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Russia’s idea is to eliminate Ukraine – and to eliminate Ukrainian culture. If it has no culture, Ukraine does not exist. ”

That was the sentiment that compelled Pavlo Makov, the official Ukrainian artist at the 59th Venice Biennale, to head to Italy to install his exhibition.

Makov and his team, including curator Maria Lanko, were determined, Pavlov said, “to show that we are here, and we exist. I am not quoting Churchill directly, but he talked about the things that we are fighting for – and we are fighting for our culture, our way of seeing the world. ”

Makov’s work is called Fountain of Exhaustion – a pyramid of 78 bronze funnels set in tiers, through which water flows. The original idea came in 1995, when, owing to serious floods, the city of Kharkiv lost its water supply for several weeks.

Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov poses by his piece ‘Fountain of Exhaustion’ at Ukraine’s pavilion during a press day at the 59th Venice Art Biennale in Venice. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto / AFP / Getty Images

When the invasion began on 24 February, Lanko took to her car, with the bronze funnels in her boot. Six days later – the highways having been shelled and the back roads jammed – she made it to the border. In Milan, she found a fabricator who could recreate the parts of the artwork that she hadn’t been able to take with her.

Makov described how he and his family had initially been reluctant to leave Kharkiv, despite a terrifying period in February when “life was like a pendulum swinging first this way then that – will the war start? Yes, or no. ”

After a week sleeping in a bomb shelter beneath Kharkiv University’s arts center, he, his wife, some close friends and his mother (and their cats) took to the road. Having got his mother safely installed in Vienna, he set off for Venice. “I felt I’m not so much an artist, or an individual, so much as a citizen of Ukraine. I felt that Ukraine has to be represented, ”he said.

Read more of Charlotte’s article: ‘We are fighting for our culture’: Ukrainian artists head to Venice Biennale

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