A.Pashkevich is a pseudonym that the author of this text has asked the platform editor to use due to personal safety reasons.


In September 2020, the Brest Fortress Development Foundation announced an open call, as a result of which it invited four contemporary artists to take part in a 10-day art residency in Brest.

The art residency in Brest, where the organizers covered the costs of the artists’ stay, is a way to focus on artistic practice, an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local environment and problems, and to spend a week working on a project.

The mission of the residency was, using artistic methods, to expand the existing image of the Soviet history of Brest and to present a reflective look on the Soviet heritage of the fortress and of the city.

The Foundation’s team has been researching the fortress and Brest for more than seven years, working with local history through the digitalization of knowledge, events in new formats and creating new tourism products. The Foundation often involves artists in its projects: photographers Oksana Yushko and Arthur Bondar (Moscow), artist Wapke Feentsra from myvillages.org (Rotterdam), Nick Degtyarev (Moscow), Hutkasmachnaa (Minsk) and many others. In 2020, within the framework of the art residency in Brest, there came: Ilona Dergach, Aliaxey Talstou, Daria Trofimova, Maxim Sarychau.

As a result of the residency, four projects were created, which were to be exhibited in Brest in November 2020. Due to COVID-19, it was decided to hold an online exhibition. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the SHKLO platform for contemporary photographers and is available at invisibleheritage.shklo.org. On the opening day of the exhibition, a talk took place: “How is the art environment of Brest changing and what will happen to it next?” featuring Aliaxey Talstou, Mikhail Gulin, Katerina Pavlovich, Liza Mikhalchuk, Ilona Dergach, and Daria Trofimova.

Still from the video of the performance by Ilona Dergach


“In Brest, much reminds of the Soviet era, which ended almost 30 years ago. But only now are we beginning to think about how to relate to this past and the power of its influence on the present.

For many, the image of Brest is inseparably linked with the outbreak of World War II in the USSR and the creation of the Memorial Complex “Brest Hero-Fortress”. The planning of a significant part of the residential areas of the city took place during the Soviet period, therefore the traditions of Soviet architecture can still be noticed in the new quarters today. The Soviet has become firmly embedded in our present and culture, and sometimes it seems that little has changed around. The Soviet way of thinking also did not disappear with the collapse of the USSR – that is why different generations have different attitudes towards the same events in history and today.

In the critical heritage studies, there is a concept of “heritagization”, where “heritage” is formed and designated through the grassroots initiative, when a community or group proposes something and demands that this object / phenomenon be recognized as historically important. Much in Brest has yet to become a heritage, and artists are among those who can help to realize the significance and emphasize what should be preserved.

Therefore, during the art residency of the Brest Fortress Development Foundation, the artists were invited to immerse in the context of modern Brest, including the Brest Fortress, architecture and monuments of the Soviet period, to reveal an invisible heritage that has already become part of the usual everyday life, in which the border between the past and the present is often blurred. What value is there today? What will disappear as quickly as it appeared in our life? What is important to remember and keep?

In his artistic research, photographer Maxim Sarychau, went on a trip through the Brest region in search of a Soviet-era mosaics that were created at bus stops. Daria Trofimova turned to monotonous life and stories in five-story buildings typical for the entire post-Soviet space, creating a kind of video-pannel out of them. Aliaxey Talstou, in the genre of performative poetry, suggests thinking about what is better to leave in the past and without which a “bright future” is impossible. Ilona Dergach asked a question about the invisible boundaries of what is permissible in the construction of memory and its hidden aspects in the name of higher goals.

Time requires changes and creates new opportunities for comprehending the past. Our discussions and debates can help in this process of choosing an invisible heritage. – curatorial text for the exhibition ‘Invisible Heritage’.1

Project organizer: Brest Fortress Development Foundation

Supported by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Project partners: Hermitage Hotel, Conserva Art Quarter, SHKLO Platform for Contemporary Photographers, Binkl.by, KH Space.

  1. Excerpt From the curatorial text of Alina Dzeravianka, 2020


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. Particularly often the criticism, from both left and right, is addressed to a vaguely defined social entity of “liberal protesters”, sometimes also denoted with labels such as “creative class”, “intelligentsia”, and “neoliberal establishment”. It is the criticized elements of protest practice which make me think that NGOers are also listed as part of the “liberal protesters”: recurrent reflection on the protest, bringing elements of creativity and celebration into it as well as the active coverage of NGOers’ participation in Instagram or Facebook.

Within Facebook in Belarus (and among Belarusians living abroad) the “creative class” is referred to as the “next enemy after the regime” and accused of usurping the representational space of the protest; the same goes for discursive marginalization of protest activities that differ from those of the creative class (e.g. street fighting). I have encountered twice the opinion that people who encourage others to go to protests with balloons and flowers in their hands are responsible for human victims of the protest.

Another direction of criticism in Facebook is of those who were running for president and were/are allegedly too pro-Russian or neoliberal, or both. International left does not show much sympathy to Belarusian protests. Slavoj Žižek stated, without any empirical reason, that ”The aim of the protests in cities like Minsk is to align the country with Western liberal-capitalist values“.1 Other leftist analysts were concerned, as of 17th August 2020, with the risks of workers being “indoctrinated” with “liberal and nationalist agenda” of a “broad liberal protest”.2 Omitted or mentioned in passing in most of those criticisms is the police violence. The scale of violence used by the police in Belarus on the first post-election days, 9-13 August 2020 “seems to have no analogues in the political history of Europe in the post-WWII period”.3 For details and figures regarding the violations of human rights in the first days after election one can consult the report of Human Rights Center “Viasna”.4

Since 9th of August the Belarusian regime clearly demonstrated features of an organized crime group (kidnapping and robbing people, damaging property), fascism (mass torture and sadistic humiliation of dissenters) and slave-owning system (forcing workers to stay and work at their workplaces). The protest does not have an economic agenda simply because people find it hard to talk about taxation, privatization, and even geopolitics in the country where the very ideas of personal safety, property, law, and citizenship have been systematically ignored for months already: as OMON5 comes to schools, as it forces factory workers to go on their shift, as it grabs people on their way to/from the supermarket. Most people in Belarus are protesting, first and foremost, against this harassment by the police.

NGOs in Belarus: work as a form of protest

On October 26, 2020, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya announced the beginning of national strike in Belarus. Professional communities that I belong to — university lecturers, NGO workers, artists, civil activists, — were overwhelmingly in favour of this move and shared information about it. Literally all of the cafes and bars where we usually eat were closed on that Monday, as well as other places from which we used to consume services and buy goods. Minsk Urban Platform, an NGO that I am part of, was puzzled: do we work or do we strike? Do we work if none of the help that we rely on comes from the Belarusian state? Do we work if the entire NGO labour in Belarus is in fact an act of permanent protest? Do we relocate from Belarus to a safer place in order to do our work better? And how do we respond to the criticism of any decision we’d take in this situation? These practical questions pushed me to analyze the position of NGO workers within the ongoing Belarusian protest.

Of course, there is no “NGO worker” or third sector worker in Belarus — it is a cloud of diverse positions, nominations, and even identities. However, for the purposes of this text I can try to specify who it is not. First of all, here I do not refer to workers of GONGOs, which try to substitute or fake civil society in Belarus.6 Neither I consider those whom Alena Minchenia called “professional protesters”7 — members of opposition’s political organizations. The rest are mainly people active within centres, platforms, associations, and unions for human rights, specifically rights of vulnerable groups, informal education, social inclusion, environmental protection, sustainable mobility, etc.

Due to the vulnerability of these people in Belarus today, I will mention no names below. For instance, if the Facebook event is dedicated to help Belarusians abroad you cannot even be sure who you can invite to it without a risk to compromise them.

While aware of the criticism of NGO-ization, more specifically, of NGO becoming “a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job”, I would object that in Belarus it has been transforming in the opposite direction over the last years. Well, what does it mean to be an NGO worker in Belarus? First of all, no funding from the Belarusian government and an increasingly bureaucratized procedure of receiving assistance from abroad. Obviously, with no working contracts, Belarusian NGOers are mostly people living from one project to another, without any pension fund contributions and guarantees of income for a next calendar year (a rare project envisions financial support for longer than 12 months) — and in permanent fear of imprisonment. NGO workers in Belarus are less likely to have children — a subjective observation I cannot comment in this text — although they usually have parents (who often need care). General unpredictability of life scenarios and absence of employment warrants makes it irrelevant for them to buy cars on credit or deal with the real estate mortgage (I believe, credits and mortgages make factory workers more vulnerable and helpless against dismissal — Belarusian factories workers are not an exception). NGO workers in Belarus are often hard to distinguish from volunteers (and there are no working unions for them); moreover, without a working contract you can’t be fired.

To these characteristics one can add the low prestige of NGOs in Belarusian society. In Belarus NGO workers are often called “grant-eaters” — and they do depend on foreign grants (which take lots of nerves, papers, and months to be registered), because Belarusian state does not bother with spending on education and science, as well as culture, ecology, art and many other things that require long term investment and do not bring direct rent.

NGO workers are indeed more likely to have Schengen visas or residence permits but it is simply because their activity requires constant improvement of qualification and exchange of experience with colleagues abroad. Having to work in the highly bureaucratized, corrupt, and violent environment, these people are exposed to burn-outs, and leaving the country for a week or two can be a quicker and cheaper way to protect mental health than going to a therapist.

NGO workers do often emigrate from Belarus but not even because they can hardly count on a career or comprehensive self-realization here. In most cases, they leave the country because they cannot count on safety on its territory.

What to do in Belarus in 2020?

