MEMORIAL SIGN TO PAVLO SHEREMET: ARTISTIC PRACTICES IN THE FIELD OF COMMEMORATION

18.08.2020
At the end of July 2020, a memorial sign to the journalist Pavlo Sheremet was opened in Kyiv. The significance of this event — perhaps not yet fully understood — lies not only in the social and political sphere but also in the artistic sphere. It is an example of how modern art joins the work with collective memory. We learned about the history of the project's design and its implementation.
The author of the memorial sign was sculptor Nazar Bilyk. Maxym Kozub developed architectural solutions for the project. At the request of Pavlo Sheremet's relatives and colleagues, who initiated and financed the installation, they proposed a minimalist monument: a white marble stele in the form of a creased sheet of paper. It was the first and only idea presented to the mother and friends of the deceased journalist.

"I understood that I might not be able to turn this idea into reality", said the artist, "but I wanted to move away from the fixation on weeping and regrets and do something bright. So it's not a portrait; it's something more global, about broader senses. Of course, if this sheet were made of bronze, it would be perceived as a tragedy. But this is what we wanted to overcome".
All photos by Yevgen Nikiforov
The memorial sign, in height, is roughly equal to that of a human. The creased sheet of paper became the personification of Pavlo Sheremet; white paper became the field of life and the words of the man who had the position and the courage to defend it. The name of the journalist is placed centrally as the only possible way to identify the person. But you can only read the inscription on the facade. With each step backwards or sideways, the name gradually disappears, and the drama of the creased sheet of paper unfolds in front of the viewer.
The typeface is another story. Natalia Gut designed it. To make the inscription look like authentic handwriting as if pressed with a pen, immersed in «paper», it was inscribed with sand under a lot of pressure. But that's not all. The monument has a complex geometry and many creases. The size of each letter was chosen, depending on the perspective, to make them look the same and read clearly. If you look closely, they are all different heights.
IT BECAME THE PERSONIFICATION OF PAVLO SHEREMET, AND THE WHITE PAPER BECAME THE FIELD OF LIFE AND THE WORDS OF THE MAN WHO HAD THE POSITION AND THE COURAGE TO DEFEND IT.
In general, attention to details is a crucial feature of this project. Visual simplicity has been achieved by complex shapes, engineering calculations, a frame of stainless steel inside and artificial marble outside — and this is not the kind of material you have to work with daily, emphasised Nazar Bilyk. As a result, the laconic sculpture weighed about one ton. He repeatedly placed the layout on the location to ensure that the monument correctly fitted the environment.
The location is another critical moment. The memorial sign was intended to be placed in the square on the corner of the streets of Reitarska and Striletska. It was named after Pavlo Sheremet last year. But the artist and the architect understood that there were many other accents: a mural on the wall, shops, a pizzeria, etc. Therefore, the project appeared at the intersection of Ivan Franko and Bohdan Khmelnitsky streets, where the journalist's car was blown up in 2016. Since then, flowers have constantly appeared on the site of the tragedy, and it was important for the creative group to take into account the actual place of memory, complementing it with the sculpture.

"As a team, we tried to avoid problems that could have arisen through the creative reflection on the place, considered every detail", Nazar Bilyk says. And adds, "You can't joke with the old town". Besides the fact that it is the area of responsibility of many public services in Kyiv and there are many old communications, it is also a cultural centre. The Ministry of Culture is located here, plaques of honour to former residents, Ukrainian scientists and intellectuals, and nearby there is the Rolit Writer's House. "The meaning of creases of the cultural layer, which the monument has, suited this place especially well", explains the artist.
He hopes that the memorial sign does not dominate the environment and is entirely accepted by the viewer. Moreover, the goal was a meaningful reset of that space: the monument which marks the beginning of the green zone, is organically integrated into the life of the intersection with its constant movement. The scene of the murder remains the scene of the murder. Its memory does not disappear but takes on a new form and other shades.

Like any sculpture, it is better to see this work live. Photos do not convey the sense of personal interaction, texture, or engagement with the environment. If you are near the area at night, says Nazar Bilyk, be sure to look at the lighting: in the dark, this monument looks even better than in daylight.


The project Past / Future / Art is implemented in partnership with forumZFD Programme in Ukraine. forumZFD is an international non-governmental organization, which supports civil society in countries affected by war and conflict. forumZFD works with experts in conflict transformation in Germany, and numerous other countries in Europe, Middle East and South-East Asia.