Ukraine is under siege following a full-scale military invasion by Russia on 24 February 2022

Curator's letter

From April 23-25, 2014, IZOLYATSIA will host the inaugural Ukrainian Literature Festival in IZOLYATSIA writers’ forum in Donetsk.  If the prospect of conducting this forum in Donetsk isn’t challenging enough, consider the selected theme: Language and Violence.  

We hold that the task before the intellectual is not merely to respond to social challenge, but to incite it. And to incite it in a way that does not leave society hanging, but that drives forceful – and collective – examination of each challenge, and results in inspired solutions. We are committed to the dialogue process, holding that right actions flow from focused deliberation. We envision the Ukrainian Literature Festival as a place where writers, philosophers, thinkers, scholars, civic and spiritual leaders gather to discuss where the world stands now and where it’s going.

The Ukrainian Literature Festival offers a singular approach to the festival format – one that stresses cooperation over competition. We advance the proposition that the Ukrainian cultural sphere manifest itself as a single organism in which each part functions to the good of the whole. Our festival takes a path not often followed in the Ukrainian literary scene. We put every effort into building on the usual “books and publishers” literary festival and cultivating an event that emphasizes compelling interaction between writers and their readers.

Our selection of writers reflects “the I-Z-O” principle – Intelligent, Zesty, Objective – and scheduled events aim to include the broadest range of perspectives, not shying away from controversial views or heated discussion. We encourage direct confrontation, but restrict it to the realm of ideas, for it is there that we are hopeful that through engagement, and the overcoming of self, that we may reach authentic solutions marked by healing, wholeness, and peace of mind. Finally, we celebrate human values in order that with each festival, with each discussion, we never fail to elevate and underscore the better angels of human nature.

The Ukrainian Literature Festival appears at a time when Ukraine is effecting not merely cultural or political choices, but – we would, in modesty, submit – the very election of civilization. From these hard realities, which our nation will surely outlast, arises the necessity of a substantive reconsideration of those matters at the core of our existence. Matters which call repeatedly for reflection on the notions of language and violence at the heart of our humanity. These are the delimitations which will assist us in grasping to a greater degree precisely the civilizing events currently in play.

The central question around which revolve the discussions, seminars, and master-classes at this year’s forum: “In what way is language, broadly defined, connected with the issue of violence in society, and is it possible through engagement with the former to minimize the latter?” We encourage an open dialogue on the revolutionary events taking place in Ukraine in 2013-14, holding that the topic of violence must be addressed that it not be rendered a cultural taboo, and further, that aimless speculation on the theme be held in check. The trauma Ukrainians have been experiencing must not be allowed to fester into guilt, apathy, rage, or despair. Rather, these experiences may be turned toward constructive dialogue that fosters societal development, in particular, a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us. And it is there where we may uncover the depth of this violence and begin to envision a Ukraine, indeed a world, in which violence is in retreat.

In large part, ours is a true festival of writers, and it is these who comprise our key participants. Fascinating, charismatic, lively, thoughtful, original, engaging conversationalists willing to share their views on the issue of language and violence. Artists with a contemporary philosophical bent poised to advance new perspectives, and lay the foundation for thoughtful contemplation, strategy, and planning – in short, to inspire the vision of a new world. With an eye on expanding the impact of literature on other professional spheres, we have also invited philosophers, psychologists, religious and cultural scholars, media professionals, political scientists, and many other specialists to share their beneficial insights, resulting in a mutually edifying, penetrating consideration of the theme.

Discussions on violence and language will invariably touch on pertinent issues such as the issue of Ukraine’s largely bilingual society. To help avoid less-than-productive arguments pitting Ukrainian against Russian, we have included representatives from the Crimean Tatar and Crimean Russian communities in these discussions. The topic of linguistic conflict – whether carelessly, intentionally, or artificially engaged – will be woven into all gatherings at the festival. Setting aside the current Ukrainian reality, we will examine the roots of violence present in traditional and contemporary cultural praxis, and reflect on the values, motives, and mindset which define the expression of violence in society. 

In addition to our examination of the philosophical and psychological basis of violence, we hope to pursue the question of coercion, control, and brutality through the prism of gender and societal roles. Post-modern gender studies present a formidable challenge to traditional notions held by Ukrainians on the essentials of social organization. The analysis of contemporary tendencies of social roles in the western world, criticism of the same and their felicitous interpretation and integration in Ukrainian society will form the substance of the discussion in the second phase of the festival.

The third crucial question to be addressed at the forum is perhaps the most provocative issue facing Ukraine at the moment, namely, the connection between violence and language in the media and in government. IZOLYATSIA holds a vital position in the creative consideration of social issues, and thus the forum will host exhibits by Ukrainian and international artists which recast the theme of violence in that language spoken around the globe – the language of contemporary art.  

We are hopeful that this festival may not only help to spur a cultural reformation in the eastern regions of the country, but also promote intelligent examination of vital concerns through dialogue on a national level. We believe that this concept, with our nation’s enlightened in the lead, may result in a new vision of a new nation, a vision to inspire the collective spirit and effort of every member of society.

In the end, we admit, that we – the organizers of the Ukrainian Literature Festival – are optimists, and believe that this optimism is integral to every successful venture. Greatness comes to those who pursue great aims.

Festival Curator
Liubomyr Deresh 


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