GRASSROOTS SOCIOLOGY, DATA HIERARCHIES, AND THE CHALLENGES OF POSING RELEVANT QUESTIONS IN AND ABOUT BELARUS
For years, the Lukashenka regime has been suppressing credible statistics on public opinion and independent sociological reports. As a result, the data on Belarus obtained by local grassroot initiatives, independent researchers, and established institutions both within and outside the country are severely distorted. The essay outlines how sociological work is hindered on many levels in Belarus. It then describes how various groups in the society try to compensate for the deficiency by deducing sociological knowledge from available sources or conducting surveys on the grassroots level. Finally, the text presents arguments for more flexible and sensitive ways to approach empirical data given the major challenges that sociological work faces in the country.
Photo critic Olga Bubich explores the subject of (in) visibility in LGBT photography and analyses the work of Ho Yan Poon Nicole and A Carlsson Rixon: “the case with any photography produced by non-cis makes, its actors were still waging a long, tedious struggle for space, presence, lexical and symbolic codes – for the right to be seen in a shot as a person, and not a victim or a freak.”
Post-colonial theory, being a well-established field in the West, drops a deep shadow on what one could define as post-Soviet space. Researcher and artist Anna Engelhardt questions: is it possible to apply post-colonial and decolonial approaches to Russian colonialism?
The article was originally published in Strelka Mag and updated for the STATUS online platform.
Diverse Humanity is a series of photography books that tell about LGBTQ communities across the world with portraits of homo-, bi-, transsexual, and queer people portraits and reportages of their life, fragments of interviews with personal and broader stories in focus, as well as analytical articles by researchers with a wider focus on the societies they live in. Photo critic Olga Bubich reviews a book by Misha Friedman and Masha Gessen from this series.
Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa, the author of “The Memory Police”, which was published in her homeland in 1994 and translated into English in 2019, considers memories as a determining factor in people’s personality. “Being stripped of your memories is an act of violence that is perhaps akin to having your very life taken”, she concludes […]
Carrying on to work on the theme of understanding the heritage and the role of artists in this process, which started within the Heritagization group during the STATUS project in 2018, Alina Dzeravianka invites you to learn about the results of the art residency in Brest and to an online exhibition.
Social anthropologist Andrey Vozyanov, analyzing his own experience and the evidence from his colleagues, reflects on the status of NGO workers in Belarus amidst the ongoing 2020 protests: “According to numerous critics of the protest movement, none of the protesters in Belarus are doing it right. Frustrated by the fact that the protest has not immediately resulted in the regime’s fall, different groups within it are blaming each other.”
“My personal story is a simple and, alas, a widespread example of the regime repressions, described by the new expression “If you were not in prison, then you are not a Belarusian”. I was sentenced to 15 days for participation in an unauthorized event (Article 23.34). … My imprisonment led to an acquaintance with women of different ages, characters, spheres of activity and interests, forms and manifestations of their civil position.”
The Call for applications for a 2-months residency program for Belarusian artists is announced by the STATUS project.
It is coordinated by Konstepidemin in Gothenburg and gallery KX in Brest and funded by the Swedish Institute.
DEADLINE: November 20, 2020.
The (non)work group presents an ultimate guide into the pleasures of laziness, radical idleness, non-work, and unproductivity. Together with the invited experts (n i i c h e g o d e l a t, Welcome to the DollHouse, Mila Pavicevic and Aleksei Borisionok) “Lazy simulator” assembles techniques, exercises and methods on how to waste time in the most political way.
OPEN LETTER FROM THE INTERNATIONAL ART COMMUNITY IN CONNECTION WITH THE ARREST OF THE ARTIST NADEZHDA SAYAPINA AND OTHER CULTURAL WORKERS
Nadezhda Sayapina is now free and safe, but many cultural workers – as well as hundreds of other citizens of the Republic of Belarus – remain in prison cells or will get there in the future. We publish this open letter with a video message from Nadezhda alongside with the extensive list of signatures to once again express our solidarity and support.
We consider the actions of the law enforcement agencies to be illicit, inadequate and offensive to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, according to which the individual, their rights, freedoms and guarantees for their attainment constitute the main goal and value of the society and the State (article 2 of the Constitution of Republic of Belarus).
In this essay, curator and writer Aleksei Borisionok addresses labor structures and working conditions within the artistic field of the USSR and Eastern Europe, and continues with a closer look at Belarus, focusing on its outrageous “parasitism tax” and the artistic reactions to it.
UNDER THE PAVEMENT: THE MARSH – OR HOW CAN WE RE-ASSEMBLE OUR PERCEPTIONS OF THE PAST AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
Researchers Moniek Driesse and Sjamme van de Voort are using the example of the Kleinpolderplein, or ‘Little Marsh Square’ – a highway intersection in Rotterdam – to reflect upon the importance of spatiality in knowledge production, ways of trespassing the modernist planning regimes, and possibilities to invent new urban imaginaries.
