THE FUTURES OF RUSSIAN DECOLONIZATION

All collages are by Anna Engelhardt. Courtesy of the artist.

Where is the Post-Soviet in the “Post” of post-colonial?

Post-colonial theory and Russia have existed for a long time as two almost parallel universes. Even though there were researchers in the post-Soviet space who were tackling post-colonial problematics—Ihar Babkov, a post-colonial scholar from Belarus, and Oksana Zabuzhko, a Ukrainian feminist writer, to name a few—Russia was successfully rejecting the mere possibility of questioning the status quo. Marko Pavlyshyn, a rare example of the earliest attempts (1992) of a Ukrainian-Australian scholar to start the conversation, was “ignored or ridiculed by the overwhelming majority” of researchers both from Russia and the West, according to Ukrainian post-colonial scholar Vitaly Chernetsky. If post-colonial work originating in the post-Soviet space could be silenced easily, post-colonial theory coming from the West was too trendy to be totally disregarded. In his article “On Some Post-Soviet post-colonialisms” Chernetsky shows how in the 1990s Russian intellectuals conferred various euphemisms to central figures of post-colonial theory to disguise their connection to post-colonialism itself. One instance is how influential post-colonial thinkers such as Edward Said, whose book Orientalism became the foundational text for post-colonial theory, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, whose “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is the opening text for any post-colonial reader, were presented in Russia. In 1998 Ilya Ilyin described them as a “well-known literary scholar of a leftist-anarchist orientation” and a “socially engaged feminist deconstructionist,” respectively. Such “strategic appropriation of post-colonial discourse,” as Chernetsky put it in 2006, hasn’t been radically questioned since then.

It is important to note at the same time that to transpose post-colonial theory on post-Soviet space is not a solution of any kind. The conversation that was started by US scholar David Chioni Moore in 2001 with the key article “Is the Post- in Post-Colonial the Post- in Post-Soviet?” made very clear the impossibility of taking any shortcuts when it comes to the topic of decolonization in post-Soviet space. Moore, Spivak, Ram, Tlostanova, and Chernetsky formulate the continuity of the argument that warns against the direct substitution of “post” in “post-Soviet” by “post” in “post-colonial.” Post-colonial theory has almost nothing to say about the Second World—it was born in the struggle of the Second World against colonization by the First World—or in new-old terms, the Global South against the Global North. Its analytical tools cannot be used as universally applicable, as they were not meant to be universal in the first place. Post-colonial studies perpetuated the exclusion of the Second World, navigating through three main “post-” subjects. Madina Tlostanova, a notable decolonial scholar from the south of Russia, describes it like this in her 2011 article “The South of the Poor North”: The “post” in “post-modernism” signifies the First World, and the “post” in “post-colonialism” the Third World. Meanwhile, the Second World is left with the “post” in “post-communism.” What might be the place of post-communism in the colonial North-South divide?

Instead of viewing the North and the South as homogeneous spaces, Tlostanova proposes a new complexity in the division. She offers the notion of differences–colonial and imperial ones.

Colonial difference substitutes the conventional division between the North and the South—an example would be the British Empire and India, which has been thoroughly reviewed by post-colonial studies and its subaltern strand as one of the most influential divisions. The imperial difference sheds light on the distinction between the roles that different empires play in colonial relations.

The imperial difference can be internal—such as the division between the North and South of Europe—and external. The external imperial difference goes between the First World and Second World empires. Russia, being part of the Second World, has always been the outsider of the First World or the “rich North,” as Tlostanova puts it. “Russia has never been seen by Western Europe as its part, remaining a racialized empire, which feels itself a colony in the presence of the West and projects its own inferiority complexes onto its colonies, particularly Muslim ones, which today have become precisely the South of the poor North,” she writes.

Tlostanova provides a fundamentally different view on the way Russian colonialism functions. In The Darker Side of Modernity, Walter Mignolo—one of the core Latin American decolonial thinkers—speaks of coloniality as the dark side of Western modernity which is inseparable from the whole. Enriched by Tlostanova’s analysis that the South produced by the poor North has no direct connection to Western modernity—versus the South of the rich North that is connected even against its own will—this thesis leads to a conclusion that the space colonized by Russia is even darker than the darker side portrayed by Mignolo.

Being considerate of imperial and colonial differences one must learn with, not from, post-colonial theory. Instead of using post-colonial theory as the only valid reference point, post-colonialism is productive as part of the more substantial project of decolonization that mindfully points towards imperial similarities. Tlostanova points out these similarities: even though the Russian/Soviet empire aimed to position itself as an independent alternative to the West’s modernization through the Bolshevik experiment, the Soviet model was inseparable from it. Therefore, a post-colonial critique of Western imperialism must be treated as a tradition on which we can act to produce our heterogenous reflections. Post-colonialism is a struggle that doesn’t have ready answers, but which might inspire how we can search for them.

One of the points from post-colonial theory that I find resonates with post-Soviet space questions the limits of the “post-Soviet” or “post-communist” itself. Arjun Appadurai, a post-colonial scholar of globalization who is of Indian origin, outlines the West’s “endless preoccupation” with itself. Chernetsky adds to Appadurai’s statement: “whether positive or negative value judgments are attached,” meaning that Western scholars tend to either praise the West or criticize it, but never speak about other geographies and contexts—so the West will always remain the center of attention. Looking at Soviet modernization and its consequences, we see a similar preoccupation.

“Many memoirs and accounts have been produced since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, and mine wants simply to ask the question ‘where are we now, after 23 years?’” Agata Pyzik, a cultural critic from Poland, states in her 2014 book Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West. “If the Soviet Union 23 years into its existence wasn’t called post-tsarist, why are we still defined as “post-communist,” and why is it relevant? Did history take a slower pace, or was it finished, as Fukuyama said, after 1989?”

The inadequacy of such preoccupation with Soviet past becomes evident, and a valid alternative is to be proposed. The complexity of such a task is illustrated in the articleOld West and New East” by decolonial Belarusian artists Olga Sosnovskaya and Aleksei Borisionok, where they use the aforementioned quote to question the “New East”—one of the possible alternatives to “post-communism” used by the Guardian and the Calvert Journal, in line with some scholars—as an exoticizing brand.

Post-colonial and/or decolonial?

Therefore, the problem with post-colonial theory in the post-Soviet space could be narrowed down to the impossibility of using both of these terms straightforwardly. An alternative, according to Tlostanova, is lying in the space of decolonial approach, as it is “different from both post-modernity and post-coloniality.”

