Zelenskyy tells Venice Biennale that art has a role in Ukraine's struggle for freedom
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Zelenskyy tells Venice Biennale that art has a role in Ukraine's struggle for freedom
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv, March 3, 2022. “Why do we admire Volodymyr Zelensky? The question almost answers itself,” writes New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Lynsey Addario/The New York Times.

by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

NEW YORK, NY.- Art can play a powerful role in depicting Ukraine’s suffering at the hands of Russia because of its unique ability to convey emotion and loss, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told an audience at the Venice Biennale on Thursday.

Zelenskyy, speaking by video, added that all tyrannies oppose free artistic expression because of its capacity to illustrate moral wrongs.

“There are no tyrannies that would not try to limit art because they can see the power of art,” he said, in a clear reference to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. “Art can tell the world what cannot otherwise be shared. It is art that conveys feelings.”

No words, television news story or economic report could adequately capture the suffering in Ukraine, he said in the brief address, citing as examples the pain of a girl writing a letter to a mother killed by shelling in the besieged city of Mariupol, the revulsion felt by Ukrainian soldiers discovering civilian corpses in a suburb of the capital after Russian forces left, and the loss faced by people who have fled their homes.

The speech was the latest in a series of video addresses by Zelenskyy since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, all aiming to rally international support for Ukraine’s cause.

He has been adept at tailoring his message to his audience. He told U.S. lawmakers that he had a dream, invoking Martin Luther King Jr. to describe Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion. He told the British Parliament that his country would fight until the end, in forests and fields, a vow resonant of Winston Churchill’s exhortations against Nazism. To members of the German Parliament he spoke of a new wall dividing Europe, echoing the Berlin Wall of the Cold War.

“Support this fight with your art, but also support it with your words and your influence,” he told the audience Thursday.

Artist Pavlo Makov’s sculpture, titled “Fountain of Exhaustion,” is on display at the Ukrainian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which opens to the public Saturday and runs through Nov. 27.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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