The 24th of February 2022 is often described as the date that suddenly and irreversibly divided time into a „before“ and „after“. However, while it is indisputable that the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia marked the definitive point of no return to a „before“, it also exists in a long line of a still vastly underrepresented history of brutal Russian aggression against its neighboring states that can be traced back centuries.

The exhibition All the Dots Connected Form an Open Space Within investigates how experiences of violence, oppression, and the horrors of war can be addressed artistically, through personal observation of how they affect everyday lives and their surroundings, as well as through the diverse strategies of resistance and care that are created in response. The title describes a shift of perspective away from the certainties provided by the usual points of reference often marked by entries on a map or timeline. This shift is not necessarily to negate these points of reference, but rather to highlight the space in between that typically remains in the shadows. Hereby, the exhibition invites us to question the grand symbolic gestures that are meant to stand alone and proposes a more intimate approach that allows us to dissolve the sharp boundaries of temporality, and view past and present as dynamic and closely connected.

Tamuna Chabashvili (*1979, Georgia) explores shelters that are close to the body in her textile works. As material, she uses second-hand blankets which she collects from friends or finds at local flea markets in Georgia. Such textiles can be found in countless Eastern European households, but during forced migration, they are often used to provide warmth and protection from wind and weather or to store belongings. Beyond its immediate practical functionality, the practice of weaving is closely linked to female storytelling and the artistic material inscription of both personal and collective experiences throughout cultures and history. Textiles therefore act as traces, archives, and tools at the same time. Diverse stories and memories of migration, displacement, and trauma, situated in the cultural context of Georgia – which also experienced an attack by Russia – form the basis of Tamuna‘s work. On one of the blanket canvases, the map of occupied Abkhasia is presented as a dynamic grid of knots. However, the artist‘s work does not follow the usual archival practice of accumulation but is the result of a process of extraction and distillation. Tamunas objects are thus characterized by a personal search for the essential that reveals itself beyond historical references.

In his works, Sergey Shabohin (*1984, Belarus) focuses on the relationship between state control, hidden knowledge, and forms of resistance. His mural Friendship Mound (Three Sisters) floats above the exhibition in shades of gray. It depicts a monument that stands on the tri-border between Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and is supposed to represent the friendship between the countries as a cake with a piece cut out. The 3D scan of the monument can also be found as part of another work, next to objects resembling books. These carry titles in Belarusian that describe the spectrum of very subtle shades of grief and pain that the language differentiates and that can be traced in their entirety throughout Belarusian literature. The objects are surrounded by a self-adhesive foil with a marble motif that can be associated with social transformation due to its simplicity of use and distribution. However, the heaviness of the marble also symbolizes the deceptive promises of the Soviet regime and the authoritarian Belarusian government apparatus. The pattern is also present in Sergey’s third work for the exhibition, a series of collages made of postcards and newspaper clippings with paintings by Ukrainian artist Archip Kuindschi (1841-1910). As a representative of Romanticism, he is beloved for his paintings of the landscape of Mariupol, where he was born and lived. Those landscapes are as beautiful as they are politically charged. Today, with the brutal destruction and occupation of Mariupol by the Russians, who also looted the museum dedicated to Archip Kuindschi among many others, his paintings have not lost their haunting relevance.

Zhenia Stepanenko (*1996, Ukraine) examines how the relationship to the dacha has fundamentally changed in Ukraine during the invasion. Dachas are small weekend houses in the countryside that offer both relaxation from the hustle and bustle of city life and the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables. As dachas stand for comfort and well-being, many people fled to them in an attempt to escape the impending invasion. But with the brutal presence of occupants, dachas proved to be anything but safe. Zhenia explores how the loss of security and privacy in these treasured spaces, as well as the fear of a return of occupation, translates into a haunting. An awareness that the boundaries of these places of refuge have crumbled and are unable to hold back the external dangers. Zhenia‘s objects bear witness to this transformation and the accompanying uncanny penetration of all everyday activities. Combining decorative and esoteric objects with rusty tools and weapons, they are playful and seem harmless, but at the same time, they resonate with the necessity of defense and determined strength. The complex protagonist of the work is Zhenia‘s gardener grandfather at his beloved dacha in Chernihiv in the north of Ukraine. This biographical reference adds another layer to the concern about a renewed occupation. To many of the older people in Ukraine, the Russian occupation still brings back fresh memories of the devastating German occupation of the country during the Second World War.

The exhibition is part of the project series “War and Peace. Exchange across borders” which the taz Panter Foundation launched in 2022 with support of the Federal Foreign Office.