OPEN LETTER OF BELARUSIAN CULTURAL WORKERS

On the cover: EVERYBODY STRIKE! by Masha Svyatogor (August 2020)

We, cultural workers of Belarus, are deeply shocked and outraged by the events of the last days in our country related to the elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus, and by the huge and unmotivated level of violence and aggression committed by the official authorities and law enforcement agencies against the people of our country. 

The presidential elections held on August 9 were carried out without the participation of independent observers and with multiple recorded cases of irregularities and falsifications during the vote counting. No results were announced to citizens waiting outside many polling stations as electoral commissions quietly left their stations guided by the riot police. The security forces were also seen beating and detaining people who came to see the election results after the polling stations closure.

Starting from August 9, 2020, police and military have been applying an unprecedented level of force and brutality against peaceful citizens. They used specialized equipment, such as rubber bullets, stunning grenades, tear gas, water cannons, etc., as well as physical violence against unarmed people at peaceful rallies, thus violating civil rights guaranteed in accordance with the Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. We demand launching an independent investigation into every act of brutality and violence committed by police structures.

As of today, the total number of detained citizens across the country stands at 7000. According to the eyewitnesses, people are held in inhuman conditions: up to 40-50 detainees are placed in cells designed to hold 10. This is especially dangerous and unacceptable in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The detainees are denied access to water, food, hygiene and medical care. Their families and friends are not informed about their location. They do not have access to legal assistance and are handled with physical and mental violence. There are detainees (men, women and teenagers) who didn’t take part in the peaceful protests but were targeted by the police in a random fashion and seized when they passed by on their way from work or walked a dog.

We demand an investigation into these atrocities and malfeasance committed by the law enforcement agencies.

We, the undersigned, cultural workers demand:

1. To stop the acts of violence against civilians and remove the atmosphere of fear from the streets.

2. To release all political prisoners and detainees.

3. To hold new transparent elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

4. To provide Belarusian citizens with free access to information and the right to peaceful assembly.

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).

Signed,

Signed,

Ekaterina Chekhova-Dasko, artist, illustrator, Belarusian Union of Artists

Alexey Naumenko, artist 

Anna Samarskaya, researcher of the history of Belarusian photography

Elena Naborovskaya, culturologist, curator of art projects 

Olga Mzhelskaya, art manager 

Antonina Stebur, curator, researcher 

Nadezhda Makeeva, artist 

Nadezhda Sayapina, artist

Katsaryna Ramanchyk, manager of cultural projectsў 

Daria Pushko, art critic, lecturer, “Optional” Intellectual Leisure Club

Oksana Gaiko, director, actress, Kryly khalop theater

Anna Smolyakova, artist 

Nastasya Gancharova mastachka 

Igar Gancharuk, photographer 

Maxim Shumilin, photographer 

Alena Protasevich, curator, photographer, Zaire Azgur Memorial Museum-Workshop

Arthur Kamaroўski, paet, performer 

Alena Kazlova, poet, pianoforte 

Vera Kavaleuskaya, curator and editor 

Alina Strelkovskaya, art critic, SeBelorussian Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM)

Ekaterina Smuraga, photographer 

Uladzimir Parfyanok, photographer, curator of exhibition projects, Memorial museum-workshop of Zair Azgur

Anna Loktionova, art manager 

Pavel Kuzyukovich, orchestra artist, Bolshoi Theater of the Republic of Belarus

Alexander Marchenko, director 

Aleksei Borisionok, curator of contemporary art, researcher 

Nikolay Pogranovsky, chief curator, State Institution “Memorial Museum-Workshop of Z. I. Azgur”

Kanstancin Varabei, producer, Maisternya satyyalnaga kino

Alexander Silvanovich, artist 

Vіktoria Varabei, ssenarystka, Maisternya satsyyalnaga kino

Ekaterina Averkova, director 

Sergey Smirnov, pianist, co-founder of Nouvelle Philharmonie

Tatiana Ermashkevich, translator 

Pyotr Vachinsky, Senior Researcher, Z.I. Azgur Memorial Museum-Workshop

Elena Ge, researcher 

Daria Amelkovich, cultural journalist 

Nastya Narunasа, architect 

Dima Tsypkin cellist, co-founder of Nouvelle Philharmonie

Polina Zadreiko, musician, NABT

Olesya Burdina Drama Theater 

Alena Derbina, musician, Republican Music Gymnasium-College at the Belarusian State Academy of Music

Linda Rudenko, cultural manager, Private theater and entertainment institution of culture

Angelica Krashevskaya, Center for Visual and Performing Arts “ART Corporation”

Alexandra Mominova, soloist of the Brest Regional Philharmonic Society of the Belarusian State Academy of Music

Christina Ivantsova, designer 

Aleusandr Lytin, photographer 

Oksana Gerasimyonok, musician 

Dana Antonovich, museum worker 

Taras Tarnalitskiy, journalist

Anna Bergman, Content Manager of Theater Projects, Private Theater and Entertainment Cultural Institution

Marina Dashuk, theater 

Oksana Ryabtseva, teacher, concert singer, international expert Xinan Conservatory, China

