VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: Criticism and Art of Mykola Ridnyi
Mykola Ridnyi is one of the most prominent and titled artists of the generation of Zhanna Kadyrova and Nikita Kadan, and just like them, he became famous primarily for socially critical, reactionary art. As the artist himself formulates, he creates “art that is not indifferent to socio-political processes” .
Over the years, Ridnyi’s position has become more balanced, his views, approaches to art, and the media with which the artist works have been transformed, however, as before, Mykola Ridnyi does not turn away from serious political topics, using his work as a tool to change the world.Mykola Ridnyi was born in Kharkov, in a family of artists. His father was a sculptor, and at first Mykola followed in his footsteps, but soon became interested in photography. The sincere thirst for change inherent in the students as a class, fueled by the heyday of the Kharkov School of Photography, in particular the unprecedented success of Boris Mikhailov, clearly marked for Mykola Ridnyi an interest in the social.
In this continuity lies an important difference between Ridnyi and his colleagues from Kyiv. In the capital, a lot of people were influenced by artists of the group Paris Commune, who by all means avoided the political in their art, considering it temporary, passing, “non-eternal”.
That is why, according to Mykola Ridnyi, art actions, implemented as a way of communication on topics of concern to society, were met with hostility by more mature Kyiv artists. While in Kharkov such statements were not exactly a tradition, but they did not cause surprise either.
The influence of B. Mikhailov and the company can be traced in the relatively early works of Mykola Ridnyi, created by him and his associates as part of the SOSka group (2005–2012). For example, the project Barter in 2007, in which artists, having arrived in a village in the Kharkiv region, exchanged prints of works by star authors such as Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, for goods familiar to the village: eggs, potatoes, milk.
Then the artists recorded interviews with the new owners of the reproductions, who explained their choice of this or that work, and also told where the newly acquired art would be placed. With this action, the artists raised several questions at once: about the conditions of the modern art market, its globalization and commercialization, about the place and role of art in modern Ukrainian society.
The next witty project of M. Ridnyi as part of SOSka was The Wake, carried out in 2009, also in the village. The artists hired mourners and asked them to mourn, traditional village mourning, only this time not for the deceased, but for symbolic works of art of the 20th century, from Marcel Duchamp’s cornerstone urinal, representing a turning point in art history, to Damien Hirst’s diamond skull, symbolizing the apogee of the commercialization of art .
Thus, the artists marked another “death” of the past art, and at the same time declared the need to rethink values, considering the crisis as a favorable situation for searching for an avant-garde idea and the possibility of experimenting in art .
The more recent project Blind Spot was implemented in 2014 under the influence of well-known upheavals in the country. This work was created after the natural cessation of the work of the SOSka group, together with one of the main writers of modern Ukraine, Serhiy Zhadan, who, by the way, also comes from Kharkov.
In this project, the authors explored the attitude of a person to prolonged aggression, to military operations and their horrors, which are blurred over time and no longer shock, as before, to the information machine, sometimes capable of radically changing the point of view on certain events.
Since then, Mykola Ridnyi has been still interested in the structure of society and its political component, but the artist realized that a certain detachment and distance from events or phenomena makes it possible to look at things more objectively and, as a result, create more accurate statements in his art.
Artistic reactions were replaced by works accompanied by thorough research. Mykola became seriously interested in the topic of historical memory, as well as documentation and important socio-political contexts. As a result, the artist switched to cinema as the most suitable tool for bringing his ideas, findings and research to life.
In the form of films, Mykola Ridnyi experiments, combining historical facts and documentary footage with fiction and staging, mixing modernity with past eras. An illustrative illustration of this approach can be his 2016 film Gray Horses, in which the artist explores the fate of his great-grandfather, anarchist Ivan Krupsky.
Mykola Ridnyi, using the example of his own family, reveals all the flaws of history and the binary perception of the same persons and events depending on time and context.
In times of reconstruction of national identity, aggressive information policy and division of society, the art of Mykola Ridnyi seems to be the most apt, because it asks questions rather than answers them, reflecting human confusion in the face of disproportionately large, difficult circumstances.
Source: From an interview with Nata Katerynenko  SOSka Group – Habitat, Dialogue of the Arts (MMOMA) – CI No. 3/2014