Alena Chekhovich, a lawyer from a Belarusian human rights organization Human Constanta, examines the Culture Code in detail, discussing in simple terms the concepts of cultural and creative workers, registration and taxation of the activities of creative workers, the process of obtaining a certificate of a creative worker and much more.
Belarusian artist Uladzimir Hramovich talks about his experience in obtaining the official status of a cultural worker – a forced reaction to the Belarusian law on “not employed in the economy”. The artist describes the process of collecting documents for the commission, the committee meeting at the Ministry of Culture and shares his reflections upon the state of Belarusian contemporary art as well as his civic position.
Using her project Sauna for the Unemployed as an example, Swedish artist Frida Klingberg talks about her experience in working with self-organized initiatives, comparing and contrasting it to the traditional art world hierarchy, which praises individualism.
Photojournalist and visual artist Maxim Sarychau reflects on financial insecurity and exploitation in the field of art and photojournalism. Are we free fuel? Or did we learn how to say no? “It seems that no state union or existing independent organization can defend our rights today. We all found ourselves in a crystal clear situation: self-organize or die.”
Independent researcher Elisabeth Kovtiak presents the results of the workshop of the STATUS project, Designing the Parallel Society, which was led by two Swedish artists John Huntington and Lars Noväng in Minsk. As a response to the problematic aspects of the Ministry of Culture and the KGB, and a wider problem within Belarusian official discourse, the workshop team invented the Ministry of Uncertainty – a space to train one’s ability to become an active member of society and to enjoy it.
Curator and researcher Tania Arcimovich presents the final version of the essay, based on a collection of personal reflections from the everyday life of cultural workers from Belarus. She questions why non-public and non-visible lives full of anxieties and affects hardly could be found in artistic bios and CVs.
November 23, 2019 in Minsk will host the Congress-performance of cultural workers initiated by the members and participants of the project “STATUS: The role of artists in changing society” (Belarus and Sweden). During the one-day event, there will be discussions and conversations, workshops and performances, as well as presentations of the artworks related to the issues of working conditions and legal status of artists in Belarus and Sweden, defending rights, equality, gender and age. Congress invites professionals from the field of culture and arts, as well as anyone interested in the stated topics.
In the form of a research group Heritagization, Chiara Valli in collaboration with Alina Dzeravianka and Elina Vidarsson analyze the ways in which artistic and activist practices contribute to or challenge the production of cultural heritage. Using a theoretical frame and case studies from Belarus and Sweden, researchers share their perspectives on the following questions: How can art challenge and refute authoritative methods of heritage making? How can art make more plural, inclusive, democratic present and futures, by working with history and the past?
In early 2019, as a response to a request made by the Belarusian Union of Designers, the Belarusian Ministry of Culture officially proclaimed ‘exhibition activities’ (or, in other words, exhibition-making) neither an intellectual, nor an artistic practice, provoking public outrage and mockery. Using this episode as a case study, researcher Anton Barysenka reflects upon the current status of an artworker in Belarus, and comments on the structural decay and tensions within current Belarusian culture politics.
Researcher and curator Tania Arcimovich presents an essay on the social and economic status of Belarusian artists. In the frame of her mini-research, she compares local experiences within the art field with transformations happening in the global sphere of culture.
Linda Tedsdotter invites artists to take part in her ongoing piece “Apocalypse Insurance”, in which she would present vacuum packaged art books for survivors of the future, when this world finally will go underwater.
In “The collective writings”, artists Nils Claesson, Olia Sosnovskaya, Nicolay Spesivtsev, Dzina Zhuk discuss the notion of ‘work’ and ‘non-work’ in the context of Contemporary Art and Economics. Questioning the work-centered future, they investigate political potentiality of laziness, procrastination and non-productivity, alternative models of pleasures and affective labor.
In the frame of the research project Heritagization – a term that refers to the process of manifestation of cultural heritage – researchers Alina Dzeravianka, Chiara Valli, and Elina Vidarsson have collected a number of research cases of grassroot artistic and activist initiatives from Belarus and Sweden, which question the authorized forms of the production of heritage.
Artist Ingrid Falk outlines her preparatory experience of work on the collective performance. Working with and through a questionnaire, which she uses to gather audience reflections on the issue of heritagization and the role of cultural workers, she takes on the role of the research rabbit and cockroach-parasite.
Anna Chistoserdova (Ў gallery, Minsk, BY), Nils Claesson (Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, SE), Linda Tedsdotter (Konstepidemin, Gothenburg, SE), and Oksana Haiko (KX, Brest, BY) discuss the opportunities for art, which is socially and politically engaged, self-organization of artists, and consolidation of effort to make change happen.
Artist Denis Romanovski introduces the Question Card Game created in Gothenburg in 2017 during the development of the STATUS project. The game documents the discussion of the project, outlines its problematics, and invites participants to join.