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Surprise Subscription #39

Among the legendary stories of art practiced as resistance, few ring as powerfully as that of Olivier Messiaen and his iconic Quartet for the End of Time. While held as a prisoner-of-war in WWII, the legendary French composer used the decrepit instruments at hand–namely a clarinet, violin, cello, and piano–to create what would ultimately become his most celebrated work. It was premiered in front of the prisoners and their (most likely stunned) guards, going down in history as a triumphant symbol of the resilience of the human spirit.



Fast forward 80 years and you can see this very same inexorable force at work in Solomiya–a magazine founded in April 2022 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and this month’s selection for our Surprise Subscription. In a rich display of personal stories and captivating visual art, the magazine features the work of emerging and established artists from Ukraine and beyond, reflecting on an environment shaped by vicious imperialist aggression. The very fact that Solomiya is still publishing is itself a not-inconsiderable victory in what can sometimes seem like an endless war.



This third issue of Solomiya is as desperate as it is full of love, beauty, and courage. It is filled with an unsettling longing for “a journey, an escape, and freedom”–as a young soldier from Odesa named Yevhen puts it in War Dreams, a poignant series of portraits by the Italian photographers Caimi & Piccini. It raises thought-provoking questions about masculinity in war through the recent work of Vsevolod Kazarin, and juxtaposes the innocence of youth with the unforgiving harshness of reality with Alex Mashtaler’s hitherto unpublished photography.



 To provide even deeper cultural context, Ivanna Kozachenko and the artist collective Commercial Public Art dissect the spatial strategies of the architecture built by Russian forces in the occupied territories of Ukraine; while the writings of Lucy Zoria and the photographer Sebastian Wells offer diverse insights into the lived experiences of young Ukrainians abroad.



It was our great pleasure to launch this issue here in Berlin at do you read me?!. In a situation where it feels as if little if anything can be done in the struggle against the Russian invaders in Ukraine, we felt it was our obligation to make sure that the stories and art contained in this stunning publication could be shared with as wide an audience as possible. Maybe you can also keep spreading the word. Just to keep the fires lit…






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