The difference between post-colonial and decolonial approach, Tlostanova says, lies in the abolition of the division between the subject and the object of research. Decolonial perspective doubts the possibility of speaking from the outside, meaning taking the position of the objective researcher—what Walter Mignolo criticizes as zero-point epistemology. This doubt informed the writing of this text—I am grounding its narrative in a picture that contains a white Russian man showing his family a bright colonial future. Even though the white race might be perceived as existing in a less straightforward manner in the space of the Second World, rather than in the friction of the First World/Third World division, it is in fact present with the same strength. The Caucasus, one of many examples, presents a case of imposition of such symbolic blackness in opposition to the superior white race of Russian colonizers, as outlined by Tlostanova in detail. As a simple mental exercise, if you speak Russian you can think of various racial slurs that circulate autonomously or as part of jokes — races that are not white are the most explicit targets no matter how white the color of their skin is. Furthermore, this does not imply that “conventional” white/black power hierarchy is somehow non-existent with black people facing discrimination on a day-to-day basis.

From the advertisement video for the Crimean Bridge

In the space of the Second World, my race is white. This picture of a white man, showing the future of Russian colonialism, aims to remind the reader of this. I speak not because I have access to the objective truth as a scientist. I cannot show the reader any future, even a decolonial one. I speak because I have a lesser risk of being targeted for the expression of views that are already well-known for the oppressed. Therefore, a decolonial approach requires one to be aware of the implicit bias I carry, along with my privileges that let me speak.

Decolonial approach questions, therefore, the very core of the current system of knowledge, also targeting its implicit rule of the West having a monopoly on formulating high theory. This Western monopoly is reproduced in post-colonial theory as it tries to extend the borders of the Western canon–introducing Deleuze, Lacan, and others to the question of race, instead of questioning their sacred status.

Decolonial approach, as formulated by Walter Mignolo, uses “delinking”—the “decolonial epistemic shift leading to other-universality, that is, to pluri-versality as a universal project” to cut a deep break. Mignolo follows Egyptian economist Samir Amin’s notion of economic delinking, which aims to create a polycentric world. Decolonial epistemic delinking is building new epistemology that actively tries to overcome the need of Western verification of knowledge.

Delinking, taken by Tlostanova, makes her conceptualization of the South of the Poor North possible, as it cannot be extended from theories oriented towards the West. Nevertheless, delinking could be a hard path to take. It could be eased with carefully chosen works from post-colonial studies, but one should be cautious of using them as a means to an end. You could use the imperial difference to reveal the colonialism of one empire with the power of another—the power of Western knowledge against the conservatism of Russian academia. It is much easier to be heard if you reference academic figures well-known in the West and make arguments that parallel already established lines of thought associated with Western knowledge production. Ironically, we can think of this tactic as similar to Spivak’s strategic essentialism—temporary networks of solidarity that appeal to the seemingly universal nature of oppression.

At the same time, the distinction between post-colonial and decolonial literature is blurred in practice more than presented by decolonial thinkers themselves. Speaking from my experience, all decolonial courses, articles, and books simultaneously mix authors that would be classified by definition as post-colonial or decolonial. Even more, new fields of studies are countering colonial violence not fitting into an ascribed division. I find it rather hard to define if Deborah Cowen, a Canadian scholar of critical logistical studies who works against colonialism in Canada, is a post-colonial or decolonial thinker.

It is important to note that the decolonial approach doesn’t present an aspired solution either. Originating in Latin America, the decolonial approach presents an inspiring but limited framework that is limited for the same reason that post-colonial framework cannot be treated as universal. One cannot homogenize post-Soviet space, as Pyzik, Borisionok, and Sosnovskaya warn us, and it could be seen that for different countries and communities forced under the post-Soviet umbrella, different lines of thought will be relevant. Space that has suffered Russian colonialism knows a multitude of concepts of race and has endured a multitude of tactics to violently enforce it. Such complexity one must find impossible to address through the replacement of one school of thought for another, of post-colonial for decolonial. As my dearest colleague Aliaksei Babets pointed out to me, Belarus might find the Afrofuturist approach to deliberately destroy history more productive to work with than the decolonial experience of Latin America exclusively.

Unluckily, decolonial approach is not free from the dichotomies it aims to abolish. On the one hand, Madina Tlostanova reproduces the Western gaze by persistently referencing only artists who would be well established in the West and creating the dichotomy between art and activism, rationalizing the former as a more inventive mode for resistance while ignoring the latter. On the other, the notion of decolonial can be appropriated by Russian colonialism as easily as the notion of post-colonial. The year 2019 in Russia was marked by a heavy metaphorization, meaning appropriation of decolonizing discourse. Starting with the research school “Decolonizing Imagination,” various institutions were ready to decolonize everything–theaters, museums, etc.—without any decolonization of colonial relations themselves, as was explained by Russian cultural theorist Daria Iuriichuk. One of the only examples of grounded attempts of decolonization has been the independent online journal KRAPIVA which aimed to create new grounded decolonial reflections.

This process was anticipated by Sasha Alekseeva in her lecture “Decolonization is not a Metaphor,” in which she used as an entry point the article of the same name written by US non-white decolonial researchers Eve Tuck, who is Unangax (Aleut), and her frequent collaborator Wayne Yang. Tuck and Yang described the process of the easy adoption of decolonizing discourse which is extensively happening in the West. It manifests in numerous calls to decolonize everything without answering what colonialism is and how decolonization is different from other social justice projects. They demand that the question “what is colonization?” must be answered specifically, with attention to the colonial apparatus that is assembled to order the relationships between particular peoples, lands, the “natural world,” and “civilization.” One must be careful against making colonialism an empty signifier that could be fulfilled by any form of oppression, losing as a consequence the radical potential of decolonization.

Tuck and Yang outlined the list of “settler moves to innocence” that one could witness happening throughout 2019 in Russia. They define “settler moves to innocence” as attempts to lift guilt and responsibility without giving up power and privilege. It could be described as mental gymnastics that allow talking about decolonization in a way that would explain why white people are not to blame for the system of oppression that profits them. One of such moves to innocence is “colonial equivocation”—the homogenization “of various experiences of oppression as colonization.” In this way various groups are being described as “colonized” without any grounded description of their relation to colonialism. In this logic everyone is colonized, which is a way to say “none of us are settlers.” This move to innocence is apparent in various cultural events overviewed by Iuriichuk, in which it was never apparent who were the settlers and various colonial relations were mixed together to prove that everyone is colonized.

Such metaphorization of decolonization and moves to innocence resemble the processes that were already happening with post-colonial theory in Russia before decoloniality became so well-known. These processes are the exact ones I’ve mentioned earlier as strategic appropriation of post-colonial discourse. They constitute an important tendency in the Russian contemporary art scene when stated intentions are to critically analyze colonial past, but the realized project advocates for the opposite message. One of the examples of this trend comes from 2017, when Garage Museum of Contemporary Art made an exhibition Chukotka: Art of the Northern Colony, which accompanied a big show of Congolese art as a reflection on Russian post-colonial context. Instead of the creation of a place where epistemology could be decolonized (either through delinking, inclusion of the present, etc.), the exposition actively perpetuated a wide range of colonial practices. These practices included the objectification of natives, reduction of their culture to simple stereotypes, further othering, exotization, and advocating for coloniality. Visitors had no means to escape the position of the colonizer, and were left with only one choice—to see with a colonial gaze. That implicit coloniality created an absurd situation of the “second” colonization of Chukotka by Garage Museum.