Viktoria Kharytonava, photographer 

Anna Balash, artist, Belarusian Union of Artists

Alexey Andreev, editor of the anthology “Monologue”

Alla Savoshevich, artist 

Lyudmila Gromyko, theater critic

Snezhana Makarevich, direction 

Tanya Artsimovich, cultural worker 

Yuri, Yakovenk, artist of the Belarusian Artists Union

Olga Sosnovskaya, artist of the Vienna Academy of Arts

Olga Nadolskaya, cultural manager 

Danil Shayka, journalist 

Ekaterina Shimanovich, set designer

Ekaterina Solodukha, Producer, Independent Theater Company “HomoCosmos”

Alexander Budko, musician, music teacher

Irina Kondratenko, art critic, curator

Maxim Sarychev, artist

Daria Kulsha, theater man 

Elena Gurina, artist

Kristina Tatueva, Legal Adviser, Center for Visual and Performing Arts “ART Corporation”

Tatiana Zaidal, culturologist, ART Corporation

Hanna Yankuta, writer, pianoforte 

Lyubov Demkina, head of the literary section of the Belarusian State Puppet Theater

Nikolay Lavrenyuk, cinema, “Listapad” Film Festival

Irina Demyanova, documentary

Alexey Boreisha, Department of Cultural Affairs, BSU

Nastya Kaminskaya, designer

Andrey Volchyok, actor

Andrey Belsky, head of the theater lighting section

Volga Prankevich, mastachka, mastak-afarmitsel, BDMNAiP Belarusian Dzyarzhauny Museum of People’s Architecture and Life

Anna Chistoserdova, art, gallery of contemporary art “Ў”

Daria Potaturko, director

Palina Khadoryk, smm Kupalausky teatr

Valentina Kiseleva, culture, art, Gallery of Contemporary Art U

Veronika Ivashkevich, artist

Yulia Samoilovskikh, film distribution, Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad”

Elena Sidor, assistant director

Vera Prokhorova, designer

Vasily Burdin, graphic artist, designer

Alexander Veledimovich, photographer, teacher, writer

Kirill Gormash, artist

Sergey Shabohin, artist, curator, editor-in-chief of the portal kalektar.org

Svetlana Smulskaya, candidate of art history, associate professor of the educational institution “BGUKI”

Dmitry Yankov, manager of cultural and social projects

Anya Yakubovich, artist

Evgeniya Tsygankova, art teacher

Natalia Pavlova, assistant director of the State Institution “Brest Academic Theater named after the Lenin Komsomol of Belarus

Iryna Gerasimovich, pioneer

Pavel Pavlyut, actor

Marina Karman, art critic, teacher of the drawing studio

Uladzimir Gramovich, artist

Sofia Sadovskaya, art critic, curator

Olga Romanova, ECLAB culturologist

Anastasia Avraleva, artist

Alesya Zhitkevich, artist

Sasha Stelchenko, director

Natalla Jarnak, culture

Irina Lukashenko, cultural manager, Artonist

Antonina Dubatovka, actress of the National Academic Theater. Yanka Kupala

Uladzimir Paznyak, artist, Academy of Art in Szczecin

Lesya Pchelka, photographer. Manager of cultural projects VEHA

Anna Sokolova, artist

Alexey Lunev, artist

Evgeny Kurilchik, artist-soloist-instrumentalist

Ekaterina Yukhnova, artist-soloist-instrumentalist

Dmitry Khlyavich, choir conductor

Igor Sukmanov, journalist, film critic, program director of the Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad”

Gleb Amankulov, artist

Igor Stakhievich, artist, Artonist

Tamara Basakova, Culture

Svetlana Gaidalenok, theater teacher, Kryly khalop theater

Svyatogor Masha, artist

Leonid Nesteruk, artist

Mikhail Gulin, artist

Antonina Slobodchikova, artist

Olga Kostel, ballet master

Maria Kostyukovich, film festival coordinator, film critic

Anton Sorokin, artist

Tatiana Kilimbet, PR manager

Dmitry Karakutsa, marketing

Svetlana Vladimirovna Zhukovskaya, Assistant Director

Angelina Yarosh, coordinator of the regional film distribution Private theater and entertainment cultural institution

Valentina Pisarenko, art critic

Olga Veselik, violin teacher

Krystsina Drobysh, actress

Igor Avdeev, musician of the symphony orchestra

Zhenya Klyotskin, literature, punk-rock, ex-administrator of the DUK “Leadsky Variety Archestra”

Alesya Belyavets, editorial board, art journalist, magazine “Mastatstva”

Nastassya Zharskaya, library NBB

Alexey Strelnikov, theater critic

Andrei Lyankevich, director of the Month of Photography in Minsk

Elizaveta Buzanovskaya, graphic designer

Uladzislau Mashchanka, artist

Daria Brian (Golovchik), director

Alena Ivanyushenko, playwright

Svetlana Stubeda, lecturer at BSUKI

Tatiana Gavrilova, soloist of the Bolshoi Theater of Belarus

Alyaksey Saprykin, actor, Belarusian Free Theater, Art Syadziba

Igor Chishchenya, documentary filmmaker

Valeria Lemeshevskaya, artist, editor of a magazine about Belarusian art 

Elizaveta Rusalskaya, illustrator

Ksenia Gunina-Averburg, artist

Bagdan Khmyalnitski, actor, pastor of the Laboratory of the Social Theater

Vlad Khvostov, artist and designer

Elvira Koroleva, international social projects

Katsyaryna Chekatouskaya, playwright, actor of the Laboratory of the Social Theater

