VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Chepelyk, Oksana

Oksana Chepelyk
Ukrainian videomaker


Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

I was born in Kiev in Ukraine, where I live and work today. I studied architecture at the Art Institute in Kiev, 1978-1984, followed a post-graduate course in Moscow, 1986-1988. After the collapse of USSR architecture and constraction, which requires a lot of investement was on dead bed. So I started with my art, theater and fashion practice. I followed the Independent Residency Program at CREDAC in Paris, 1996, the New Media Study Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada, 1998, at Bauhaus Dessau, Germany, 2000-2002, at Design and Media Art Department, UCLA, USA (Fulbright Research Program), 2003-2004 and 2010-2011. I work as multimedia artist with video, film, performance, photography, installation, painting and public art. I have been working on experimental video since 1994.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

1990-1993 I’ve been colaborating with A-A-A Theater as an artist created the veareable decorations. After the death of theater I’ve organized my Oksana Chepelyk’s Fashion Theater showing „Mysteries of Moving Objects“ 1994-1998. I was not satisfy just with documentation of my performances. So, since 1994 I started video experiments with my performances. But at that time it was so dificult to get camera, so if I had chance to get camera for half an hour, film has to be done with this period of time. That how I started to make the art films, or so called „film-concept“ (term coinced by Lubomyr Hoseiko, French film critic who has organized the retrospective of my experimental films in Paris in 2009). Through internships in other countries in various spheres of art (architecture, film, media art), I gradually outlined the key problems that I resolve with new concepts by working with form: «Mysteries of the moving objects» (1995–1996), «Meeting of Two Submarines» (1997), «Virtual Sea Tower» (2000) and «Origin» (2006), in which inflatable objects play the main role.

3. What kinds of topics have your films?

Overall, the themes that I develop are especially geared for dialogue, oriented toward communication, open to the audience. Visual experiments dealing with gender research. Since 1992 post-soviet countries start to discover fashion with all illegal activities around (like sex-slavery and so on). At that time I focused on the topic of woman as a commodity, mass consciousness, power and intercultural communication, history that shape our present and future through gender approach. I appealed to the phenomenon of confession where the sexuality is researched as an intercultural experience. My videos balanced between the research of sexuality and politics. They appealed to the danger of the 20th century mass illusions, the global mediatisation of our life and explored a problem of the responsibility. Our time may be remembered in the history of humanity as the era of manipulation that is gradually destroying the border between the artificial and the real, the natural and the constructed. And the state politics that, in the words of Michel Foucault, distinguishes itself today through its capability to “force one to live and allow one to die” is taking on the markings of the very “biopolitics” that ensures the survival of the human race – the masses – and doesn’t see, notice, or hear the individual person. Emphasizing this dangerous opposition in „Origin“ video, „Genesis“ project is supplemented by a documentary „Birth“ video of actual labor with blood, pain, physical suffering, and the first cry of newborn life… The theme of manipulation of the human body, using it as an instrument in political, advertising, aesthetic, and other activities, delineates one of the themes running through my work of that period: “Contemporary Mysteries” (1997), “Leader’s Favorite Toys” (1998), “Free D” (2000), the movie shot on 35 mm film “Chronicles of Fortinbras” (2001), and “Female ID” (2002). Incorporating new media technologies and touching a number of content-spatial dimensions of perception and interpretations of reality, my works simultaneously seem to confirm Paul Virilio’s bitter conclusion: “Progress acts on us like a forensic scientist who violates each orifice of the investigated body. It not only overtakes the human, but goes past him, and heaps up, accumulates and condenses in each of us the full range of (visual, social, psycho-motor, affective, sexual, etc.) detrital disorders which it has taken on with each innovation, each with their full complement of specific injuries.” What role remains for art in such conditions – as a mirror of the problem, an avenue for social therapy, a project for a new reality, or the personal response of the author whose live emotion is capable of being heard over the buzz of global information?
In 2000-2002 I took part in the program “Bauhaus Kolleg” (Dessau, Germany), which aimed at the complex study of cities much attention was devoted to the social aspects of architecture and city planning. These spheres urgently demand using specific instruments and problem vision of the contemporary art. Such video projects as «Virtual Sea Tower» (Rio de Janeiro), «Introduction», «Bermuda Tunnel» and «Free D», “Urban Multimedia Utopia” are on the crossroads of many problems: communications in the contemporary city, the coexistence and functioning of social and virtual space. They responded to many critical questions, such as the artist’s vision of the contemporary city, the attempt to use urban architecture or the structure of social space as a cultural text, which can be read in various unexpected contexts.
I work on the problem of the context in which contemporary art exists, especially the media context. My projects are socially oriented, and it can be explained through several factors. I try to apprehend and to understand society and social space acting as an architect through the prism of a city, viewing it as a complicated multifunctional model of the human existence. I connect theories of the urban development with the economic, ecological and demographical problems and therefore come closer to the understanding of spatial and temporal relations, interactions between media flows and the human being. By means of my own artistic message I embody the conception of the synthesis of architectural space, contemporary approach and new media.
The Collider project works with time, space, science, urbanism, history and new technologies. It examines the iconic places of C20-21 political history. The project deals with events, which took place in different urban landscapes, which had influenced the subsequent historical development. This large, long-term project began in the USA, in Dallas – on the site of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Under experimental conditions, colliders research quantum particles collision to generate strange matter, anti-matter, art collider researches human being collisions and energy outcome. Project connects science, history with the economic, social and political problems to understand the global breaks we live now, historical perspectives and interactions between human being. Dealing with democracy, science and history, it is about the understanding of our space-time, researching the relation between past, present and future transformation of society. COLLIDER is a panoramic video of some of the world’s most perilous political flashpoints: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the site of 1914 Archiduc Ferdinand assassination in Sarajevo followed by WWI and National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina fired on and burned during Bosnian war 1992-1995; Dallas, Texas, USA, site of the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination; site of the LA Riot; the Russian White House, Moscow, site of a 1991 failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in Soviet Union; Independence Square, Kiev, Ukraine, site of 2004-2005’s Orange Revolution events and Euromaidan 2013-2014 functioning as space of freedom, of battles against repression and injustice under conditions of paradigmatic changes. According to Spinoza the thinking is equivalent to action, where the bodies allocated with the mental life embodying ideas act. Deleuze interpreting Spinoza said: “the idea imprints in soul and the body enters into an infinite number of interactions”. Installation is an interpretation of such multitude. Reading Spinoza’s unfinished Political Treatise “political physics” of bodies that multitude become “a productive essence” (Antonio Negri) we understand that Ukrainian Maidan is a direct democracy, about which Spinoza only dreamed. The tension points, which structure and collect experience, in which we are wrapped and immersed, is a destiny of video work. The “Collider” video, working with the events that have formed the world in which we live now, raises the question: is a person a particle in the system of accelerators of global forces, or the energy of interaction investigating new values, new forms of thought and new ways of existence in the world – insisting that ‘another world is possible’?