Such strategic appropriation is not a phenomenon limited to the art world; it haunts academia as well. Russian academics might engage with post-colonial theory to perpetuate Russian colonialist ideology, as in the case of Russian post-colonial scholar Aleksander Etkind. He was criticized extensively for “historical Soviet nostalgia” by Ukrainian scholar Sergei Zhuk in 2014 and advocacy for Russian colonialism by Chernetsky in 2006 and 2007. Yet, Etkind still somehow holds the strategic position of an expert on post-colonial theory in Russia, following the exact pattern outlined by Chernetsky of staking a “disciplinary authority” by “strategic appropriation of post-colonialist discourse.” These examples make evident that post-colonial turn in Russia itself hasn’t happened yet, no matter how many exhibitions, public talks, and seminars were held.

Disentangling colonialisms

It seems vital at this point to provide a grounded analysis of Russian colonialism, one that would avoid homogenization and equivocation. Russian colonialism could be characterized as settler colonialism, as it combines the features of external and internal colonization, erasing the spatial separation between metropole and colony. Russian colonialism features military colonialism — a sign of external colonialism — with “biopolitical and geopolitical management of people, land, flora and fauna within the ‘domestic’ borders of the imperial nation” of internal colonization (Tuck and Yang, 2012). This could be witnessed in the case of the Crimean annexation, which cannot be reduced to one event but is performed as the continuous discrimination of Сrimean indigenous people. Forcing out pro-Ukrainian groups and actively imprisoning Crimean Tatars, Russia at the same time is sending more police officers and Russian patriots in Crimea, showing direct governmental influence on the demographics of the Peninsula.

“Settler colonialism is a structure and not an event,” Tuck and Yang warn us. Investigation of the event, therefore, should treat annexation as a manifestation of the broader structure of Russian settler colonialism. Without this lens, it is impossible to think of the available means to bring this structure to an end and ways to intervene in the ongoing event of annexation. Investigation of the event itself can undoubtedly fuel the resistance but doesn’t help with the elaboration of means of resistance that are available for different groups inside and outside the peninsula. According to Australian philosopher Paul Patton, we need decoloniality “to ‘problematize’ existing solutions in order to arrive at new ones.” Speaking with the terms of Deleuze, annexation is an “empirical event” that is a part of a “problem event.” The empirical event (annexation) is the manifestation of the structure that the problem-event constitutes (colonialism). Therefore, a problem-event is never exhausted by an empirical event, which leads us to the conclusion that we must address the structure of colonialism in line with the particularities of its manifestation. In the case of the Crimean annexation, it might be the infrastructure that mirrors the logics of the problem-event rather than the empirical event of the Russian military appearing on the peninsula in 2014.

Analyzing colonialism, I propose therefore to aim for its infrastructure, both of domination and resistance to it, following Indian post-colonial feminist researcher Chandra Talpade Mohanty. This infrastructure of domination might be revealed through looking into logistical networks of the empires as they, according to Deborah Cowen, map the logic of contemporary imperialism in spatial materialization. As I show in my recent project “Adversarial Infrastructure”, analysis of spatial dimensions of colonial infrastructure reveals otherwise hidden colonial logics. Adversarial Infrastructure maps different dimensions of the Crimean Bridge to show how it enhances Russian colonial presence in the area and reveals the geography of the project that exceeds the material bridge. Such a material approach to colonialism outlines the counterintuitive collaboration between the Russian state and Western companies, as they were actively participating in the construction of the bridge. Such evident connection between the Western and Russian colonialisms breaks with colonial equivocation, outlined above. Instead of appealing to the formula “we are all colonized by the West” it shows how such Western colonial influence rather enhances one of Russia, showing how colonial violence against racialized subjects is being multiplied in its materiality.

This approach was taken further in another project that was launched with my colleague Sasha Shestakova—the web platform “Intermodal Terminal”. This platform creates a space of pluritopic hermeneutics to further the analysis of post-Soviet colonial logistics. According to Tlostanova, pluritopic hermeneutics creatively questions the way the object of the research is supposed to be studied “by various disciplines with the help of their respective instruments” in monotopic hermeneutics. Pluritopic hermeneutics is proposed to be a playground for various knowledges to interact with each other. Through such interaction the notion of knowledge as such and its necessity would be revisited “to make the world a better place for everyone” (Tlostanova, 2015). Such interaction implies a dialogue not only between post-colonial and decolonial, but also between scholars, activists, and artists. “Intermodal Terminal,” facilitating such dialogue, leaves open the question of how Sasha and I see our space in decolonial resistance. We, as white settlers, have access to epistemologies, meaning high theory, and places, meaning art-galleries and cultural institutions in Russian and Western metropolies. In these epistemologies and places non-white people are rarely given space to talk for themselves due to issues like islamophobia, problems with working visa, and overall high threshold in privilege status and weight of discrimination. Therefore, we try to use our privilege to create alternative infrastructures that facilitate the knowledge that is being actively silenced in such spaces, maintaining the inevitable friction of white guilt not to occupy the space ourselves.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that alternative decolonial infrastructures already proliferate outside of spaces that engage with high theory, in on-the-ground grassroots activism. One of the most inspiring examples of the infrastructure of decolonial resistance is the civic initiative “Crimean Solidarity”. This organization, led by Crimean Tatars, aims to support people who have been discriminated against by the Russian state in Crimea. Crimean Solidarity constitutes the network of lawyers, journalists, and activists that provide help to those who face political charges and their families. Furthermore, they document and archive the new dark era in the history of Crimean Tatars, preserving the history of the oppression and resistance for upcoming generations. Crimean Solidarity and similar initiatives are actively creating decolonial futures and decolonial pasts that we must support and learn from.

These decolonial futures are already here, and they will not be pointed to by beneficiaries of colonialism.

The article was originally published in Strelka Mag and updated for the STATUS online platform.

LGBTQ IN BELARUS – (IN)VISIBLE PEOPLE IN WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Diverse Humanity is a series of photography books that tell about LGBTQ communities across the world with portraits of homo-, bi-, transsexual, and queer people portraits and reportages of their life, fragments of interviews with personal and broader stories in focus, as well as analytical articles by researchers with a wider focus on the societies they live in. Like many other incredible initiatives, the project was born out of informal conversations between philanthropist Jon Stryker and fine art photographer Jurek Wajdowicz who set themselves «аn ambitions goal to explore and illuminate the most intimate and personal dimensions of self, still too often treated as taboo: sexual orientation and gender identity and expression»1.