In 2020, many NGO offices which made a conscious decision to close for quarantine in March, remain closed because of the fears that officers from GUBAZiK (Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption) might come with a raid. From May till August 2020, dozens of my NGO colleagues were involved in pre-election campaigns as collectors of signatures for alternative candidates; majority of them spent some time disseminating information about elections; quite a few decided to be independent observers at the elections.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented political mobilization of the Belarusian society, many NGOers not only stayed in Belarus over pre- and post-election months but were also actively engaged in the protest. On the first post-election days, organizations wrote and signed a public letter against police violence. They made many posters to support those who were on strike, which they donated to the solidarity foundations. Most of them go to protests; especially to Sunday rallies — which is the minimum expected. If someone doesn’t go to protests, he or she often tries to find excuses for that. The community tries to raise awareness that every protester has a set of privileges and vulnerabilities which affect whether or not they can participate in the street protests. Despite this rational message, missing the protest marches is a frequent cause of frustration and self-conviction. Meanwhile, dozens of my Belarusian NGO friends went through detention over the last three months. A colleague who did urban research on improvement of public services has been under criminal trial since July. He was thrown into prison only because other protesters did not give him out to OMON during one of the peaceful demonstrations.

All of that doesn’t mean that the Belarusian NGOs stopped the implementations of their planned projects in 2020. “Okay, the protest is going to be our new normal for some time, but who will do my work? Who will develop our work in Belarus?” — says a colleague of mine, who works for social inclusion and accessibility. In Belarus you do not expect any state authority to do that work. So, for many NGOers, 2020 is torn between the realization of projects (that they often have to re-design with COVID-19 in mind) and the participation in the protest movement.

Like everyone else, NGO workers are claiming the right to physical safety and justice by going to the streets and, incredibly often, to jail. Many of them clearly articulate that they want the protests to raise economic demands and conversations about inequality and precarity. However, so far the gap between a person with the keyboard and a person with the rock-drill in Belarus is much smaller than the gap between siloviki8 in balaclavas and all the rest. This is the most significant inequality which makes us all precarious, and we do not know for how long this situation will last — this circumstance is largely omitted by the political analysts of different orientations.

Can I quit?

A certain symbolic line is drawn in discussions by both sides, those Belarusian NGO-workers who physically left Belarus and those who stayed in the country. Those who remained in Belarus respond to the criticism with the most radical argument of these days which is hard to object to — to be present here.

Those who for different reasons make a decision to leave the country, obviously feel the need to explain why they do so. Some Belarusians relocate immediately after being beaten by the riot police and after the administrative detention for going to the streets with flowers and posters, and/or after visits by the “police” at their homes or offices, and/or after being repeatedly “invited for a talk” to a local police office — via a phone call from a hidden number because in Belarus the “policemen” are not even bothered to officially summon to court.

In a way, the Belarusian citizens are privileged exodists: they are white and they do not have to cross a sea to enter another country. However, it is pandemic time and borders are closed. As of 30th October you can only cross borders with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland if you have a type D visa or a residence permit from those countries. In certain cases you will not be able to return to Belarus because this state decides to not let its own citizens back in.9 It is more complicated with Russia as there is no type D visa for Belarusian citizens. However, Russia allows Belarus citizens if they have an appointment for a medical treatment or visit close relatives there. As of the late October, Ukraine is one of the few remaining destinations Belarusian citizens can travel to without a visa, but is very likely that this possibility might be interrupted at any moment with the introduction of new anti-coronavirus regulations.

The dread of the moment when Lukashenka’s words were mistaken as a decision to close borders with Lithuania and Poland is still present: for many, the impossibility of leaving the country is the last stop on the way to totalitarianism.

After weeks of ethical hesitations and despite the dangers of the coronavirus, many eventually take a bus.

And I started thinking: Maybe I have spent not enough time in jail? It was only 15 days but some got 30, and some were there for months. Am I such a coward to sneak after that? May I allow myself to leave Minsk now? Have I deserved this right to be outside of Belarus? — this kind of monologue you can imagine in Kyiv, Warsaw, Vilnius and other cities where Belarusian NGO workers and activists go in 2020. I have heard a few myself, and several more were recited by “friends of my friends”.

After leaving Belarus and coming to a safer place, the worst question you can hear is “Are you in Minsk now?” Siarhei Čaly, a Belarusian economist, admitted he was “a bit irritated with Belarusians flooding Warsaw, Kyiv, and Vilnius’. Leaving Minsk is less cool than it has ever been before, and you do not post Instagram stories from Kyiv.

Furthermore, you have no idea of how to talk to your friends in Minsk. Should you persuade them to take further care of themselves and leave the country? Or, rather, do you cheer them up and thank them for what they are doing?

An emotional shelter for some relocated Belarusians has been the “we work you strike” principle. “It is only my work which helps me not to go mad here”, admits a colleague on Instagram, after spending her seventh week outside of Belarus. Taking antidepressants and visiting a therapist is discussed daily, but my colleagues prefer to donate to Belarusian crowdfunding campaigns.

Some people are coming back to Belarus right now, during the last days of October. A colleague with Polish card; another colleague without Polish card; one more colleague who left Minsk “for a short weekend retreat only”, and so on. Belarusians can also be detained when entering the country, as it happened to a political prisoner Ihar Alinievič on the 30th of October. However, as a friend of mine recently put it, “at some point the fear of Belarusian prison is so strong that the only way to overcome it is to be in that prison”.

Thus, the unidimensional systems of coordinates, including the left-right political spectrum, fall short to describe the political composition of the Belarusian protest. The new Belarus is being constructed from multiple epistemic standpoints: by those attentively observing and those participating, by those taking care and those showing courage. Plurality of these standpoints is heuristic and produces the situated knowledge, in a feminist tradition of Donna Haraway: we can better understand what it means to be in Belarus by sharing ethnography of it to those who are not there. Within Belarus, an ability to look from multiple standpoints is crucial for understanding the imbalances of power and force that are causing violence and traumatizing the society. After all, the construction of Belarus is occurring without the method, as an exercise of Feyerabend’s epistemological anarchism, where “everything goes”. No single protest strategy can pretend to be the key one; and importantly, not a single group can carry responsibility for its success. Every protester in Belarus is a bit of an NGO worker these days, a participant of labor (work, not war) for change, a pioneer in multiple forms of “being there” and “protesting well enough”.

November 10, 2020

Cover on the main page: Iłla Jeraševič

  1. Zizek, Slavoj, 2020. “Belarus’s problems won’t vanish when Lukashenko goes – victory for democracy also comes at a price.” The Independent, 24 August, 2020. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/belarus-election-lukashenko-minsk-protests-democracy-freedom-coronavirus-a9685816.html

  2. Kunitskaya, Ksenia & Vitaly Shkurin, 2020. “In Belarus, the Left Is Fighting to Put Social Demands at the Heart of the Protests.” Interview by Volodymyr Artiukh. Jacobin, 17 August, 2020. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/08/belarus-protests-lukashenko-minsk

  3. “Belarus: The Birth of a Nation or Absorption by Putin’s Empire.” ISANS, September 14, 2020. https://isans.org/analysis-en/policy-papers-en/belarus-the-birth-of-a-nation-or-absorption-by-putins-empire.html

  4. “Human Rights Situation in Belarus: August 2020.” Viasna, September 2, 2020. http://spring96.org/en/news/99352/

  5. The law enforcement agency in Belarus, which is considered to be the republic’s riot police. [ed.]

  6. Matchanka, Anastasiya. “Substitution of Civil Society in Belarus: Government-Organised Non-Governmental Organisations.” Journal of Belarusian Studies 7, no. 2 (2014): 67-94.

  7. Minchenia, Alena. “Belarusian Professional Protesters in the Structure of Democracy Promotion: Enacting Politics, Reinforcing Divisions.” Conflict and Society 6, no. 1 (2020): 218-235)

  8. Literally translated as “people of force” or “strongmen”. Siloviki are members of security services police and armed forces.

  9. On August 31st 2020 Tadevuš Kandrusievič, a Belarusian prelate of the Catholic Church, was prevented from entering Belarus after visiting Poland, despite being a Belarusian citizen. On November 1st there were reports of Belarusian students studying abroad denied entry to Belarus.

Andrey Vozyanov

Andrey Vozyanov is a social anthropologist (Ph.D. in Social Anthropology), sound-designer and lo-fi musician (kate in the box, Novy Byt) based in Minsk. Since 2016 he is a researcher and editor at Minsk Urban Platform and is currently working on a podcast show about post-Soviet urbanism which he questions from the perspective of a Minsk citizen. Since 2018 he has been teaching media and communications at European Humanities University, Vilnius. In 2020 he developed a lockdown podcast Excursions Through an Mp3-player, which came out of Facebook audio-diary, drawings, and seminars, but remained unreleased due to the events of summer 2020 in Belarus.


1: thermodynamics : a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system’s disorder, that is a property of the system’s state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system

broadly : the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system


(Entropy | Definition of Entropy by Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

“But everything is in order in Belorussia!”2

“Minsk is a clean city!”

“Cleanliness and order is the number one question!”

“We, of course, try to maintain the image of our country. As you say – cleanliness, neatness, quietness and so on.”

“What are you tired of in Belarus? Order and cleanliness in your country?”3

Yes! – because even according to the Second law of thermodynamics, in an isolated system entropy does not decrease, and any closed system tends to disorder.

Yes! – because Belarusian cleanliness strives for sterility, and sterility is infertility and the absence of microorganisms.

Yes! – because the Belarusian order and “stability” are based on conservation. And conservation is preservation from damage, decay, destruction, suspension of development, and not restoration, maintenance of life, or renewal.