Alexander Filippov, ballet dancer BGAMT

Genady Arkhipau, artist / painter

Anna Paley, Head of the Cultural and Educational Platform “Pershy Krok”, Mozyr 

Yanina Zaichanka, artist, performance 

Irina Averina, actress Social Theater Laboratory

Sergey Belookiy, artist of the Belarusian Union of Artists

Georgy Anischenko, musician

Vladimir Bychkov, team leader

Albert Litvin, musician

Daria Sazanovich, artist

Maria Adamchenko, artist (painter)

Maxim Krekotnev, editor of MMAM

Alina Derevyanko, manager of cultural projects, Brest Fortress Development Fund

Ksenia Shtalenkova, writer, State Association of the Belarusian Writers Union

Andrey Pichushkin, artist

Timofey Panin, artist

Olga Khatkovskaya, computer graphics artist

Olga Shparaga, philosopher, contemporary art critic European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus (ECLAB)

Ekaterina (Mara) Tamkovich, director 

Yuri Zverev, musician

Evgenia Balakireva, student of BSAI

Yana Alekseenko, director

Olga Tereshonok, teacher

Anna Shevchik, designer

Olga Buravleva, director of the Bolshoi Theater of Belarus

Alexander Adamov, artist

Ekaterina Maylychka, artist

Irina Zdanevich, interface design

Dmitry Kutuzov, designer, master of art history

Anton Klepke, publisher of children’s books

Yana Sycheva, DPI

Valentina Moroz, director, theater teacher EKLAB Social Theater Laboratory, head of concentration EKLAB Theater

Konstantin Selikhanov, artist

Svyatlana Barankoўskaya, artist

Svetlana Slynko, accountant

Irina Polamorenko, clownery

Elizaveta Mikhalchuk, art critic, curator

Ganna Panyutsich, artist

Yana Romanovskaya, artist, designer

Andrei Sagchanka, teatr, adukatsya, cinema Tuteyshy teatr

Alexey Lukyanchikov, sound engineer

Anna Silivonchik, artist

Vasily Peshkun, artist

Evgeny Sivakov, musician

Sergey Semyonov, musician, teacher

Andrey Anro, artist

Vasilisa Polyanina, artist

Valeria Fomina, accountant State institution “Memorial museum-workshop of Z.I. Azgura “

Ekaterina Muravitskaya, museum

Lyudmila Rolich, artist

Ivan Semiletov, artist Union of artists

Renata Stepanova, designer

Evgeny Shimanovich, musician

Pavel Khailo, artist (Ukraine)

Elena Chepeleva, artist, ceramist, sculptor

Olga Kopenkina, curator, art critic

Valentina Pravdina, set designer, theater production designer.

Ekaterina Vysotskaya, UI / UX Designer

Victoria Shkorova, art teacher 

Marina Makarova, designer

Sergey Ashukha, artist

Alesya Murlina, artist, sculptor

Margarita Trukhova, draftsman

Arthur Kirel, artist

Anastasia Bulak, watercolor artist 

Julia Babkina, designer

Andrey Chesnokov, executive producer

Lydia Pogodina, student

Vera Odyn, architect

Maria Belorusskaya, musician

Roman Aksenov, artist

Andrei Kalavur, Specialist in Marketing of the National Mastats Museum of the Republic of Belarus

Vialeta Sagchyts, media

Dmitry Klechko, education

Viktor Kopytko, composer

Alexandra Karnazhitskaya, set designer

Svetlana Golubovskaya, musician

Oksana Bogdanova, Director of the Memorial Museum-Workshop of Z.I. Azgura

Sophia Saprykina, doctor

Alisa Prokhorova, art critic

Dar’ya Buneeva, artist

Daria Lebedeva, clothing designer

Olga Korol, craftsman

Natalia Dashko, designer

Dmitry Skovoronsky, accompanist of the theater studio

Natalia Matsevilo, employee

Ekaterina Andreevna, designer

Raisa Borushko, Artisan

Valentina Pravdina, set designer

Christina Khramaya, painting

Alena Gil, artist

Evgeniya Lettskaya, housewife

Elena Yankovich, designer

Lida Nalienka, literary editorial board, pioneer 

LyubovSretenskaya, artist

Polina Tishina, art

Victor Dovnar, artist BGTHI

Raman Tratsiuk, artist

Anna Plashchinskaya, craftsman

Olga Kirillova, pianist of the Academy of Music

Maria Lazarchuk, designer

Julia Arestova, office worker

Olga Bubich, art critic

Victoria Pozdnyakova, student

Galina Romanova, artist

Olga Nikolaevskaya, theater manager “MusicLand” theater company

Dmitry Kashtalyan, artist, graphic artist, illustrator

Katerina Sinichenko, designer

Dzmitry Padbyarezski, journalist of the watch “Mastatstva”

