In 2017, the artist Riccardo Matlakas was invited by the Municipal Gallery in the Ukraine in connection with the British council, to be resident in Kharkiv for a month. The program, Uk/Ukraine Swap, saw artists based in the UK deliver work in the Ukraine and vice versa.
During the month of September, the artist had the opportunity to see with his own eyes what is really happening between the Ukraine and Russia and delivered three performance actions during his stay.
The first work which is titled: Pyjamas Party.
Matlakas, with the help of locals, created pyjamas for the T-34 tank in front of History Museum of Kharkiv, Ukraine. The action involved the creation of a fake permission document, the creation of extra large pyjamas for the original T-34 Tank from the 2nd world war and the operation of dressing the tank, which lasted 2 hours.
The aim of this performance was to cathartically change the image of a tank, wanting war to fall asleep so that peace can be awakened. Matlakas explains the choice of the pyjamas’ patterns and more details on a TV interview to UA: Харків, a local Tv Channel in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The interview can be found online.
This particular action gained attention and was loved as much as it was hated due to the fact that the tank is seen as a symbol of the country’s victory for some. The artist explains that a tank, regardless of which side it is on, brings suffering to one side or the other. The action was made to wish the Ukraine and many other countries future peace, as conflicts go to sleep. The fake documentation was also part of the work as otherwise the action would have not been possible. This action would not have been possible without the help of locals to create fake documentation, buy material, and sew the pyjamas.
The artist decided to create a new work, which was a “come back”, he created another piece of cloth which would cover the cannon part of the tank, writing an explanatory poem on it. and two weeks later the second action was made, just “to clarify”: as the artist stated.
These works will be exhibited at the end of February, 2019 at the Odessa Art Museum in a collective exhibition which sees all the “Swap Artists” involved in the program.
Riccardo Matlakas will soon be also performing is iconic piece: “Melting Borders” in occasion of “Performing Britain” an initiative by Live Art Bistro in Leeds in March, 2019 and at Prague Quadriennial in June, 2019.