Architects Against War. Anton Tselovalnyk - about art that finds you everywhere, small tugboats in a stormy sea and the most delicious oranges
"Architects against the war" - that's what we called the series of publications where we talk to real heroes: before the war - architects, urban planners, designers, decorators, artists, and in the new reality - military, volunteers, public figures. We share the stories of these people and express our great gratitude to all those who bring our victory closer.
An experienced architect, graphic artist, multi-instrumentalist in creativity, a teacher with a knack for explaining and talking about serious things in an easy, interesting and understandable way for students of any age - that's how we already know Anton Tselovalynyk. His educational projects and expert moderation of professional events, teaching activities in schools and various educational institutions, where he teaches the most inquisitive students the basics of architecture, for example, at the "Athens" school, ACE or the Arch4kids studio - we have discussed these topics together on the pages of PRAGMATIKA before.
Nowadays, new aspects of life are added - since the beginning of the great war, Anton Tselovalnyk became a volunteer and protects his native land from enemies together with his father, honored architect of Ukraine Serhii Tselovalnyk, you can also interview him as part of the special topic "Architects against war" read on the pages of PRAGMATIKA.
It was not so easy to organize for a conversation, taking into account everything that is happening now. What questions deserve to be spoken out loud? And how do you put them in a way that doesn't take up valuable time or delve into topics that could compromise a person's privacy and security measures in war? Anton, by the way, turned out to be more collected, and we are very grateful for this communication.
Being far from his usual place of work, he continues to conduct classes for his students in an online format, and new works have been added to his artistic output. But about all this a little later.
"How are you?"
This question is the quintessence of conversations and correspondence with loved ones during five months, where every day turns into an expectation and a challenge. The war has been going on for much longer, and since endless February it's "How are you?", "How are you?" rains over all cities, in messages, correspondence and conversations. So we couldn't help but ask this.
Anton Tselovalnyk: Thanks, I'm fine. 4.5.0, as they say now (it means "everything is calm". — Editor's note).
I feel now like a person who survived a 5-month time jump. I try to be useful: I do what I know and learn what I can't. I continue to teach online when there is an opportunity, so as not to lose my skills, and at the same time I am serving. I am training, mastering tactics and weapons, learning theory and practice - recently, for example, digging trenches, because this is an important part of military work, necessary and quite physically demanding.
I completed a course of tactical medicine three times according to MARCH protocols, after which I taught it to fellow students, my teaching past was also useful here.
I feel now like a person who survived a 5-month time jump. I try to be useful: I do what I know and learn what I can't
PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA: It seems that the ability to teach and learn are qualities that come in handy everywhere. Is it hard to find time to teach now, and how involved are you with projects that started before the war or new stories?
A. Ts.: I am currently taking an online course for the construction project management school PRO PM and running my own online studio, the Friedensreich Gundertwasser Teen Architecture Studio.
For the sake of creative lectures for PRO PM, a symbiosis of all the good people of our planet took place. At first I was invited to give lectures for children of employees, now we are already talking about wider formats. It's a great idea that allows everyone to take their mind off the war once a week.
The format of online meetings is not new to me, because before the war I had my practice in online teaching, to which I am gradually returning, but the topics of our meetings now are quite interesting, because they are related to the war, but in a positive format of reconstruction countries, not destruction.
The children of PRO PM are very talented, all have parents, and the organizers and teachers are simply heroic and very cool people.
We all remember the February morning of the 24th, it is impossible to forget it. Anton recalled several moments of that day and how the chronology of events developed further.
"I woke up not from the explosions, although the first shot down missile fell near my house, but from a phone call. My father called and said that "it has started", I looked out the window and saw how the ambulance and police cars were driving towards the center, and the people of Kyiv, who were hastily evacuating from the capital, were already heading in the opposite direction.