Marina Napruschkina, artist

Polina Pitkevich, actress, ECLAB Social Theater Laboratory

Aliaxey Talstou, artist, writer

Valeria Fomina, accountant State institution “Memorial museum-workshop of Z.I. Azgura “

Olga Gritsaeva, artist of the theater BGMT (Minsk) BSH

Ekaterina Starkova, artist

Alexandra Galenko, artist

Alexey Okunev, music

Olga Anisko, art critic

Elizaveta Mikhadyuk, illustrator

Andrey Ivanov, playwright

Ekaterina Orabey, art critic

Olga Buik, graphic designer at the State Central Library Service Grodno Department of Culture and Ideology

Alexandra Lyogenkaya, director of an amateur group, teacher of acting at a private theater school

Olga Remenitsa, librarian

Lina Bulygo, cultural manager

Andrei Gancharoў, design, theatrical porch

Dangolya Rosickaite, Director

Diana Betsun, artist-designer, animation

Elena Perovskaya, theater worker

Daria Parfenenko, Museum Researcher

Marina Derkach, theater worker

Elena Tsvetaeva, contemporary art

Vladimir Feschenko, Research Fellow, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences

Tatiana Kachan, artist

Valeria Didenko, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Kirill Khlopov, artist 

Evgeny Sivakov, musician

Tatyana Karpacheva, artist

Dar’ya Kulikova, monster

Alisa Fursevich, specialist in educational process support

Natalia Ivanova, editor

Ilona Dergach, curator

Zhanna Gladko, artist

Andrey Korolevich, cinematographer

Natalia Ivanova, cinematographer

Marya Badzey, kaardinatar praekta wir.by

Yulia Vorik, actress, theater projects manager

Julia Shatun, cinema

Natalia Baraboshkina, screenwriter

Polina Butko, site editor. BGAI student sound engineering

Lyudmila Perepechko, film studio “Belarusfilm”

Ksenia Myalik, filmmaking Member of the Union of Cinematographers, student of the St. Petersburg Film School of Television

Marya Rudzyankova, nastanitsa School of craftsmanship

Alexander Svishchenkov, director

Elizaveta Dubinchina, illustrator

Daria Volkovets, actress Theater “Na Nemig”

Artyom Busel, film and TV sound engineer

Alyaksey Busel, sound engineer at Palace of Republic 

Anastasia Vyaznikova, artist

Ekaterina Tarasova, director, producer

Palina Kuranovich, researcher at BDMNAiP

Vyacheslav Kruk, sound engineer

Andrei Klyutchenya, film art National film studio “Belarusfilm”

Andrey Sheromov, sound technician

Natalya Khalanskaya, organization of events, time-club “1387”, Bobruisk

Nadezhda Abramchuk, director

Ulyana Khripko, artist

Andrey Sheromov, sound engineer

Natalia Oleinik, librarian of the Borisov Central Regional Library named after I.Kh. Kolodeev

Pavel Oleinik, Methodist of the Borisov Central Regional Library named after I.Kh. Kolodeev

Alexander Krasheninnikov, deputy manager of the RE:PUBLIC club

Camilla Harutyunyan, student, former employee of the contemporary art gallery

Diana Levdanskaya, design

Sergey Mikhalenko, Chairman of the Union of Photographers of Belarus

Andrey Steburako, designer

Vyacheslav Abramtsev, screenwriter, playwright

Natalia Podvitskaya, actress

Marya Maroz, artist

Andrey Kudinenko, film director Belarusian Union of Cinematographers

Irina Brizhis, artist, animator

Anastasia Kardash, theater

Sergey Babenko, cultural worker

Vladimir Rimkevich, artist

Angelica Mnatsakanyan, English teacher

Alla Kurkul, cinema

Rustam Agayev, radio

Ekaterina Kliots, graphic artist

Yana Shklyarskaya, art critic, Darwin Museum

Larisa Pavlova, craftsman

Baranko Svyatlana, artist

Anastasia Sokolovskaya, illustrator

Sergey Oganov, sculptor, member of the Union of Artists of the Republic of Belarus 

Genik Loika, sculptor

Alexander Prokhorov, artist-sculptor

Denis Kondratyev, artist-sculptor

Anastasia Timchenko, artist of the Moscow State Chemical Combine A. K. Glebova

Zhanna Morozova, DPI

Ganna Komar, poet, translator

Lyudmila Skitovich, stage designer

Alexander Zimenko, art critic, Center for Fine and Media Arts “New Cultural Initiative”

Yuri Solomonov, theater designer

Anton Kolyago, film critic

Viktar Starukhin, artist

Renata Stepanova, designer

Alexandra Grakhovskaya, conductor

Sergey Stets, musician

Anastasia Khaminova, education

Dina Danilovich, curator, photographer

Valentina Kolesnikova, artist, craftsman

Marta Shmatava, BSM artist

Tatiana Kondratenko, artist BSAA

Maria Chernykh, costume designer

Anna Romanova, art critic, independent curator

Anastasia Nemchikova, film critic

Anna Savchenko, film director

Dina Zhuk, artist

Nikolay Spesivtsev, artist

Irina Doinikova, museum worker

Evgeniya Yesko, museum worker, researcher

Alessandra Pomarico, curator, author, teacher, Free Home University, Italy

Nikolay Oleinikov, artist Chto Delat, curator of Free Home University, musician group Arkady Kots

