Residency dates: July 24 – August 20, 2023
Artists: Vira Ibriamova-Syvoraksha, Anastasiya Voytyuk, Stanislav Turina, Anna Sapon, Oleksandr Steshenko
Community: residents of the Pidzamche district, Lviv
Place: Jam Factory Art Center, Lviv, Ukraine
Curator text: Anna Gaidai
Unpacking the Sound
What transpires when the idea of merging diverse experiences, practices, and approaches is fearlessly embraced by all involved? The “Unpacking the Sound” Community Arts Residency unfolded, bringing together the Jam Factory Art Center team, resident artists, and the community of the Pidzamche district in Lviv. The residency’s name served as a guiding principle for collaboration. “Unpacking” underscores a focus on the process, its intrinsic value, without necessitating the creation of a final product or result, such as an art object or exhibition. Simultaneously, the unpacked, extracted “Sound” seamlessly combines process and result.
The exploration of sound was envisioned as an opportunity to engage with one’s voice, creating a “co-voice,” involving music-making through the body, movement, or other available means. Examining sound as an integral component of visual images was a fundamental aspect of the overall concept. The collaborative process between residents and participants was designed to be multidisciplinary. As we formulated the residency with invited artists, Vira Ibriamova-Syvoraksha aptly stated, “We will approach sound through different paths, each of us paving the way with what we do best.”
Since February 24, 2022, many in Ukraine have found it challenging to articulate the profound pain induced by russia’s war in Ukraine. In moments of anxiety and threat, the brain enters survival mode, hindering the full expression and safe release of fear, grief, and anger. We hold ourselves together, remaining composed for sensible decision-making, out of concern for loved ones, and the responsibility to care for children without causing them distress. The screams of anger and the wails of grief, the desire to retreat out of fear and helplessness, are suppressed within us, as our body and brain respond to traumatic events, preserving our psyche in times of crisis. Even in times of peace, there is scarce room for the ecologically sound expression of “negative” emotions, causing us to internalize them. However, unexpressed emotions persist and become obstacles to personal growth and progress. Unfelt emotions linger, seemingly occupying space within us and weighing us down, making it challenging to infuse freshness and harmony into our lives.
Voice exercises, sound techniques, and singing emerge as healing modalities, clearing the body and mind of emotional blocks through sound vibrations. Additionally, specialized breathing techniques are employed for sound and singing, enriching the blood with oxygen and normalizing vital system functioning. Our ancestors leveraged this knowledge in daily rituals and chants, utilizing sound vibrations for self-healing. The application of techniques involving sound exploration, experimental and traditional singing, and vocal rituals for practical use in contemporary settings became a collective focus during the artistic residency.
Over the course of a month, we sought and permitted ourselves the sounds that liberated us. We explored individual and collective sounds, striving to capture purifying sounds to share with others.
Community of Pidzamche residents
People who agreed to participate in the “Unpacking the Sound” program through an open call are residents of the Pidzamche district, which is currently undergoing revitalization, so the area is changing rapidly. The population of the Pidzamche district, as well as the whole of Lviv, has experienced significant changes due to the full-scale russian war in Ukraine—many families have moved to Lviv from the war zone. Despite the war, a contemporary art center, the Jam Factory, opened in Pidzamche and became a magnet for people interested in contemporary theatre, visual art, and music. For the Jam Factory Art Center, good neighborly relations and participant practices remain essential aspects of its work. Therefore, this year’s residency was a platform for renewing the dialogue with Pidzamche locals that had been started long ago and for making new acquaintances with those who have recently settled in the area. This residency also served as a place to explore the role of art during wartime and the forms of inclusion in community art projects.
Out of 28 applications, we confirmed the participation of 17 applicants, intentionally forming a diverse group. Participants included women and men aged between 24 and 67 from different fields of activity – IT, project management, cultural management, event organization, accounting, freelancing, cosmetics retail, and various professions – construction supermarket employee, retiree, writer, preschool teacher, and correctional teacher.
Artists in residency
Vira Ibriamova-Syvoraksha, a composer and teacher of traditional singing, curates the traditional music community “Singing Workshop” in Chernihiv, where all enthusiasts explore their sound and study the local singing tradition. “I focus my voice research on natural sound, free from constraints and fears, and work accordingly. I want to dedicate the program’s time to the sound of each and every one through attention, care, and self-love,” that’s how Vira described her work in the residency program. In addition, during the residency in Lviv, Vira practiced the Orff Approach—accessible elementary music-making—and brought a suitcase of musical Orff instruments from Chernihiv.
