The plastic concept of the play “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. Salinger is a sublimation of the surrealist perception of the main character. Works of Salvador Dali lie in origin of the image. In the space of delusions, the actors act out the plastic of a large chair and the enlarged eyes and ears serve as a portal for the hero’s contact with the outside world.

Photo from the performance “Above the Abyss”, Jerome Salinger, director. Maksym Mykhailichenko,
Kyiv Academic Theater of the Young Spectator on Lypki, 2013

Tatarinov tends to philosophical reflections and comparisons. The form of his plastic solutions is the substance reflected in every moment of stage existence. The artist does not bypass sharp corners and conflicting topics, he knows how to exacerbate the dramatic dissonances of the image plasticity, and he intensifies the conflict acting as a harbinger of tragedy almost in unison with the main character (“Cassandra”). The works created by him are immersive and unfold in front of the viewer the world opened by the artist. The scenographer likes to work with sketches – the embodiment of the ideas he has found, he makes detailed drawings and works out colour accents. At exhibitions, there are storyboards of mise-en-scenes made in pencil next to his work.

Scenography sketches and photos from the play “Cassandra”, Lesya Ukrainka, director. Oleksiy Kleimenov,
Dramikom Theater, Dnipro, 2023

The artist loves to peer into the characters; the sketches of his costumes for “Martin Borulia” are full-fledged paintings, psychological and genre interpretations of the plot.

Sketch for the play “Martyn Burulya”, Ivan Karpenko-Karyy, dir. Petro Ilchenko,
Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theater, Kyiv, 2021

Oleh Tatarynov’s object in the space of the Garden is called “Scales of War”. The artist offers an experiment. Each bullet is an artefact of war that has a corresponding number in the list of fallen soldiers. One can place as many numbered bullets on the scales unless they outweigh the spectator’s personal item. The process of realizing the value/weight of everyday life paid for by bullets can be made only individually.

Mariya Pogrebnyak is a scenographer, puppet theatre artist and chief artist of the Kyiv Theatre on Podil. She successfully introduces the nature of the puppet element into drama theatre projects. Moreover, on the contrarily, working in a puppet theatre she creates dramatic and playful subtexts of the life of a person/puppet doll in space. The artist successfully combines her creative and pedagogical work (she is a scenography teacher at I. Karpenko-Kary KNUTKT).

Mariya Pogrebnyak’s projects are spectacular, decorative and theatrical. The artist professionally enters the expanses of Eastern cultures taking into development the material that is rare for the Ukrainian scene. In particular, in the Indian mystery “Shyakuntala”, a spectacular and intellectual game appears in front the viewer. Art critics enthusiastically wrote about the brightness of the stage action, the intense colours of the costumes, and the expressiveness of the make-up, which can enhance the figurative sound of the character on the stage. The sand-beige range of the backdrop with drawings is reminiscent of ancient artefacts found on the walls of caves. “Against the background of this calmly philosophical truthfulness in the play, bright figures of fish and animals flared again and again – the actors circled with models in the dance. The spectacular picture in front of the audience resembled <…> the motifs of Ukrainian primitivists and the fairy-tale creatures of Mariya Pryimachenko art. “Our “Shchyakuntala” is made of dreams, naive pictures, and Indian melos, which are similar to the Carpathian melos,” the director of the performance Andriy Prykhodko stated [1, p. 281]. Knowing the details of the historical context the artist helps the actors organically adapt to the space, fit into the playful variety of stage effects. Her sketches of costumes for the performance are works of artistic culture; it is a subtle transformation into a figurative style of the character. 

Costume sketch and photo from the play “Shyakuntala”, based on “Magabharata”, dir. Andriy Prykhodko,
National Academic Drama Theater named after I. Franko

According to the definition of Mariya Pogrebnyak, “A modern performance is made by the ideas embedded in it by the scenographer and the creative team.” Its goal is not a self-sufficient search for a new language but a creative approach to working out the stylistics of this particular production, the selection of tools (objects, textures and technical means) according to the signs of their expressiveness and in the formats of the figurative space. The artist determines the laws of the visual solution involving theatrical painting, collages, video sequences, graphics and design technologies. She immerses the audience in the subtext of the play proposed by the playwright. Her projects are characterized by unpredictability, ingenuity and figurative expressiveness. The space of her “Legend of Faust” is filled with large, hypertrophied flasks, bottles and other tools for practicing alchemy.