Kirill Medvedev, poet, translator, musician, group Arkady Kots

Oleg Zhuravlev, sociologist, musician group Arkady Kots

Anna Petrovich, sound engineer, musician, group Arkady Kots

Dmitry Vilensky, artist, Chto Delat group

Olga Tsaplya Egorova, artist, Chto Delat group

Nina Gasteva, dance artist, Chto Delat group

Alesya Arabey, museum worker, National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus

Lyubo Lappo, MA (Sociology of art) the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw

Ivan Streltsov, critic and editor of Spectate.ru

Andrey Polupanov, director, trainer, head of the Social Cinema Workshop, Andrey Polupanov Film School-Studio

Yulia Chernyavskaya, professor

Vyacheslav Sashcheko, teacher, director

Anastasia Shchitzova, lecturer at BSUCA

Alyaksandr Zimnitski, senior researcher, Belarusian National History and Culture Museum

Gennady Fomin, lecturer at BSUCA

Ella Levanova, culture

Dmitry Matuizo, BSUCA teacher, musician

Elina Dmitrieva, culture

Antonina Shchastlivaya, artist

Olga Tereshonok, lecturer of BSUCA

Maria Fomenko, manager of the Plastforma Festival

Natalia Ponomareva, artist

Alexey Loiko, Belarusian National History and Culture Museum

Anna Stalmakh, teacher

Viktor Lobkovich, producer

Alyaksandra Ignatovich

Yanina Rashchinskaya, director

Dmitry Lonsky, sound engineer

Yury Butsko, montage specialist

Valeria Mandrik, screenwriter

Ekaterina Romashko, National Film Studio Belarusfilm

Nadezhda Kolesova, make-up artist

Alana Ivory, director

Alexandra Butor, film director

Olga Zharikova, teacher of cultural studies

Vitaly Shchutsky, sociologist, researcher, art critic

Viktar Vasilenya, head of the fol music ensemble, BSPU named after M. Tank

Elena Vorobyova, artist

Aleksandr Zamkouski, theater

Andrei Vylinsky, translator, Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater

Pavel Niakhayeu, musician, lecturer, translator

Alena Moshhenok, art critic, senior researcher at the Belarus National Arts Museum

Alexander Kozlov, actor

Grigory Khoroneko, musician, member of the Union of Musicians of the Republic of Belarus

Anna Malinovskaya, culture

Alexandra Galak, art manager, National Center for Contemporary Arts of the Republic of Belarus

Irina Skizhenok, museum employee

Pavel Vasiliev, artist

Denis Khvorostov, National Center for Contemporary Arts of the Republic of Belarus

Nikolay Mikhailov, lecturer of BSUCA, choreography department

Ilya Malafei, Cultural Researcher

Olga Matusevich, artist

Volga Vishneva, exhibition activities

Zmіtser Vishnyo, writer, artist

Nadezhda Evseeva, casting director

Andrei Dureika, artist

Kristina Baranova, production designer

Hanna Zubkova, artist

Maria Belkovich, playwright

Inga Lindarenka, cultural manager

Denis Romanovski, artist

Natali Sazanovich, head of the folk ensemble “Gamanina” of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics

An updated list of signatories can be found here 

PRODUCTION DRAMA: LABOR AND LAZINESS OF ARTIST IN BELARUS

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Work is always repressive. It ties to a place and imposes more or less stable relationships of subordination, discipline, and power. There is only one record of official employment in my employment book: at the age of 17 I had a construction job for a month. The path of my academic education – undergraduate, first and second masters programs – happened to be sufficient enough to form a certain zone autonomous from work, creating space for self-education, interesting personal projects, and leisure. However, freelance work in the cultural field of Belarus is an area of refined exploitation: be it writing an article for 30 euros, organizing a large collective exhibition with commissioned works for 1200 euros and a festival for 180 US dollars, or free editing, psychological help and counseling for artists.

Introduction of a new parasite tax in 2015 became a certain threshold. A coercion to work was added to the habitual exploitation in the background: a disciplinary hand, which forces to seek employment and takes money out of your pocket if you refuse to work, has returned. This hand delicately looks after the cultural workers, the ill, the broke, and the anarchists. It brings forms of control, unusual for developed capitalism, including tax office card indexes, postal notices, detentions, fines and, finally, police violence against people who disagree with the law. Naturally, the power of a rubber baton is adjacent to and intertwined with the self-discipline, the micro-policies of power, and the economic mechanisms of a society of a developing authoritarian capitalism.