Since 2016, in collaboration with The New Press, 14 photobooks have been published analyzing the situation in the USA, Eastern Africa, Serbia, Latin America, Argentina, Poland, Japan, India, Russia, Mexico and Australia. In autumn 2020, a photobook about Belarus saw the light making its readers acquainted with a country where LGBTQ people have to «master the art of emotional camouflage”. The protagonists of Two Women in Their Time: The Belarus Free Theater and the Art of Resistance are a couple Svetlana Sugako and Nadezhda Brodskaya, actresses of the Belarus Free Theater which is banned in their country. Photographer Misha Friedman meets them in Minsk – “a city where nothing happens” and New York, where the young women have the opportunity to openly stage their performances, while journalist and writer Masha Gessen reflects on the nature, psychology and strategies of the (in)visible in the realities of the partisan culture in the capital of the country commonly described as “the last dictatorship of Europe”. The book reads like a full-fledged dialogue of two media – Masha’s text and Misha’s images. 

Sveta and Nadya (wearing glasses). Misha Friedman’s photograph featured in Two Women in Their Time: The Belarus Free Theatre and the Art of Resistance, The New Press (с)

The ability of (not) seeing is both a visual and a conceptual motive in “Two Women in Their Time”. The story appears to have been built according to this central principle and this is probably also the way the book should be read and viewed – by the way, as any other case of other “invisible” people living in Belarus, or anything else people got used to leaving unseen. Still this is a country of facades of impersonal clean streets and “wrong” backyards. Being invisible means being non-existent. Not even wrong (something one might fail to accept, understand, or start to question), but not physically perceived. Prefer not to see. Not interested to know. Not to be able to name. In the post-Soviet space, LGBTQ people are more than once defined in such ambiguous, self-censored ways as “well, how do you call them… well, you know!” By the way, the category of “otherness” of “these people” is quite broad – apart from LGBTQ, it includes, for example, people with special needs; in Belarus you might also come across men who consider a woman who has not given birth to be “non fully a human being”. 

Sveta and Nadya live in a small village about an hour from Minsk and pride themselves on self-sufficiency. Here, Sveta takes a break in their garden. Misha Friedman’s photograph featured in Two Women in Their Time: The Belarus Free Theatre and the Art of Resistance, The New Press (с)

The category of (in)visibility is present in the book starting from its division into parts: the spreads with Misha Friedman’s photographs are accompanied by three subheadings featuring three sections/dimensions of the young women’s lives and all of them in their own way highlight the extent of their visibility: «What you see is nothing», «You see everything», «What do you see?»

In the first one, which refers to the “metaphysics of nothing” and evokes the memory “Myane nyama” [from the Belarussian “I Am Not”] by the renowned Belarusian philosopher Valentin Akudovich, documents the couple’s everyday life. If we omit the professional acting component (both in Masha’s text and Misha’s reportage, considerable attention is paid to the description of the theatrical performance with the participation of Sveta and Nadia take part in), it would be fair to say that virtually any LGBTQ couple in Belarus has a similar life style: constantly catching piercing gazes of tram passengers who accidentally notice an overly emotional hug of the girls or “more than a friendly” kiss, and feel free only when in their community bubble. Often secretly wanting to actually become invisible… 

It would not be an exaggeration to assume that in a region that imposes an absurd wording of “traditional values”, every LGBTQ person has their own painful stories of reactions to their sexual orientation on the part of the significant others. For Sveta Sugako, it included first her mom’s tears and then a conciliatory borscht. For other LGBTQ people, the act of coming out of the closet may cost years of their parents’ offended silence and a categorical reluctance to “talk about it,” or a complete break with acquaintances who showed ostentatious concern about a potential answer to the child-rearing question. And how many more are still living in the closet, secretly envious of Elliot-Ellen Page’s or Jodie Foster’s courage… 

In a country where, in the words of Masha Gessen, “on a street that’s not a street, in a building that’s not a building” there are “garage-theaters”, young women who rent an apartment together may well turn out to be a family with their own past and future. Minsk is a city with a palimpsest culture, as Tatiana Zamirovskaya subtly notes. A palimpsest-like chameleon.

Performance of “Burning Doors” on Tour. The text on the screen at the back of the stage reads: “Everyone is afraid, yet each individual decides the degree by which they submit to this fear.” Misha Friedman’s photograph featured in Two Women in Their Time: The Belarus Free Theatre and the Art of Resistance, The New Press (с)

“You see everything” is the second part of the photobook, which tells about the flipside of (not)visible Belarusians in the West. And again – with the Belarus Free Theatre performances during its overseas tour like a red thread of their life “scenery”, the backdrop against which we continue to observe the couple and their living of identity. “If making noise is the secret of survival in the West, lying low is the trick to staying alive in Minsk” Masha Gessen writes, and this phrase clearly reflects the contrast of the way these two realities are experienced by “these very” people inside and outside Belarus. The art of emotional camouflage ends triumphantly once you cross the border; Europe, North America, the world are about an opportunity to speak and act openly and on a completely different scale. In Masha’s text, in the description of this dimension of Sveta and Nadia’s professional life, the word “big” constantly pops up: premieres and theater productions mean bigger responsibilities, big efforts… big are also stages, audiences and theatrical companies themselves. 

Greater visibility, however, as the photographs fully illustrate, does not bring greater stress. In a random shot made on a tourist boat filled with passengers, probably somewhere in Canada, we see the girls hugging each other with tenderness, Sveta’s hand rests on Nadia’s knee, while Nadia’s – on Sveta’s shoulder. Beyond the walls of the garage-country, it is not only the theater that feels more “free”… 

And, finally, the third, final, section entitled “What do you see?” presents a sketch about attempts to overcome the opposition of (in)visibility, about steps towards a dialogue with Minskers through performances and street theater, which would not impose answers but ask questions instead. Attempts that are so far ending with the arrests of the actresses.

The last photo of the photobook shows a bend of an empty road, on both sides of which there is a twilight forest. If you continue moving forward along it, the forest might be left behind. A new day will come, with the sun illuminating what is still hiding in the shadows. And we’ll no longer need words to define one’s gender identity and sexual orientation. Not because there will be no LGBTQ people – I do want to believe there would simply be no people eager to put humans into the categories of “us” and “others”, “traditional” and “alternative”. After all, we have had a common denominator for a long time  – we are all living beings. 

All images are copyright of Misha Friedman from the book Two Women in Their Time: The Belarus Free Theatre and the Art of Resistance published by The New Press.

  1. Friedman, M. & Gessen, M., 2020. In Two women in their time: the Belarus Free Theatre and the art of resistance. New York: The New Press.

