Artist Robert Saller and curator Taras Polataiko invite Ukraine to reflect on social TRUST

By Voices of Ukraine senior staff,
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

TRUST: An art project by Robert Saller curated by Taras Polataiko, at the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

Curator Taras Polataiko with artist Robert Saller in front of his installation “Trust.” Photo: Ihor Konstantyniuk/Promin

Five simple 10-foot tall letters lean against the paint-chipped and exposed brick wall of a ruined 125-year-old church in the center of Chernivtsi, posing a central age-old question for humanity that nonetheless takes on a sharp new significance in their present location. They are part of an installation by Robert Saller which opened August 11, 2017.

Robert Saller is an artist from Uzhhorod, a city at the foot of the Carpathian mountains. He has been exhibiting since the mid-90s, throughout Ukraine as well as in Paris, Berlin, Lublin, Boston, Budapest; he is a founding member of the artist group Poptrance.

Saller installed the three-dimensional word “TRUST” made from 3 meter high [almost 10 foot] polystyrene foam inside the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus in Chernivtsi, but changed one of the gray letters that form the word “TRUST” from the Latin letter “s” to the Cyrillic “ш” so it reads as “TRUSHT.” As Saller explains,

“The word ‘TRUST’ itself appears to be false, it is difficult to believe in it. Trust is necessary, but at the same time it is a human weakness.” He continues, “This is an allegory of trust as a concept of relations between people. With my work I wanted to show that in today’s society trust almost does not mean anything, everything is subject to doubt, it’s all as fake as the many things that are around it. Trust is one of the foundations of humanity’s existence. Sincerity and faith are the constituent components of social relations. You put trust in people without knowing the result. However, trust is not enough, it’s speculative, people exploit trust. It is a person’s weak point. Trust is a force, it’s that slippery space which can be influenced.”

Robert Saller’s installation work, TRUШT in the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus, Chernivtsi

Internationally-renowned artist Taras Polataiko, a coordinator of the Chernivtsi artist space Bunker who, as the curator of this project, invited Robert Saller to show his work, believes that, “Contemporary art can be interpreted by everyone in their own way, that is, the artist’s work is completed by the viewer. For me, this project is about a crisis of confidence in our society.”

In his curatorial exhibition statement, Polataiko writes: “We live in a society experiencing a crisis of confidence. We are accustomed to bribing and ‘negotiating’ from kindergarten on. Even such a powerful charge of trust as the Maidan and the post-Maidan volunteer movement proved to be insufficient to break the corruption in our society. It’s been 3 years since the “Heavenly Hundred” gave their lives to change this society, and the previous corruption continues on.

“Corruption corrodes society at various levels ranging from the deceitfulness of the people’s deputies, whom we elect through a primitive bribe, and ending in the falsehoods and hypocrisy used in communicating on the everyday level.

“One of my sharpest first impressions of moving to Canada was the directness and accuracy with which people formulate their thoughts. Later I realized that the power of this impression was directly proportional to the distance of post-Soviet society from societies that have not lived through totalitarian violence and the deformation of consciousness that this violence brings. I recall this whenever I cross the border of the post-Soviet space and lose the tension that is a necessary protective mechanism of the lies and rudeness here.

“Like the weakening poison of a parasite, lies and hypocrisy corrupt the healthy energy of a person – and therefore society – forcing them to spend a lot of energy on either opposition or adaptation, which in turn often leads to even more refined deformations and “patterns” of behavior.

“When I think of the psycho-emotional roots of corruption and distrust in our society, I am reminded of a man who survived both the war and the Gulag. Recalling a meeting of veterans of war in the 1950s, he describes how they drink alcohol, each time declaring one and the same standard toast, “For the Motherland! For Stalin!” And only after getting drunk to the point of passing out, from the lips of one of the veterans, who is lying with his head in a plate of leftovers, does a quiet, sore, “Joe’s a bitch” erupt out of him.

“For me, this is an example of how an extremely deep psychological trauma is generated by the inhuman violence of a thoroughly criminalized society, in which almost half was incarcerated and the other half was jailing them; how it deforms the psyche of society, which carries this unendingly unspoken deformation from generation to generation in the form of a mutant, which varies according to the priorities of the time.

“I hope that Robert Saller’s “Trust” project will become an impetus to a frank discussion about what is perhaps the most important issue in our society.”

The installation of the word “Trust” leaning against the walls of the historic Byzantine-Romanesque/neo-gothic-style Catholic church at 2 Bakhrushina Street, also draws attention to the very practical need to restore the church, which dates from 1892 and was badly ruined when turned into an archive by the Soviets; it is being slowly and painstakingly rebuilt by only a small group of local volunteers without help from the City of Chernivtsi.  The rector of the Jesuit church is Jesuit Father Stanislav Smolchevski, whom Polataiko thanked publicly for agreeing to do the show and for his open thinking towards contemporary art installations, adding: “In the European art tradition, beginning from Raphael and Michelangelo, the Catholic church supported the artists of its time. It’s a pleasure to continue this European tradition in Chernivtsi.” Polataiko also stated that this is the first contemporary art installation in a church in Chernivtsi. The exhibit is also a charitable event and visitors can support the restoration of the church with their donations. Saller and Polataiko’s project will remain in the church until mid-October. “TRUST” will then move to the abandoned Göbels Höhe [Göbels Heights historic area] in the center of town where it will stand as a reminder until the city council restores the original forested park and pathway with benches, a cleanup and some security – something it promised to restore over a year ago, Taras Polataiko explained.

For further photos and video of the event:
Chernivtsi Promin, in Ukrainian (photos):
In the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus, artists set up a five-letter installation

Tetyana Sporynina VERSIITS1 blog, in Ukrainian (photos):
With trust in the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus

Info Key, in Ukrainian (video):
Robert Saller’s “Dovira” (TRUШT) art project was presented at the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus.

Opening remarks, Weche, in Ukrainian (video):
Opening of the project, “Trust” at the Church of the Most Blessed Heart of Jesus

Chernozem [Black Earth], interview in Ukrainian (photos):
Taras Polataiko: “Any support for the development of culture improves the level and quality of life”

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This translation work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The rights pertaining to the original work remain unaffected.

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