In the play “Zorba the Greek”, the artist happily immerses herself in the materiality of things creating characteristic and symbolic locations that accompany the dynamic plot of the play. Programmed for the stage play and the contexts of visual and plot lines, her works are always organically inscribed in the system of the director’s decision.

Photo from the play “The Legend of Faust”, Travis Geiselbrecht, director. Andriy Prykhodko,
National Academic Drama Theater named after I. Franka, 2008

For the Tbilisi Biennale in 2022, Mariya Pogrebnyak created a costume-installation that revealed to the world a mythical creature with supernatural powers, the essence of which comes from the primal sources of the nation’s subconscious and mentality. “The artist is sure that the spiritual strength of the people is in the salvation and preservation of their own identity; and her pagan goddess is able to protect her home and keep the hope of rebirth. She draws energy from nature, her own land, magical plants and animals. <…> In unity with nature, in harmony with oneself, its spirit is strengthened and vital energy is restored.

Mariya Pogrebnyak’s art object in the space of “The Garden of Living Things” is “Mariya’s Mriya”; the play is about the Ukrainian giant plane Mriya destroyed at Gostomel airport and about a new dream – a new handsome plane and revived Ukraine with a peaceful sky and joyful laughter of children.

Photo from the play “Zorba the Greek” by Nikos Kazantzakis, director. Vitaly Malakhov,
National Academic Drama Theater named after I. Franka, Kyiv, 2010

Juliya Zaulychna is a scenographer, costume designer and chief artist of Odesa Academic Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater (named after V. Vasylka). She actively collaborated with the Young Theatre, the independent Wild Theatre; she also carried out theatre projects in Ivano-Frankivsk, Mykolaiv, Rivne, Lviv and on the stages of Hungary and Moldova. The unity of the team, unanimity in understanding the visual and acting possibilities of the performance, which does not limit the manifestations of an individuality is important for the artist because everyone must perform their part of the work brightly, as precisely, accurately and expressively as possible.

Juliya Zaulychna’s scenic dimensions determine the scale of the visual conflict; almost accurately visualize the diagnoses of the processes taking place in the society. As thee director of the space, she thinks on a large scale introducing the logic of the algorithms defined by her into the performance. The scenographic module of the performance of “Take, Love, Run Away” on the stage is a slide for skating. In the contexts of figurative variability, it is the division – up/down and it is gambling with life. The figurative idea was picked up by the director – the actors roll down, run and scramble up. On the black ramp, they draw a car with chalk and drive it, as if in a real car. Stage locations are marked with a minimum of objects, for example, socks scattered in space symbolize the family comfort of the heroes. The final inscription “The end” is advice to the audience not to fall off the skate slide.

Photo from the performance “Take, love, run away” based on the play by O. Savchenko “And I don’t care how you are there”,
directed by Caroline Steinbeis (Great Britain), Kyiv National Academic Drama Young Theater, 2013

The developments of Juliya Zaulychna are a significant participant in the stage act as an organic-playing part of the integrity. In the detective/comedy “Carpathian Western”, mountain legends represent cowboys. The scenographer organically works on the technical side of the board structures; she uses ropes into action. The space lives with transformations to the incendiary music – the actors play with the precariousness of the bridges, the steepness of climbs demonstrating physical exercise and they arrange the fights necessary for the plot. The idea of the artist as to the costumes, which is an effective component of the synthetic image of the performance, is a game of modernized authenticity. Juliya Zaulychna is experimenting; she organically fits into the game involving video technologies and recognizable aspects of historical design in her performances. 

Photo from the performance of the play “Hutsul Western” by the author’s association “Pirate’s Bay”, directed by Maxim Golenko,
Odesa Academic Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater named after Vasyl Vasylka, 2023

In “Doomed to Dance”, the venue has the enchanting atmosphere of the world’s largest dance marathon. A cowboy, a sailor, a pregnant woman, a farmer and a former actress are competing… Crazy jazz compositions, play of light, smoke and a scoreboard in the background. Turn on the camera! Smile ladies and gentlemen! Human authenticity in dimensions outside of the show is manifested only when the space fades away, and only on the side-lines the “working light” is working.