WOODEN COMPASS IN THE FOREST OF MEMORY

Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa, the author of “The Memory Police”, which was published in her homeland in 1994 and translated into English in 2019, considers memories as a determining factor in people’s personality. “Being stripped of your memories is an act of violence that is perhaps akin to having your very life taken”, she concludes in a recent interview. The action of the dystopian novel takes place on an unnamed island, whose inhabitants, in conditions of a harsh dictatorship, from time to time are made to forget both certain objects and the words denoting them – their memories get erased. Simply put, when waking up early in the morning, people suddenly realize that ribbons, roses or birds have disappeared from their mental and linguistic picture of the world. Control over the enforced disappearance of anything that could remind of a censored object and concept behind it is exercised by the so-called “memory police”. Breaking into houses and conducting checks and searches, they confiscate photographs, books, drawings, and diaries – should a new forbidden word be found there.

An accidental encounter with Ogawa’s book, intuitively purchased from an airport bookstore, reminded me of the current situation in Belarus where I come from – the Japanese writer’s storyline turned out to have much in common with repressions, arrests, and trials of people whose possessions began to be considered as prohibited. At first, dresses, scarves, bracelets, and curtains were claimed to be of the “wrong” color (the official authorities have recently begun to link a combination of red and white with extremism, despite their indisputable historical significance and presence in the official state symbols of the Republic of Belarus during the period from 1918-1919 and 1991-1995) and thus people who owned them were imprisoned or fined. Moreover, soon penalties were imposed on thoughts and intentions – as in the episode of the activist Ulyana Nevzorova’s poster that read, “This poster may be a reason for my detention”. The girl held it for a few minutes in the subway car indirectly dropping hints about the lawlessness of the judicial system. There have also been cases of people being sentenced to more than 10 days of imprisonment for “expressing tacit consent” with peaceful protesters.

Photo by Karolina Kuzmich

In the winter of 2021, the absurdity apparently reached its peak when 15-year-old teenagers were detained in the city center during the day, and elderly women doing fitness were kidnapped from a park on the outskirts. On February 5, 2021, 29-year-old Alexander Nurdinov was given 3 years of a penal colony for “picking vegetation from flower beds and throwing it at police officers” (official verdict he received). The young artist Roman Bondarenko was beaten to death in November 2020 by people in balaclavas in his own courtyard – the unknown men arrived there to cut red and white ribbons of “extremist” colors. Despite the numerous documented cases of violence, bullying, and tortures of the abducted, since August 2020 none of the representatives of the “law enforcement” bodies have either been taken to court or convicted.

On social networks, many Belarussians admit to be leaving their apartments with warm clothes, toilet paper, a toothbrush, and other hygiene products in their backpacks “just in case” – those released from prisons after several weeks mention inhumane unsanitary conditions and overcrowded cells, where COVID patients are often deliberately placed in to infect others. However, COVID-19 is also actively used by prison officials as an excuse to refuse relatives to bring parcels with basic necessity items and medication to their detained husbands, wives, children, and friends.

In the country with a speaking name “the last dictatorship of Europe”, people are repressed because of their “intentions”, “condemning silence” and “mental solidarity”. And all these episodes are not scenes from a dystopian novel but the reality with 10 million civilians trapped in the nightmare which “logic” cannot be explained in terms of critical thinking and human vocabulary.

But let us return to the memory repression thesis.

Large-scale peaceful protests calling for the revision of the results of the openly rigged elections began with the announcement of another triumphant victory for the dictator Lukashenko (who has already been in power for 26 years) and the arrests of key opposition figures. Among the participants of street protests, the very first of which spontaneously broke out right on the election day – August 9, 2020, there were obviously journalists and photographers, whose professional activities involve documentation and public presentation of the current events in the press, including the episodes of aggressive actions of policemen people in uniform towards civilians. The news about Belarussian events quickly spread all over the planet causing responses and steps from world leaders.

The Belarusian authorities, in their turn, were also fast to realize that photo- and video documentation is, if not strong evidence (judges, demonstrating their totally unethical conduct, often simply refused to consider CCTV recording or photo reports as proof of innocence), then incriminating manifestation of “excessive zeal”, and so they began a hunt for “memory keepers”. For example, on August 27, 2020, the police simultaneously detained about 50 media workers. It was symbolic that many were forced to delete photographs. Four correspondents who refused to do so, were accused of participating in an unauthorized rally. During a Skype trial, photojournalist Alexander Vasyukovich reminded that he had identification signs indicating that he was at the rally as a media representative, which means he was not actually “protesting” but doing his job – taking pictures. So, what was the actual reason for his arrest then? The fact that the riot policemen ignored it, only confirms that they were deliberately obstructing the journalist’s activities – the prevention of documentation. Preventing the formation of memories?

Ogawa describes recollections as a reliable compass that helps to “wander through the sparse forest of memory” – the Belarusian authorities, judging by their actions, are actively trying to isolate “modern history keepers” and stop the very fact of formation of evidence. To lay the only, asphalted, road through the forest, tamping into the cold silent concrete everyone who was able and was ready to share what they saw and experienced. For Ogawa, books are “repositories of human memories”, but I suggest adding to this list of comparisons any media able to store the memory of a person, a family, and a nation: photographs, art, oral stories, even posts on social networks – the fastest and simplest way of recording one’s own experience nowadays…

By detaining journalists (for example, the journalist of TUT.BY non-governmental media Katerina Borisevich has been kept in jail without trial for 79 days so far*), arresting editors, confiscating photo- and video equipment, the repression machine is trying to deprive the Belarusians of their memory compasses. Books, as we know from Orwell’s dystopia, burn well. But I am sure that as long as we have a pencil and a sheet of paper, a stick and the cold ground, we are going to leave traces. We will remember and we will speak.

In 1941, near the village of Drozdy near Minsk, the Nazis built their first concentration camp in Belarus and kept Soviet war prisoners and civilians aged 5 to 50 there; right there, nearby, was the place of their execution. According to approximate figures: more than 10,000 people. Until now, the place of memory has not been properly immortalized by a memorial, and the mass grave looks like an abandoned wasteland with a lonely tractor delivering fertilizers across the disturbed ground. It was there where in 2017 two Belarusian artists Vasilisa Polyanina and Lesya Pchelka held a symbolic memorial event “Fertile Soil”, “planting” wooden crosses in freshly plowed land.

…as long as we have a stick and the cold ground we will remember.

*This text was written on 7.02.2021

INVISIBLE HERITAGE OF BREST

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

CAN YOU STRUGGLE WELL ENOUGH? NGO WORKERS AMIDST THE BELARUSIAN PROTEST

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.

BELARUSIAN ENTROPY: AS IRREVERSIBLE AS IT IS HARD TO PUT THE TOOTHPASTE BACK INTO A TUBE

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

3: CHAOS, DISORGANIZATION, RANDOMNESS1

(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

2021 BELARUSIAN ARTISTS-IN-RESIDENCE OPEN CALL

RESIDENCY SESSION: FEBRUARY-MARCH, 2021, GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN

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

RESIDENCY PROGRAM

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

  • Self-organization
  • Freedom of expression
  • Equality
  • LGBTQ
  • 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. 