In 2020, an isolated and closed Belarusian political system, based upon a regime lasting a quarter of a century, seriously crushed, violating its own order and notorious stability. First of all, this was manifested by the government policy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Denial of a real threat, comparing the situation with “psychosis”, cynical jokes and statements about prevention and treatment, refusal to introduce quarantine measures, downplaying the problem and false statistics, insults and accusations against the sick and the dead – all these bugs made a mess in the system. And even the most ordered “particles” realized that the system no longer ensures their healthy existence, does not preserve life even at the level of conservation. And the entropy began to rise. t was manifested by the regime in pejorative and low-grade criticism, pressure on candidates and political repressions, outright falsification of elections, violence by the riot police during the suppression of protests, various mass punishments for dissent and for the manifestation of civil position, all accompanied by breaking of the law, constant perjury, and violation of human rights – which in its entirety could be already considered as the genocide of the own people. In turn, the dissenting, protesting society also increased the degree of chaos and instability of the system, rocking the regime further and further, more actively, and on a larger scale. If in May-July the actions of activists and volunteers involved in election campaigns were rather orderly – collecting signatures or numerous complaints about election violations, attempting to become independent observers – then from August 9th, a Brownian movement began, actively changing forms, methods, and directions of protest, in which thousands of particles participate and, thus, set in motion the larger segments.


And of this fact (as I record it here)
An image, a type goes on before our eyes
Present each moment; for behold whenever
The sun’s light and the rays, let in, pour down
Across dark halls of houses: thou wilt see
The many mites in many a manner mixed
Amid a void in the very light of the rays,
And battling on, as in eternal strife,
And in battalions contending without halt,
In meetings, partings, harried up and down.
From this thou mayest conjecture of what sort
The ceaseless tossing of primordial seeds
Amid the mightier void- at least so far
As small affair can for a vaster serve,
And by example put thee on the spoor
Of knowledge. For this reason too ’tis fit
Thou turn thy mind the more unto these bodies
Which here are witnessed tumbling in the light:
Namely, because such tumblings are a sign
That motions also of the primal stuff
Secret and viewless lurk beneath, behind.
For thou wilt mark here many a speck, impelled
By viewless blows, to change its little course,
And beaten backwards to return again,
Hither and thither in all directions round.
Lo, all their shifting movement is of old,
From the primeval atoms; for the same
Primordial seeds of things first move of self,
And then those bodies built of unions small
And nearest, as it were, unto the powers
Of the primeval atoms, are stirred up
By impulse of those atoms’ unseen blows,
And these thereafter goad the next in size:
Thus motion ascends from the primevals on,
And stage by stage emerges to our sense,
Until those objects also move which we
Can mark in sunbeams, though it not appears
What blows do urge them.

Lucretius. De Rerum Natura. William Ellery Leonard. E. P. Dutton. 1916

Digital inversion of a drawing of a solitary cell made by Nadya Sayapina from memory.


“We didn’t know each other until this summer” is a line from the popular song that this year has become one of the most frequently quoted among Belarusians in various locations and situations: courtyards, protests, marches, and prison cells. Its popularity testifies not only to growing solidarity but also to the fact that if earlier most of the society did not defend their interests and exercise civil rights, 2020 has become a real point dividing the history and lives of many people into “before” and “after”.

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). It was a protest of artists against violence which took place near the Palace of Art in Minsk on August 15. My imprisonment led to an acquaintance with women of different ages, characters, spheres of activity and interests, forms and manifestations of their civil position. We were transferred from cell to cell, from one detention center to another, from Minsk to Zhodino. But everywhere we didn’t just get to know each other but became true sisters – supportive, understanding, and caring.

While in prison, I realized that this experience was also a dividing line. Therefore, some time after each of us walked out free, I asked my new friends to reflect and share their feelings. Their “before and after” are both in many ways similar, and somewhat different, but they once again emphasize this growing “Belarusian entropy”.

Nadya Sayapina. Portraits of inmates made by the author during her detainment.

– For 26 years I was in a lethargic dream, realizing the futility of all attempts to make any body movements against the established regime. But during the coronavirus epidemic, I realized that the people in power absolutely do not care about my health. Or the health of my family. Or the health of my friends.

This was followed by an election campaign that literally pushed me off the couch. I was outraged by the cynicism and rudeness of the people who seized power.

I went out into the street, realizing the danger to my life and freedom. But I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Naturally, the dogs of the regime did not forgive me for my dissent. I was caught, convicted (according to their own idea of justice), and put in prison.

In prison, I made an agreement with my body and consciousness, convincing myself that things are going as they ought to. That I should not pay attention to humiliation and deprivation. I expected that I would undergo these tests and was ready for them. I even enjoyed communicating with the girls who shared the cell with me.

But when I walked out into the fresh air (I can’t say I was freed because there is no freedom in my beautiful country), I realized all the horror that happened to me. I got scared. Scared for myself. Scared for my loved ones. I’m scared for the people who emerged out of prison with me. We are defenseless against malice, against impudence, against lies and hypocrisy of the authorities…

Nadya Sayapina. Collage from several portraits.


– As for the future of Belarus, my expectations are only positive, but the only question is when this future will come. At the very beginning of the protests I believed in victory within several weeks. Now it is clear that the process has been delayed, but it is still going in the right direction and will certainly be successful. Belarusians have become different people, they learned how close to each other they can be.

There is only one thing that changed after I served time. I went out and thought: “Here it is exactly the same prison.” And this feeling persists. But at the same time, I know for sure that we will win and that people who do not allow us to live freely and happily in our native country, will be punished. My dream is to turn jokes about “a country to live”4 into reality. I dream of freedom, independence, cultural and economic growth of Belarus, democracy, and good education. We have everything to materialize this. And among this “everything” in the first place is love. Love to each other and to Belarus, which, in general, has now become the same!


– I cannot say that I lived badly even six months ago. I had a good job, earned good money. But this money was paid to me by “Uncle John” from America. And the president of our country insisted on TV that we are eggheads.

At some point, one realizes that money is not the most crucial thing in life. And we got into this situation not for the sake of or because of the money.

We went to the streets to defend our rights, our voice, the people who live around us, our principles, our friends and family. We do not want to be repeatedly insulted by the “head” of the state. We do not want to be compared to livestock. We do not want to be beaten, humiliated, fired, and killed for dissent. I expect the voices of the people to be heard so that the people can choose their own representative. And that this representative would regard the people who hired them.

When I got to the detention center and served my sentence there, I observed something that struck me even more: I have not seen a single lowbrow girl. Everyone was well-mannered, we sorted the garbage in the cell, we sang songs, we talked a lot. There were only those girls who were diligent, intelligent, kind, and honest. It seems to me that such a society deserves respect for itself. Our people have shown that we know how to unite and help each other. I believe that Belarus has colossal prospects with such people.

And if before the arrest and incarceration I was terrified, eventually more faith grew inside me. There, being in a cell, absolutely defenseless, we were much stronger than those who imprisoned and guarded us. Freedom, faith, and love lived within us. And I believe that with such people Belarus will become, if not financially wealthy, then at least rich in spirit, and in this case, our nation will become much happier.

And one can speculate about the future for a long time, but the most important thing that I have gained for myself is pride. The pride that I am Belarusian, pride for my country. I had never been proud of this before – rather, with a little frustration, I had to explain abroad what kind of country it is. And now I am sure that in the future, every Belarusian will be proud of his or her country and of the fact that he or she is a citizen of Belarus, and the whole world will see that this is a country with incredible and bright people.

Nadya Sayapina. Portraits of inmates made by the author during her detainment.


– Belarus will be fine. I didn’t think about it before, I thought that everything would just remain the same. Now I see what kind of people live here, what their views, goals and desires are. This is inspiring. I knew about such people who have always been like that – my friends, the people with whom I made projects. But it seemed to me that there are fewer of them; that this community is a kind of a “local get-together”. And the real Belarusians can be identified in the scandalous clinic queues, by derogatory attitude at schools, by disgruntled tired eyes (I would also like to add by “hatred of all living things”, but this is too much of an exaggeration, probably). As if they are present, they are noticeable, while you are somewhere alienated, in your own world.

Then it turned out to be a cleverly created illusion. They are simply and truly more visible. They had more power, there are more of them in the media and state institutions.

I realized this more acutely after the prison. While we were there, we discussed that such a system and such conditions should not exist for anyone. Not for us, not for real criminals. The prison should be a place of rehabilitation, not aggravation.

After getting out of prison, I visited a medical center for health inspection. They provide assistance to victims of repressions free of charge . The building is well maintained, has good equipment and caring staff. Everything was fine, everything was as it should be. And suddenly I remembered the clinic, which I had attended in my childhood. Its shabby walls, dirty toilets, rudeness and queues. We grew up in the midst of this. In grey schools with teachers who hate you and their work. In grey universities, where both students and teachers come just to tick the box. In grey hospitals, maternity hospitals, executive committees and somewhere else. We were surrounded by the same state structures with ugly posters, stupid phrases, bad taste and stereotypes. It has become a background that one doesn’t even notice, but which is somehow influential. And you feel like an outcast within this. It doesn’t matter where you work and what you do – a worker, a pupil, a student, a doctor, a marketer, a teacher, an entrepreneur – you are a bit of a stranger here if you have brains and a sense of taste. You realised this in the subcortex. And now, suddenly it came out.

It turns out that we are the norm. Not cliches created by the government, but us. We are the majority, we are Belarusians, we are the people. We have soul, intellect, ambition and desires. We are responsible for our life and our future. We are ready for changes, ready to manage them and invest in improvements. We want to fulfil ourselves and realize our plans. We want to live, we want freedom. And now we want to trust. Because it turned out that there is someone to trust.