Oleksandr Steshenko has a wide range of artistic experience, from acting in films and theatre to writing scripts, parodying, working with props, and participating in exhibitions. As an actor, he is involved in the folk theatre “Parostky” and has participated in international and all-Ukrainian theatre festivals and touring abroad. Oleksandr played in such films as “The Tribe,” “Captivity,” “The Man Who Dreamed,” “Autopsy Will Show,” and in theatrical performances like “Vertep,” “Good Horton,” “Cherry Orchard,” and “Exiles”. Since 2018, he has been collaborating with “atelienormalno,” a studio for artists with Down syndrome. Together with the studio, he participated in exhibitions in IZOLYATSIA, the Museum of Modern Art of Odesa, The Naked Room gallery, the Virtual Museum of Naive Art, and others.
Anna Sapon is a member of the Kyiv-based art collective “atelienormalno,” participating in various exhibition projects and residencies in Ukraine. Anna tells us about herself, “I embroider with beads, weave with wire, and knit macramé. I used to make cardboard boxes, regular notebooks. I worked in the school cafeteria at the Politekhnichnyi Instytut metro station. Now, I work officially at the Auchan store. I used to play tennis and participated in badminton competitions in China, Moscow, and Luxembourg. I did football competitions in Greece, basketball in Japan, cross-country skiing in Ireland, table tennis in Los Angeles, and swimming in Dubai.” Anna also paints and writes texts.
Stanislav Turina, an artist, poet, former co-curator, and co-founder of the “Detenpyla” and “Yefremova 26” galleries in Lviv, currently works with the “atelienormalno” studio in Kyiv. “I have had many exhibitions, participated in exhibitions, and curated many exhibitions, mostly in Ukraine. I work with sculpture, graphics, objects, texts, and on Facebook,” Stanislav Turina says about himself. In 2012, he co-founded the group of artists “Open Group.” By 2019, he was a co-curator of the Ukrainian national pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale and a co-founder of “atelienormalno” in Kyiv—a studio for artists with and without Down syndrome.
In the community art program “Unpacking the Sound,” Stanislav Turina, Anna Sapon, and Oleksandr Steshenko jointly present the “atelienormalno” studio, showcasing their practices as an important social glue in working with the team and community. Specifically, Stanislav is an assistant and colleague of Anna and Oleksandr.
Anastasiya Voytyuk is a musician, cultural manager, and bandura player who “misbehaves and experiments.” The artist says she loves provoking genuine non-verbal contact between people through song and movement, drawing great energy from Ukrainian folk songs, which she works with in her folk fusion band “Troye Zillia.” Anastasiya is an ambassador of the bandura, having co-created the Bandura App and launched the Lviv Bandur Fest, a festival of contemporary bandura in Lviv. She enjoys physical theatre and has been a participant, producer, and musical curator for various theatrical projects. She has been producing one of Ukraine’s first inclusive theatre festivals, “The Way,” for 15 years. During the “Unpacking the Sound” program, Anastasiya worked with voice, movement, and breath, drawing knowledge from Ukrainian folk singing, theatrical, and performative experience.
Program and Process
The artists in residency worked within the general theme and concept of “Unpacking the Sound.” Simultaneously, they offered their programs, consisting of thematic blocks and sequences, which we collectively integrated into a single structure. As the residents did not know each other before and had not cooperated, it took time and a lot of effort to collaborate and fine-tune their approaches, especially since the majority of the preparatory work for the program took place online.
During the month of the residency, some artists traveled back and forth or sometimes couldn’t participate due to personal circumstances. Thus, our methods of information transmission to stay on the same page included narrating the beginning of the story or recording the end of a conversation, documenting practices during community meetings, and recording reflections almost every day after activities. Further review of the documented material was akin to listening to an audio series.
The “Unpacking the Sound” program comprised eight meetings with a fixed group of residents—people from Pidzamche who registered through an open call. We met twice a week for two and four hours over one month. Additionally, the residency artists held two open meetings attended by all interested Lviv locals, around fifty participants, who tried working with sound there.
