The Suitcase
By Kostya Benkovich

The project was inspired by the stories of Ukrainian refugees and their flight to safety. The artist, the Israeli-based sculptor Kostya Benkovich, came in touch with many dispossessed families who left Ukraine and, gradually, his experience of relieving their traumatic memories distilled into the proposed artwork.

The installation features an abandoned solitary suitcase sculpted of steel rebar. It is simultaneously the symbol of displacement and homelessness, and the reminder of the refugee's former life, now ruined by some catastrophe.

"The theme of the absence, or restriction of freedoms, and the recognition of the victims of state repression reoccur in my work. I had to left Russia myself, and have to a certain extent, become an object of my own work because the suitcase is all I now have that connects me to the past," the artist said.

The artist also refers to UNHCR global refugee account and trends report stating that for the first time on record the number of people forced to flee war, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed 100 million, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other armed conflicts.

This work, emotionally charged and laden with layers of meanings, is a tribute to the plight of refugees worldwide.

The installation has the appearance of an open-air theatre, stage overlooking the street and remaining an integral part of the project. The white stage gradually directs the viewer's gaze to the object symbolising a hasty flight, and the instant when everything habitual and familiar, everything that was once held dear and significant in life, disappears without trace. A void. The stage resembles a museum plinth, standing aloof and isolated from its surroundings, cut off and disconnected from the general atmosphere of merry- making and fun, typical of a theatre festival.

This is a performance without actors; its main protagonists are the stage and the suitcase, reminding the public of the trials of refugees.

The Suitcase @ Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022

The Suitcase is taking part in the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh this August (05 - 29 August 2022). For the installation we've partnered with the Assembly Festival - one of the largest multi-venue operators on Fringe.

The confirmed place of installation is in the heart of Edinburgh New Town on George Street, outside the iconic Assembly Rooms building.

"Thanks for the Suitcase", Mikhail Goldenberg, the head of the Jewish community in the
Ukrainian city of Nikolaev, commented on the project. "The smaller it is, the more valuable
are the things that it contains. And the small size makes us consider the intrinsic value of
what we still have and hold dear."
Kostya Benkovich

KOSTYA BENKOVICH is a London and Tel-Aviv based international activist artist whose works can be found in major museum and private collections. Made of steel rebar and worked in welding and forging techniques, his installations are manifestos of resistance to dictatorial power and control. The Art Newspaper Russia mentioned him among the key artists of his generation; his works were displayed in leading museums and art institutions worldwide, including the Saatchi Gallery in London. His street art and site-specific actions had a powerful viral effect, empowering his audience to take a critical stance towards the existing situation, voice their opinion, and make a difference.

His famous steel rebar sculpture, the Scream (2018), was inspired by the eponymous Munch's painting and was briefly installed at the spot marking the murder of the oppositional Russian leader Boris Nemtsov.
The Right Hand of God @ Kensington + Chelsea Art Week
Benkovich's monumental sculpture currently on display in Holland Park's Napoleon Garden - chosen by the esteemed committee as part of Kensington + Chelsea Art Week and the 5th annual Public Art Trail.

The idea occurred to the artist as he was going through the images and video footage chronicling the most devastating war between Russia and Ukraine. This hand is the hand of judgment for the perpetrators of evil, and the place of refuge for the innocent people, who suffer the devastation and grief caused by this war.

The Lord is the refuge and the protector for those who suffer from injustice. Today, as never before, the humanity is on the brink of the third world war, threatening nuclear apocalypse and total self-annihilation. It has become our personal duty to read the warning signs and prevent the approaching catastrophe.
Other Benkovich's works
In his work Benkovich turns to instantly recognisable images and symbols, and deconstructs them through the choice of medium, colour, scale, and modular construction, thus, altering their context. The reconceptualised images would subsequently take on completely new critical, political, and desacralized connotations.