Kateryna Lymar

The Essence of Home
Video, performance, 2023

Serhiy Zhadan, a Ukrainian poet from Donbas, wrote: “

Block to block, nail to nail, wall to wall.
If you can stop me, then stop me.
But if you want me out of here,
you’ll have to take my home with me.

Home. Essence. Emulsion. Water. Cement. Mix. Add more. Mix. Turn on the drill. Turn off the light. Stir with your hands. Stir by scratching your fingers until your hands bleed. Stir so fast that the grey, heavy solution seeps through all the cracks and wounds and glues everything that groans with dull pain. Stir while closing your eyes. To remember home and start a dialogue with memory. My home stands on the ruins of my memories of it. It is clean, warm, and strong, but most importantly, it is intact. 

The starting point for my artist-at-residency research is based on a personal experience of a colonized person, as I am coming from Donbas – a region under Russian occupation since 2014. In 2014, I first encountered a direct act of violence by the colonizer – war came to my home. I look at pictures of my grandmother’s destroyed house and the destroyed library, and I don’t understand why anyone would want what belongs to me.

Every colonized person, every nation whose original local culture has been suppressed and buried, a people upon whom an inferiority complex has been imposed – finds themself in a situation where their entire experience now lies in the hands of the colonizer. In 2022, since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I finally stopped speaking Russian and switched to Ukrainian. It is an act of protest, returning to my roots and reclaiming my agency. And I will take this as an example for future actions.

In March 2022, for the second time in 25 years of my life, I evacuated from the place where I could find my second home – Kyiv. The war came there too. I found myself at a dead end of my thoughts and desires. When you lose your home a second time, it becomes a pattern. It is one thing to leave your homeland, knowing that it exists and you can return to it, but how do you return to something that is no longer there? How do you start looking for a home again, knowing that it might be taken away? What is home? What is it made of?

I go back to thinking about home again. All I see in front of me is a pile of cement scattered on the ground. In 2014, in Luhansk; in 2022, in Kyiv. These pieces of cement cause me pain but also evoke tender feelings. Someone has to pick them up and build a new house. Everyone should have a place for weddings and funerals. 

I found the essence of home in cement. Cement is the lifeblood of the house, the essence. This toxic dark grey liquid is filled with rocks, ready to turn into an immovable base. I trust it. I believe in it. But, still, I know that it can be taken, destroyed, pressed by others. What should I do? Should I step into this fear and start making a foundation again, or should I stop?

My performance aims to explore my desire to find a home. I discovered how difficult the process of even building a single brick is, so the process became even more valuable to me. It scares me. But I made a decision to continue. This act is a manifestation of missed opportunities. I will fight for my cement. I will continue to build a boundary for my home forever.

I will send a piece of cement, the essence of home, its pure blood, to space. To remind us about the connection with reality and how important it is never to stop fighting for your roots.