Announcement of the lack of water in Kharkiv. Found object from the archive of Pavlo Makov, 1995. Ballpoint pen, paper, 28x20 cm

On 29 July 1995, Kharkiv, a Ukrainian city of 1,5 million residents, was shaken by an ecological disaster. The treatment facilities of Kharkivvodokanal in Dykanivka broke down following heavy rains and, which cut off the city’s water supply for the next four weeks. Initially, the rainwaters overwhelmed the main streets and even flooded the Saltivska underground line. Waste water then overwhelmed the sump pumps knocking them out of service.

Entirely cut off from the water supply, city residents gradually adjusting to the new social scenarios. Artist Pavlo Makov would routinely cycle to the Nova Bavaria district to fetch some 12 litres of water in large metal cans and bring it back to his place near the Kinnyi market. Less frequently, though, water was delivered directly to people’s homes, allowing residents to take up to 50 litres at a time at the cost of many hours of queuing.

Pavlo Makov’s Place series has been in the making since 1992 and consists of several numbered horizontal etchings, each 139cm long, depicting Kharkiv’s panorama as it gets inscribed into the local river system, that encircles and penetrates the city. Meanwhile, Makov took on the role of an anthropologist and turned to exploring the urban environment. To this end, he took pictures of barrages, riverbanks, and riverside neighbourhoods, prowled around rooftops to capture the city landscape from above, took snapshots of graffiti, and collected numerous, often hand-written, street ads. He noted in this regard, “It is a weird time: some obscure Kharkiv myths have become reality for me while our accepted reality inevitably turns to myth”.


Sap Harvest, 1994. Pencil, watercolour, paper, 39x28,5 cm

Makov brought the 1.5m copper plate he used to produce Place etchings along on his 1993 trip to the Danish city of Odense. The artist elaborated the intricacies of the landscape while far from his Kharkiv home. Each step of the four-stage remaking process was captured on 15 production prints. Thereby, Place panorama gained momentum and evolved into a four-chapter narrative: Place I, Northern View, Place II, Northern View, Place III, Northern View, and Place IV, Northern View.

Coincidentally, Makov set about experimenting with form in his sketches and the more abstract studies of the place. Sap Harvest drawing predates the Dykanivka breakdown by two years and depicts two water streams flowing together into a single funnel. In his commentary, Makov stresses the significance of this piece and recalls, “Having emerged of its own accord, with little to no input on my part, this drawing determined the future course of my work for years to come”.


Waters artbook, 1994. Silkscreen, paper, 30x23 cm

Waters artbook positively showcased how anatomy and topography could be combined. Only 15 of the 40 planned auteur books with three illustrations each ever saw the light of day, all of them printed and bound by the author. The opening page reproduces Sap Harvest drawing, which proves to be the recurring grapheme of the book. The image of the two rivers running into a single funnel appears on every page, cover included. On more than one occasion, it is superimposed onto the large map of the place (for instance, on the central spread) or the anatomical section of the human body over the genitourinary system.

The following year, Makov drafted the History of the Fountain in a 21x26 cm sketchbook and produced the first detailed drawing of Fountain of Exhaustion — a multilevel funnel structure with water running down the funnels and gradually fading into nothingness. The funnel of Fountain of Exhaustion is Sap Harvest turned upside down: the water pours down from a single cup through the two spouts.


Fountain of Exhaustion at the confluence of the Lopan and Kharkiv rivers, 1995. Augmented photograph, pencil, paint, 22,6x41,3 cm

In the course of his research, Makov took pictures of the riverside buildings along the Lopan and Kharkiv rivers as well as the square at their confluence, the so-called Lopan Arrow, where the Fountain was supposed to be sited. The artist illustrated his conception with a black and white picture of the site by enhancing it with a drawing of Fountain of Exhaustion, with the funnels peeking through the branches of nearby trees. Makov explains, “For me, it was all about creating an illusion and making people believe the Fountain had already been constructed”. The two artistic methods, mystification and documentation, have been going hand in hand in his practice ever since.


