From the VASA Film/Video Archive
Alena Grom, Ukraine
Gray Zone: Video works on Donbas, Ukraine.
Alena Grom was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, where she lived until 2014. In January that year she ran a housewarming party in her long awaited newly-built house. In April 2014, when the separatist coup began, she had to abandon it and flee to a refuge in Kyiv. Later her house, left unattended, was robbed by marauders, there were shootings and pools of blood inside it.
The artist keeps returning to the frontline territory in Donbas to make her projects.The videos displayed here are the artist responses to conditions in what Grom refer to as the "The Gray Zone": Video works on Donbas, Ukraine.
Series curator: Igor Manko
Hypoxia. Airport (2015, 4 min.15 seconds)
“The battle for Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev airport was going on from May 2014 to January 2015. Ukrainian military tried to keep this important strategic object, but after 242 days of fierce fighting was forced to leave it. One of the largest airports in the country is completely destroyed now. May 26, 2014, during the first battle, my car, which was parked at the airport, was pierced by a machine gun bullet. Between battles, my husband managed to bring the car back. I found the bullet and kept it as a memento” (artist’s statement). Sergei Prokofiev, a well-known 20th century composer, was born in Donetsk region in 1891. The audio in this video is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets” from his Romeo and Juliet ballet.
Hypoxia. Airport (2015, 4 min.15 seconds)
Medium of instruction
Children of the war say
“The town of Maryinka is now located on the front line. The border between Ukrainian military and separatist armed groups dissects it in two. About 6500 people live in Maryinka, among them 493 are children. These people for various reasons could not leave the war zone. There are fights in the outskirts. The inhabitants are constantly forced to hide in shelters. 323 children of Maryinka attend two schools in the locality” (artist’s statement).
Grom’s Medium of instruction video shows children in their classrooms, school interiors with whiteboards and other teaching paraphernalia, empty streets and ruined buildings but it’s the nearby war that is the most significant teaching tool for them.
Medium of instruction (2017, 5.15)
In Children of the war say Maryinka's children describe their dreams and wishes for their future.
"I dream that I am outside with my friends, and future, there is no shellings."
"I'm a fairy and I save everybody."
"In my dreams I see butterflies".
In the end they all say "I wish the war was over."
Children of the war say (2017, 4 min..02 seconds)
Grom created The Womb project in 2018 on the front-line territory of Donbas. The images tell stories of the women who decided to give birth to a child while living in a war zone. The artist’s models are both mothers and children of war, some of the latter more than four years old by now. The shelters are where these children spent their weekdays, where they learned to walk and talk, where they had their first life experiences for all four years of the war around. The Womb is a story of life in spite of death, war and violence.
Alena Grom perceives the territory of Donbas as a living organism, so she builds her work on a medical metaphor. Soil and shelters are paralleled to an ultrasound pregnancy test. Residents of mining towns are an intrauterine fetus that develops and lives a full life, but in full dependence on its mother.” (From Katerina Yakovlenko’s essay)
View: "The Womb", a VASA exhibition
The Womb (2018, 4 min..05 seconds)
The Gray Zone
The video shows the localities close to the front line that are under permanent fire by the separatists. And, surprisingly, they are inhabited. The girl in the video was wounded during an artillery shelling. “That I’m still alive, that I serve my Lord, it is God’s mercy” she sings accompanying herself with amateurish guitar chords.
The Gray Zone (6 min..25 seconds)
Residents of the City of Roses (2019, 9.09)
Donetsk is the largest city on the territory occupied by Russian separatist insurgents. In 1970, UNESCO awarded Donetsk the title «City of a Million Roses». The city had the population of about a million — one rose bush per person. The separatist administration of the city use the motto to create a propaganda media image of well-being and prosperity in the self-proclaimed “republic.” by planting roses in the street flowerbeds. The video uses material from online sources.
Residents of the City of Roses (2019, 9 mon..09 seconds)
Alena Grom Website: alenagrom.com
Interview for In The In-between Journal
To celebrate the moving image VASA presents works from various paradigms and genres.The series is supported through the actions of the VASA community of volunteers.