Photo from the performance “Doomed to Dance”, Oleksiy Dorychevsky based on Horace McCoy’s novel “Driven Horses Are Shot, Aren’t They?”, dir. Oleksiy Dorychevskyi, Odesa Academic Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater named after Vasyl Vasylka, 2021

I really support the Ukrainian theatre, the artist says, “and I am happy that I have the opportunity to cooperate with powerful directors and highly professional Ukrainian actors who have no limits to their skills. I am happy to be with them in the team and to be useful for them.”

Family roots and land enriched by the lives of past generations feed the strength of Ukrainians and maintain the balance of national existence in historical space and time. They are a guarantee of the preservation of the nation, its stability and strength. Juliya Zaulychna’s object in “Garden of Living Things” – the Garden of artefacts is entitled “Roots”. “The Network of Connections” – it is a military boot rooted in black soil, through which new shoots sprout.

Despite her young age, Olesja Holovach, a set designer, theatre costume designer and a monumental art painter quickly entered the scenographic world of Ukraine. She has a considerable professional experience behind her, the main milestones of which are the position of chief artist of the Ivano-Frankivsk Drama Theatre, production artist of the Kyiv Theatre Golden Gate, Kharkiv Theater Ampulka and cooperation with directors of Germany, Lithuania and Poland. Today, her productions can be seen on the stages of Hanover, Magdeburg, and Stuttgart. The artist is frank in her works; her questions to the world in many respects are uncompromising. Olesja Golovach theatre is the theatre of a conflict, full of contradictions with elements of trash.

She continues D. Lyder’s theatrical philosophy of creating stage projects based on conflict. She works with dramas, musicals and operas; she designs traditional and non-traditional spaces. The scenery and painting shop of the theatre in the play “Modigliani” becomes the space of the person for whom creativity is an obsession, a kind of madness. New modern formats are used in the performance – the actors dive into buckets of paint and “create” coloured panels on the wall with their bodies, which becomes an integral part of the spatial solution. The audience can see long trains, sleeves and pyjamas in the costumes of the heroes. As to the audience, they lie on the beds like patients, witnesses and accomplices of the tragedy of a creative person.

“Aeneid XXI” is an epic journey in search for the homeland. There is a significant difference in the Ukrainian plot as Aeneas is from Donbas. On the stage, one can see naked machinery and spotlights. The performance begins with black burial bags with the bodies of the victims of the MH-17 plane crash falling from truss structures of the stage frame. The actors enter the space stepping over them. The artist likes to work with metal and its rigid formats. The visual variability of the plastic image is determined by the burnt skeleton of a crashed plane on a stage-rotating circle. The director stages frank provocations on the stage; it is a war, tragedy and trash. What gods rule the world in the ХХІ century? What heroes are revered? And what strange world are they looking for? 

Photo from the play “Aeneid XXI”, Vitaly Chenskyi, director. Maxim Golenko,
Odesa Academic Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater named after Vasyl Vasylka, 2019

Multimedia performance “Vyshyvanyi. The King of Ukraine” is a large-scale production project, which was worked on by a large team including scenography of designer Olesja Holovach. In the libretto of S. Zhadan, questions of Ukrainian identity are raised; ultra-modern electro-acoustic music is used for the performance, complex vocals and a spectacular choreographic-plastic solution of the plot are introduced into the opera. On the stage, one can see a three-story metal structure that connects all plot points in time and space. It represents the visual backbone of the production and the visible development of the hero’s storyline. On its floors one can see the military academy, the place where Archduke William Francis of Habsburg-Lorraine studied, the Carpathians marked by texture and light representing the hero’s meeting with the Ukrainians as well as a section of the trenches of the Second World War and Vyshivanyi’s torture chamber in the Lukyaniv prison. The space is permeated with symbolism. The scenography layers the meanings, allusions and metamorphoses of both the real story and those that have passed through the consciousness of the main character. The similarity of the construction with Christmas Mummers’ Play   allows the artist to develop a wide range of figurative sounds. Ukraine is the hero’s Calvary and the symbolic trident is his throne and cross. Against the background of a black cross, the hero’s shattered dream is lamented. The scenographer carefully worked on the costumes for each character mixing the Ukrainian flavour with the European context. The result is a polyphonic work that can resonate with the innermost strings in the souls of the audience. 