Fountain of Exhaustion, 1996. Intaglio, paper

Fountain of Exhaustion and the funnel as its modular element have undergone a series of transformations and have been adapted to various artistic media. The initial stages entailed two-dimensional sketchbook studies, technical drawings, axonometric projections, etchings, stamping templates, and postcards. They laid the groundwork for treating Fountain of Exhaustion as a three-dimensional object in its own right, which could be later integrated into the urban space. These experiments gave rise to a cardboard mockup, a tin and a bronze fountain, a 3D model, designed by Mykola Shtok, as well as a silver breastpin with a gold water drop. The pieces differed in size, funnel shape, and the basic principles of construction. For instance, the etchings depict a triple-spouted funnel alongside a tridactyl bird’s foot, as well as a version of a large funnel with a cup handle.


Fountain of Exhaustion, April Wars artbook, 1995. Intaglio, silkscreen, paper, 20x857 cm. Poetry by Beth Joselow

Fountain of Exhaustion. April Wars is an 857cm long auteur book with Makov’s etchings (frontside A, Fountain of Exhaustion, or History of the Flood) and Beth Joselow’s poems (backside B, April Wars, or the Poems on the Walls). Despite having been portrayed as a recovered artefact, the book was actually a product of the authors’ collaboration with designer Mykola Shtok, illustrated with both screen and intaglio prints, coloured by hand and signed by both authors.


The Fountain’s Memorial, 1997. Photography by Mykola Shtok

In 1998, Makov seized the initiative and installed the funnels of Fountain of Exhaustion on a brick walling in the centre of Kharkiv, while Shtok captured the construction on film. Yet rather than filling the funnels with water, as one would expect, Makov rendered them as flames. This artistic gesture distinguished the object in question from the actual Fountain of Exhaustion as provisional memorial to it. Such an open flame source attached to the exterior wall of a building could not fail to attract the attention of the local police for long. The open flame source on the outwall soon caught the eye of a local police patrol. Makov and Shtok were arrested and held for questioning. In his letter of explanation, addressed to the chief district police officer, Makov gave a detailed account of his actions in preparation for the upcoming exhibition at the CSM/Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art in Kyiv, including the accurate measurements of the funnels and the distance between them. What’s more, the policemen were so intrigued by Shtok’s camera equipment that they took a few snaps of the detainees at the station. Those pictures are stored on a CD in Makov’s private archive.


Pavlo Makov by Fountain of Exhaustion mounted on Oleh Mitasov’s house, 1996. Photograph, 16,5х17 сm

Mitasov, an outsider artist suffering from schizophrenia, used to cover the walls of his house as well as other buildings with recurring phrases. Most of them could be found near the Kharkiv Academy of Arts and Design, near his home. During periods of remission, he would often hang out with students and ask them to share some of their black paint with him. Mitasov’s writings and phrases have been massively influential among artists, designers, and graffiti artists in Kharkiv.

An archive picture of that time shows Makov standing next to Fountain of Exhaustion against the backdrop of a brick wall covered with Mitasov’s writings. One of the phrases reads “МИТАСОВ / НЕТЕРЯТЬ ВЕРЫ.В.ЛЮДЕЙ / ВСЕМ ВСЕМУ ЖИВОМУ / НЕ ЖИВОМУ / ГДЕ / НА / ЗЕМЛЕ” (“MITASOV / TO NOTLOSE FAITH.IN.HUMANITY / TO EVERYONE EVERYTHING LIVING / NOT LIVING / WHERE / ON /EARTH”). The pages of Makov’s auteur book Fountain of Exhaustion. April Wars also exhibit a fair amount of Mitasov’s famous “ВЕК ВАК” graffiti (“VEK VAK” could be supposed to stand for “THE AGE OF THE HIGHER ATTESTATION COMMITTEE”). Looking back, Makov acknowledges, “My daily life was largely defined by Mitasov’s writings, they were an integral part of our visual environment. [By placing my own work side by side with his] I was able to ground the Fountain in the kind of reality which was already there and not mine to create. Mitasov was both a product of his age and its verdict”.

