Little Paris. Oleksandr Popenko

12.07.2024 - 28.07.2024

Dymchuk Gallery presents the exhibition «Little Paris» by photographer Oleksandr Popenko. The exhibition features documentary photos, videos, and interactive objects, which are part of anthropological research by the author of the phenomenon of numerous copies of the Eiffel Tower, which exist throughout the territory of Ukraine.

The original Eiffel Tower was built in Paris in 1889 for the World’s Fair, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The tower of the architect Gustave Eiffel served as the entrance arch to the exhibition, and a significant part of the event was the historical reconstruction of the Bastille – a medieval fortress prison and a symbol of the monarchy’s power. The Eiffel Tower should be temporary, but in the end, it became almost the most popular tourist symbol in Europe. 

Oleksandr first drew attention to the copy of the tower in Vinnytsia, and later, on expeditions, he visited most regions of Ukraine. In total, he found about 150 objects in all areas of the country.

In Ukraine, the Eiffel Tower appears in urban space next to a Soviet monumental mosaic or a Cossack sculpture. It can be a Greek-Catholic cross or a monument to the heroes who liquidated the accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, complement the memorial to the unknown soldier, or indicate the wrong direction to Paris.

The stories of the appearance of these objects are different: a company donates a copy of the tower to the city, decorating it in the ornament of Polissya embroidery; state structures launch tenders for the installation of the Eiffel Tower near their buildings; a student of a vocational school receives a diploma of an electric welder for a copy of the Eiffel Tower; grandfather makes a tower out of rebar and installs it in the yard for his grandchildren; and residents of an apartment building set up a tower on entrance and turn on lights on it on holidays – in particular, on Bastille Day.

Such a strange local love for the Eiffel Tower is rarely about an abiding deep interest in French culture or the French Revolution and its achievements. After all, if you ask people why they installed the Eiffel Tower in particular, few can give an unequivocal answer.

In the series of photos «Little Paris,» the lens captures several important things at once, which demonstrate the evolution of the project: an inferiority complex and pride in the decisions made, the desire to be part of Europe and questionable taste, dreams of traveling the world and searching for one’s identity.

About the author:

Oleksandr Popenko (born in 1993 in Vinnytsia) is a Ukrainian documentary photographer and director who lives and works in Kyiv. Worked at hromadske.ua, Public Broadcasting, and collaborated with BBC News and the Laboratory of Public Interest Journalism. Now works at the Art Arsenal and is engaged in personal projects.