Katarina Gryvul. © Nika Gargol

Three Artists. One Hope

Three snapshots from three different lives: Kateryna Zavoloka, Katarina Gryvul and Boris Filanovsky. All work with music, their countries are at war, and they condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They have not met each other and the article consists of three unique interviews with Seismograf. None of them see themselves as political artists, but they do believe that it is a human duty to speak out and fight back when the leader of one's homeland orders war against the other two's homelands. 
  • Annonce


Kateryna Zavoloka: »I will never be a political or social artist«

»When Russia invaded in 2014 [annexation of Crimea], I thought I had to somehow say no, and used the samples I collected to make an album with the sounds of the revolution. It was a kind of answer to what's going on in my life. I will never be a political or social artist.«

»Vilna« from the album Volya was recorded during the Maidam Revolution in 2014 and consists of recordings of burning police cars, sounds from street fights and exploding grenades and Molotov cocktails. »Volya« means freedom.

Interview: March 2, 2022, at 17:00. Kateryna Zavoloka was born in 1981 in Kiev. She is a composer, performer and experimental electronic musician and sound artist as well as graphic designer. In 2008, she received a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture of Poland, and has also studied electroacoustic composition at the Academy of Music in Kraków. 

»When they started bombing Kyiv, that was exactly the day I wanted to finish my new album, so now I can do nothing. Everything you did before with your life, it just changed.«


Kateryna Zavoloka. © KURO
Kateryna Zavoloka. © KURO

Did you flee Ukraine?

»We arrived in Berlin two days before the shelling, so we did not flee the war. We just came back and two days later we found out that Kyiv had been bombed.« 

So you did not know that the war was going to start when you traveled? 

»Of course we knew it could happen at some point. It had been in the news for three months, but we went over there because I was going to play a concert, and then we went home again. You can imagine it was very difficult for us to stay here the first few days. We wanted to return immediately because we did not know what would happen.«

»Vzir« from Zavoloka's seventh album ORNAMENT is a light and minimalist electronic track that, like the rest of the album, is a complex algorithm.

»Syngoia« from the album of the same name – a rhythmic and bright track carried by electronic drums, synthesizers and crystalline sound surfaces.

»No matter where you move, we will always bear the most mark of the place where we were born. I was born in Lviv«

Katarina Gryvul: »I feel guilty because I'm safe«

Katarina Gryvul. © Nika Gargol
Katarina Gryvul. © Nika Gargol

»I feel guilty because I'm safe and someone is dying at the moment. And it just breaks my heart. And logically enough, you're starting to calm down, but you want to come back, and how are you going to help there? You are more helpful here, but the guilt is so deep and painful that it does not go away.«

In her work, she focuses on the fractures between the physical and the virtual, the digital and the analog.

»WISłA soundwalk« is a contemporary classical binaural production with electronic sound surfaces and recordings of the Wisła river. The play is part of the project RIVERSSSOUNDS.

»How to? (personal approach) for tenor saxophone and electronics« is an improvisational soundscape, experimenting within the electroacoustic. 

 »Dalam for analog tape« is minimalist noise that tends to be an analog counterpart to Autecre.

Interview: March 4, 2022 at 11:17 p.m. Katarina Gryvul was born in 1993 in Lviv. She is a trained composer, sound artist, producer and violinist and has performed at a number of festivals such as Vox Electronica, Solaris and KMCD. In 2018, she received a scholarship from the Polish Ministry of Culture, studied electronic and electroacoustic composition at the Academy of Music in Kraków, and in 2019, she received a scholarship from the President of Ukraine for young writers and artists.

»It seems to me that it does not matter where you live, because no matter where you move, we will always bear the most mark of the place where we were born. I was born in Lviv, located in western Ukraine. The city is very reminiscent of Graz, where I am now.«

Boris Filanovsky: »Not possible to step on stage – neither ethically nor physically« 

In connection with the interview, there was great uncertainty as to whether he could leave Moscow, where he had just canceled a major premiere due to the invasion of Ukraine. 

© Boris Filanovsky
© Boris Filanovsky

Filanovsky: »It is a 45-minute composition for medieval instruments (and voices) based on fragments of the text of the Jewish treatise' Sefer Yetzirah ', reportedly from the 3rd-6th. century AD, which tells of the creation of the world using 22 letters from the Hebrew alphabet. This is the second time this premiere has been canceled: in March 2020, it did not take place due to the pandemic and lockdown. Now I have canceled myself. It is not possible for me to practice and step on stage in such a situation – neither ethically nor physically.« 

»Infinite Superposition # 1 (iteration 1), live«: Minimalist and atonal live performance with piano and violin. Recorded at the Moscow Philharmonia, played by Roman Mints and Mikhail Dubov.

»Cento I« from the album: Boris Filanovsky – play.list. Contemporary classical piece of music that combines soaring and dissonant opera singing, violins and piano. 

»Psalm«: Contemporary classical hymn in minor performed by mezzo-soprano Anastasia Bondareva and pianist Olga Vorobyevar.

Interview: February 28, at 18:36. Boris Filanovsky was born in 1968 in Leningrad. Graduated in 1995 from the Rimski-Korsakov State Conservatory. In 2003, he received the 24th Irino Prize for Chamber Music (Tokyo). In 2005 nominated for the final round of the Third Competition Music of 21 Century (Seoul), in 2006 artist-in-residence in Djerassi (California), 2010 nominated for the final round of the YouTube Russia Composition Competition (Moscow), 2013/14 - artist- in-residence at the Berliner Künstlerprogramm. Ten years ago, he moved with his family to Berlin.