CONDITIONS AND FACILITIES

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. 

WHO MAY APPLY FOR RESIDENCY

  • 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. 

HOW TO APPLY

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.

ADMISSION 

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.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

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.

LAZY SIMULATOR

Intro

As a response to today’s economic system of self-exploitation, precarious self-management, and overwork, a system also haunted by guilt and depression, we created a compilation of diverse exercises for practicing the pleasures of laziness, radical idleness, non-work und unproductivity. The manual was composed by the members of the (non)work group and invited experts.

List of exercises

How to become lazy on a long-term basis after durational & exhausting work performance with a series of multiple failures and breakdowns

Get a stipend, which does not depend on a regular production, but guarantees regular payments. According to its conditions you might need to produce something – but in the end. The further and less clear this end is – the better. The vagueness and openness of the timeline, along with the lack or absence of the intermediate deadlines and supervision will allow you to be in charge of your effort and time distribution ! Beware of the temptation to become the secretary, assistant, boss, and policemen of yourself !

There are 2 modes of practicing laziness. Advanced mode implies starting non-working on your ‘project’ as soon as you get the stipend. For extreme workaholics with high levels of responsibility and guilt inclinations, we suggest a soft mode, where one gradually reduces the time spent on their ‘project’. Starting with 8 hours of work a day, 5 days per week, one should work one hour less everyday, so in 1,5 half week you will get only 1 hour of work. Next step is to start working fewer days per week. One should either gradually reduce the number of working days per week or skip every second working day, gradually skipping more and more days. Finally, after extended days-off and continuous idleness, it would be harder and harder to get to the working routine. When you feel that you have completely internalised the laziness, you can get into practicing laziness independently, without a timeframe.

! Beware of getting overexcited by the amount of free time and falling into the trap of other production-oriented projects. Decline all other invitations and skip all the open-calls where you would need to work.

! Beware of the feeling of guilt that might haunt you at some point. Remember that ‘laziness’ as a negative phenomenon is a concept imposed by the exploitative capitalist and state systems. There is nothing either natural or normal in work. Constant work is unnecessary. Your body can self-regulate the regimes of activity, so trust it. Finally, think and reply to yourself honestly: has all the time and effort that you put into work over the years been rewarded fairly, if at all? So your idleness is just a belated reimbursement or an extended burnout rehabilitation.

! ! The recovering effects of the long-term laziness might be overruled, when / if the actual really final deadline arrives.

By Olia Sosnovskaya

Digital collage by Olia Sosnovskaya

Building a career in the dying world / Ambition in grief

Search online for ‘climate change’ and read related articles for 1 hour.

Remember the natural cataclysms which happened this year and are happening now. Look outside and think if the weather is normal for this place and time of the year. Since when have you started noticing these anomalies?

Relate the scientists’ predictions of the climate change affects forecast to your age: how old would you be when most of the glaciers melt? When half of the existing species are extinct? When some countries become uninhabited?

Reply to yourself honestly, how would you want to spend the years before the catastrophe?

By Olia Sosnovskaya

Digital collage by Olia Sosnovskaya

To make a black painting during three hours in a public square

Take an empty white canvas, an easel, black paint, and one brush into public space. The best is to choose a place that contains some black elements.

Paint the white canvas black over the course of three hours.

The rules for the performance is to be open to questions from people passing by – but never stop painting, using very slow and controlled movements.

Do not hesitate to transform the performance into a general discussion over the tradition of monochrome painting (Malevich etc), the nature of black color and painting as an activity.

This performance was performed in 2010 at Sergels Torg in Stockholm. More info here.

By Nils Claesson

To make a white painting on a white canvas in a black box

Take an empty white canvas, an easel, white paint and one brush into a black box space.

Paint the white canvas white during 20 minutes.

The rules for the performance is to be open for questions from the audience that will be sitting or standing in a circle around the artist.

Do not hesitate to answer questions about the tradition of monochrome painting and the nature of white. One reference in the discussion could be Malevich’s white paintings, another artist to mention could be Robert Ryman. The nature of the color white and the relation between white as a color and the black box as a space could also be a topic.

By Nils Claesson

Born but yet unnamed

Wait until your birthday has come. Invite all your friends to go for a long walk through the city. For my birthday I wrote a message:

2 мар 2019 г., 19:29

hi everyone! I invite everyone to take a walk on

Nagatinskaya-climb-up-a-hill-idle-around-picknicking-visit-local-cafes-and-slopes.

We meet TOMORROW (on Sunday) at 15:30 in KFC near Nagatinskaya metro station. Take food, drinks, friends, and what/whomever you want with you. well… and put on shoes, get ready for everything) see you soon! hugs to everyone!

You can propose your own route or ask for help from your friends.


Screenshot from Dzina Zhuk’s birthday chat with friends, 2019

During your walk, give yourself a treat: bring hooch from your friend’s father & drink it on the most beautiful high spot with a view over the city; do not hesitate to eat local food from kiosk & drink alcohol bought in a corner shop.

After this celebration you will find yourself in an alcoholic intoxication and you can even throw up collectively with your friends. After that, your body will tell you what to do: just lie in bed for 3 days, reschedule all your meetings, eat only healthy and light food, forget about all old ideas and doubts (your body won’t let you do that anyway). This period can be very productive in an unproductive way or unproductive in a very productive way.

By Dzina Zhuk

Comments

wanted to add as another sub-exercise

2) Get sick.

It could be a micro food poisoning or a cold – but be careful with the degree of sickness. Today the deadline-based timeframe and freelance / zero hours employment systems deprive us even of the luxury of getting a proper sick leave. However, as Dzina mentions, your body would not allow you to follow them. Just follow your body desires, un-abilities and aspirations – lie in bed, sleep; don’t look into the screens too much; don’t think, forget about your ambitions and anxieties.

yesss for intoxication! i think it is a really good tool. hangover, выхода. and it shows a complex relation between pleasure & frustration/pain in the work/non-work relations. also serving as a sort of response to the culture of stimulants and vitamins for better productivity

yes, for me it works as a kind of renewal (though it might sounds crazy), i see the things from a new sudden unexpected trajectory

Constraining activity

Please find something which works best for you as a splint. A cutting board, a notebook or an ergonomic part of furniture are all good choices! A bracing material is needed as well. Use something you have on hand. It could be a scarf, belt, a wire from the charger of your laptop or smartphone.

Write down on small pieces of paper those parts of your body that can be constrained. It is better to ask your friends to do the writing to avoid cognitive biases.

Close your eyes and take out one of the papers. Read the name of a chosen body part and constrain it using materials you prepared.