1. EASTERN EUROPEAN LAZINESS AND COERCION TO LABOR

In an important text In Praise of Laziness, unfinished due to his own laziness, Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović writes: “Laziness is the absence of movement and thought, dumb time — total amnesia. It is also indifference, staring at nothing, non-activity, impotence. It is sheer stupidity, a time of pain, of futile concentration. Those virtues of laziness are important factors in art. Knowing about laziness is not enough, it must be practiced and perfected.” Learning from capitalism and socialism, Stilinović says that there is no more art in the West – only competition, production of objects, gallery structures, and hierarchies. The East (Eastern Europe) in its turn has always maintained a gap, in which an artist could practice beyond the market or expertise. This text does not aestheticize or essentialize laziness but rather characterizes the place of art in the system of late socialism and during the transition period, pointing out the instability of its forms, the lack of equivalence and the formalization of economic relations. The place of art is the place of boiler rooms and watchposts, which were occupied by intellectuals in order to free space for art and research – which then, however, wouldn’t be converted into economic capital. It is a counterproductive power of work. These “low” workplaces were important as an element of resistance to the coercion to labor, as an attempt to bypass ideological rituals and to wrest hours of free time from state-sanctioned “socially useful labor”. The law on compulsory employment “On Strengthening the Fight against Persons (Loafers, Parasites) who Avoid Community Work and Lead an Antisocial Parasitic Lifestyle”, adopted in 1961, primarily fulfilled the function of ideological control and in the 1980s led to the formation of various practices of subversion and evasion from the coercion to work.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the coercion to labor was internalized: work became necessary for not dying from hunger and poverty. There became even less laziness with the arrival of Western funds. The necessity to understand the operational mechanisms of a Western cultural field arose: how to build a career, receive recognition, and work on projects. On April 2, 2015, Decree No. 3 of the President of the Republic of Belarus on imposing a parasitism tax (Decree on the Prevention of Social Dependency) came into force in Belarus. The Decree obligates citizens who have been unemployed for 183 days to pay a tax of 20 base values1 during the calendar year (in the Spring of 2020 it was about 205 euros). In fact, an old form of the coercion to labor but in a new ideological shell and with new modes of economic exploitation, has returned to its place.

Daria Danilovich, “Labor incubator” – Assistance to Those Affected by the Decree. Video screenshot.

Despite the fact that the questions of labor and laziness of an artist has always been considered essential in the art of Eastern Europe, in Belarus, for a number of reasons, this topic is only beginning to play such an important role. It is further complicated by the economic conditions, including the absence of a law on freelance, the criminalization of foreign financing, the inarticulate status of cultural work, the lack of education and private capital in the field of art.

In the case of Belarus in the 2010s, this Decree was initially adopted in an attempt to find money for the budget during the economic crisis. It was primarily aimed at Belarusians working abroad and not paying taxes in the country but in an unexpected way the directive shed new light on the socially unprotected types of labor: the labor of a mother-housewife, the inexpensive labor of an artist, and the labor of a freelance journalist. In fact, the Decree became a powerful monitoring tool, which also showed the complete erosion of the concept of “social state”, which is so actively used in Lukashenka’s Belarus. This was a kind of authoritarian measure of extreme economy: the financing of social sphere was not just cut as in neoliberal capitalism but was pulled out of the hands of the sick, the disabled, and the anarchists, disciplining everyone else and completely wrecking social state and its fundamental social democratic idea of ​​social security: if you want to get “free” education and healthcare — work! The only difference is that with the introduction of this Decree, control is exercised not so much through the level of ideology as through the economy: if you don’t want to obey – pay!

Against the backdrop of an extremely difficult economic situation, the Decree (the enforcement of which began a year later with the start of a new tax cycle) provoked one of the most powerful waves of civil protests unaffiliated with the official political parties or movements. At first, the protests were held without any intervention from the government but from the beginning of March, riot police began to detain and disperse. On March 15, an authorized march against the Decree took place in Minsk, after which riot policemen in plain clothes detained anarchists and other passengers traveling from the rally by public transport. All of them, induced by the perjury of riot police, were sentenced to administrative arrest for a term of 12 to 15 days. On March 24, the number of detainees exceeded 300 people, and dozens of those were fined. The demonstration on March 25 was in fact blocked by the authorities: city transport did not stop in this part of the city, police and riot police detained almost all passers-bys, and the column of anarchists was seized as they were approaching the venue.

The exhibition of Maxim Sarychev “Blind Spot”, which took place shortly before these events inside the Minsk exhibition space CECH, was dedicated precisely to this topic. Powerlessness in face of the police apparatus, fear and paranoia in face of a possible search and detention, psychological and physical violence were metaphorically conveyed through gloomy images of billboards mangled in the 2016 storm, disturbing landscapes and pits, illustrations depicting body parts most vulnerable for striking blows. It is not surprising that the activist depicted in one of the portraits of the series ended up behind the bars again.

2. FREELANCE AND THE UNION OF ARTISTS

In an interview with a German artist Hito Steyerl, Oleg Fonaryov, a Ukrainian developer and programmer, gives an example of transformation of the global economic ties, using the concept of “nearshore” as opposed to the concept of “offshore”. In the field of information technology, the countries of Eastern Europe began to appear as the source of outsourced labor – competent, high-tech, and cheap. It is not surprising that in the close proximity to the real combat actions, virtual military simulations, computer games, and 3D graphics are being created. This is characteristic of one of the several trends that determine the Eastern European regimes of labor and leisure. If the work of a programmer pulls the average salary level to its high horizon, then the work of a cultural worker remains at its lower horizon.