When we wrote together earlier today, you were on your way to Berlin. What thoughts went through your head during those hours?

»Four hours before my flight, Europe closed the airspace to Russian planes, so I am now coming out of Russia by land transport. The question 'what went through my head' is not entirely correct. It did not go through the mind, but through the whole body: My country is a damned aggressor, it attacked Ukraine, just like Nazi Germany. It's staggering. Everything suddenly became small and meaningless. When the mind regains the ability to think, the first thought is: What a blessing that my children and I left this country 10 years ago and gained another citizenship; what a blessing that we already then understood where and why our country was heading.«

With projectiles in the garden

The two Ukrainian artists have families and friends in refugee camps and they do not know what is happening to their families and friends.

»Drop by drop, the world began to see what was happening«

You told me that you arrived in Berlin while your family is in Ukraine without internet, electricity or gas and with projectiles in the garden?

Zavoloka: »They restored the electricity, but not the other things, so it's a little hard."

Gryvul: »It was early in the morning, and my mother called, 'Cat, the war has begun.' I will never forget that moment. Somehow it was hard to believe in the new reality and that the EU and NATO will soon impose sanctions. But it did not happen. The next night was hell with many explosions all over the country. When you have friends and family there and can not help them, we feel helplessness and total injustice. I sent messages to everyone, wherever I could, to tell them that the war had begun, we were being attacked by Russia, and we were alone against one of the strongest armies in the world. There was real despair, and the feeling that one should not find oneself in it, but fight as hard as one can. When the war broke out, I was in Poland, which probably reacted as the first. My friends who had cars immediately drove to the border to help with the refugee situation. Drop by drop, the world began to see what was happening. What I feared most was how the whole world just wanted to see people die.«

We just want to be free

Gryvul: »The story of Ukraine is that we have always been deprived of our freedom, but we fought. Because freedom is the most valuable thing you can have. And now we are fighting – for democracy, peace, for all the values ​​that Europe cherishes. We just want to be free.«

Filanovsky: »The Russian Ministry of Defense leads mobile crematoria to the front to burn their bodies. They are war criminals, international terrorists, degenerates and cannibals. And the shadow of this absolute evil falls on all Russians who did not prevent, could not resist, who were afraid, who left the country (like me, for example).«

Zavoloka: »It is very amazing that the whole country is truly united against one enemy. It is also important for my country to go through this time to survive and understand who they are and their identity.«

We hardly sleep. We help where we can help

In parallel, the two women are in the process of collecting emergency aid, trying to keep in touch with families despite the lack of internet, poor telephone connections and bombs.

Zavoloka: »We hardly sleep. We are constantly watching the news or helping: collecting donations, protesting, helping with volunteer work, helping refugees or our friends in Ukraine. They really want to falsify all history and everything, so we have to fight.«

Gryvul: »It's the ninth day of the war and I still have a sense of shock. I cry several times a day. It's hard for myself to do basic things such as cleaning up or making dinner. When there is war, you do not think of art. You do not think you can use your art to, for example, help raise money. Especially in the early days of the war.«

One has a political responsibility

Gryvul: »For an artist, I think it is very important to have a point and defend it. Because you have an audience that listens to you. And in a situation like this, I think silence makes you an accomplice in a crime. It is impossible just to be apolitical in this situation.«

»And I know we will pass. The future will definitely be different«

Zavoloka: »I think artists can be more precise in terms of conveying than many others. You know more about your culture and can tell more accurately about new answers because you are more on the edge. During the Maidan revolution, where my husband, who is also an artist, and I participated as protesters, our friends kept asking us, 'Why don't you play music among the protesters and do something about this?'. We were not sure what we could do, because when you are in this type of protest and state, you can not think of anything else. After two months of protests, we started making videos and audio recordings. It started as a kind of anthropological interest in collecting some material, but only for myself.« 

Filanovsky: »Art in itself, let alone music, does not clearly have a political potential. Therefore, there are no individual artists and musicians - there are citizens of Russia. More precisely, what kind of artist you are in the current situation will not be so important in relation to what kind of citizen you are. And unfortunately, all citizens of Russia may now be perceived in the world as deliberately toxic, until they at least distance themselves from their criminal regime.«

Zavoloka: »If you have had war for eight years in your country, you can not just say 'oh, I'm out of politics'. Because the war came to you, so it is not possible to stand outside politics. With the war, everything becomes black and white, and at the same time everything becomes more truthful and clear. It's very metaphysical. You kind of wake up and you have to decide what you can do. I was not political or anything before the Maidan Revolution, and just such an event transforms you as a human being. Something strikes clicks inside you in that kind of transforming moments.«

There is no art now, there is war

Zavoloka: »Our art scene in general flourished during the war in 2014 because there were always the two contrasts of life and death. Two universes. I have always seen the gloom in all art. It somehow inspires the artists, it's more intense. It's hard to rationalize something very spiritually esoteric.«

Gryvul: »War is very serious in my mind. It changed me. I think the music will be different. It's hard for me to say now how it will be, but I know it will not be what it used to be.«

Zavoloka: »I'm collecting videos and photos now and I think this will definitely reflect the album I was about to finish. Right now, it's very hard to think of art. It's just about how to survive.«

Gryvul: »For me there is no art now, there is war. And I know we will pass. The future will definitely be different. Also art. It will be deep and painful, and I'm not sure if people who have not been involved in the war will be able to fully understand it.«