Starting in 1996, Makov has since built up an impressive photographic collection of human targets, both male and female. He would come across them in various urban settings, most frequently in schoolyards. Those practice target ranges with symbolic human silhouettes had been routinely used for military training in secondary schools since Soviet times. Once incorporated into everyday life in Makov’s artworks, these targets became just one of the many possible spatial configurations of the human body. They intensified the overwhelming sense of anxiety and vulnerability by enhancing it with the impression of being constantly held at gunpoint.


Exhibition view of UtopiA at The National Art Museum of Ukraine, 2003

Makov introduced the word Utopia to his conceptual scaffolding as a result of numerous leisure and business trips abroad. Whenever he was asked about where he came from, the answer invariably led to confusion. His interlocutors had never heard of Kharkiv, or Ukraine for that matter. He adopted the name Utopia, “a place which is not there”, to refer to the place which had been the main focus of his artistic endeavour for no less than ten years. To prove its existence, Makov once again resorted to artistic mystification. He asked his friends from all over the world to send him letters and specify the country of destination on the envelope as “UA UtopiA)”. As intended, most of the letters eventually made their way to Kharkiv. The word Utopia also bears a strong resemblance to the Ukrainian words for drowning, flood, flooding, etc. At one point, the new “UtopiA” seal, hitherto used to stamp the works, lost the “i” and turned into “UtopA” (very close to the Ukrainian word for drowning).

The first exhibition room displayed the Fountain installation against a white wall, opting for the neutrality of the traditional white-cube-gallery setting. Over the years, this approach to displaying the Fountain has become the standard and has been meticulously recreated on multiple occasions. It also prompted a string of unorthodox interpretations*, which treated the Fountain as an autonomous construction that did not require water.


Sketches for Utopia. Chronicles 1992—2005, 2005. Pencil, paper, 29,7х21 cm

In 2005, Makov released the Utopia. Chronicles 1992—2005 artbook (Dukh i Litera publishing house, Kharkiv—Kyiv) in collaboration with Maria Norazyan, Illya Pavlov, and Tania Borzunova from the Dity (ukr. Children) group in Kharkiv. The funnel from Fountain of Exhaustion on the title page, rendered as a typographical symbol, was the first image the readers encountered on their visual journey along the timeline of Makov’s artistic practice. This edition presents all the artworks, photographs, archive documents, and texts produced between 1992 and 2005 as milestones on a single line, where the end eventually coincides with the beginning on the cover.


Walk through someone else’s garden, 2010. A tile game with tokens for local citizens (with Maryna Konieva). Paper, printing, dice, chips

Fountain of Exhaustion had made it into two auteur boarding games before passing through a long period of oblivion. The games were based on Makov’s art with the rulesets written in cooperation with Maryna Glushcheko (in 2003) and Maryna Konieva (in 2010). Utopia. A Roll-and-Move Game for Two or More Players was released as a catalogue for the retrospective exhibition at the National Art Museum of Ukraine. 23 out of 84 squares on the helicoid game board depict various pieces from the Place series, Waters artbook, and the complete story of Fountain of Exhaustion. The game comes with the first-person commentary by philosopher Oleksandr Filonenko in the manner of travelling notes: “Becoming a nomad, homeless, misplaced to discover utopia, a place that there isn’t, a no-place of one’s Identity. <...> An investigation of the place where I am, tracking the authentic toward the increasing fear of getting to its intimacy and its intrauterine life, in order to discover a tear, a cut, a smarting wound of the Utopia. Reality is the needle that the wound keeps the memory of”.

Walk Through Someone Else’s Garden. A Roll-and-Move Game for Two or More Players is based on a 2x2 metres square piece called Garden for Ms. M. (2009—2010). A triangular Fountain of Exhaustion is inserted between squares 110 and 131, and several singular funnels can once again be spotted between spaces 209 and 233.


