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on being independent

as self-identification on five multiscale levels: independence in terms of graphic design, being independent as a person, as an institute, as a city and as a country…

Understanding of such a profound idea as independence can be reached through looking at it in different contexts and scale. And here are explorations of meaning of “being independent” as self-identification on five multiscale levels: independence in terms of graphic design, being independent as a person, as an institute, as a city and as a country.

The word independence means an opposite of being dependent. It is also very connected to the concept of freedom. When we think about an idea of independence in terms of graphic design we can understand some of its universal duality.

If the world was a poster and each country was an element of composition, would there be any independent one? Can an element of composition be independent from the whole composition? Probably not. All elements confined to one space or territory whether it is a sheet of paper or surface of our planet are inevitably dependent on one another. And not only those, who are in direct contact or in close distance. All elements of composition balance each other, each and every one is in some relation with others. This is true in both instances: when we talk about graphic composition or political map of the world. So what is independence then if we establish that all participants of some whole are dependent on each other? To answer this question we can turn to concepts of freedom and responsibility: the freedom of one individual ends where freedom of another individual begins. If being independent means being free, then it means to agree and respect independence of others. And if we return to dimension of poster, then being independent means to have clear relationships and hierarchy where each element is in its place and exists on certain terms and conditions with other elements. And it is harmony. Where each element of composition takes responsibility for what their place and relationship with others is.

On a personal level being independent in many respects is defined by circumstances in which the person exists. We are lucky to live in a world where all human beings are declared to have equal rights, but in reality it is far from true. Being a young white woman born in Ukraine I have never personally experienced any violence or significant discrimination. But I was just a lucky introvert who never subjected herself to potentially dangerous situations. Nonetheless I had my journey of becoming independent of social stigma of a concept that a woman can only fulfill her destiny and purpose through marriage. And every day I am fighting such stereotypes with all means in my disposal, such as graphic design and public speaking. On a personal level independence means having a right to choose who you are and overcoming obstacles to fulfill this right.

In 2013 Kharkiv State Academy of design and Arts, in which I was studying at that time, was going to be made a subdivision of Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Economy. And all students and teachers rebelled against such initiative. We made posters and gathered in our Assembly Hall where rector held speech in which he declared our shared designation to protest till the last moment. And our Academy remained independent and whole due to our unity in desire to remain who we are.

It`s 2018 and Poland celebrates 100 years of independence so Ukraine does too. Ever since I remember, 24th of August has always been a national holiday in my country – a day of Independence of Ukraine. And it has never meant anything to me, as a child I questioned it, how can a country get independent just overnight, just like that? It was a part of the Soviet Union one day, and then it just left the union without a fight and without single drop of blood. Of course now I know that this is not exactly how it happened, and there was a fight for independence that was worth millions of lives of Ukrainians and has lasted for many years. But I also understand that only by witnessing and being a part of this fight makes one truly understand what independence is and why it is important.

Seeing with your own eyes blood (however little) being shed in an actual fight for independence will affect you more than reading about rivers of blood of your ancestors. Learning about it in history books will never compare to personal emotional experience of watching your friends being publicly beaten and humiliated for showing their loyalty to their own country. And that is exactly what happened with me. When Yanukovich has already left country, when in Kiev Maydan has already won – the destiny of eastern region was now being decided, and my own city Kharkiv was on the brink of joining Donetsk and Luhansk in their separation from Ukraine. It was a period when in spite of it being official symbolics of a country in which you were living it was dangerous to wear or put out Ukrainian flag or colors. They were months during which we fell asleep in Ukraine and prayed to wake up in Ukraine next day. It was time when me and my family were putting up new expensive wallpaper in our living room while applying for visa to Sweden in case Russian forces invaded our city.

Independence from something implies dependence on something. It is about choice: to have freedom to choose who and what you want to be dependent on. I believe that being independent means declaring and pledging allegiance to certain values. Ukraine chose to share European values. Ukraine chose to be dependent on western heritage of humanism and freedom and democracy.

Independence is about choosing your system of values. Fight for independence starts within each and every soul, and then continues on. It is about respect and love and integrity.


Polina Makarova