Here are some pictures for inspiration/deprivation:

Digital collage provided by Nicolay Spesivtsev

Do things you planned to accomplish today. Do them for 45 minutes, while staying constrained. Please focus on your feelings. What processes are emphasized? What are suppressed or slowed down? What are you focusing your attention on? What is outside of your range of view? Do you want to prolong? What part of your body do you want to have tightened next time?

Please stop your activity strictly after 45 minutes even though you want to prolong the exercise.

Take some pictures of you being tightened. Send them to us with the list of things you made during the exercise.

Repeat the exercise tomorrow.

It’s better to do the exercise collectively.

By Nicolay Spesivtsev

Comments

do you think the exercise would provoke you to give more effort or less?

I think the most interesting effect is to focus on different mechanisms of acceleration that are installed on psycho-somatic level within our bodies. So the aim of the exercise is not to produce more or less but to make new alliances between different parts of ourselves. Does it make sense?

yes! it makes a lot of sense )

A guided obsession

Think of a person you like or used to like recently. If you are in love with someone at the moment, that’s perfect too.

Think about this person for 5 minutes. How do they look like, what does their voice sound? Recall the times you were together. How did you meet the first time? Where did you go together after? What did you talk about? How have you touched each other? If you didn’t, remember how your bodies were positioned in relation to each other.

Imagine how you meet again and what you will do and say. What this person will do, how you would react. Be creative. You can use your previous meetings as inspiration and a template for your dreams.

Find this person’s social network profile. Stalk it for at least 30 minutes. Look at the pictures, read posts and comments, check the people who liked them. Look at the people from their contact list. Be attentive and detailed.

Optional: Write a message to this person, but do not send it. Wait a minute, then re-read it. Edit it. Write a few other messages. Choose one that you would like to send.

! Beware of obsessive working in case your affection becomes too strong and is not mutual.

By Olia Sosnovskaya

Comments

I’m thinking to myself if we should include this exercise at all. First of all, is it ethical to involve others in this kind of practice, even indirectly? Secondly, maybe it’s too foolish? What do you think?

I like the idea of suspended obsessions, practiced emotional potential which can or cannot expose itself in the future. The idea of preserved emotional labor. Coming back to your question, I think these people would be pleased to be remembered by a person who does this exercise amidst the mayhem of meaningless concerns, or even receive a text from them. We don’t get offended if we greet a happy birthday with a wave of a magic algorithmical wand of social networks, right?

Looking at great successful young artists you will never be

Go to the https://futuregenerationartprize.org/ or any other webpage of young artists’ prize, or check Documenta or Venice Biennale participant lists and look for people under 35 years old. Browse through the participant’s websites, gaze at glossy screenshots and splendid photos of displays. Scroll endless exhibition lists in their CVs. Check what kind of schools they went to. Calculate how much the education and life in that countries would cost you, including visa-related expenses and fees depending on your citizenship. If possible, check how diverse the graduate of those schools are in terms of ethnicity, gender, class, and origin.

If you happen to graduate from the same school, ask yourself why you are still not among those people yet? Look back at your life and analyse what has brought you to your current place. Dream about other options you might have had – would they make any difference? Given the experience of the past years, do you think your status would change drastically in the near future? Ask yourself if you put too much effort and stress in what you are not really in control of?

If you will never become a great successful young artist, just relax and do what you really really want and enjoy.

By Olia Sosnovskaya

Bodies at non-work (sleeping bodies – sick bodies – exhausted bodies – unskilled bodies)

Create a playlist with the music you can’t resist dancing to. If you have a good or loud enough sound system, the exercise would be more efficient, but using headphones is also possible. Set an alarm clock to any time during your working day. The exercise can be performed anywhere, the only requirement is the proximity to your workspace, so you can switch to the practice right from your work.

Start the exercise: turn on the music from your playlist and dance energetically, devotedly and passionately for at least 10 minutes. Repeat the training everyday, gradually increasing its duration by adding at least a minute each time.

As a result of this exercise your attention and overall bodily condition would be drastically switched from the working routine, with its flow interrupted. The effect of the exercise can last for over an hour after its fulfillment.

By Olia Sosnovskaya

Comments

Is dance non-productive or, on the contrary, does it train stamina and provide rehabilitation in order for the improved body to be useful and able to work again? Substituting overwork with another kind of exhaustion, which seems liberating and transcendent. Does it make your body disobedient to the logic of capitalism or rather train it to sustain long monotonous hours of activity.

For me it’s hard to think about any type of autonomous activity free from the logic that a body should incur value (in a form of creative potential as well). Everything that seemed autonomous and authentic yesterday, tomorrow could be a form of alienating work. So maybe we can talk not about places/time/states-of-our-bodies but about networks we can web/twine. My question is: what type of solidarity/empowerment can we establish through dance?

<3 for your last question !

To play computer games which don’t care if you play them or not

I’m grateful to Alexandra Anikina for inspiring these ideas.

Screenshot from video game Everything, developed by David OReilly, 2017

Mountain. It is a certain world, in which a separate autonomous mountain exists – an agent beyond all human relations. The mountain moves, and you can either approach it or distance yourself from it.

Screenshot from video game Everything, developed by David OReilly, 2017

A human has an observant role: one cannot control the insides of a computer game anymore. Most likely, it is the other way around: the mountain is evolving and living all by itself. For one dollar, you can only get access to the observation of subjectivity which holds a world on its own. Night and day change in a game, as well as conditions of existence, but as a user, you can only perform micro-actions which don’t influence anything. Sometimes you can even see the state of the mountain shown on a screen, or encounter an attempt to engage in dialogue (or just a question?).

Screenshot from video game Everything, developed by David OReilly, 2017

In Everything you can become one of the animals, insects, the Universe particles on a microlevel, or, let’s say, a comet on a macro-level. Along with that, your protagonist is able to time travel. Today I was a mammoth, and I got back into the Ice Age. To gain agency, you can get inside the avatars at different levels and become a ladybug or, if you spend enough time reaching a certain level, a molecule of this ladybug. If you could have ever imagined Universal Procrastination, this is it: you don’t have to do anything. If you give up, your avatar starts its own life walking and travelling around the planet, which is just like the Mountain – an (utopian?) island where various processes occur, and you can co-exist with them, plunge into them (or is plunging just a way of coexistence – a careful one?).

There are games which don’t need a viewer, games which are stripped off a viewer’s gaze, of an outsider’s gaze. Something is happening there while you’re not present, a world changes and evolves; and it is not loaded with ‘God’s’ sight, human’s sight. A human doesn’t rule anymore, doesn’t control an in-game universe. The bodies in the process of creation are being present there, not the bodies which have already been created.

