Claire Baker, a UK artist and textiles lecturer at Cleveland College of Art and Design’s university-level campus in Hartlepool, is leading an international project to revitalise the culture and arts community in the Ukraine – beginning by staging a guerilla photography exhibition in what was once Pripyat’s Palace of Culture.
Baker is the manager and lead artist of the 26:86 Collective, a group of artists that visited, documented and responded to the ruined site of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster on its 30th anniversary last year. Returning to the abandoned city once again this spring, she brought with her the resulting photography, photomontage and collage images from the Collective, and set about creating an impromptu photography exhibition. Her hope is that both residents and visitors will come across the work as they explore the zone.
She said: “It was the quickest exhibition I have ever hung, a little tense but exciting. The Palace of Culture in the main square was an obvious place as that is what the building was for, and a perfect location for the guerrilla-style exhibition. We came back a week later and due to the conditions, with rooms open to the elements somewhat, some of the work had slipped or fallen down, which is quite poetic in a way and fits the location well.
“Officially, tourists are not allowed inside the buildings throughout the exclusion zone due to health and safety issues, and I wouldn’t recommend it. But people will come across the exhibition, and hopefully the images will remain there for many years and become part of the debris and history of this mesmeric place.”
Aside from the exhibition, Baker’s primary reason for her latest expedition to the Ukraine was to help in the planning of ‘Chernobyling’ – a festival featuring artist workshops and lectures from the self-settler community, as well as a programme of activities and music aimed at both local communities and tourists alike. More information on the event can be found at chernobyling.com.