For example, the work of a librarian is considered one of the lowest paid with the full rate of 160 euros, including bonuses, (as of the summer 2017). The introduction of the decree on parasitism became a catalyst for discussions about labor and the status of the artistic labor specifically: how it can be determined, paid, and defended.

While the decree on preventing social dependency in Belarus primarily focuses on “black” economic activity, it is in the cultural sphere that its ideological effects are revealed.

How can an artist avoid paying parasitism tax?

One could become a freelancer, obtain the status of a creative worker, organize a fictitious sect, combine art practice with official employment, become a member of the state-controlled union of artists, designers, or architects; study abroad, obtain a disability certificate, move to the countryside and get permission from a kolkhoz to cultivate the land, become a craftsperson.

All of these forms of tax evasion are widely practiced and discussed in the artistic field. Since the average income of an artist is extremely low and there is no more or less reasonable legislation on freelance, combining several jobs (programmer and photographer, designer and artist) remains the most common solution.

In Belarus, the official policy of the Ministry of Culture foremost recognizes structures that have not fundamentally changed since the Soviet era: for example, the Union of Artists or the Academy of Arts. Obviously, in many ways this is done to maintain a high level of ideological control. At the same time, private corporations or enterprises construсted with oligarchic money began to actively earn symbolic capital, such as the projects of Belgazprombank (a subsidiary of Gazprom) or Dom Kartin (The House of Paintings – the project of the runaway Ukrainian oligarch Igor Yakubovich). These intersections give rise to the hybrid institutional forms combining bureaucratic management, private capital, and ideological censorship. All official members of the unions of artists, designers, and architects are exempt from tax, which highlights a top-down way of managing culture.

Freelance artists, designers and photographers remain outside of the legal framework of the parasitism tax. Despite the fact that there are legalization methods (for example, through registration of individual entrepreneurship), many of them remain predatory in practice.

For those who are not members of official unions (in order to become a member of the Union of Artists it is necessary to obtain a higher art education in one of the Belarusian institutions and participate in republican exhibitions), there is an option of submitting an application for consideration of assigning the status of a creative worker. The committee deciding whether the applicant is a creative worker includes all the same bureaucrats and the heads of the official unions. The commission is headed by the First Deputy Minister of Culture. As a result, there are cases when electronic musicians do not receive a certificate due to their lack of knowledge of scores and notations; artists’ painting may be considered too abstract or insufficiently academic; an applicant lacks recommendations and references in the state press.

Today the Decree has just been put on hold for a year and no one knows what the next spring will bring: protests and grassroots cooperation movements, a real union of cultural workers, new forms of cooperation? Or, as it often happens, silence, apathy, locking oneself in the studios and workshops?

3. COMMUNITIES, FICTITIOUS RELIGIONS, PRODUCTION DRAMA

It is hard to tell that in the history of Belarusian art artists have often questioned changes in labor structures, working conditions within their field, or economic issues. In the 2000s Marina Naprushkina was in a dialogue with city planners and architects, Alexander Komarov compared the operation of Siberian mines to the Frankfurt stock exchange, Bergamot group threw coins at a gallery owner during a performance and tried to determine the status of an artist. The younger generation of artists began to directly criticize the conditions of their work: artistic routine and common problems of Eastern European art, such as the lack of exhibition spaces, corruption, nepotism, and the conservatism of the art mainstream. The examples include actionism and the trial against the National Center for Contemporary Arts by Aliaxey Talstou, photo montages depicting fictitious closure of all art-related venues in Minsk by Sergey Shabohin and his series of illegal lectures for the students of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, an exhibition Diploma which criticized the system of art education, the work of Zhanna Gladko in which she researches unprotected and invisible care labor of an artist and the hierarchy within the art system.

The eeefff group composed of Dzina Zhuk and Nikolai Spesivtsev from the very inception of its practice was interested in how labor is transforming within its contemporary digital non-material state, in how the automation of labor functions, in the contact between its human and non-human sides, interfaces, algorithms. The eeefff is a part of Work Hard! Play Hard!, as well as of Flying Cooperation – projects that offered a new look at the relationship between labor and leisure after the introduction of the parasitism tax.

The series of events Work Hard! Play Hard! was developed to reflect on labor and leisure experience, productivity and laziness, intensification, amalgamation, and interpenetration of different labor regimes. The working group (Dzina Zhuk, Nikolay Spesivtsev, Olia Sosnovskaya, Aleksei Borisionok) was interested in not only the questions of working conditions of artists and curators, but also in the disposition of labor in general. The project and the invitation to participate placed greater focus on changes in this configuration, on operational models of a classic factory and a corporation, which are draining resources from the earth (for example, Belaruskali), on ways in which a new type of economy extracts emotional and cognitive capacities – be it outsourced work of a programmer, exhausting activist labor, woman’s reproductive labor, or leisure time of a raver, a philosopher, or a factory worker. WH!PH! is first and foremost an attempt to invent a space in which these subjects can be discussed in different discursive and performative formats, not only within the framework of a narrow local cultural field, but from a broader Eastern European perspective; a space where it is possible to invite friends and colleagues to create an event which is powerful and charged with the affect of co-participation.

