contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the month / October 2019

Second Hand: Kyiv (Kiev), 2015
Zhanna Kadyrova

Soviet period tiles, wood
Variable dimensions


The series “Second Hand” by the Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova is a long-lasting project of several single interventions, which started in 2014 in Sao Paulo. After four more venues, the last one up to now, is the “Hotel All’Angelo” for the Venice Biennale 2019. For “Second Hand”, the artist recycles used tiles to create objects in the shape of clothes.

For her intervention in Kyiv 2015, Zhanna Kadyrova had chosen the territory of the Darnitski Silk Factory, a location, which refers with its past and its present to textiles. During the Soviet era, the area hosted three factories to produce artificial silk, weave cloth and sew garments. In the 1970s, the Darnitski Silk Factory was the biggest textile production plant of the USSR. Additionally, there was a strong social infrastructure offered to the over six thousand working people. The leisure programme included amateur sport and recreation centres, libraries and even a greenhouse to encourage the collective. Referring to these facilities, the artist points on her website to the relational aspect of the Soviet working space, particularly “regarding the modern obsession of ‘efficiency’ and ‘appropriateness of costs’ “. Herewith she indicates the change of work conditions for labourers. Nevertheless, nowadays enterprises of the service industry try to attract employees by amenities like nurseries and other non-monetary benefits. Often they create unconventional workspaces and times to increase productivity, which reminds a little bit the earlier engagements to connect work and private life.

In absence of a new utilisation concept after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many buildings of the former silk factory deteriorated in the first time. Others were converted into storages. Since 2002, the former weaving manufactory is the shopping mall Darnok. Certainly, the shops offer an assortment of textiles. Moreover, there is the Art Zavod Platforma installed. It is Ukraine’s largest creative cluster. There, exhibitions, educational events and even large-scale concerts and parties take place. Even though with a commercial orientation this new usage perhaps reminds a little bit the leisure infrastructures of the previous factory.

For “Second Hand: Kyiv, 2015” Zhanna Kadyrova worked with found wall decorating ceramic tiles, originating of the area of the former production plant. She was inspired by the patterns and ornaments, which are still preserved in some workshops. The “cutting patterns” for the “garments” are diverse and include dresses, trousers, jackets and even a poncho. First exhibited in the space of the Art Zavod Platforma and hanged at the in part still existing tile walls, the objects merge or communicate with their background. Therefore, they refer to the past and their origin. Presented at clothes racks at other venues, they remind the destination of garments as merchandise. In consequence, it is a hint to the current use as shopping mall of the previous weaving manufactory.

Zhanna Kadyrova’s “Second Hand” creations are more than art objects, which make a new use of old tiles. They recount the story of the origin of the material. In doing so, they also recall the history of the Soviet Union, its social orientation and working condition. Its political collapse was accompanied by the decline of its industry and the split-up into single nation states. The new states, like the Ukraine understandably try to wipe out the Soviet heritage, including buildings like the Darnitski Silk Factory or the transliteration of the capital’s name into Latin letters. In exhibiting the oeuvres in the converted space of their origin and other places, the artist includes the present and carries the whole story to the rest of the world. Imagining the narration as text, the ancient tiles of the former textile producing plant become literally “text-tiles”, clothes that tell their story by their material.


Zhanna Kadyrova

Born in 1981 in Brovary, Ukraine, Zhanna Kadyrova frequented the National Shevchenko Art School in Kyiv (Kiev). As student of the sculpture department, she got a very classical education, with old academic standards. After leaving the art school, the young artist found her material relatively quickly: the tile. Nevertheless, she works not only within the confines of this media but also uses other very different techniques to create her visual communication systems, as Olena Chervonik mentioned in the artist’s catalogue from 2013. Besides various applications of tiles, Zhanna works inter alia with photography, newspaper cut outs, cement, asphalt, bricks and objects of daily life.

Early, she explored public space and was one of the first Ukrainian artists who made side-specific installations, often in cooperation with local people. During the Orange Revolution, she became co-founder and member of the R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Space) and was soon recognised in public. Already since 2002, she participated in several group exhibitions, first in the Ukraine and Russia, but shortly after also in other European countries and the United States. Quickly, she had her first solo exhibitions. Besides residencies in the Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Norway and Montenegro, the artist was in 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Here she held her first solo show in a Latin American country: “Street Collection” at the Baro galeria.

“Street Collection” was the first part of the later tile garment series “Second Hand”. Inspired by the widespread Brazilian practice of building decoration with coloured tiles, Zhanna bought second hand tiles to reuse them for her objects. One year later, she intervened in her home country on the territory of the Darnitski Silk Factory in Kyiv. This project is our artwork of the month October 2019. In 2017, the artist pointed at the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, by creating a dress for a mannequin out of tiles from the bus station of the Chernobyl township Polesskoye. Like in the previous works, she duplicated the patterns of the original façade, though the dress is not flat as before, but could be worn. Also in 2017, Zhanna was active in the abandoned Kyiv Film Copy Factory. Here she proceeded similarly to the venture in the Darnitski Silk Factory. She explored the long changeful history of the once largest Soviet film copy institution and its successor company, including the diverse usage of the territory. A few months after the Gogolfest, of which the project was a part, the building was demolished to give place to a residential, shopping and entertainment complex.

For the exhibition “Permiso para el cóctel” at Galleria Continua’s branch in Cuba (2019), Zhanna created a garment collection with tiles from old Havana Streets. The most recent part of “Second Hand” is conceived for the 2019 Venice Biennale. Out of tiles from the Hotel All’Angelo in town, the artist made socks, underwear and clothes. In the famous exhibition, they are presented like laundry hanging on a clothesline outside the Central Pavilion of the Giardini.

As already mentioned, Zhanna started early to work with tiles. In 2004, she made “Tolya, the Plumber”. It was her first figurative sculpture and there were many others to follow. The tiles are for most part fragmented to follow the form or structure of the objects. In contrast, the artist uses for “Second Hand” almost the entire tile, to portray the structure of their initial installation.

However, regardless the treatment of the tiles or the work with other materials, Zhanna questions society, history and its impact and the visibility of both in urban space. Associated to that is the dichotomy between private and public, which the artist picks up in her installations in public space, but not only. For this propose, she was honoured with several national and international awards. Currently parts of her series “Second Hand” and “Market” (2017-2018) are on view at the Venice Biennale until 25th November. Furthermore, the French branch of the Galleria Continua in Les Moulins will open a solo show on October 13th, 2019.

Zhanna Kadyrova lives and works in Kyiv.

Special thanks to Silvia Pichini and Kuralai Abdukhalikova from the Galleria Continua for the support.