Ukrainians: the people who cannot go home. 2018, Taras Shevchenko five-book set, VHS tape of New Order, 25 x 19 x 15 cm.

Ukrainians: the people who cannot go home

The story started when the artist watched a concert video of the Manchester band New Order, which was shot in 1981 in the Ukrainian National Home.

The video starts with a close-up of the portrait of the Ukrainian national symbol, the 19th century poet Taras Shevchenko. The same canonical portrait became the cover image for the official concert VHS tape, which was released two years later in the United Kingdom and the USA.

Encountering the heroized Shevchenko in this unexpected spot became a turning point in Karabinovych’s overall understanding of the relationship between national identity and contemporary culture as well as the potential unifying aspects of music and dance.

Extending his predilection towards speculative time extension as an imagined space of connection, Karabinovych bridges together the Ukrainian diaspora in Manchester and Manchester’s most famous band.

He does by inviting the folk dance ensemble Orlyk, who are named after an 18th century cossack hetman and perform at Manchester’s ‘Dnipro’ Ukrainian Cultural Centre, to cover a New Order song.

The resulting video documentation shows eleven participants of the dance ensemble and two accordionists performing an adaptation of New Order’s “Chosen Time.” This track was the first performed by the band at the aforementioned concert in New York, and was the one accompanied by Shevchenko’s portrait.

The documentary was a core part of the interdisciplinary project Ukrainians: the people who cannot go home. The documentary was complemented with interviews conducted by the artist with diaspora activists, who discussed the history of the Ukrainian community in Manchester, the challenges they faced, and the ways in which they maintained ties.

The title of the project follows the speculative name of a BBC documentary film from 1978— “Ukrainians: People who couldn’t go home.”

Karabinovych appropriates this dramatic, overloaded metaphor and relates it to the context of underground culture, which has a storied history in both England and Ukraine and whose most fervent participants, who stay out till late morning can be seen as a people who cannot go home. But is this really an obstacle? Or an accomplishment?