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Contemporary and immersive Monash exhibition explores 500 years of Ukrainian print history

Monash University 3 mins read
Hoping Against Hope Exhibition. Credit: Timothy Herbert.

Monash multimedia design students have animated poetry from one of Ukraine's leading writers and musicians Serhiy Zhadan, as part of a new and immersive exhibition set to open at Monash University June 4.


Australian writer and musician Nick Cave provides the reading of the world-first translation of the poem.


The exhibition, Hoping Against Hope, was developed by Monash University Library from their world-class Ada Booth Slavic Collection, and explores the relationship between resistance, resilience and hope in Ukraine.


The exhibition takes visitors through more than 500 years of Ukrainian print culture, set against vibrant Ukrainian-inspired designs, animations and interactive technologies.


“We wanted to create an immersive and nuanced experience – an invitation to consider the power of storytelling to foster hope amidst adversity and oppression in Ukraine,” said Dr Anne Holloway, Special Collections Curator at Monash University Library. 


World-leading Ukrainian studies scholar Emeritus Professor Marko Pavlyshyn, who received the Ukrainian Presidential Order of Merit in 2019 and provided expert curatorial advice said he hopes the exhibition will support others to learn more about Ukraine.


"Russia's war on Ukraine is a war to extinguish Ukrainian identity. Hoping Against Hope is a beautiful and uplifting exhibition which shows how Ukrainian culture has resisted such endeavours in the past, and how it is doing so again today," Professor Marko Pavlyshyn said. 


The exhibition's name is drawn from Lesia Ukrainka's poem "Contra Spem Spero”, written in 1890. It is one of the selected pieces of poetry from the collection animated by Monash multimedia design students. 


This includes Serhiy Zhadan’s poem Like snails, people wait for evening, which captures the initial displacement of people, as they fled across the Polish border following the full-scale Russian invasion in 2022.


Professor Pavlyshyn read the Ukrainian version and translated it into English for the first time. Nick Cave provided the English voiceover. 


“The urgency and upheaval of that time are captured so powerfully, as is the reminder of the way hope can anchor us. Standing in the gallery space and hearing Nick Cave’s reading is incredibly moving,” Dr Holloway said.


Other exhibition highlights include:

  • A 1620 text ‘Garden of the Soul’ written in Ruthenian – a term used to describe the language of the Ukrainians and Belorusians in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Commonwealth of Poland.
  • Clandestine underground publications, including a 1962 punk zine from Yugoslavia and Krushchev-era materials from Ukrainian diaspora publishers such as the Association of Ukrainian Writers in Exile known as Slovo. 
  • The interactive display of American photographer Cheney Orr’s work War Notes displaying both photographs and field recordings.
  • A reflective space that features work from Naarm-based artist of Ukrainian descent Christy Chudosnik and a display curated by students from Ukraine, Myanmar and Afghanistan, who are part of a leadership group convened by Monash Virtual School partner Classrooms Without Walls. 

Hoping Against Hope is part of Monash University Library’s ongoing program of free, public exhibitions, and was made possible by the Ada Booth benefaction, according to Monash University Librarian Bob Gerrity. 


Ada Booth was a physicist and educator who left a $10 million trust fund and thousands of books she collected during her lifetime to the Library. 


“The Ada Booth Slavic Collection now contains more than 14,000 items in 25 languages. It’s a real treasure trove. We are incredibly proud to put some of these on display for the first time.


Hoping Against Hope is a way for us to honour her legacy and to support our community to deepen their understanding of complex geopolitical issues,” Mr Gerrity said. 


Hoping Against Hope formally opens June 4 at the Matheson Gallery, Sir Louis Matheson Library Clayton campus Monash University. Entry is free.


Hoping Against Hope was curated by Dr Anne Holloway and Deanna Ramsey, and produced in partnership with leading exhibition designers at Studio Peter King, Monash University students and in consultation with leading Ukrainian scholar Monash Emeritus Professor Marko Pavlyshyn. 


High-resolution images of the exhibition available [HERE].





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