Events | Screening & Conversation with Dana Kavelina

Thomas Mann House | May 10, 2023

Join us for a screening and conversation with Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House Distinguished Visitor, Ukrainian filmmaker Dana Kavelina! Kavelina will share two films, the surreal anti-war film Letter to Turtledove (2020) and her most recent work, It can't be that nothing can be returned (2022), a science fiction video set in post-war Ukraine. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the artist and curator Asha Bukojemsky.

© Dana Kavelina

About the Artist:

Dana Kavelina (b.1995 in Melitopol) is a filmmaker, animator, and artist based in Kyiv/ Lviv, Ukraine (currently fled to Germany). Working primarily with animation and video, her practice includes installations, painting, and graphics that thematize military violence and war from a gender perspective. Positioning the victim as a political subject, her works investigate the distance between historical and individual trauma, memory and misrepresentation. Dana Kavelina's residency is part of a unique collaboration with "Kyiv to LA", a cross-cultural initiative inviting six Ukrainian artists and art historians to Los Angeles from January - June 2023. Organized by Marathon Screenings / Independent Curator Asha Bukojemsky, the program invites participants for a two- month residency, culminating in a public program with a variety of LA-based organizations, including Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House, 18th Street Arts Center, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles (ICA LA), Getty Research Institute Scholars Program, and Art at the Rendon. Additional programming will be hosted by e-flux in New York. "Kyiv to LA" is made possible by a generous grant from Nora Mcneely Hurley and Manitou Fund.

About the Works:

Letter to Turtledove

(2020) 21 minutes

One of the crucial sources for this work is the anonymous five-hour documentary To Watch the War (2018), a piece of found-footage filmmaking in its own right. Letter to a Turtledove is thus a second-degree artistic appropriation of amateur footage shot during the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine, recombined into a surreal anti-war film-poem. The war videos are interspersed with Kavelina’s own animated segments, staged mise-en-scènes, and archival footage of the Donbass from the 1930s (when the region became a hotspot for Stalinist industrialization of the Soviet Union, and of heated class warfare) onwards.

There’s an actual poem at the film’s center: a monologue spoken off-screen, authored by Kavelina herself. This piece of writing encapsulates the multitude of traumas, grievances, horrors, dreams, and hallucinations that have descended upon the Donbass region since its invasion by Russia in 2014. Still, numerous elements of this multitude originate from long before the war had actually broken out.

It can't be that nothing can be returned

(2022) 55 minutes

It cannot be that nothing can be returned is a science fiction video about a utopian future world of Ukraine after the war. The citizens of the future try to understand why the violence took place and create a comprehensive computer model of history. To restore the lost equality of the past and the future, they decide to resurrect all of those who had died in Russia's war against Ukraine. The only way to heal the wounds of those they have brought back to life is through prolonged collective grief. Thus, they start collecting traumatic memories and sharing these experiences throughout society. The video was a part of an installation in Pinchuk Art Center Kiev, and was shown in a place that looks like the headquarters of future activists: the room was full of banners and placards, one of which reads, “Resurrection for everyone.”

The conversation will be moderated by artist and curator Asha Bukojemsky.

Attendance Information:

By invitation only.


Thomas Mann House
1550 N San Remo Dr
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

An event by Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House in collaboration with "Kyiv to LA".

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