A Glimpse into the Past

John Hill
17. March 2021
Photo courtesy of Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center

A Glimpse into the Past is an art installation by Ohel Shovenko that was recently unveiled at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) in Kyiv. The glass-and-brick monument commemorates the Kurenivka Tragedy, a mudslide caused by a dam burst on March 13, 1961, that killed at least 145 people.

It might not seem so at first glance, but the modest installation is a perfect expression of the 60-year-old disaster. The dam that broke was filled with industrial sewage from Petrovski Brick Plants — with the slurry that comes from the production of bricks. The installation sits on the very spot of the dam's rupture and is made from a variety of locally produced bricks, some dating back to 1843. The glass tank at top is filled with 600 liters of slurry: the equivalent waste that would have come from the production of the bricks beneath it. The last elements in Ohel Shovenko's A Glimpse into the Past are archival films of the tragedy, seen through monocles embedded in the bricks. Brick, glass, slurry, and videos combine to make what looks and acts like a periscope peering into the past.

More than 100 varieties of bricks make up the installation, giving it a mottled appearance. (Photo courtesy of BYHMC)
While the monocles invite people to peer at the films, they also let them see and touch the bricks up close. (Photo courtesy of BYHMC)
The archival films were also featured in the Babyn Yar. Context documentary by Serhiy Loznytsia. (Photo courtesy of BYHMC)
From BYHMC: The art installation A Glimpse into the Past is part of a network of art objects in the urban space of Kyiv. The main focus of this project is on the Babyn Yar tragedy and the events that surrounded it. The first four art installations were unveiled in September 2020 on the grounds of Babyn Yar, and another one in January 2021: A Glimpse into the Past. Tree in Peremohy Avenue.

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