The frequent air raid sirens in Lviv sharply focused our attention on security and news. Those warning sounds seemed to disrupt our newly created world in the community circle, reminding us of its fragility in a country at war. Simultaneously, it was easier to physically and mentally endure the wailing of air raid sirens when we were all together. We talked through our anxieties, voiced our feelings, and thus released ourselves.
The artists’ practices at the beginning of the residency focused on getting to know each other and building trust among all participants. Subsequently, the practices contributed to a deeper understanding and interaction through movement, sound, and singing. From the first meeting, it was evident how all participants opened up and embraced caring for themselves and others, not hiding the need for such care. On that day, Anastasiya Voytyuk suggested dividing into pairs. The partners took turns singing their favorite song. When one participant sang and moved with their back turned, their partner followed the song with their eyes closed. It was essential not to bump into other pairs and not to lose your partner.
In addition to sound and movement practices, the artists used instruments for music-making according to the Orff Approach, drew on shared paper, created paper sculptures to be reproduced in the positioning of their bodies, and engaged in discussions with notes, markers, and stickers. The entire program was a multidisciplinary process where all artists took on roles as both presenters and participants. Community members, in particular, often played the role of leaders. This approach helped eliminate unnecessary hierarchy within the group and allowed for a more diverse way of working with the thematic blocks of the residency. We held most of the meetings in two rooms and in the yard of the Jam Factory Art Center, also exploring the sounds of the Pidzamche district by moving through the streets around the art center. Based on video and audio recorded by the participants in the streets of the Pidzamche district, as well as voice and sound materials from the practice in the Jam Factory halls, Anastasiya created “silent portraits.”
The thematic blocks developed by Vira and Anastasiya within the overarching idea of “Unpacking the Sound” were logically structured into a shared program that combined various practices and best contributed to the creative expression of the participants. The blocks were called Trust, Shelter/Safety, Birth of Sound, Collective Sound/Unison, I Am. Me-Intro. Working with Voice, Group-I-Group, and City Outing. Anastasiya held the first introductory meetings, gradually “turning the gears,” as noted by Vira. Anastasiya and Stanislav held some activities together, and then voice and movement practices were supplemented by voicing thoughts and discussing everyday and extraordinary occurrences. One of Stanislav’s practices involved all participants discussing their favorite place and time in the city, which were then turned into musical postcards. On the postcards, participants drew objects they felt were lacking and expressed these expanded visual images through their voices, musical instruments, and audio recordings, creating solo performances.
From meeting to meeting, our relationship with the Pidzamche residents developed harmoniously and easily. The group positively embraced activities that were new to them. For example, practices with elements of traditional singing or experiments with sound and musical instruments, the need to move together or individually, which were led mainly by Vira and Anastasiya. Besides, there were practices where participants had to define and justify simple yet non-trivial questions, such as “I am like everyone/I am different,” as proposed by Stanislav.
One of Vira’s practices invited participants to play with the sound of their names, breaking them into syllables, prolonging, shortening, or getting stuck on certain letters. At the next stage of the practice, each participant could already create sound compositions. To do this, the participant, as a conductor, shaped the duration and content of the composition by touching other participants, “switching them on” or “off.” People who were touched by the conductor would call out their names in a bizarre way. Everyone willing could be a conductor. It was a polyphonic choir where the participants co-created and at the same time declared themselves through their names in space and environment.
During the residency, Vira dedicated much time to working with the Orff Approach. She offered various practices using musical Orff instruments and their combination with movement or voice. Playing music on Orff instruments brought joy to everyone who picked them up. On the one hand, this made it possible to sound individually, and on the other hand, to merge into the common rhythm and musical narrative. One practice resembled a solo dance: the rectangular space on the floor was divided into squares, each containing musical instruments. Participants chose instruments and memorized from which square they took them. Then, a volunteer started moving across the squares of the rectangle, and other participants applied their instruments as soon as they saw movement in the square corresponding to their instrument. It was a solo dance in which each step activated a musical instrument, uniting individual sounds into an orchestra with a dancer-conductor.
In another activity, we played a score, which is quite challenging for non-musicians. However, thanks to the Orff Approach, we managed it quickly. The basis for the music was the melody of Anastasiya’s grandmother’s song “Heavenly Apples”, for which Vira divided the participants into groups of Orff instruments and showed when and how each group should perform its part.
