Kurmaz Sasha

Queer Garden, 2019


German and Maria Lanko in Kharkiv, Ukraine, is shaped by a thematically focused artistic and civic activist gesture that seeks to promote the development of the rights of minority communities and a generalrespect for ‘otherness’. The concept of this work combined the principles of nurturing public space and consolidating the potential of an open society by focusing on the construction of a site representing solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community through a performative gesture. Sasha Kurmaz intervened in one of Kharkiv’s squares to enhance its atmosphere by planting exclusively dioecious plants – such as poplar, willow, aspen, sea buckthorn or cannabis – that metaphorically refer to the symbolism of the sexual difference being observed. Efforts to cultivate a specific site, cooperation with the inhabitants who use it on a daily basis, and the process of planting new plants, understood as a space for encounter and joint meaningful work towards the future, became part of the work. In a broader context, the concept of the Queer Garden referred to a rich tradition of artistic engagement following Joseph Beuys’ legendary 7000 Oaks project realized in 1982 as part of the documenta 7 exhibition in Kassel. The principle of social sculpture, however, was dynamized in the situation of Kharkiv both by the fact of the absence of local experience in using the potential of contemporary art to intervene in public space, and by its radical content, since for a significant part of Ukrainian society the themes related to the existence and rights of the LGBTQ + community are hardly graspable and in a sense hardly acceptable. Thus, the Queer Garden project created a space for the growth of newly planted trees in the middle of the city, in a zone of rest and calm, in order to invite users to reflect on their own ability to understand, respect and open themselves to the needs of the community in its diversity and complexity at the moment of stopping. 

The Queer Garden project was realized by Sasha Kurmaz in 2019 with the support of the Kharkiv Women’s Association Sphere ( and PrideHub, as part of the Second Biennale of Young Art, subtitled It seems, I am entering our garden, organised by Kharkiv Municipal Gallery, and is presented in the exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction through the presentation of photographic documentation and other accompanying materials.

Sasha Kurmaz and Boris Filonenko with contribution by Michal Koleček