The first day of the internship (photo by Mariia Korniietska)
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Mariia Korniietska

MA 2, Dept. of Semiotics


In my quest for internship opportunities this winter, I stumbled upon an offer from the Behemoth’s Centre (Peemoti keskus) on the Centre for Semiotic Application’s website. I chose to go for it and apply. Little did I know that this decision would lead me to an unforgettable journey filled with growth and connection.

I vividly recall my first visit to the centre on February 14th for an introductory meeting with my supervisor. It happened to be Valentine’s Day, adding a memorable touch to the occasion. From the moment I stepped in, I was warmly greeted by a volunteer, Enn, who kindly offered me a cup of hot tea. He guided me through the space, sharing insights into the centre’s activities. The warmth of the initial interaction, along with the ambiance of the space and the genuine conversation with my supervisor, made a great first impression on me, highlighting the welcoming atmosphere of the place.

I believe that every choice we make reflects our values, beliefs, and needs, and the choice of the internship was no exception this time. As a Ukrainian student in Estonia, I’m familiar with the challenges faced by minority groups. So, the mission of the Behemoth’s Centre, which aimed to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals and other marginalised communities, resonated deeply with me. This connection fuelled my enthusiasm, and without hesitation, I immersed myself in the centre’s bustling environment. Here, a team of motivated volunteers is dedicated to raising awareness of important minority issues by developing and hosting various events such as workshops, lectures and movie nights. Creative individuals can present their works, sell their creations, and contribute to the centre’s latest artistic projects and initiatives. As someone who values creativity in all aspects of life, I was thrilled to surround myself with like-minded individuals who share a passion for creative practices and self-expression.

Self-Portrait Collages (photo by Mariia Korniietska)

A significant part of my internship involved event designing, where I had the chance to craft experiences aimed at creating dialogue and connection within the community. One of the events I was hosting was the Self-Portrait Collage workshop. Through the technique of collage, individuals were encouraged to translate their innermost thoughts and emotions onto paper. This session turned out very well and showcased the participants’ diverse talents.

I chose this technique because long ago, when I was attending an art school as a teenager, collage became my favourite medium for self-discovery and reflection on my feelings and thoughts. Now as a student studying semiotics, I also see collage as a powerful technique for autocommunication, particularly on the individual level. What comes to mind is the example of diary jottings, given by Juri Lotman, «which are made not in order to remember certain things but to elucidate the writer’s inner state, something which would not be possible without the jottings» (Lotman 1990: 21). The technique of collage could be seen as a visual diary where one’s inner speech is translated into the disposition of images and forms. I believe that collage, in this way, appears not just as a new code but at the same time can fulfil the cultural function of autocommunication and evoke the senses of «self-existence, self-discovery, and auto-psychotherapy» (Lotman 1990: 29). This way, collage, with its visual richness, not only allows one to create a vivid mental map but also becomes a form of one’s expression acquiring an independent meaning in the process of reformulating the original message.

Overall, I received a lot of positive feedback after the workshop, which truly warmed my heart. I was happy to rediscover my favourite artistic form from my teenage years. This experience has left me feeling inspired to create more collages and to delve deeper into the principles of technique from a semiotic perspective.

Magazine issue dedicated to queer history of Ukraine
The image source:

In addition to the Self-Portrait Collage session, I facilitated an insightful lecture-discussion on Ukrainian LGBTQ+ art, exploring the convergence of art, identity, and societal conventions. I hope the participants gained valuable insights into the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals within the Ukrainian artistic community.

We were discussing the works and projects by Anton Shebetko, Jan Bačynsjkyi, Yevgenia Belorusets, AntiGonna, Alina Kleytman, Kateryna Lysovenko and many other artists, analysing what kind of media and visual languages they use. Notably, portrait photography and self-portraiture emerged as focal points of our discussion. Pawel Leszkowicz describes this visual approach as «portraiture of intimate dignity»: «artists often use the strategy of affirmative portraiture to restore people’s dignity and discover an alternative beauty» (Leszkowicz 2023: 147-148). We also compared queer practices in Ukrainian and Estonian art spheres. This discussion was personally significant to me as it highlighted the importance of contemporary art in fostering cross-cultural dialogue. Through this exploration, I gained insights into Estonian contemporary queer artists and their projects.

After the discussion on Ukrainian Queer Art (photo by Mariia Korniietska)

Creative practices at the Behemoth’s Center (photo by Mariia Korniietska)

Throughout my internship, I engaged in a variety of activities that went far beyond just event designing. From taking shifts and welcoming guests to crafting engaging social media content, and even contributing to the writing of an Erasmus+ project proposal for a collaboration between the Behemoth’s Centre and the Centre for Semiotic Applications, I remained an integral part of this dynamic endeavour.

Juggling these diverse responsibilities simultaneously proved both challenging and rewarding. They not only allowed me to discover my strengths and interests but also pushed me to develop new skills (video editing, content creation, copywriting, etc.). In many ways, the true excitement of my journey lay in the exploration of new things. The centre provided a safe space to experiment with craft techniques. I had never made badges or stickers before! I also learned to use a sewing machine to create small square elements for the future pride flag quilt! These tiny new experiences helped me to de-automatise my thinking and explore my creative self.

In the process of project writing (photo by Mariia Korniietska)

Discovering grant writing and Erasmus+ project organisation was entirely unfamiliar to me. At first, it seemed like a boring, time-consuming, and tough task. But you know what? It turned out to be surprisingly interesting! Working with a team, sharing ideas, moving step by step, and dividing up tasks made it all click.

In conclusion, thanks to this internship, I have achieved a balance between my usual routine of studies and practical hands-on learning. It provided me with the opportunity to meet beautiful people, and to grow both personally and professionally in a supportive and lively atmosphere.

Leszkowicz, Pawel 2023. Queer Ukraine. Images, Ideas, Struggles. In: Kilian Heck; Lipińska Aleksandra (eds.), Als der Krieg kam … Neue Beiträge zur Kunst in der Ukraine. Heidelberg: Arthistoricum, 134–160.

Lotman, Juri 1990. Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture. London & New York: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd.

hortus semioticus

Hortus Semioticus is a peer reviewed online journal of semiotics featuring new generation of semiotic researchers.

Hortus Semioticus on eelretsenseeritav semiootika võrguajakiri, mis on pühendatud uue põlvkonna semiootilistele uurimustele.


Our blog is a digital resource where everyone passionate about semiotics can share their knowledge, questions and experience on stuff that matters.

Meie blogi on koht, kus semiootikahuvilised saavad vahendada mõtteid ja infot kõigest, mis loeb.