Why do I personally compare the current situation in Belarus with entropy? Because I see a growing chaos and randomness in the actions of both parties: the regime and its opponents. Just as the suppression and punishment by the state exhausts the legality, the logic and the strategy – so the protest becomes more and more unexpected, uncontrollable and multi-format. The more severe and terrible the punishment gets, the stronger intimidation becomes – the bolder, more active, diverse and larger the reaction grows. The stronger repressions against culture and art workers are manifested – the more creative the response is. The more people are forced to leave the country – the faster the number of active citizens increases. At the same time, despite our strong faith, determination, struggle, consolidation, and solidarity, I see that the regime and its power mechanisms are not weakening, but are even more blatantly demonstrating the liberty of their banditry and cruelty. While active and highly educated people are forced to emigrate or undergo rehabilitation, protesters, who are still active, are tired of the situation and are mentally and physically unstable. They lose work and places of study, and institutions are forced to close or completely reorganize its functions and staff. All this suggests that the order of this “closed” Belarusian system continues to decrease rapidly, and the entropy, as is typical of the Universe, is increasing. And all this is as irreversible as it is hard to put the toothpaste back into a tube. That means that the only thing that can be assumed is that chaos will grow and strive to its destructive limit. Nobody knows when and how it will happen. But this is what ensures our evolution.

Nadya Sayapina. Illustration, mixed media.

Claude Shannon – the creator of the information theory, who was working with the concept of the information entropy – explained the history of the term as follows: “My greatest concern was what to call it. I thought of calling it ‘information’, but the word was overly used, so I decided to call it ‘uncertainty’. When I discussed it with John von Neumann, he had a better idea. Von Neumann told me, ‘You should call it entropy, for two reasons: In the first place your uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name, so it already has a name. In the second place, and more important, nobody knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage.”5

That is why I would like to call what is happening in the country today “the Belarusian entropy”: despite a certain logic of the process, the experience of other countries, professional and amateur forecasting, internal and external predictions, the outcome remains unknown – as well as the future of the Universe, tending towards chaos. The main thing, noted by the absolute majority, is that the process has started, and artificially maintained balance and order are broken: we really woke up, came to life, and now grow together with this entropy.

October 30, 2020


In July 2020, Nadya Sayapina created a performance Heritage, dedicated to paintings confiscated from the corporate art collection of Belgazprombank in relation to the criminal case against Viktor Babariko – the chairman of the bank’s board and a presidential candidate. During the performance, 24 cultural workers and artists attached the reproductions of confiscated paintings to their backs and for several hours had been standing in front of the framed QR codes hanging on the walls.

Nadya Sayapina was detained at home on September 7, 2020. Law enforcement officers, using her keys without consent, illegally searched her apartment, seizing a router and several hard drives. Nadya’s trial was carried out with multiple gross violations, and the evidence of her guilt was based on the false testimony given by a witness who kept providing contradictory information. Sayapina was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest under Part 1 of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses – participation in unauthorized public gatherings – for taking part in a performance held on August 15 in front of the Palace of the Arts. The performance featured artists standing with the portraits of people who were injured during the protests which took place on August 9-11, 2020 and were brutally suppressed by the authorities.

  1. “Entropy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entropy. Accessed 10 Nov. 2020.

  2. Belorussia is a Soviet name of Belarus which is still used by russian-speaking population mostly outside of the country [ed.]

  3. These are the remarks made publicly by Belarusian political leaders mixed with the examples of conventional thinking intrinsic to Lukashenko supporters [ed.]

  4. “A country to live” is a Youtube channel of Sergei Tikhanovsky – a husband of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose detention led her to run for the presidency. The channel is focused on giving publicity to the social and political hardships of Belarusian everydayness outside of the big cities. Its title is taken from the promotional video commissioned by the Ministry of Information, crafted to idealize Belarus and promote its positive image. [ed.].

  5. Tribus, Myron, and Edward C. McIrvine. “ENERGY AND INFORMATION.” Scientific American, vol. 225, no. 3, 1971, p. 180

Nadya Sayapina

Nadya Sayapina is an artist and art educator born and based in Minsk. Her artistic practices include performance, installation, land art, painting, and text. She explores mediation in art through the performative and processual practices, and works with the topics of body, self-reflection, memory, and feminism. 



DEADLINE: November 20, 2020 | 11:59pm/ 23:59 (Minsk time)

The Call for applications for a 2-months residency program for Belarusian artists is announced by the STATUS project. The STATUS project was launched in 2018 as an exchange between Belarusian and Swedish artists, cultural workers and organizations with the aim to observe and analyze the role of artists in changing society. It is coordinated by Konstepidemin in Gothenburg and gallery KX in Brest and funded by the Swedish Institute


The residency program is a part of the STATUS project 2021-2022 and focuses on the areas:

  • Self-organization
  • Freedom of expression
  • Equality
  • Heritagization (Heritage making)
  • Climate crisis

Experience and interest in working in these areas mentioned above will be prioritized, though other fields of interest can be considered as well. 

Participants in the residency program will have an opportunity to meet with other artists-in-residence from Belarus, collaborate with Swedish artists interested in the same field (residency companions), and share their work in different ways – publishing or blogging on the project’s platform statusproject.net, participating in public talks and presentations in Sweden and Belarus, and in the Second Congress of Belarusian Cultural Workers in 2022 in Minsk. 


The residency offers artists-in-residence accommodation, a stipend covering living costs, working space, technical guidance, access to organizing public talks and events, and an established network of professional contacts. 


  • Artists with documented work shown, performed, or published during the last 5 years.  
  • Curators and art managers connected to art organizations and art communities with experience of working with the next fields of interest: Self-organisation, Freedom of Expression, Equality, LGBTQ, Heritagization (Heritage making), Climate crisis.

Applicants should be living and working in Belarus or had to leave Belarus lately because of political persecution. We introduce this limitation as one of the residencies aims is to support Belarus-based artists in difficult conditions of ongoing repressions. 

Taking into consideration the need to communicate with the Swedish artistic community, basic knowledge of English is required. 


Please, fill in the application form by the link until November 20, 2020. 

The organizers will ensure secure communication and privacy of the provided information.

If you have any questions, please, contact us via email status.project.by@gmail.com

All applicants will be informed about the selection results via email on November 30, 2020.


A selection committee of the project team and partner representatives will consider applications by the content of the portfolio and experience and interest of working in the areas of the project’s focus. The long list of selected applications will be sent to a reference group of future collaborators. After feedback from the reference group, the selection committee will make the final choice. If necessary, video calls will be organized. Also, the project will ensure representation balance.

The Selection Committee will be represented by STATUS project leaders – Mona Wallström, Denis Romanovski, and Inga Lindarenka, STATUS online platform Commissioning Editor – Vera Kavaleuskaya, gallery KX art director – Lizaveta Mikhalchuk, ‘The Collective Brain’ network representatives.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the dates of the residency can be changed.


STATUS is a collective research project (launched in 2018) that brings together artists and cultural workers with a common goal to analyze the conditions of artistic practice and give visibility to the people who conduct it in today’s world. Moreover, it encourages them to see their political potential in initiating change. The STATUS project has been created by the joint coordination of Swedish and Belarusian partners: Konstepidemin in Gothenburg and gallery KX in Brest with main support from the Swedish Institute. 

The STATUS  has its online platform that makes produced knowledge visible and available to the broader public and professionals. The content of the platform is a collection of contributions that have been created in the process of the STATUS project within the artistic research groups Hidden Life, Heritagization, and (non)work, and commissioned texts by other authors from various relevant fields. 

In the frames of the project, a range of exhibitions, workshops, public talks, artistic camps were organized in Belarus and Sweden, including the Congress-performance of cultural workers hosted in Minsk. Also, the publication ‘Artistic Positions in Changing Society. Observations from Belarus and Sweden’ that contains texts and artworks documentation in terms of STATUS project was published.


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, the international art community, appeal to the general public and to the authorities of the Republic of Belarus, in order to draw attention to the ongoing persecution of cultural workers in Belarus and to make a stand against violence aimed at the civilian population.

We believe that the administrative arrest of the artist Nadezhda Sayapina, as well as other cultural workers, is persecution that violates the constitutional right to the civic and professional expression in Belarus.

The violation of the freedom of expression, of the political rights, to participate in peaceful civic events and artistic actions, unlawful detentions and trials held with numerous violations of the law are unacceptable.

Cultural workers and other civilians don’t feel safe in Belarus now.

The arrest of Nadezhda Sayapina is one of the numerous facts of state and police violence that have taken place in the Republic of Belarus since the presidential election held on August 9, 2020. This violence is unfolding in all strata of society and is used against representatives of various professional groups and communities – workers, students, doctors, IT specialists, journalists, human rights defenders, members of civil society, and many others.

Nadezhda Sayapina, an artist and activist, was detained on September 7, 2020. Law enforcement officers, using her keys without consent, illegally searched her apartment, seizing a router and several hard drives.

Nadezhda’s trial was carried out with multiple gross violations, the first of which was the failure to let Nadezhda meet with a lawyer, which violated her right to defense. The evidence of Nadezhda’s guilt was based on the false testimony provided by a witness who kept providing contradictory information. Nadezhda was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest under Part 1 of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses – participation in unauthorized public gatherings – for taking part in a performance held on August 15 at the Palace of the Arts. The performance featured artists standing with the portraits of people injured during the protests of August 9-11, 2020, which were brutally suppressed by the authorities.

In July 2020, Nadezhda Sayapina created a performance titled “Heritage”, dedicated to paintings confiscated from the corporate art collection of “Belgazprombank” in relation to the criminal case against Viktor Babariko – the chairman of the bank’s board and the candidate in the presidential election. During the performance, 24 cultural workers and artists attached the reproductions of confiscated paintings to their backs and for several hours stood in front of QR codes placed in frames on the walls.