On the final meeting of the program, Vira’s practice “cloud,” true to its name, filled everyone with lightness, tranquility, and love for each other. This was another activity in which everyone participated. One part of the group held and swung the poly film (cloud), another played music on Orff instruments, and the third group lay on their backs, gazing at the cloud above them and listening to the improvised melody. Each participant decided when they wanted to lie down, play music, or hold the cloud.
At the end of our month together, one of the older participants shared that she had been “waiting for such a program all her life,” while another sadly concluded, “You have ‘tamed’ us, and what do we do now after the program?”
What should a group of adults in need of time for themselves without a goal of acquiring useful skills do? Or without the ambition to create artwork? However, inevitably acquiring skills of openness and acceptance within the group’s diversity and creating shared musical compositions or performances, going through transformative experiences. Step by step, we “unpacked” not only sound but also new questions and directions for further work.
Inclusion in professional cooperation
Throughout the residency program, a central theme of inclusion was the professional collaboration with artists with Down syndrome, Oleksandr Steshenko and Anna Sapon from the “atelienormalno” studio. It was a unique relationship for all of us, a kind of “pilot” that paves the way for future similar projects of professional collaborations with neurodivergent individuals and communities through art. Until now, artists with Down syndrome have not been residents of the Magic Carpets Platform, whose values include diversity and inclusion. Therefore, expanding the Platform’s experience and gaining knowledge about such collaborations were important aspects for the Jam Factory team and the “atelienormalno” studio. It was also an opportunity to build interaction while being in different roles. For Oleksandr and Anna, these were primarily the roles of resident artists, who could share their artistic practices with fellow artists outside of the “atelienormalno,” in contrast to their usual roles as artists working in their own field with a fixed circle of colleagues. We planned that Anna and Oleksandr would be able to engage the community in co-creation and were looking for ways to make it happen. The openness of the resident assistant and artist-curator Stanislav Turina, who has been working with Anna and Oleksandr in the “atelienormalno” studio for several years, made it possible to implement such collaboration and, first of all, the physical arrival of Anna and Oleksandr to the Magic Carpets residency from Kyiv to Lviv. Approaching an understanding of the needs of people with Down syndrome, it can be said that their stay in Lviv at the residency is also an investment in their independent living skills, being away from home during unconventional hours, and making new acquaintances, forming both friendly and professional networks.
Despite the sincere desire to collaborate and build horizontal relationships in the multidisciplinary process of the residency, working with colleagues from the “atelienormalno” studio turned out to be expectedly unpredictable. However, lacking prior experience, the art center team and all the residents didn’t fully grasp the difficulties that could arise and how much time would be needed to resolve them. Some challenges, like force majeure circumstances, proved impossible to overcome. In contrast, others, such as spending time together in person before activities, taught us valuable lessons, and we’ll plan more time for that in the future.
The mentioned challenges significantly impacted the inability to form a fixed program of meetings between artists and the community. Therefore, we all mainly worked with high flexibility and adaptability.
Recognizing one’s openness and willingness to work on equal terms with all colleagues to prevent exclusion and discrimination was an important stage and, at the same time, a challenge faced by all residents and the team. Despite our delicate and subtle efforts to tune in to each other, a paradox occurred. According to Stanislav Turina, those who had previously worked with inclusion and had such an experience in their own families were “unprepared.” An incident during one of the activities of the “Unpacking the Sound” residency summarized this observation.
Oleksandr Steshenko stood on one side, performing the tasks of the “Echo” game, and said to all the participants gathered on the other side: “You’re doing it wrong,” “Why are you repeating?” “Don’t you understand?” “How can anyone work with you at all?”. And we all shouted these phrases back at him as an echo. Oleksandr, a theater and film actor, a person with Down syndrome, wasn’t acting; he was addressing all participants quite seriously. He unknowingly voiced the internal questions and concerns that neurotypical people have about inclusive work. At that moment, we exchanged roles in our life experiences, looked through a different lens, and, for a few seconds, understood the perspective of neurodivergent people. It was a significant exchange. “We realized the problem did not exist with people with disabilities. The problem existed with people that didn’t have disabilities,” a quote from the documentary film “Crip Camp” that, as explained by Stanislav Turina, somewhat captured our occasionally confused state.