I looked at my rucksack that I had packed in advance, felt an unpleasant embarrassment inside and went for a walk with the dog, because some things have to stay the same. On the street, we met a woman who was walking on a leash with... a cat. That's when I realized that there's no need to panic and everything will be fine," says Anton.
We also asked him about premonitions of a large-scale war at the level of intuition, or rather, the awareness of something approaching.
"Of course it was. There was certain information, analytics and a clear plan. It is decided in advance what, who, when and where will do after the start of the war.
I decided that I would go to the TRO in the event of an attack on Kyiv. He had no military experience, only two revolutions and a stay in Georgia during the Russian invasion in 2008. I also had knowledge of first aid, because I worked at a school, and a mine-explosive course, which I managed to complete even before the start of the war, - Anton shares. — However, this, unfortunately, was not enough to enter the district TRO, even when I tried to get there by asking acquaintances. Then we self-organized with our neighbors and created a guard around our houses. And already in two days I took the dog to the village to my father and already there, almost by accident, joined the ranks of the local TRO, which lacked people."
About myself and loved ones
PM: A personal question if you don't mind. How does the attitude towards oneself change in the war? Requirements, planning, if compared to peacetime. Have you noticed changes in yourself?
A. Ts.: War changes. Physically, mentally and nervously. Those things that were ordinary and imperceptible before the war become special. As an example, I can remember how my friend and I stood on the post under strong wind and snow and ate an orange. An ordinary orange, of which there were mountains before, tasted especially good then. Everything changes: schedule, sleep, conversations, jokes, you don't plan for a month in advance, you don't even plan for a week. You live today, waiting for the night and the next morning. Time passes inexplicably strangely, the two and a half hours of duty drag on lazily - so long that they seem endless, and the two and a half hours of rest fly by in an instant.
The body also changes, under the weight of the bulletproof vest, helmet and machine gun with horns, at first your back starts to hurt and your legs ache, but after a week you run around in all this, sit, lie down, eat dinner and hardly pay attention. Taking into account all the above, the character also changes.
War changes. Physically, mentally and nervously. Those things that were ordinary and imperceptible before the war become special
PM: Being next to a loved one in military affairs is both a great support and a responsibility. How could you tell about it now?
A. Ts.: My father is always there, covers my back, provides support, helps and supports me, I try to do the same. In fact, in the conditions of war, unfamiliar people become almost close and family to you. We are all part of one big, colorful, strange, but family here.
PM: Where do you get your strength and motivation now, and what do you do when things get tough?
A. Ts.: Basic things: sleep, vitamins, walks in the fresh air (especially a lot of the latter!).
Of course, these are my family: my daughter, whom I try to talk to every day in messenger, my friends and siblings, as well as my students, whom I meet online.
When it's hard physically, I try to realize that it's all for the better. That you have to go through this path, which is a hundred times more difficult for the guys on the front line than it is for me here, in relative safety. When it is difficult morally, I try not to pay attention to it and postpone all internal problems for "after the war".
Art against war
Already during the war, Anton Tselovalynyk created and continues to complete a series of sculptural works, bas-reliefs and "frescoes", the material for which is local clay. "Stephania", "Trench embroidered woman", as friends of the architect named one of the works, stylized tridents and "Scythian warriors" contain ancient Slavic and Scandinavian zoomorphic symbols and resemble amulets.
Art objects are born in the open air or in a parapet, carved during moments of short rest with improvised tools, such as a piece of wood or a sleeve. There were quite a lot of works, so Anton Tselovalynyk's friends and acquaintances even suggested that he organize an exhibition. However, inviting visitors to it or transporting the exhibits to the exhibition hall does not seem to be an easy task at the moment, so for now we have the opportunity to see them only on the artist's Facebook account and in some publications.
PM: Is an architect and artist at war still an architect and artist? How did your "trench art" come about?
A. Ts.: War cannot and should not leave you as an exclusively refined soldier. It is impossible. A creative person remains creative even with a machine gun in his hands. We have a military man who has a wonderful voice, he is a soloist of the choir named after Ropes, and we ask him to sing, because he has a real talent, it's very beautiful. What's more, it's so nice to see that he himself gets a lot of pleasure from it.