Photo from the opera, “Embroidered. The King of Ukraine”, Serhiy Zhadan, composer. Alla Zagaikevich, director. Rostylav Derzypilskyi, choreographer. Olga Semyoshkina, Kharkiv National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, 2021

Olesja Holovach’s installation in the space of “Garden of Living Things” is “Drink. The Author is not Responsible. Like Russia” and it is a rusty heating pipe as a well. The water taken from it is the last chance for survival for the inhabitants of bombed-out Mariupol. In the impossibility of its use lie acute issues of European ecology, the price for the attack of industrial civilization on nature.

Olenka Polishchuk’s portfolio includes cooperation with the Kyiv Theatre on Podil and the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theatre. She is an art book designer and a participant and organizer of scenographic and book exhibitions.

Capturing the mood of the future theatrical form, the artist constructs a playful visual story on the stage using both ancient symbols-archetypes and figurative locations of the 20th century. Her work is a subtle psychology of influence on the aesthetic perception of a person in the hall. Stylizations programmed by the artist are always a plastic over-design of the performance. She sets the mood of the space, saturates it with details played by the actors and skilfully works with ethnic forms (“Spanish Stories”, “In the Rhythm of Africa”). The costume in all its subtleties and ethnographic shades is an integral element of the artist’s visual dimensions. Olenka Polishchuk touches the depths of the folk worldview and introduces examples of Ukrainian folk art that deepens the sound of the figurative dominant in the director’s explanations; it all looks as if it were all together but in a parallel world (“Enchanted Chumak”).

Photo from the performance “Spanish Stories” and the performance “Rhythms of Africa”, Nataliya Gavrylko, director. Bohdan Polishchuk,
Kyiv National Academic Operetta Theater, 2020

In her installation in the theatrical and musical performance “Nativity Scene. Unlined Mystery” (based on the score of the Galaganovsky nativity scene of the 18th century), Olenka Polishchuk as an artist thinks epic, she creates an atmosphere that will allow the director to saturate the real space with mystical life. The theatre of luminous vitinanki (a Slavic version of papercutting art), colour and musical score fuel the imagination of the audience. According to the definition of music critics, “Complex things are presented here simply and organically. It sounds like a pun but it’s a kind of a cosy experiment.” The artist generalizes the form in costumes and gives them signs of solemnity. Their coloristic sophistication is an expressive part of the spatial solution of the performance. The project can be adapted to the historical/modern space taking into account its proportional patterns, light and colour possibilities.

Photo from the music and theater performance “Vertep. Neo-baroque mystery”, according to the score of the 18th century. Galaganiv nativity scene, dir. Bohdan Polishchuk, Ignea Corda Art Formation, shows in the Great Bell Tower of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, National Center “Ukrainian House”, 2021

In the space of “Garden of Living Things” Olenka Polishchuk’s project is called “Theatre of Memories” and it is an attempt to record time, preserve and pass on a part of our existence to the next generations.

The design of the pavilion was developed by scenograher and costume designer Bohdan Polishchuk, one of the most active figures in the scenographic space of Ukraine. He is the curator of art projects (Lviv Quadriennale of Scenography) and the compiler of the popular publication “Ukrainian theatrical costume of the XX-XXI centuries. Sketches” and the author of theatrical performances (scenography and directing), which are on the stages of the country. Bohdan Polishchuk is the man who is infinitely in love with the history and culture of his native country and knows it to the smallest detail. The work of the young artist is an example of scenographic optics and insight in folklore and ethnographic material full of mythological overtones. The Garden proposed by him is an image of the victory of life, restoration and continuous incessant movement towards the future. In addition, we, the participants of PK-23, know for sure that after terrible storms the Garden will certainly recover, bloom abound with life and the voices of future creative generations.

Author of the article:

Olena Kovalchuk,
Doctor of art history, associate professor 


  1. Scenography. In Search of Particular Aesthetics. 1920-2020 / Compiled by A.I. Aleksandrovich-Dochevskyi, text by O. Kovalchuk – Kyiv: Publishing House Antiqar, pp. 2029 – 304.