This state further encouraged us to continue thinking about professional collaboration between residents and artists in “atelienormalno,” as well as cooperation with the community, considering the limitations and opportunities.
A significant mutual achievement was establishing a format for the comprehensive presentation of Oleksandr’s directorial and acting practices, an artist from the “atelienormalno” studio. In one meeting, all – artists, the community, and the team – became actors in Oleksandr’s script “Pirate Saha,” performed as a musical without rehearsals. Oleksandr and Vira’s collaboration seamlessly merged the acting of non-professional actors with elementary music-making using the Orff Approach. Depending on the role in Oleksandr’s script, Vira suggested musical instruments for the actors to complement their verbal performance. Oleksandr guided everyone on how each character should behave, encouraging playfulness and pushing the boundaries of seriousness. A participant later shared that she hadn’t had such fun since school. It was an exciting and cathartic experience. It seems like we, “pirate colleagues,” underwent a transformative experience on that “pirate ship at sea.”
Although there wasn’t enough time to find a format for Anna Sapon’s practices, who arrived for a two-week residency after Oleksandr’s departure, the ease with which Anna joined the group work showed progress in the artists’ previous work with the community. During the residency, Anna wrote several texts. Meeting new people and circumstances in Lviv gave impetus to the artworks that Anna created after returning from the residency. During the final “Unpacking the Sound” residency program activity, we all marked ourselves as some creature or occurrence on a shared tree drawing. Then Anna depicted the absent colleagues from “atelienormalno” – Oleksandr Steshenko, Stanislav Turina, and Katia Libkind – in the picture, not hiding her need for friends and colleagues and documenting unity.
We cannot change the fact that Anna and Oleksandr were born with Down syndrome, but we can definitely create conditions where diverse experiences converge and where different people share and learn from each other.
Practices of involvement in art-community projects can have an unexpectedly profound impact. However, when such an impact occurs, it’s hard not to notice. It looks like joyfully swapping places so that another person, who was looking at the “cloud” while standing, could see it while lying on their back and feel the calm and coziness you just experienced; not skipping a meeting with the group due to the arrival of a teenage daughter but coming together with her because time, place, and the group are valuable, and you want to include the child; or in a drawing where all participants mark themselves, painting those who couldn’t attend today and thus documenting everyone’s presence in the same space; or turning on a video call on a large screen and filling the space with a person who is currently hundreds of kilometers away, finding a way to be together in the exact moment and the same flow.
At the “Unpacking the Sound” residency, we turned to artistic and technical means to be more attentive, better understand ourselves and others, share essential things, and be in a shared context to model better worlds.
Workshop for a professional audience
Parallel to the work within the “Unpacking the Sound” residency, there was the development and implementation of a two-day workshop for those who wanted to explore participatory practices in art. The title of the workshop was “How We Stay Together,” just like our previous community art residency, Magic Carpets, in 2022. Under this title, we continued the conversation on how to share experiences and knowledge of participatory practices. During the workshop, we presented the handbook “How We Stay Together,” written based on the experiences of the “How We Stay Together” residency. In addition, the title “How We Stay Together” now includes a whole range of artistic and community activities at our institution.
The workshop was led by the invited artists of the 2022 and 2023 residencies: Yurii Kruchak and Yuliia Kosterieva (NGO “OpenPlace”), Vira Ibriamova-Syvoraksha, Anastasiya Voytyuk, and Stanislav Turina. Together, we developed a program and sequence of workshop activities. The idea of the workshop was that the Magic Carpets artists who have been working with communities for a long time would use practical examples to engage the participants in activities and then share their thoughts and ask questions in discussion sessions. The workshop was well received and very timely. At the same time, we received many requests for theoretical knowledge in this field, including terminology, as well as discussions and exchanges of thoughts about the state of the field and various approaches. Given that during “Unpacking the Sound” we were already planning a series of conversations and discussions with artists to gain a deeper understanding of participative approach and inclusion in art, the idea to create a series of thematic podcasts appeared towards the end of the residency. The discussions will involve artists from Magic Carpets who were residents at the Jam Factory Art Center, and we also plan to invite speakers from related fields and community representatives, among others. The idea of podcasts stemmed primarily from the need to discuss and share experiences, document and structure knowledge, develop the field of participatory practices, mention names and institutions working in this field, and expand the circle of contributors.
So, the story goes on.
Curatorial text by Anna Gaidai