We, the undersigned, the cultural workers, demand the following:

1. the end of the persecution of cultural workers for their artistic expression and civic position and the end of violence against civilians in general;
2. freedom to all those detained during the peaceful protests that started on August 9, 2020, as well as to the political prisoners;
3. the investigation of all the cases of violations that took place during detentions and trials, acts of violence, torture, and rape;
4. the new free election of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

As of October 11, the letter was signed by 724 people:

Локтионова Анна / Кураторка, арт-менеджерка; Бредова Анна Сергеевна / Кураторка квир-фестиваля DOTYK; Булдык Евгений / Начальник управления ВЭД; Дарья Чурко / Юристка фем.организации.; Роман Аксёнов / художник; Огорелышева Елена / Исследовательница; Алексей Борисенок / Куратор современного искусства, исследователь; Юрий Кручак / художник, куратор; Комаровский Артур / Поэт, перформер; Станислав Турина / Художник, куратор мастерской ательенормально; Елена Гиль / Художница; Ашот Даниелян / Музыкант, поэт; Olga Mzhelskaya / art-manager; Юлия Мицкевич / Неформальное образование; Armenak Grigoryan / Artist and Curator; Голубко Александра / Безработная; Ольга Шпарага / Olga Shparaga / Philosopher, ECLAB; Аттила Гажлински / художник; Маргарита Журунова / Искусство; Войтенко Богдана / Психолог, педагог; Ирина Зданевич / Дизайнер интерфейсов; Oksana Kapishnikova / Curator; Дарья Кухаревич / Кассир; Ольга Шалесная / Магистрант филфака БГУ; Новикова Ольга / Дизайнер; Ольга Сидорушкина / кураторка (Украина); Варвара Сон / Художник; Елена Гиль / Художница; Qafar Rzayev / Visual Artist; Yulia Kostereva / artist; Дарья Русецкая / литературоведение/преподаватель вуза; Качура Ольга / Фотограф; Карина Баратова / Видео; Игорь Стахиевич / Художник; Гусакова Светлана / дизайнер; Linnik Rom / Artist; Михаил Гулин / Художник; Hanna Paniutsich/Ганна Панюціч / Artist/мастачка; Анна Палей / Координатор культурных и социальных региональных проектов; Таня Арцімовіч / Культурная работніца; Ольга Масловская / Художница, кураторка; Ася Цисар / Кураторка; Никита Песков / Фотограф; Антон Леўчанка / Музыкант-кларнэтыст; Жанна Гладко / художница; Иван Горностаев / Программист/Музыкант; Наталья Ланевская / Маркетолог; Павел Няхаеў (Pavel Niakhayeu) / Музыка, даследчык, выкладчык ЕГУ (Musician, researcher, lecturer at EHU); Савицкая Ирина / Фотограф, художник; Журавская Вероника / Педагогика; Диана Приходовская / художник; Ольга Сухоницкая / Худодник-педагог; Марина Собовска / Художник; Olga Agafonova / Singer; Эвелина Домнич / художница; Владимир Парфенок / Фотограф, куратор выставочных проектов, член ICOM; Березина Дарья / Художник векторной графики; Антонина Стебур / Куратор, исследовательница; Максим Строцкий / Художник; Никита Орлов / Музыкант; Цыганкова Вероника / Свободный художник; Юлия Гришаева / Инженер; Настасья Кораблина / Актриса BFT; Артем Климович / Музыкант; Илья Сергиеня / Художник-реставратор; Стасевич Александр / Студия татуировки; Надежда Немченко / дизайнер; Багдан Хмяльніцкі / актор, даследчык; Susan Katz / Art Manager; Ева Фальтер / Художница, дизайнерка; Андрей Мамай / Видеоинженер; Анна Адаменко / Инженер-проектировщик; Tsolak Topchyan / Artist; Ермолович / Юриспруденция; Александра Кононченко / Фотография; Бурвель Даша / Иллюстратор; Аляксей Талстоў / Мастак, пісьменьнік; Лёха Чыканас / Драматург; Лизавета Михальчук / Искусствоведка, кураторка; Лизавета Михальчук / Искусствоведка, кураторка; Оспанова Айгерим / Художница; Владислав Страковский / Музыкант; Надежда Илькевич / Продюсер и менеджер культурных проектов; Бурнашев Глеб / Фотограф; Nadia Plungian / Art historian, curator (Russia); Перасецкая – Малаковіч Іна / Музыка, спявачка, кампазітар, выкладчык спеваў; Елена Огорелышева / Исследователтница; Сергей Шабохин / Художник, куратор, редактор kalektar.org; Дина Жук / художница; Антон Мех / Режиссер; Юлия Мельничук / Хореографическое искусство/ Режиссёр-хореограф, педагог.; Татьяна Капитонова / ИП по рекламной деятельности; Вероника Ивашкевич / Художник; Лохманенко Полина / Креатор-копирайтер; Стежко Мария / СММ-специалистка; Диана Шарапова / художник; Виолетта Кудрицкая / Event-менеджер; Павло Ковач / Художник, куратор.; Марина Забегайлова / Художник, фотограф; Елена Фанайлова / журналист, литератор; Даниил Галкин / Художник; Liudmila Shemrakova / музейный работник, театровед; Aleksander Savchuk / Actor, director; Ольга Кириллова / Музыкант, фотограф; Nora halfayan / Art; Сухаверхава Яўгенія / Мастак графік; Екатерина / Художник; Andrey Anro / Artist; Василиса Полянина / Vasilisa Palianina / Художница / Artist; Мартиновская / Дизайнер; Юлия / Юрист; Людмила Смальцер / керамистка; Эмма Островская / Портной; Евгений Стрелков / художник; Анна Катикова / Ремесленник; Anna Harsanyi / curator, educator; Кабариха Анжелика / Дизайн; Павел Кас / Стрит арт художник; lucine talalyan / artist; Роман Осминкин / работник искусства; Susanna Gyulamiryan / curator/art critic; Яна Царук / Инженерка, художница; Даниил Галкин / Художник; Елена Герчук / Художник; Anna Karpenko / Curator; Татьяна Беликова / Банковский служащий, г.Москва, Россия; Denis Romanovski / Artist; Анастасия Булак / Акварелистка; Галина Рымбу (Львов) / Поэтесса, переводчица, кураторка, редакторка журнала “Ф-письмо” и медиа “ГРЁЗА”; Людмила Кацыгин / Керамика; Сергей Белоокий | Sergei Belaoki / Художник | Artist; Сахарук Елена / Флорист; Художник-декоратор; Зовская Ольга / художница; Анастасия Матчанка / Женское лидерство; Timur Bernstein / Musician; Aliaksandra Bernstein / Ceramist; Муратбек Джумалиев / художник; Oksana Karpovets / Research Fellow in Zimmerli Art Museum, New Jersey, USA; Матвей МокиМинский / Ремонтник; Marhulets Anton / artist; Дина Леонова / Художница, дизайнерка, архитекторша; Ольга Надольская / Культурный менеджер; Ruslan Vashkevich / artist; Vadzim Melnikau / Poet; Юрий Альберт / Художник; Роман Тябут / Музыкант; Юлия Дешпетко / искусствовед; Анно Комаров / фотограф, переводчик; vladimir us / curator; Екатерина Табакина / Финансы; Ілля Яковенко | Illia Yakovenko / художник | artist; Лукка Мария / Театральный художник; Янушевская Вера / член союза народных художников, мастер и ремесленник, художница; Федор Успенский / Ученый; Maryna Arabei / MS student; Hanna Anufriieva / art / painting; Максим Финогеев / Фотограф; Павел Антипов / Писатель; София Садовская / Искусствовед; Анна Левина / Художник-модельер; Алена Протасевич / Alena Pratasevich / Куратор, научный сотрудник Мемориального музея-мастерской Заира Азгура; Volha Salakheyeva / Art, Media and Communication manager, independant researcher and artist; Светлана Бень / Режиссёр; Юры Сальнікаў / Рамеснік, майстар народнай творчасці; Владимир Парфенок / Фотограф, куратор выставочных проектов, член ICOM; Браим Дмитрий / IT; Аляксандра Дубіна / Вышывальшчыца, псіхолаг; Павел Войницкий / художник, куратор, педагог; Anastasia Kostiv / Artist; вашкевич оля / Торговля; Анна Соколова / художник; Ильина Елена Викторовна / художница, галеристка, Берлин; Оксана Гайко / Театральный режиссер, актриса; Анна Загородникова / PR и коммуникации в сфере культуры; Aleksandra Zińczuk / an activist, an editor; Антон Барысенка / Сацыёлаг; Василий Бурдин / дизайнер, художник; Таццяна Вадалажская / сацыёлаг; Ольга Подгайская / Композитор; Ольга Сосновская / художница, Венская Академия искусств; Ганна / Художник ілістратор; Anfisa Makarova / Photographer, visual artist; Альберт Литвин / Музыкант, промоутер; Kanstantsin / Yaskou; Петро Павлик / Художник; Хачатуров Сергей Валерьевич доцент / Историк искусства; Елена Ищенко / современное искусство, кураторка; Елена Рабкина | Elena Rabkina / Создание контента | Content Making; Иван Стрельцов / Главный редактор Spectate, критик; Олійник Єлизавета / Докторантура в университете Зальцбурга и Моцартеум; Анастасия Вепрева / Художник; Marina Naprushkina / Artist; Victor Rubanskiy / artist; Matthieu Levet / Artist & musician; Olga Borysenko / Artist; Маша Святогор / Masha Svyatogor / Художница / Visual artist; Andrei Dureika / artist; Мария Котлячкова / Куратор; Ксения / Шталенкова | Kseniya / Shtalenkova / Писатель | Writer; Артём Гринцевич / декоратор/фотограф; Katsiaryna Smuraha / Photographer; Waldemar Tatarczuk / Director of Galeria Labirynt in Lublin/ Poland; Татьяна Килимбет / PR-менеджер; Мороз Валентина / Режиссёра, театральный педагог; Alisa Oleva / artist; Вика Рыскина / Кураторка; Vera Zalutskaya / Contemporary art; Андрей Чепелевич / Инженер; Marina Korikov / Interprète; Канстанцін Чыкалаў / Kanstantsin Chykalau / Охрана природы / Protection nature; Полина Фенько / Искусствоведка, танц-художница; Emma Fuchs Sjövall / Artist; Вера Ковалевская / Vera Kavaleuskaya / Кураторка и редакторка; Dana Brezhnieva / Музейниця; Алена Прохарава / Харэограф; Максим Сарычев / Художник, фотограф; Maxim Tyminko / Artist, curator; Антон Караваеў / Інжэнер-праграміст; Ala Savashevich / Artist; Егор Софронов / поставщик контента: современное искусство; Марина Борисенок / Пенсионер; Sasha Stelchenko / film director; Дмитриева Мария / Художница, кураторка; Виктория Телетьен/ Viktoriia Teletien / Художник/Artist; Ольга Бычкова / ремесленница; Nastassia Kotava / Artist; Анна Иванова / Художница; Daria Getmanova / Researcher, Writer; Дубовік Кацярына / Мастак-графік, ілюстратар; Анастасия Соколовская/ Anastasiya Sokolovskaya / Иллюстратор/illustrator; Vita Zelenska / PhD student/Social anthropology; Bergschneider Daniela / Artist; Мария Дедюля/ Maria Dedyulya / Фотограф/Photographer; Анна Бунделева/ Anna Bundeleva / Художник, дизайнер/Artist, designer; Анна Энгельхардт / Художница; Настя Теор / художница и графическая дизайнерка; Aleksander Komarov / artist; Julia Toman / Film critic; Лейла Алиева / Художница; Pavel Khailo / artist; Marat Gringauz / Producer; Katerina Venglinskaya / Президент образовательной НКО; Alyona Telenchenko / Musician, singer, English tutor; Eлизавета Ковтяк / исследовательница сферы культуры и социума; Palina Lamburt / Restaurant manager; Дарья Панина / фотограф; Алексей Кучанский / Критик искусства, исследователь; Daria Sazanovich / artist; Valentinas Klimasauskas / Contemporary Art; Ирина Жебрик / Волонтер; Кузнецова Надежда / Художник – пегагог; Sergei Lepai / design; Марина Исраилова / Критик, кураторка, исследовательница театра и перформанса; Valus Sonov / Photographer/Archivist; Elena Revunova / Writer, artist; Тони Лашден / Писательница; Olga Bubich / art critic; Анна Терешкина / Художница; Ирина Бутковская / Художница; Ellen Arwidson / Student; Наталя Деревянко / Поэтесса, историкиня; Александр Сильванович / Художник; Нелли Дорошкевич| Neli Darashkevich / Архитектор, архитектурное проектирование| Architect, architectural design; Katsiaryna Zhynhiarouskaya / Singer and dancer; Евгений Шадко / Художник; Евгения Николайчук / Архитектор, Танцхудожник; Vehanush Topchyan / Artiste; Yuko Kinouchi / Artist; Alexey Popov / musician; Семен Пастух / художник; Sara Arenfeldt / artist; ларыса кузняцова / пенсіянерка; Александра Бавтрук / Искусство/Художница; Денис Кудрявцев / Музыкант; Kiryl Kalbasnikau / Актёр, Журналист, Беларусский Свободный театр; Лариса Дорощук / Пенсионерка; Андрей Шатилов / преподаватель; Oleg Yushko / Artist; Evan Levi / Видеопродакшен; Катерина Бутрим / Юристка; Куксин Игорь / Культурный менеджер; Маріам Агамян / Блогерка, Драматургиня; Dmitry Winicki / Ип; Татьяна Эфрусси / художница, историк архитектуры; Юля Сердюкова / кінопродюсерка; Andriy Helytovych / artist; Максим Евстропов / художник; Зуля Есентаева / Художница; Богдан Захер / Перформер; Катя Бондарь / Художница перформанса; Ларыса Арлова / Мастак-ілюстратар; Юля Дарашкевіч / Мэнэджарка культурных і адукацыйных мерапрыемстваў; Karabinovych Nikolay / Artist; Costis Drygianakis / Composer; Петушкова Светлана Андреевна / Художник; Евгения Кикодзе / Художественный критик, куратор; Ростислав Лебедев / Художник; Tatsiana Seviarynets / Pensioner; Никита Кадан / Художник; Sofie gustafsson / Art student; Елена и Виктор Воробьевы / художники; Anna Pohribna / Art manager; Приступа Дмитрий Александрович / дизайн; Sofia Tocar / Curator, art historian; Евгений Чистый / Художник; Анна Сагальчик / Театр; Юля Шатун / Культуры; Ilona Dlin / teacher; Татьяна Радивилко / Художник; Константин Селиханов / Художник; Anna Daucikova / artist; Анастасия Лазовская / Архитектор; Мотолянец Семен / Художник; Гордиёнок-Киреева Ольга / Художник; Илона Кособуко/ Ilona Kosobuko / Художник/Artist; Valeryia Shkliar / Издательское дело; Ларион Лозовой / художник; Ольга Иноземцева / Художник; Василий Мотолянец. Vasilii Motolyanets / Арт-менеджер, куратор; Наталья Грехова / Художник; Алексей Корзухин / Художник; Галина Романова / Halina Ramanava / художник / artist; vlodko kostyrko / viljnyj; Сяргей Рымашэускi / мастакr; Jarosława Szewczuk / Culture; Maksymov Oleksandr / Performance Art; Ольга / Чигрик; Жанна Ногина / журналистка; Siarhei Kvachonak / Actor; Gleb Amankulov / Artist; Татьяна Танчик / Учитель; Юлия Телижук / Студент; Наталля Залозная / Мастачка; Mykhailo Glubokyi / “IZOLYATSIA. Platform for cultural initiatives” development director; Панкратьев / Журналистика; Варя Ковалева / Графический дизайнер; оксана саркисян / современное искусство, искусствовед, куратор; Harout Simonian / Artist; Harout Simonian / Artist; Иванова Екатерина / Искусствовед; Лена Пренц / историк искусства; Игорь Зосимович / Скульптор; Светлана Гашенко / Специалист; Людмила Вачнадзе / пенсионер; Heather Kapplow / Artist; Ангелова Ксения / Художник; Андрэй Басалыга / Мастак; Вольга Нiкiшына / Мастак; митя главанаков / работник искусств; Debbie Nadolney / Galley director, curator; Katsiaryna Sumarava / Artist; Микола Новіков / Скульптор; Елена Штык / Эколог; Хритоненко Инга