In 2016, WH!PH! was dedicated to mapping concepts related to the culture of late capitalism, affects of labor and leisure: laziness, hedonism, over-productivity, fatigue, psychological stress. In 2016, a group of artists Flying Cooperation began to develop a draft of a project intended to help in deferring from the parasitism tax. Upon careful reading of the text of the Decree, the group found out that “priests, clergymen of a religious organization, members (inhabitants) of the monastery, monastic community” are exempted from the tax. This line of the Decree prompted the development of the fictitious cult Exocoid: to form a cult associated with a flying fish, a fake sect was created with its own history, rituals, places of worship and protocols. Within the framework of the exhibition Politics of Fragility in the gallery on Shabolovka (Moscow), Flying Cooperation invited visitors to become parishioners. The documents supporting the establishment of the fictitious cult were submitted to the tax office, but most likely have not been considered due to the suspension of the Decree. The foundation of a cult in this case is not a new-age, spiritualistic practice, but rather a new grassroot form of cooperation and self-organization (which is one of the main conceptual horizons of the FC), as well as a creation of new systems of kinship and friendship.

In an interesting way, the quasi-religious form of response to the parasitism tax, also combining the perestroika context of post-Soviet quasi-mystical cults and the black economy (financial pyramids, ‘charged’ drinking water), was suggested by Daria Danilovich. In a series of videos, on behalf of the fictitious organization Mezhdunarodnyi (“International”), the artist is ‘charging’ water with ‘psychic energy’ so it could be consumed for healing or protecting oneself from paying the tax. She introduced a new economic barter system, which aims to criticize the formality of the number of days – 183 a year – that must be worked off for dodging the parasite tax.

Daria Danilovich, A Session of Energy Healing from Parasitism. Charging Water. Video screenshot.

In 2017, with the help of an abstract machine of “transmission” – “an imaginary tool for controlling acceleration, which involves the contact of gears: bodies, objects, stories and affects” – WH!PH! called to pay attention to the processes developing at different speeds and at their collective work, intersections and breakdowns. The term “extractive capitalism”, which a researcher Saskia Sassen explores in her 2014 anthropological poem “Expulsions”, explains how modern capitalism works and brings under a common denominator the various processes of profit from the earth and from the body. The new phase of capitalism, which is no longer exclusively related to the modernist productivity, mass consumption, and the circulation of goods, is rather a gigantic mechanism for extracting value from humanity and nature, with the gradual exhaustion of all possible resources, including mental and cognitive abilities as well as the biosphere.

For instance, Uladzimir Hramovich brought up the case of the Belaruskali corporation and the city of Soligorsk, built for the production of potassium – the basis for the prosperity of the Republic of Belarus: billions tons of potassium were unearthed in 2003. Using it as a rhetorical example, the artist suggests filling these newly formed cavities with art to serve as corporate collections (an example of the latter is the collection of another corporation – Belgazprombank). Furthermore, as part of WH!PH! body was discussed as a different exhausted cavity filled with affect: in conversations on emotional work with Ira Kudrya and emotional burnout with Tanya Setsko.

Lina Medvedeva and Maxim Karpitsky organized a screening of the Belarusian Soviet film of the early 1980s His Vacation, the plot of which revolves around a shock worker Korablev who establishes that the the poor quality of details sourced by the subcontractors is the cause of constant production problems. Korablev takes a vacation, travels to another city to the Krasny Lug factory and gets a job, while hiding the true motive of his arrival. He is going to readjust equipment in the factory workshop where the details for his home factory are produced.

The film genre can be described as “production drama” and beyond the framework of the Soviet genre cinema, it seems to me that this term can describe many of those surfaces that are being deformed under the influence of extractive capitalism. In general, I would suggest considering these artistic reactions to parasitism tax as a kind of production drama which exposes and analyzes not only the industrial labor itself, but also how mental, emotional and cognitive competencies become a part of what was called the extractive machine of capitalism in the conditions of authoritarianism in Belarus.

*This essay was originally published in Hjärnstorm nummer 132: Belarus/Sverige in 2018 and edited for the publication on Status Platform in July 2020. 


  1. The base value in Belarus was established in 2002 instead of the minimum wage. It is an indicator of the calculation by the Belarusian government of the size of pensions, benefits, taxes, fees, and penalties.

Aleksei Borisionok

Aleksei Borisionok is a curator, writer, and organizer who currently lives and works between Minsk and Vienna. He is a member of the artistic-research group Problem Collective and Work Hard! Play Hard! working group. He writes about art and politics for various magazines, catalogs, and online platforms. His writings were published in pARTisan, Moscow Art Magazine, Springerin, Hjärnstorm, Paletten, syg.ma among others.  The focus of his current research is the temporalities of postsocialism.