Paradiso Perduto #2, 2013. Multiple intaglio, graphite pencil, colour pencils, acrylic, paper, 63х162 cm

The retrospective exhibition in Kyiv and the release of Utopia. Chronicles 1992—2005 were followed up by another large series called Gardens. Even though the new etchings kept the signature “UtopiA”, “UtopA”, or just “U” stamping, Makov’s approach to exploring the landscape underwent significant changes. Anthropological studies of the place gradually gave way to numerous garden layout plans, among them the Gardens of Versailles and the Donetsk rosarium* (the so-called Donrosa). Makov treated the garden as the realm of care and preservation, where one’s dearest things can withstand the overwhelming uncertainty and chaos. His work in the 2010s would echo these lines from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities: “…seek and learn to recognise who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space”.

Even though the double-spout funnels could be still spotted on the paths of the Versailles Garden, Fountain of Exhaustion overall was slowly giving way to other preferred subjects. It wouldn’t be until the mid-2010s that it would make its glorious comeback at exhibitions.


Funnels of Fountain of Exhaustion in the studio of Vitaliy Kokhan, 2017

The year 2017 saw another retrospective exhibition of Makov’s work at the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv, organised by the Ya Gallery Art Centre and curated by Pavlo Gudimov. The show covered nearly a decade’s worth of creative activity, including such notable works as Donrosa (2008—2010), Page-a-Page Diary (2011—2012), Paradiso Perduto (2012—2014), Walk Through Someone Else’s Garden roll-and-move game (2009—2010), Tower. Dream and City. Place (2011—2012) pieces, Fingerprints (2014—2015) and Terni Lapilli (2016) series, as well a wholly new version of Fountain of Exhaustion (1995—2017). It was Makov's first retrospective since 2003, so his deliberate decision to reintroduce a work from the 1990s further accentuated the striking continuity of his artistic practices.


Exhibition view of Remember Yesterday at PinchulArtCentre, 2021. Photograph provided by the PinchukArtCentre © 2021. Photographed by Maksym Bilousov

Fountain of Exhaustion was reintroduced to its original Ukrainian context in the course of two PinchukArtCentre exhibitions. The bronze version of the Fountain (1995—2003) from their collection was initially presented as part of the Borderline. Ukrainian Art 1985—2004 exhibition in 2015. It then came back for the 2021 group exhibition of Ukrainian artists Remember Yesterday.


Itinerario 2, 1993—2018. Multiple intaglio, graphite pencil, acrylic, paper, 41х155 cm

The 2017 retrospective exhibition in Lviv saw the return of Fountain of Exhaustion as a physical object, while the series of etchings called Future in the Past brought back its visual image. Large 1.5m panels (once used for the first works in the Place series) now served as a background for completely new motifs. These landscapes were populated with various new objects: numerous X- and O-shaped buildings, fig trees, swallows, the concrete blocks, used by the Ukrainian armed forces in early 2014 to set up checkpoints, transformer vaults, houses from Do Po, and aloe plants. The silhouette of Fountain of Exhaustion is most prominent in Itinerario 2 (1993—2018) with pencil-drawn water drops pouring down from a gigantic watering pot into fading funnels according to a certain predetermined pattern.


Testing of Fountain of Exhaustion before its exhibition in La Biennale di Venezia, 2021. Photo by Tania Borzunova

Pavilion of Ukraine at the 59th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia was the first to give full play to the fountain’s potential, finally allowing Fountain of Exhaustion to assume its proper function and distribute water through the funnels downwards. This reinvention required considerable architectural and engineering revisions to the original structure. In a way, Makov had to confront his own creation anew. Once Fountain of Exhaustion ceased being a part of an urban mystification and a symbol of its own incompleteness, it revealed some of its more peculiar properties: the regular pattern of the funnels somehow directs the overwhelming flow of water without ever fully mastering it. The broad universal context of this international exhibition, exploring the mutual connections between humans, non-humans, Earth, technology, flora, and fauna, encourages Makov to leave his work open to further interpretations: “Everyone has their own history of exhaustion”.