Леонидовна / Художник; Eugene Markin / Musician; Жанна Капустникова / Художник; Pauline Debrichy / Artist; Саша Ауэрбах / Художница; Ørum / Artist; Максим Шер / художник; Гавура Екатерина викторовна / Режиссер; Тарас Круцких / Журналист, кинообозреватель; Tatsiana Kozik / Artist; Алеся Мурлина / Художник, скульптор; Владимир Фёдоров / художник / дизайнер; Антон Романов / Режисер; Donskova / Artist; Леся Пчелка / Художница. Арт-директорка VEHA; Катерина Тихоненко / Искусствовед, кураторка, сотрудница отдела проектов современного искусства Национального культурно-художественного и музейного комплекса «Мистецький арсенал» (Киев); Ekaterina Ruskevich / culture research; Вольга Аніська / Мастацтвазнаўца; Василиса Симоненко / Дизайнер; Jean / Artist; Hanna Launikovich / Actress, performer; Gerald / music producer DJ; Mykhailo Glubokyi / “IZOLYATSIA. Platform for cultural initiatives” development director; Евгений Отцецкий / Фотограф, преподаватель фотографии; Julie Hardin / Film Production – IATSE Local 478; Антон Данейко / Разработчик ПО; Вера Замыслова / искусствоведка, исследовательница; Наталья Тихонова / художница, куратор; Анастасия/Шилягина / Художник; Анастасия Спиренкова / театральный продюсер; Алексей Минько / Автор текстов, художник; Sunita Prasad / Filmmaker and Video Artist; Светлана Жалнерович / Художник; David P. Miller / Professor Emeritus (retired), Curry College, Massachusetts USA; Sarah Weinman / Writer; Анатолий Концуб / Художник; Алесь Пушкін / Мастак; Nancy Clougherty / Teacher; Наталья Рыбалко / художница, философиня; Will Owen / Curator; Lynn Brown / Educator; Вера Каузановiч / Мастак; Katarzyna Różniak / Contemporary Art Curator; Ирина Тишкевич / Преподаватель; Joan Brooks / Translator; Александр Подалинский / Художник, член БСХ; Aлександр Подалинский / Художник, член БСХ; Александр Казелло / актёр/художник; Евгения Ефремова / Фотограф, куратор; Deb Nicholson / Software Freedom Advocate; Thalia Zedek / musician; Лізавета Чырвонцава / Мастак, выкладчык; Волкова Татьяна / Искусствовед; Tatiana Ørum / Professor; anton saenko / artist; Ігар Клімовіч / Актёр, рэжысёр; Jury Urso / Антикультурный работник; Vasil Andreyev / Designer; Дмитрий Насковец / Legal Services; Zaiko Zinaida / designer; David/ Gassaway / Researcher/ Publishing; Alicja Jelińska / Vice president of Fundacja Artystów Kolonia Teraz; Vitali Shchutski / PhD candidate, University Paris 8; Дзяніс Брынкевіч / музыка; Вольга Зароўская / Мастак; Ірына Салавей / настаўнік; Alexei Kuzmich / Artist; Natalia / Unemployment; Marsheva Anna / ceramics; Huckleberry / Artist; Константин Терёхин / Студент, философия; Елизавета Строцева-Абрамчук / Художник-педагог; Екатерина Шапиро-Обермаир / Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair / художник, куратор, исследователь; Сяргей Ярковіч / Інжэнер; Bredehöft Susanne / Actrice; Леся Пагулич / аспирантка; Кристина Баранова / Художник-постановщик; Виктория Кравцова / Культурная менеджерка; Kraft / Student; Анастасия Истомина / Арт-критик; Jeanna Kolesova / Artist; Sallie Sanders / Arts Manager, Producer; Margaret Bellafiore / Professor; Ира Строцева / Художник-педагог; Уладзь Рымша / Рамесьнік; Alina Afonchanka / Graphic design; Anna Wexler / artist; Anna Wexler / artist; Anna Wexler / artist; Marilyn Arsem / performance artist; Антон Шевченко / Дизайнер; Дина Данилович / Куратор, фотограф; Cheung / Artist; Ольга Тараканова / Критик, куратор; Мира Тай / социолог, активист; Ольга Кипорук / Художник-керамист; Aizat Shakieva / activist; Bil / Artist; Sholeh Asgary / Artist; Mashanskaya TATSIANA / Музыкант, артист; Яна Фишова / Преподавательница; Melissa Lindgren / Film; Christa Spatt / Dance curator; Тыркич Анна / Дизайнер; Диана Янбарисова / Социолог; Mathilda Wenzel / Student; Алехно Наталья / Художник; Nadzeya Nedashkovskaya / Architect; Софья Смирнова / Студентка; sveta kruglova / музыкант; Людмiла Скiтовiч / мастак тэатра; Kira Shmyreva / Drama teacher; Люся Янгирова / Искусствовед, куратор; Арутюнян Камилла / Искусствоведение; Tyler Langendorfer / Translator; Darja filippova / Artist, Princeton PhD student; Юра Диваков / Режиссёр, актёр, художник; Nikita Voloshin / Student; Жанна Араева / НКО; Ольга Афанасьева / Научный сотрудник музея; Маргарита Журунова / Искусство; Sofia de la Fuente / Artist; Сяргей Бабарэка / Artist; Нина Маргаева / Художник; Таня Личевская / Студентка KHM; Lore Gablier / Arts & culture; Anne Cecilie Lie / Artist; Надежда Царенок / Архитекторка, урбанистка, преподаватель; Wichnowski / Artist painter; Ася Кейпс-Бачелис / культурный менеджер; Эмилия Костяна / художница, исследовательница; Марина Шамова | Marina Shamova / Художник, хореограф | Artist, dance-artist; Ludovit /Napoky / Project manager/ independent cultural centre; Alevtina Snihir / NGO; Prosvirnina Evgenia / НКО; sandra araújo / artist; Petrovich Vladimir / Actor/Director; Aisha / human rights defender; Christina Freeman / Artist and Studio Art Faculty; Natalia Vatsadze / Artist; Carat / Artist; Ганна Циба/Hanna Tsyba / Культурологиня, кураторка/Curator, Art Critic; Эльвира Королёва Elvira Koroleva / Искусствовед Art critic; Alexandra Goloborodko / Curator; Popo Fan / Film Director/Video Artist; Marie Cieri / Director, The Arts Company; Элина Яловская / Иллюстратор; Anna Maevskaya / Customer service advisor; Анастасия Шадурская / Культурный менеджер; Надежда Шелепина / Художник; Антон Доливайло / Механик; Asta Gulijeva / NGO; Siarhei Kazhamiakin / мастак; Глеб Напреенко / Психоаналитик; Наталья Халанская / Natalia Khalanskaya / Организация культурных мероприятий/Culture Event Manager; Raphaël Dussud / Directory / Filmaking; Аляксандр Зіменка / Мастацтвазнаўца; Tatsiana Karpachova / Artist; moira tierney / filmmaker; Екатерина Солодуха / Katsiaryna Saladukha / Арт-менеджер / Arts Manager; Марина Русских / танц-художница, куратор; Солнцева Светлана / философка; Anna Kovshar / illustrator, graphic designer, teacher; Сергей Михаленко / Фотограф; Dylan Gauthier / Director, EFA Project Space, New York City; Augustas Cicelis / Festival director; Valeria Lemeshevskaya / Artist; Teti / artist, International Ambassador of the European Institute of Contemporary Arts (IEDAC, France); Ала Пігальская / PhD, даследчыца дызайну, дызайнерка; Eva Jaunzemis / Artist; Protska Iryna, / Art, design; Macon Reed / College Professor; Anna Kinbom / Artist; Viktor Kushnerov / Artist; Y.F.P. / art.liberty.democraty; Liza Tsiksrishvili / Artist, curator; Beth/heinberg / Arts; Martina Adinolfi / Project Manager; Tatiana Miti / Scientist; Federica Carrus / Project Manager; Рената Степанова / Дизайнер одежды; Максим Осипов / Художник; Maya Suess / Managing Director, Art Residency in Queens, NY; Chris Keulemans / Trans Europe Halles; Silvia Carrus / Disoccupata; Sarah Dahlinger / Printmaking Technician, Cooper Union School of Art; Ludovit /Napoky / Project manager/ independent cultural centre; Мороз Валентина / Режиссёр; Кузнецова Юлия / Танцор; Uladzimir Hramovich / Artist; Софьин Андрей / Художник; Elias Parvulesco / artist, film researcher; Aquarius / Performance Artist; Татьяна Пинчук / Директор Музея стрит-арта; Алена Игруша / Alena Igrusha / Театр/художник/ theatre /set design; Marina Pugina / curator, critic, researcher; Ludovit /Napoky / Project manager/ independent cultural centre; Fenia Kotsopoulou / Artist; Евгений Маглыш / Скульптор; Даша Бриан / Режиссёр; Joshua Rosenstock / Professor of Art, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Константин Селиханов / Художник; Jaanus Samma / Artist; Ecaterina Butmalai / Student, civical activist; Антонова Татьяна Викторовна / Маркетинг; Serafim Ganichev / Painting, graphics; Eva Khachatryan / Curator, Art Critic; Olga Gomonova / Singer, Art critic; Александр Хавкин / Музыкант, звукорежиссёр; Olga Klip / Art curator; Павел Голубев / историк искусства, куратор; Алесь Плотка / Паэт, камунікатар; Татьяна Корнеева / художница, дизайнер; Іра Забэла / мастачка; Egor Jaguonov / Artist; Кристина Мисуро / Художник; Friso Wiersum / European Cultural Foundation; COVEN BERLIN / Curatorial Collective; Мария Значенок/ Maria Znachonak / менеджер в сфере культуры; Кирилл Крохолев / Скульптор; Мила Клинцова / Кинорежиссер; Александра Курочкина / Правозащита; Вячеслав Сащеко / преподаватель, режиссёр; Валерий Леденёв / искусствовед; Виктория Мусвик / арт-критик, преподаватель (Москва); Sveta Kruglova / musician; Иванна Ярема / Музыкант; Ксенія Галубовіч / рэжысёр, фатограф; Дарья Амелькович / Культурная журналистка, критик; Hülya Yavaş / Architect; Filip Pračić / student; Элина Хаилитова / Архитектор; Tomas Dvynys / Architect; Герман Мітіш / Архітектор; Saskia Gribling / Researcher; Alina Hramyka / Architect; Alexander Sokolov / Architect; Ильмира Болотян / Художник, куратор; Ourania Ag / Architecture student; Denis Hitrec / Architect; Miguel / Architect; AnA Wojak / Artist; Aigul Karabalina / Феминистка, ЛГБТ-активистка.; Надежда Макеева / Художник; Мария Прошковская / художница; Klara Prošek / Architect; Карайченцева Таисия / Искусство; Aleksandra Ognjanov / Architect; Zofia Nierodzinska / Curator and artist; Mahdi Biagioli / Architect; Thea Chronie-de Maria / Architect; Сысоева Лариса / Архитектор; Nikishyn Aliaksei / Architecture; Aleksandra Skowronska / communication & programme manager / culture institution; Ioana Georgiana Radulescu / Architecture student; Руфь Дженрбекова / художница; Померанц Григорий Соломонович / Писатель, публицист; Jakob D’herde / Architect – Improv Player; Matteo Goldoni / Architect; Ioanna Athanasia Kouli / Architect; Маша Годованная/Masha Godovannaya / кино-/видео-художница / visual artist; Karoline Smenes / Architect; Orwa Nyrabia / Artistic Director – IDFA; Robert Hanson / Architect; Куницкий Павел Эдуардович / Скульптура, преподавание; Иван Степанцов | Ivan Stsepantsou / пианист, клавишник; Sviatlana Yerkovich / Photographer, artist, language teacher; павел чепыжов / куратор; Pavel Nishchanka / architect; Tessa Giller / Arts Facilitator; Joonas Parviainen / Architect; Tilman / Fries / Economics; Siarhei Siniak / Individual Entrepreneur; Järventausta / Student; Harari / Student; Genady Arkhipau / Artist; Александр Адамов / Художник; Белькевич Марта / Дизайн интерьеров; Enrique Cilleruelo / Architect; Яніна Зайчанка / Візуальнае мастацтва і перформанс; Светлана Гайдаленок / Театр; Onur Atay / Architect/Project Coordinator – Civil Society; Антон Сорокин / художник; Я / Музыкант; Анастасия Шалыгина / Дизайнер; Катя Тишкевич / Художник; Георгий Бабанский / Кино, Музыка; AntiGon Staff / filmmaker, quere artist; Павел Шаповалов Витальевич / Инженер по тестированию ПО; Aliaksandra Ihnatovich / filmmaker, film tutor; Алеся Песенко / Журналист; Maris Alexandrovich / Designer; Valeria Lemeshevskaya / Artist/ designer; Александр Гамшеев / IT; Вольга Пранкевіч / Мастак афарміцель у БДМНАіП; Антонина Слободчикова / Художница; Франскевич Алла Дмитриевна / Художник, ремесленник; Диана У / Искусство, художница, исследовательница; Нураим Абдраева / Врач; Лукьянова Мария / Художница и швея; Léa Uguen / Architecture; Віялета Саўчыц / фатограф; Ilya Sin / writer, performance artist; Ilona Kosobuko / Artist; Victoria Chenais / Architect; Maria Belokhvostik/Мария Белохвостик / бухгалтер; Жанна Морозова / Художественное стекло; Ксенія Лагавая / Ілюстратарка; Lorena Morales Martin / Architecture assistant; Любовь Сарлай / Государственный служащий; Reuschling Alina / Student; Javier G / Architecture; Екатерина Плотникова / Художник; Святлана Манько-Радкевіч / Мастацтвазнаўца; Дар’я Бунеева / Мастак; Хотянович Виктория / Ремесленник; Зміцер Жаўноў / мастак; Sofia Sviatlana Dzemidovich / graphic artist; Максим Драницин / Художник; Полина Алексеенко / график, стоковый иллюстратор; Анна Мех / Художник; Svetlana Soldatova / Artist/Illustrator; Анна Ладина / Freelancer; Людмила Деларова / архитектор/дизайнер архитектурной среды; Valentine LEtellier / Architect; Давид Дектор / писатель; Minke ten Berge / Theatre studies; Роза Гиматдинова / Режиссёр; Таццяна Нядбай / літаратарка, сябра Рады і намесніца старшыні Беларускага ПЭНа; Aliaksandra Davydenko / motion designer; Юлия Лейдик / фотограф; Геннадий Плискин / Коллекционер; Mariana Tantcheva / artist; Натаьля Зданевич / Менеджер культурных проектов; Ольга Терешонок / Преподаватель, кандидат искусствоведения, художник; Андрей Шаль / электромонтёр; Gubarevich / Biology and contemporary art; Maryia Virshych / Ceramicist; Katsiaryna Sumarava / Artist; Misha Rabinovich / Artist, professor; Errita Zuna / Architect; Marta Shcharbakova / Are student; Кашук Лариса Аполлоновна / историк искусства; Анатолий Белов / художник; Виктор Кушнеров / Художник; эмма островская / портной; Валентина Шавкало / Менеджер по закупкам; Nygmet Yesbay / Financial Technologies, IT company, Compliance Officer; Никита Ермолаев / Искусствовед; Аліна Дзеравянка / культурная мэнеджэрка, лектарка; Inna Volovik / Lecturer; Екатерина Галактионова / Художник; Вікторыя Харытонава / Фатографка; Винокуров Владимир / Программист; Fidan Aslanova / Finance; Ksenia Perek / Performance Artist; Полина Воробьева / студентка; Vilius Balčiūnas / Architecture; Elena Löffler / Педагог; Гаврилин Валерий / Художник; Tatsiana Zhurauliova / PhD, Associate Researcher in Art History; Karina Kazlauskaite / indipendant artist; Aina Putnina / Art teacher, painter; Макаревич Марина / Музыкант, пианистка, аранжировщик, клавишница группы ZNICH, рок-оркестра NIKAMUZA, преподаватель фортепиано, солфеджио и теории музыки в STARS SCHOOL ALEXANDER KISS, выпускница БГАМ; Ирина Склокина / историк; Юрый Таўбкін / Мастак, архітэктар; Мария Бадей / Основатель проекта wir.by, преподаватель; Sam Harper / Student; Артур Сумароков / Кинокритик, арт-критик, перформер; Петрович Владимир Алексеевич / Актёр театра, режиссёр; Анастасия Шилягина / Художник. 