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc.?

Some of my films are based on art performance, some of them research the visual language. My collaborative work with writer Oksana Zabuzhko, whose philosophical essays formed the basis for the film “Chronicles of Fortinbras” (2001), is an example of the this approach. This short film is essentially a performance, which organically intertwines with literary quotations. This film is based on the essay collection of the same title by Oksana Zabuzhko, author of the autobiographical prose work Field Research on Ukrainian Sex (1996). The film interprets the philosophical text and feminist intonation of the writer’s view of national consciousness in a timeless cultural environment with an associative fabric of words and expressive images. In the film it is constructed the imaginary mythological space of the studied phenomenon from metaphorical actions and performances, assemblages of past events and excerpts from historical films. Thus it also evokes Shevchenko’s approach to the female essence and the lot of women in the Ukraine, represented by the female body (the body of culture), tormented and desecrated here by repugnant dwarfs. The latter symbolise male totality – the source of the Ukraine’s passive fate, past and present. The staged episodes, treating the absurd and the grotesque, allegory and parody, also reflect the Ukrainian literary tradition (irrationality and poeticism) and film (Dovzhenko).
«Real Master Class» (2008) documentary film directed was nominated for «Nika» Russian Academy of Cinema Award, granted for the best film of the CIS and Baltic States. This is a film about being Ukrainian artist, about prospects of Ukrainian art. It shows the way to resist and to get the freedom. We observe the director Roman Balayan making his film “Paradise birds” or Andriy Zholdak holding theatre rehearsal, we accompany Oksana Zabuzhko at her meeting with readers. A film researches the creative personalities and cultural climat and reflects on the state of prospects of Ukrainian nation. The sounding balloons go to the noosphere. According to Vernadskyi’s theory about noosphere, culture is the original runback of energy that is accumulating on Earth and carries out influence on Space.
My last full length documentary “In The Shade of White Acacias” is made in the style of cinema verite. It is an existential film about Earth and unlike how it is represented as young woman, full of energy by Dovzhenko, but as old one, who has five adult children. This one family exemplifies today’s life in Ukraine, its daily troubles and hardship of oligarchic feudalism that caused the change of survival strategies for simple rural family. Instead of resting in the shade of white acacias the old man Ivan and his wife Stepanyda struggle to survive the crisis. When their elder son died, they learn how to live further. Film develops the topic of “life and death”, as through the prism of personal tragedy, but also in a social sense of Ukrainian village decline. And if today the EU countries are expressing a “deep concern” about the events in Ukraine, then at the Stalinist era of the agricultural Ukraine suppression and Terror-Famine the world preferred to keep silence.
I’m always interested in experimentation. My last longue term Collider project working with time, space, science, urbanism, history and new technologies. Is an example. If the latest theory of Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho is right, the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest atom smasher – could be the first machine capable of causing matter to travel backwards in time. And time is one of the fundamental concepts for physics and philosophy, one of the key co-ordinates of space-time. In the COLLIDER project, time-space is presented by panoramic video that consists of 24-60 fragments of moving images, which are revolved with acceleration in an artistic collider, activating a mechanism of audio-visual jumps where certain fragments can gradually be substituted by archival videos. Computer generated visual breaks we live now that will shape our future. “Collider_100” includes visualization emulating fluid dynamics, virtual cosmogonic breathing, kaleidoscopization of chaotic urban structures, unlocked through decryption keys that evoke transformational metaphors of human energy. It is a video, where human being is immersed into cosmogonic fluid environment.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

