School Number One is a multi-channel audiovisual installation which draws on video and sound recordings made in the Carpathian mountains, Western Ukraine, in 2021. The work is part of an ongoing investigation into the Hutsulshchyna region, with a focus on self-representation: the ways in which the particular culture of such places are reproduced and documented by its contemporary inhabitants.
Hryniuk and Thomas accompanied Khrystyna Bunii, a self-taught visual anthropologist, as she made expeditions to archive the photography, music and ephemera of her home region. Bunii’s practice opened up various domestic and semi-public spaces to the filmmakers, providing a glimpse into the lives of its residents.
At the centre of School Number One is a music session at the school in the town of Verkhovyna. Two groups of students–one younger and one older–practice under the watchful eye of a teacher. Periods of individual instruction are interspersed with traditional folk tunes and eventually a leap into abstract improvisation. What they practice for is not apparent but they clearly play with an audience in mind. Around them the rest of the town continues its daily business, soundtracked by the small ensemble.
The work was conceived and shot before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. As such, it presents a snapshot of a time before the current phase of the war. The places filmed are thankfully less brutalised than many parts of the country, due to their location in the west, though they are affected in other ways. The artists condemn the Russian war and stand with Ukrainians in their struggle against it.
Curators: Marta Hryniuk and Nick Thomas