Beyond the Square is a collaborative documentary project with Mariana Panchuk, Marta Vaz, Natalie Samovich, Evgeniya Pavlenko and her students, Vitaliy Gorduz, Mykyta Gapchuk, Serj Korenev, Sergeiy Yakutovich, Elena Fadeeva, Pinhas Fishel, Irina Dzhus and Sasha Sukhetska, Nataliya Andreeva, Viktoria Shibistaya, Roman, Larissa, Oleksiy Imas and Inna Imas and Maximillian and Eric, Anton Ovchinnikov and his students, Anton Safovov, Viktor Zotov, Valentina Masalitina, Katerina Lisunova, Alena Vezza and Yaroslava Chumachenko.

(Kyiv, 2014)

Beyond the Square is a collaborative documentary project that engages its participants in shared narratives and testimonies of a place and of themselves. It aims to construct an experience of diverse ideas and stories brought together as representation of a rich multiplicity of identity and voices.

During the events leading to February 2014 in Kyiv, there was an explosion of international media reports on Ukraine. The visual representations of conflict have their own language. It is a language which is understood, replayed and re-enacted in the visual vocabulary of revolution inscribed in the bodies of people. The media iconography of conflict articulates specific narratives very well, but it is often a language of generic motivations, sometimes of misrepresentation. Many times, it wedges a distance of understanding between audience and the typifying of the other. Identity is everything but being a subject of recognition is at the same time being shaped by the norms of that recognition. When we face a picture of a person, whose voice is that artefact an expression of? Who shapes the knowledge that is constructed about who we are and our aspirations? Who tells the stories of ourselves?

The title “Beyond the Square” attempts to signal a double meaning. On one hand to go beyond that visual grammar of conflict, the imagery of Independence Square that was re-iterated in the media. On the other, a going beyond into the aftermath of those events. To take a sense of feelings, hopes, desires, fears and aspirations, a view on the present days of Ukraine and its people, their place and their stories.

This is necessarily a fragmentary engagement, a diversity of experiences, and so the medium of this project is not a singular object such as a film or a book. Instead, it is a collage of materials, testimonies and different kinds of contributions from each participant. They share equal ground in the voicing of the project. Central to this project are questions of representation, self-representation, testimony, and memory. Different elements are juxtaposed: different modes of text (written by the participants or by me), images, films, and audio and video interviews.

A testimony is a story of ourselves and our experiences, it is an embodiment of memory. It is an account of oneself – experience, life, touch, sight, smell, feelings, desires – given to an other. Thus, the idea of collaboration is essential within this project. Sharing and engaging with every interlocutor as such. Every moment in this project is a reflection on and of the situations and encounters that were shared. The images, films and words, rather than condense meaning, intend to multiply its possibility. This is a reflexive dialogue from the very start, a creation of something together.

Manuel Francisco Sousa, December 5, 2014

Other credits

The cameras used in this project were kindly provided by Sony Portugal.