In 90 an access to the technical equipment in Ukraine was very limited, so I need to go abroad for the residencies to get it. In Ukraine one film shot with Arriflex on 35 mm, the others with Panasonic HVX 204 AER camera, some with Canon Mini DV camera, the rest with Canon photo camera.

6. These days digital technology is dominating also video as a medium. In which way the digital aspect is entering the creation of your videos, technologically and/or conceptually?

I’m always interested in experimentation. Digital aspect is entering technologically and conceptually the creation of my videos. I have been using distortive, multiplicative techniques in “Urban Multimedia Utopia” (2002) with its bitmap city landscapes, “Shifting Time” (2004) and “Collider”, (2011-2012) “Collider_100” (2013-2015). Whereas “Urban Multimedia Utopia” digitally bitmapped a single view to distort it, thus offering a direct sense of a mediated urban experience, Collider’s bitmapping is a composition of multiple angles, such that the privileged position of the subject is itself distorted. In the “Collider” a fragmented representation of a space-time makes reference to the quantum theory. According to superstring theory, at every point in our four-dimensional space, a 6-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifold is attached – so small that they’re at the Planck scale, the subatomic scale at which quantum field theory breaks down and gravitational forces becomes erratic. These problematic scales are one of the objects of project’s investigations. The smallest particles, accelerated and brought into contact with one another, disfigure the experience of space-time – and thus, subjectively, space-time itself. Multi-dimensional manifolds incorporate these fluctuations – both quantum and geometric – giving rise to complex folds, complex forms. Unexpected emergence and uncontainable risk, rebirth and apocalypse are both contained in those moments. These quantum-level accounts go some way towards explaining how can we be so close and yet not perceive, not understand, not prevent. Importantly, however, these are not metaphors; these are not analogies; these are physical explanations. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari insist that their work not be taken metaphorically – that it is variously practical, instructional, imperative. Nietzsche in his Gay Science famously proclaimed: “Long live physics!” – constantly reminding us that the physical world is all we have, that we need to say yes to contingency and ensure that our ethics are grounded in this one and only world. COLLIDER too insists on an engagement with the physical.
These accounts also explain why it can be difficult to see the world from a broader perspective. It’s not simply a matter of standing back or taking a broader view. Project takes a keen sense of structure to form this experience: the philosophy and the physics of critical mass and emergence, of the conditions that yield the new, the unimaginable, the unthinkable. In structure there is both movement and gravity, from which a demanding set of questions emerge. Each of those moments have existed; each historic moment is driven by unknown individuals at untold speeds, accompanied by undeveloped possibilities. If we follow the logic of each moment’s construction, if we follow the logic of Collider’s near political destruction, what kind of an end to our world can we expect – and when?
The Doomsday Clock takes this possibility very seriously, marking just how close we are to the destruction of the world, and updating when a world-historic event occurs. The Doomsday Clock is maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as a perpetual present, indicating the proximity of threats to our survival from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies. In January 2007, the Atomic Scientists moved the perilous hand from its originary 1947 setting of seven minutes to midnight, to just five, reflecting the twin threats of nuclear destruction and failure to act on climate change. How many tipping points do we need before moving to reframe the system?
The end may be close in time, but what about space? The manifold and the supercollider complicate this – as do globalized capital, networked communications and the growing scale of contemporary political resistance. The interplay between micro- and macrosystems, between physical and social worlds explores a variety of contemporary and historical phenomena.
It is a critical art that testifies today’s social reality and its traumas. It is important as an approach in art to certify and record some corporeal feeling of contemporaneity, for sake of the future.
It is an invitation to co-experience the complexity of the world, dealing with violent conflicts, social upheaval and war events, that took place in different urban landscapes, which had influenced subsequent historical development. My video art, fed by obscured history and political urgencies, acts as a catalyst for the culturally charged encounters – experiences, feelings, a kind of shared breath – that materialize through the local environments and social relations.