This text was written at a specific historical situation and for a specific audience. During some weeks and months in autumn-winter 2017, I was one of the initiators of a #metoo-appeal for the Swedish Art World, #konstnärligfrihet (#artisticfreedom). As an old feminist activist who had been close to burn out many times during the course of third wave feminism in Sweden from the late 90s and during the 00s, I was at first reluctant to stand on the barricades once more. So I waited for others to take the lead this time. But as days and weeks passed during the autumn of 2017, and other professional groups came out in the media with their collection of testimonies, I decided to speak up on social media with one of my own recent experiences of sexist oppression on the Swedish art scene. Shortly after that I was contacted by other women around Sweden who also felt that it was time to organize. So we did. The weeks to come would be a journey into darkness. For days and nights we administered thousands of stories that came in to our group email and posted them anonymously in the hidden Facebook group that had exploded with thousands of members within a few days. Hundreds of members were suggested each day, and there was no way we could add all of them. A range of testimonies from minor physical offences, verbal comments to brutal rape were streaming in to our email and Facebook group. At some point I had the ambition to read it all. I scrolled and read day and night, until my eyes hurt. This period of our lives was very upsetting to all the members of the admin group. Since we lived in different cities we did not have the possibility to meet to support each other regularly, but we did try to meet in person when we could, skyped and phoned each other for support. We answered every courageous person who came in with her story, we cried, forgot to eat and sleep, manically trying to keep up with the never ending flood of stories. During this time, friends and strangers, women, men, and trans people opened up to each other and started talking about abuse, sex, and power in a new way. Finally, we could be open, and vulnerable. The aftermath of this revolution is something we are still processing.

