Zhanna Kadyrova

Found river stones
Location: Garrison Command

Palianytsia means bread. The classical meaning of this word is a large round wheat-based bread, baked in the oven. 

At the start of the war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine, the word Palianytsia became a symbol, since Russian occupiers are unable to pronounce it correctly. It became a shibboleth, distinguishing friends from enemies. 

In addition to conventional troops, Russia sent groups of saboteurs to Ukrainian cities in advance of the invasion. The saboteurs’ task was to spy and inform Russians where Ukrainian armed forces were stationed, and where checkpoints and infrastructure facilities were located. They also left identifying marks to help aviation and landing forces navigate and so on. These people moved around the cities in civilian clothes, but were armed.

The project was inspired by the Transcarpathian region where I now live with my co-author Denis Ruban. When the second week of the war started, our whole family was forced to leave our hometown, Kyiv. My mother, sister and aunt are now in Germany, yet we continue to live in the west of Ukraine and hope to return home to the capital. The villages here are protected by the Carpathian Mountains and there are many mountain rivers; their waters run fast and polish the stones. There are no strategic sites such as airfields, military bases and weapons depots here, so we think we are safe. Although sometimes we hear air raid sirens.

Upon arrival, we stopped at an overcrowded and expensive hotel in the district centre. Trying to find our own place, we walked and travelled a lot around the area, and that was when we noticed the river stones. We started looking at them more closely and the idea just came to us. There was no time for distancing and analysis, there was a growing need to do something and be useful! At the moment, there are about 6.5 million internally displaced persons in western Ukraine, so finding a place, especially one with a workshop, was incredibly difficult. 

On the fifth day of our search, we succeeded! We found a detached house with no utilities, not even electricity, because a tree fell seven years ago and broke the wires. Together with the owners, we started organising everything from scratch. Now we have electricity, Internet, a refrigerator and a microwave, firewood for cooking and heating the house and water from a well. Most importantly, we can work. Being able to work on the project really helps us to stay sane, because we feel that we are doing everything we can. We donate 100% of the money we receive for these artworks to volunteer organisations and friends who stayed in Kyiv and joined the Territorial Defence forces.

For the first two weeks of the war, it seemed to me that art was a dream, that all twenty years of my professional life were just something I had seen while asleep, and that art was absolutely powerless and ephemeral in comparison to the merciless military machine that destroys peaceful cities and human lives. Now I no longer think so: I see that every artistic gesture makes us visible and makes our voices heard!

Thank you for your support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine!

Zhanna Kadyrova, 20 March 2022


Zhanna Kadyrova was born in Brovary, in the Kyiv region, Ukraine, where she currently lives and works. She is a member of “R.E.P.” group (Revolution Experimental Space).

After graduating from the Taras Shevchenko State Art School in 1999, she received the Kazimir Malevich Artist Award and the Grand Prix of the Kyiv Sculpture Project (both 2012). She was awarded the Special Prize (2011), Main Prize (2013) and Special Prize – Future Generation International (2014), all by PinchukArtCentre. 

Her most recent projects are all site specific, including an outdoor installation in the Semmering Mountains (Austria), a spread intervention and permanent sculpture in the village of Tolfa (Italy) and a sculptural project for the Shanghai Jing’an International Sculpture Project (JISP) in Shanghai (China). 

She participated in numerous international exhibitions, including the 58th, 56th (international projects) and 55thVenice Biennale (Ukrainian Pavillion), the 2017 Kyiv Biennale and “CrackUpCrackDown”, the 33rd Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at Centre Pompidou, Palais Tokyo; La Kunsthalle Mulhouse (all France), Kunstraum Innsbruck (Austria) Ludwig Museum, Budapest (Hungary), Museum of Modern Art; Uyazdovski Castle, Warsaw (both Poland), Spinnerei Leipzig; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; DAAD, Zimmerstrabe, Berlin (all Germany), the National Union of Cuban Architects and Construction Engineers, Havana (Cuba), Sara Hilden Museum, Tampere (Finnland), Lviv Municipal Art Center, Lviv, National Art Museum of Ukraine and PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv (all Ukraine). 


Since its very beginning, Kadyrova’s practice has tackled disciplines such as sculpture, photo, video and performance, with a deep focus on the exhibition site and space. In her work, the issue of context unravels to reveal the rhythm of History on the move - that of a world whose multiple layers disappear behind their immediacy. Often diverting the aesthetic canons of the socialist ideal still present in the heritage of contemporary Ukraine, Kadyrova’s perspective is partially informed by the plastic and symbolic values of urban building materials. Thus, ceramics, glass, stone and concrete enter under the spotlight in her work.


Zhanna Kadyrova is represented by GALLERIA CONTINUA San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins, Habana, Roma, Sao Paulo, Paris, and ZAHORIAN & VAN ESPEN Bratislava / Prague.