Danish artists help push the political agenda through Ukrainian art

Two Danish artists behind Hesselholdt and Mejlvang recently unveiled their new project, Points of Unity, in the Ukrainian capital. With a focus on hope and better future, the artist duo hopes to have their own small effect on the political landscape.

Vibeke Mejlvang and Sofie Hesselholdt in their studio in Copenhagen. Photo: Filip Platos

 

By Filip Platos, Soyeon Kim and Patrick Dejbjerg

On a crowded street in the middle of Copenhagen two artists sit in their studio. Sketches cover the walls, research books sit stacked on tables and shelves. On the table a laptop slumbers.

Everything in the room belongs to a couple of artists. Partners. Known professionally as Hesselholdt and Mejlvang, privately they prefer to go by Sofie and Vibeke. The two have worked together for 19 years now, both internationally and in Denmark, but their latest project, Points of Unity, was their first venture into Ukraine.

“We had been talking to a curator from Ukraine for a couple of years about doing a project together. She finally e-mailed us about this opportunity for this billboard project in Kiev, which we were thrilled about,” explains Sofie Hesselholdt.

Art as a political language

Since their very first project about the pressures of being a woman in modern society, Sofie Hesselholdt and Vibeke Mejlvang knew they wanted to be a voice in society. A voice to help expose issues in the structures of different societies.

“We have chosen to see art as a language that is important in our society. We hope it can help make some changes. I am sure it can help make some changes. I would like to push people’s way of thinking a little bit,” says Sofie Hesselholdt.

Points of Unity was another one of those projects. But rather than expose an issue Ukraine, they felt that, based on research and comments from Ukrainians, what was really needed was a spark of hope and pride in a country, which recently has primarily been the focus of conflicts such as the annexation of Crimea in 2014, revolution in the same year or corruption.

“We started with the Ukrainian flag, which is a blue on top and yellow on the bottom, like a sky and field. We got very keen on this idea of the flag with something new emerging from the middle of the old flag,” says Vibeke Mejlvang.

Since yellow and blue combined become green, the color of hope, working to with the Ukrainian flag turned out to be the perfect match for the pair. In January when they unveiled the work under much secrecy, colors were the only thing shown to the public in what they called phase one. In phase two, a month later, they completed their project by adding short sentences to the paintings. The sentences or slogans were things such as ‘Let’s look for Points of Unity’ and ‘THIS MOMENT is the Beginning’

“All the slogans are really important. They are about how we can unite as a people, about places where we can connect. Basically, the main idea was looking toward a better future,” says Sofie Hesselholdt.

Ultimate goal

The projects arose in collaboration with IZOLYATSIA, a Ukrainian platform for contemporary culture and Big Media, which is the biggest operator of outdoor advertising in Ukraine. Currently the project is still available for viewing in Kiev, with no plans to remove it anytime soon. In fact, the project might be shown in another city in Ukraine, but nothing is decided yet.

“One of the problems is that our audience is usually people who think similarly to how we do – they visit galleries, art institutions, but it is just a small segment of society. In a project like this in Ukraine we reach out to a wider audience. I really hope we can make some changes,” says Sofie Hesselholdt.

Sketches for the Points of Unity Project. Photo: Filip Platos.