Lesia Smyrna

Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Project Name Discourse of trauma as a source for ‚cruel optimism‘ in visual projects of the artists in wartime Ukraine (2013-2023)
Publication Page https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0483-1915
Field of research Art and Cultural Studies
Keywords contemporary art | visual art practices in Ukraine | art and resilience | nonconformism | art and violence | art and terror | war and art

LESIA SMYRNA is an art researcher, theorist and curator, author of several individual monographs, co-author of collective monographs, articles and projects related to the new epistemological and aesthetic potential of visual art forms in Ukraine.

In 2003, she completed her PhD studies at the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts, defending her thesis on the sixties Ukrainian artist Viktor Zaretskyi, and for the first time in the historical art discourse of Ukraine analyzed the chronological and geographical aspects of resistance, non-conformism, Soviet-era art, the main guidelines of its movement and the diversity of art schools (Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv and Transcarpathian). In 2006, a revised and expanded work entitled “”Viktor Zaretskyi. An artist doomed by time’ was published with the support of a grant from the President of Ukraine for gifted young people.

As part of her work at the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, Smyrna actively participates in international curatorial exhibition and research projects, and has initiated a number of productive communications with key art institutions in Eastern and Western Europe. As an active expert in the field of contemporary visual arts, Smyrna implements her expert activity through cooperation with ministries, NGOs and foundations. As a member of the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, she participates in the reform of the higher education system in Ukraine.

In 2018, Smyrna completed her Ph.D. dissertation and published a monograph based on it, entitled “”The Centennial of the Nonconformism in Ukrainian Visual Art”” (2017). This research project was carried out in cooperation with the “”Soviart”” Centre for Contemporary Art and the Modern Art Research Institute. The result of this research collaboration was the curatorial project “”100 NON”” in Kyiv and Sumy. As a lecturer on the history of Ukrainian art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Smyrna initiated the development of proposals for the implementation of the principles of creative industries in educational activities and the involvement of specialists in the latest trends in contemporary art. This approach has become important for the theoretical understanding of the dialectic of Ukrainian culture and art, and its modern practical institutional formation.

In 2022, Smyrna became a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) and started working on a new research project analysing new forms of artistic expression in Ukraine during the war. This research project was also supported by the Institute for Advanced Study (Germany) and the Research Center for the History of Transformations (Austria) and gained a clearer methodological outline in the context of deepening the traumatic experience of wartime art in Ukraine.