My products from the "Trench Art" series were born not as an artistic act, but as a way to keep warm
The trench was lined with clay blocks, and I began to leave charms and bas-reliefs on them using branches, casings, and nails. During work, you are very effectively distracted from your thoughts and warmed up. The only thing is that you should always look at the perimeter with one eye in parallel. When photos with clay sculptures became popular on my Facebook page, I began to take them with particular zeal and each time improved the quality and artistic appearance.
Currently, he was forced to take a short creative break and focus solely on improving his fighting skills. But it still warmed up a lot (just kidding).
PM: In contrast to the national artistic theme, what fate do you think can await the work of the aggressor country? Will there be a kind of cancellation of Russian art in the world, and if so, to what extent and for how long? Actually, canceling is happening quite often even without wars.
A. Ts.: In my opinion, it is necessary to supplant Russian art with its own, more qualitative, perfect, beautiful art. Because banning something is like giving an opportunity to talk about it, to look for ways to bypass bans in order to be different from the rest. The fact that you specifically listen to, watch, read the forbidden, as a kind of protest.
It is necessary to popularize and develop our own as much and as actively as possible, and then teenagers will listen to "Kalush" instead of Morgenstern, read Zhadan, Lina Kostenko, Artem Polezhaka, and not fill their heads with Russian nonsense.
It is more difficult with adults, because personally it is difficult for me to prevent myself from remembering the songs of Okudzhava, SashBash or Mayakovsky's poems, and I cannot "negatively" read back Bulgakov, Green or Horin... But since there are a large number of still unread wonderful books by Ukrainian modern and classical authors , and thousands of wonderful translations into our language, then I am unlikely to re-read or review Russian art.
About the future
Continuing to teach the most peaceful discipline in the world — architecture, Anton Tselovalnyk is directly "on the edge of events", seeing what changes and consequences war brings for society, people, his students and their families. We asked him as a practicing teacher whether (and how) our education system should respond to the new challenges and experience of war in the future, change in approaches or principles.
"I am sure that this war will change everything. And education, and architecture, and life in general. Education must become more flexible, online/offline formats interchangeable, and this interchange must be implemented instantaneously as needed. Teachers need to know all modern technologies, be able to use applications, and the same for children. Parents should monitor children and their involvement in the educational process, and both of them should develop and help each other, - concludes Anton. "Unfortunately, at the moment online is not having the best effect on education, so it is necessary to quickly defeat the enemy and return to classrooms, blackboards, notebooks and live communication."
PM: How does the war change Ukraine and Ukrainians and what do we need most to win now?
A. Ts.: I wish I could write something that makes it better, but no. The war kills Ukrainians, destroys Ukraine. Strengthens? So. Hundreds of thousands immediately fled their homes and left everything they had. Some of them with children, old people, dogs and cats went abroad to save themselves and endured inhuman trials there, others went to war, saving others, and the war is hardening them now. Some of the Ukrainians lost their homes, some lost their relatives, their health, and some lost their lives. And thereby changed all of us and Ukraine. But I know that our nation is indomitable, so we will definitely win.
Everyone should do what they know how to do, and learn to fight a little more. Because Russia will not disappear, even if that sick grandfather dies or if it falls apart into pieces of various sizes. It will not disappear anywhere. This is for the future, but now we need faith in ourselves, weapons and the desire to burn Russian. Who knows how, who can, but relentlessly.
We should all realize together that our time has come. That we have a unique opportunity to change world history. That there is a lot of work ahead. And fighting too. There is also a lot of blood, sweat and tears. That all of us - who are where, but look like small tugboats in a stormy sea, that we confidently help the "Russian war ship" to reach the well-known home port. And the more of us there are, the sooner he will be there, along with the entire team and their commander-in-chief (but then it will be a tautology).