7. How do you finance your films?

Luck of institutional support in Ukraine urges me to go abroad for production residencies: 1997 – Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, USA (Artslink Program);
1998 – BANFF Centre for the Arts, Canada (BANFF Centre grant)
2000-2002 – Bauhaus-Kolleg, Dessau, Germany (Bauhaus Dessau Foundation scholarship)
2001 – FACT Foundation for Art & Creative Technology, Liverpool, UK (FACT grant)
– ARTELEKU Art Centre, San Sebastian, Spain (ARTELEKU grant)
2003 – Prague SCCA, Czech (Soros Foundation grant, USA)
2003-2004 – UCLA, Los Angeles, USA (Fulbright scholarship)
2007 – SFAI, Santa Fe (SFAI grant), Museum of Jurassic Technology, LA, USA (ArtsLink Independent Project Award)
2010-2011 – UCLA, Los Angeles, USA (Fulbright scholarship)
2010-2014 – Cinemadamare IIFF, Italy.
3 films were produced with the support of Ukrainian State Film Agency.
But regarding the difficult economical situation in Ukraine and the fact that Ukraine is excluded from any international programs, very often I produce self-financed videos.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

It depends on the budget and certain possibilities. I have experience in both. Sometimes I prefer to work in a team to achieve more professional result, but luck of production budget prevents this. Sometimes I prefer to work individually, there is no need to explain what I want to avoid misunderstanding even beside the luck of budget. It depends on project.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

Jos Stelling, Bertrand Blier had lasting influence on me, but when I’ve started with my filmmaking I already tried to search for my own film language.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

My future plans as video maker are to develop my „COLLIDER“ project further – examining the Lujza Blaha Squire in Budapest (Hungary), the Geumnamno street in Kwangju (South Korea), Gdansk Shipyard, a place of Solidarność events (Poland), the Tiananmen Square in Beijing (China), the former Berlin Wall (Germany), Grozny in Chechnya (Russia), WTC memorial in New York (USA), Freedom Square in Tbilisi (Georgia), Paradis Square in Baghdad (Iraq), Mexico City’s Zócalo and Paseo de la Reforma (Mexico), Tahrir Square in Cairo (Egypt), a site of Occupy events next to St Paul’s Cathedral in London (UK), Bolotna Squire in Moscow (Russia), Aleppo (Syria) and Donetsk airport (Ukraine). Working on COLLIDER project, I try to cover all places with historical events in public spaces around the globe to complete the piece (to explain global character of installation I would like to refer to «The Clock» by Christian Marclay, the winner of the Golden Lion award at the 2011 Venice Biennale). And as soon as these events are growing, it is endless story and always on a peak. I’m interested to capture the decisive mutations, which are arising from today’s redefinitions of the world and global civilizational changes we live now.
My dream as filmmaker is to go to Cannes with my feature film “Donbas Island”.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the CologneOFF platform? Where?
List some links & resources

Artraker AWARD 2013:
Architecture + Philosophy Australian Platform:
XV Edition LMP 2014 Eindhoven – Live video performers visual artist and vj meeting:
VAD –Video Art Database:
Modern Art Research Institute of the NAAU:,
Youtube and Vimeo.