Where Have All The Birds Gone? (2024, ongoing)
Installation view, CCA Tbilisi, Tbilisi, Georgia
Ruins of Narikala Military Fortress, Tbilisi, Georgia

Wheat flour, rye flour, salt, black cumin seeds, gouache, military ruins, text

Where Have All The Birds Gone? is part of an ongoing artistic research on the relationship between culture and nature, the aftermath of conflicts, migration and the language of communication.

The relationship between language and war can be observed from many angles. Nothing defines people more than language. War is what happens when language fails. We differ from animals because we can use our imagination to create stories in our minds and we believe in them. So language could be used as a weapon in wars and conflicts. The importance of language as a means of communication and as a factor of identity makes it a convenient propaganda tool for both conflict escalation and conflict resolution.

In my artistic research I use language and sociolinguistics as a tool to represent both the causes and consequences of conflict. The origin of surzhyk - a Ukrainian-Russian pidgin, a mixed language used in certain regions of Ukraine and neighbouring regions of Russia and Moldova - is connected with the development of the Ukrainian language and Russian-Ukrainian linguistic contacts caused by geographical proximity and the territories of central, southern and eastern Ukraine becoming part of the Russian Empire centuries ago. The term 'surzhyk' refers to a mixture of wheat and rye flour, which was cheaper and considered less desirable than pure wheat flour. By analogy, the word came to refer to a mixture of the Russian and Ukrainian languages.

"What do we hear in the birdsong of our homes? Each species has a sound signature, and individuals within species have their own unique voices. Many meanings are embedded in this diversity of acoustic expression".
War starts with language. This project began with the words of the ancient Cossack song Koloda-Duda from the steppes of the Don River, near the border between Russia and what is now Ukraine:

And where are the geese? They’ve gone into the reeds.
And where are the reeds? The girls have pulled them up.
And where are the girls? The girls have taken husbands.
And where are the Cossacks? They’ve gone to the war.

Later, this particular song, mentioned in Michael Sholokhov’s book ‘And Quietly Flows the Don’ became the inspiration for Pete Seeger’s famous song ?Where Have All the Flowers Gone’, which was performed by Marlen Dietrich and many other singers and became an anti-war message for many people.