2023, 4k video, sound, color, 8’16’’
Video installation Ici et ailleurs (Here and elsewhere), is about the artist’s mother, who is an organ player and musician. The artist calls upon many iconic art historical images of artists’ mothers, including that of James McNeill Whistler. Karabinovych films his mother playing Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings on an invisible organ.
She is surrounded by silence, as Karabinovych removes the noise of the video, layering an almost empty soundtrack consisting primarily of wind, moving hands and background noises (“fragile sounds”, as artist describes them).
In this way, the artist partakes in his mother’s loss. If she cannot hear the sound of her music, neither can he – and neither can the viewer.
The artist realised that by creating a space of shared grief, the artwork could even “help her come back to her passion, reactivate something within her.” The artwork has deep repercussions even beyond the personal grief that it unveils. Karabinovych describes the silence as “a metaphor for absence”, relating it to his and his mother’s physical distance from home in Ukraine. He explains, “I am not experiencing the war in a full, and neither is she. So, I can only speak of it in silence. But, this absence is a tough task. We do not have as much distance from it as it seems. We are deeply connected. So my strategy is silence. With silence, you can connect. Dealing with trauma sometimes starts with silence.”
This new artwork by Nikolay Karabinovych is the final chapter of the trilogy that the artist has been developing over the last four years. The first part, The Voice of Thin Silence, told a story about his grandfather who was deported to Kazakhstan in 1949. In the second one, entitled Even Further, Karabinovych was researching his own Greek and Jewish roots, reflecting on the historical tension between these peoples, which now have their respective diasporas co-existing in modern-day Odesa. In the third and final chapter, he dives into experiences having to do with yet another ordeal faced by a member of his family, this time the artist's mother.
While consistently sharing personal, familial stories, he chooses to present them in a very minimalist and concise way, sparing the details and thus allowing the viewer to better relate to the plot.
In this retelling of a small personal tragedy, the artist implies millions of similar ones destined to pass unnoticed due to their assumed insignificance as compared to atrocities of war. He emphasises the tension between the presence and absence that many Ukrainians in exile experience nowadays. In the video, the artist's mother plays Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings on an imaginary organ.
No music is heard and no audience is seen on the screen; she is surrounded by silence and solitude of a desolate desert.