Illustration: Vasilisa Palianina. Children of Louise Bourgeois in the arms of their mother. Mixed media on canvas, 2020.

On December 13, 2017, the Modern Museum in Stockholm organized a panel talk where some of the artists that were active in the movement questioned the directors of the most important art institutions and art academies in Sweden. I was one of the artists who was invited as an opponent. The auditorium was filled to the last chair, 300 people were in attendance and the ambience in the room was intense with many people visibly upset. Since I was still processing the impact of sharing all the strong stories that had been handed over to the admin group, I knew that I might not be able to speak coherently. So the night before the event I wrote down a short explanation of my understanding of the specific type of sexism fostered in Western Art History. When I was asked to come on stage, something happened that I never experienced before; in front of a great portion of the Stockholm art world, to whom I tried for twenty years to come across as professional, I started crying uncontrollably. And then I read the following:

Dear Art World,

Today’s concept of Contemporary Art is rooted in Western modernism, with its cult of the male genius, that praised men who created masterpieces with inspiration from their muses, underprivileged girls from lower classes of society, who often lived in prostitution. The art professor’s authority over his pupil goes back to an Academy system founded in the 17th century, which in itself builds on the medieval guild when a painter began as an apprentice with a master at a young age. In 1611, at the age of 19, Artemisia Gentilleschi was raped by her teacher. Still today, we carry an Art History heavy with sexist power, where men, in the protection of their alleged genius, power, and status, have exploited and violated younger women.

I think of the Édouard Manet’s painting Un bar aux Folies Bergère, which represents a bartender girl with deep décolletage, strangulated waist and shiny eyes looking tiredly at the viewer. I think of the nobleman Henri de Toulouse Lautrec’s portrayals of ‘public girls’ who were making a living from showing their legs at the Moulin Rouge. And at Edgar Degas who, like other gentlemen from the Parisian bourgeoisie, could enter the changing rooms at the Paris Opera to hang out with half-naked teenage girls, whose poor parents hoped to marry them up on the social ladder. Thinking of Paul Gauguin, who traveled to Tahiti, exoticizing girls in his paintings and sexually exploiting them. We carry this legacy with us.

A patriarchal class society is maintained through networks. Networks between men and networks in the upper middle class. The cultural sphere and the art world are privileged places with resources, room for self-expression, opportunities to realize visions, portray them and find an audience, get recognition, be seen as a subject. There are many who compete for a place on the art scene, to enjoy this status with all that it brings with it of a good life and influence over the public conversation. But we do not compete on equal terms. Some are born into this network, they know how to navigate the system from the beginning, the contacts are in the family. While others, who are born in underprivileged groups, are excluded. This network is not only undemocratic, it also preserves an elitist, colonial concept of art that continues to exclude those held back by intersectional subordination.

The tyranny of the lack of structure that has long prevailed in the art world, where nepotism, informal hierarchies and status fixation continue to dominate despite the discussion we have had about structural injustice for at least 20 years, must now be challenged.

We have all now to ask ourselves: What do we do to change the art scene so that it becomes more democratic, equal, open, permissive, inclusive and thus more fun, more creative, more interesting and more urgent for everyone in our society? What do you do?

December 2017 / May 2019

Illustration: Vasilisa Palianina. A boy surrounded by women from the Marina Abramović video Balkan Erotic Epic. Acrylic on canvas, markers, 2020. 

Sonia Hedstrand

Sonia Hedstrand is an artist, writer, and teacher who works at the intersection between documentary film, art installation, and sociological investigation, through mediums like text, video, photography, and performance. She is an alumna of the Whitney Independent Study Program 2012, and holds an MFA from The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm 2011 and has done six years of studies in Humanities at Stockholm University 1995–2001. She has worked as an art critic and reporter, and participated in several artistic collaborations and collectives. In her latest research-based project Life in 2.5 dimensions, Sonia analyzes, through documentary field work as well as work-theory, the increased incidence of emotional, performative, and aesthetic labor, especially with a focus on the Japanese experience-economy with relationships for rent.