About the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation

IZOLYATSIA - APL315. Source: 2011, Dima Sergeev.

The ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation is a non-profit non-governmental platform for cultural initiatives, founded in 2010 in Donetsk on the site of a former insulation materials plant. It is to this very plant that the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation owes its name.

The ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation’s goal is to be a catalyst for cultural decentralisation, working primarily in regional areas. The Foundation creates and spreads knowledge about the social and cultural context of Eastern Ukraine, leading Donbas out of information isolation.

The ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation’s mission is to stimulate positive systematic changes in Ukrainian society using cultural instruments. To change public opinion towards politically sensitive themes and marginalised communities through artistic practices.

Cai Guo-Qiang, 1040m Underground exhibition opening. Source: 2011, Dima Sergeev.

In its early years the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation realised more than 20 art projects. Amongst the participants there were both promising young Ukrainian artists (Roman Minin, Zhanna Kadyrova, Sasha Kurmaz, Ivan Svitlychnyi, Hamlet Zinkivskyi), and global stars of contemporary art (Cai Guo-Qiang, Borys Mykhailov, Daniel Buren, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer). Over 4 short years the number of people visiting the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation grew from 600-1000 in 2010 to 20,000 people in early 2014.

Cai Guo-Qiang, 1040m Underground. Source: 2011, Dima Sergeev.

Among the most striking projects of this period was Cai Guo-Qiang’s 1040m Underground (2011). The Chinese artist created a series of gunpowder drawings alongside local miners, artists and volunteers. The exhibition Gender in IZOLYATSIA (2012) was also important. The exhibition analysed the social and psychological mechanisms of how gender is constructed, avoiding a simple enumeration of the gender stereotypes which already existed in Ukraine.

Gender in IZOLYATSIA exhibition. Source: 2011, Dima Sergeev.

Among other significant projects were the photo residency programme Partly Cloudy and the Homo Bulla exhibition project, which was created by Maria Kulikovska, an artist from Crimea, and the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation’s curator Olena Chervonik.

Zvukoizolyatsia 2: Outside. Source: 2012, Dima Sergeev.

2013 was the first warning sign for the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation. On 4 April 2013 pro-Russian activists made an attack on the Foundation’s site during TechCamp Donetsk 2.0, an educational seminar for representatives of non-governmental social organisations. It was these very activists that became the nucleus of the Russian occupation forces in the temporarily Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The attack was evidence of the strategic importance of the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation for the development of the region. The Foundation constituted a danger for Russia-backed illegal armed formations, as they did not want positive changes in Donetsk.

After the Revolution of Dignity and the attempted annexation of Crimea the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in April 2014 the active stage of the occupation of Donetsk began. The ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation, however, did not cease its work.

In the already temporarily Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine in the city of Donetsk the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation held the Ukrainian Literary Festival under the curation of the writer Liubko Deresh. Journalists and writers from across all of Ukraine were guests at the event. The aim of the festival was to show that the idea replicated in the media of residents of the Donbas as supporters of the occupation is not true.

‘Izolyatsia’ projects in 2011-2014. Source: 2012, ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation.

On 9 June 2014 representatives of the representatives of the Russian occupation administration in the Donetsk region seized the site of the former plant and placed a sniper at the top of the slagheap that was on the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation’s premises. The Foundation’s premises were ransacked, and a substantial proportion of the artworks and equipment was destroyed.

The representatives of the Russian occupation administration in the Donetsk region turned the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation into a training camp for soldiers, as well as a depot for stolen automobiles, a prison and a torture site. According to a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the ‘Izolyatsia’ illegal prison detainees are subjected to torture, including electric shocks and through mock executions, and sexual violence.

Members of the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation team were evacuated and continued to work in Kyiv, on the site of the Kyiv Shipbuilding Plant. And after 7 years of work in Kyiv, the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation decided to focus its activity on regional locations and projects aimed at decentralisation, so in 2021 it opened an office in the city of Soledar in the Donetsk region and continues its work there.

Salicornia. Source: 2021, IZOLYATSIA, Zoya Laktionova.

Now the Foundation is working in three key directions:

  1. Art.
  2. Education.
  3. Projects aimed at activating Ukraine’s creative sector.

Some of the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation’s projects:

‘Izolyatsia: must speak’ is a comprehensive project that combines a political and informational campaign with an artistic component. The project was founded in December 2020 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and is conducted jointly with the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation, the Ukrainian Institute and Stanislav Aseyev, Ukrainian journalist, writer and former political prisoner of the Russian Federation. The goal of the campaign is to draw the international community's attention to the specific facts of human rights violations and tortures in the temporarily Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, in particular in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with an ultimate goal of shutting down of the illegal prison called ‘Izolyatsia’ (de facto – a concentration camp) and other similar objects.

Gurtobus is a cultural hub created inside a city bus, which works in remote parts of Ukraine.

A residency programme for foreign artists.

IZONE: a coworking and creative hub and a community of conscientious entrepreneurs.

IZONE Media: a podcast studio and educational platform for audio content producers.

The partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute is also extremely important for the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation. Thanks to our partners, the international community is learning about the numerous crimes against civilians, inhumane treatment and human rights violations that have occurred and continue to occur now, in the center of Europe.

Despite the forced relocation, Ukrainian Donbas remains the focus of the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation’s activity. The Foundation continues to be a bridge between the temporarily Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the rest of Ukraine.

The ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation continues to generate people and ideas around it: from local to global.

The ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation continues to provide a voice for those who are not being heard.

The war continues. So does the work of the ‘Izolyatsia’ Foundation.