By Dzina Zhuk

Screenshot from video game Everything, developed by David OReilly, 2017

Create a temporary recreation area

Invite guests via a local food delivery aggregator. After the first treats are served by the guests, invite them to join the table. Tell them that this picnic was initiated particularly for food couriers and is built up by their colleagues. That it is a temporary recreation room set to rest from the daily routine. That guests were invited to find some time for a break from their insane work schedules to attend a picnic for a while and to be together.

By eeefff

Comments

All in all, how is time scheduled for food delivery work? As I understand it, in Russia you cannot just take a break, it has to be allowed by a manager. And if you pause while treating it as an incomplete order, it may look like a delay, right? + other orders will be standing in the queue? Well, it will be interesting to think about how it is really possible to trick the system and its scheduling!

As far as I know, it’s quite a monstrous system, at least in Moscow. Yes, you cannot set your work rhythm yourself, it is regulated either by a manager or an algorithm which optimizes human resources. Only a year ago you could encounter Yandex food couriers idling in McDonalds or Burger King. But for now, something had changed in the algorithmical heads of managers and couriers who bum around, banished from the streets and cafes.

Instructions for unproductive daydreaming session

This exercise is to be performed around 2 p.m. in the middle of a working day. It is a dance meditation that interrupts the flow of your daily drag and forces your body to relax and forget about all its daily troubles. In order to perform the exercise, follow the instructions below: Download the audio from soundcloud onto your phone. Step out of your office and find a relaxing meadow in order to fall into a meditative state. A ‘Meadow’ is here to be considered as: “A flat surface where you are capable of laying down. It could be your bedroom floor, a city park or a sunny rooftop. It can be found anywhere where you are alone and feel comfortable and safe in a horizontal position.” Lie down. Relax. Put your headphones on. Press play.

This exercise is inspired by the project Neverendings by the choreographer Sergiu Matis, whom I closely collaborate with. The project is based on the research of Ernst Bloch’s Principle of Hope. Neverendings premiered in 2017 in Berlin. Soundscape is designed by Carl Perks.

By Mila Pavićević

How to upset a Father (An assault on the powerful through nasty means)

Exercises-stories for survival, on Hardships that conceal themselves and the Indolences of daughters

The Celebration of Disobedience of tactical amenities, the hardships of charms of a naive rebellion: the art of treat and gorge, of selection and offerings; tiny clandestine manipulations and a triple betrayal in the name of Elektra, Eclair, and Thunderbolt!

Car la poudre et la foudre c’est fait pour que les rats envahissent le monde! Because powder and lightning are made for rats to invade the world!

Adaptations:

A father-spoiled truffle paste, who cannot sneak into a splendid entrance hall of Gubin’s mansion — wallowed in luxury, there’s no passage below, he is forced to spy on the dance of plasterwork and marble through a window, to hit it with a sorrowful wing, with eye-hair-snake venom, with all his eight gut-pink fingers. My Venetian father, I bring an offering-feeling to your black vacuum, and a non consumable Italian paste-daughter. There’s no passage to you from below, but I know that here, beneath, the girls live; they cram their mouths with filth and take it out with lips, intuitive trackhounds searching for the complementary culinary ingredients for the Kitchen of Earthy Poison.

A father-strawberry Dirol — subtle scorching gum on, paint coming off in chunks, on husk, on squame (through straws) triggers saliva, foam at the mouth!

A father-blue Elektra. A message-question from a Blue Fire of Imperfection of a favorite Ellinistic heroine, one of the jewels of a Greek drama: How to disappoint a Father?

By Welcome to the Dollhouse!

Гиперактивное упражнение

Hyperactive exercise

Image provided by Aleksei Borisionok

Paradoxically, one way to do nothing is to engage oneself in bureaucracy, its solid, counterproductive power, and its substrate: archives, records, management, and documentation. If for the person on the receiving end, bureaucracy soon turns into a living hell, simulating the feeling that one is walking in a vicious circle, then for an employee within that bureaucracy, work can feel like an exercise in procrastination: the ultimate form of doing nothing – with its small pleasures – and wasting time. This laziness constitutes a specific type of pleasure located within the routine of everyday life, and this laziness interrupts work. Is it possible to use the anti-creative and non-productive power of bureaucracy and filing of papers for one’s own purposes? The following exercise, which combines archeology, psychogeography, and aimless strolling (flâneur), will help answer this question.

To complete the exercise, you will need an organizational system, which we will term an archive, of any kind, digital or physical: file cabinets, vernacular databases, repositories, various collections of information, preferably containing irrelevant data. Before starting the exercise, we follow Sven Speaker’s question: “Is there a part of the archive that escapes from the archivist’s control, a ‘beyond the archive’ that remains inaccessible to its finding tools?”1 There is no need to answer this question. We will look at the archive not as a language of discourse and power, but as a junction of various pieces of information that slip out of registers, cards, hashtags, and indexes.

The purpose of the exercise: aimlessly wandering around data sets

Instruction:

1. Find the archive or database. Since most likely you are behind a computer screen, it is most convenient to use a digital archive. It is possible to work with the material archive: it activates not only your eyes and fingers, but also the muscles of the arms and back. Databases generated with users-data are suitable for this exercise: social networks (vkontakte, odnoklassniki, last.fm, wikipedia, flickr, alibaba, youtube, etc.) Also a personal data set is suitable: for example, an old hard drive disk. Also you can use any psycho-data: bookmarks, contact list in social networks, notes.

2. Come up with a protocol that you will follow. The options are:

2. A) The chaotic way: based on intuition, wink, seduction. Click on any link that seems seductive, strange, interesting, attractive to you. Follow all the links, including the most dumb and containing conspiracies.

2. B) Method-protocol: some users, especially those with a tendency to commit and control, like to follow the protocol. Do not be afraid, come up with the strangest way to go from page to page – anyway, no one will know about it. For example, click on every fifth link, on every material related to a certain topic, a keyword or words that will determine your choice, etc.

N.B. Often, corporate methods will try to control your choices and give you the most obvious moves based on the analysis of your data. Do not be fooled! However, sometimes you should not avoid the logic of the proposed choice – it can lead you to a strange space of the digital unconscious.

3. Turn off all the devices of time measurement, do not let the course of time distract you from such an exciting and counterproductive activity. Perhaps you will learn something new, see special samples of web design, and even save something to your computer.

4. Do not stop!

5. Go from page to page, from video to video, from track to track, from profile to profile: make your aimless hyperactive reeling the most useless, strange, and amazing!

N.B. Psychologists often associate this exercise with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is so characteristic of our time.Do not be mistaken! Aimless hyperactive reeling can be performed with all the seriousness of procrastination and a high level of concentration and attention.

An example of hyperactive aimless scrolling on the database of sounds of the social network VKontakte based on the thematic search and related keywords on the topic of geology:

The Sound of the Underworld → Conspiracies of Natalya Stepanova, redone – Multiplication of mineral deposits → Unknown – The sound of the movement of tectonic plates → Viscous Sharab – Tectonic wedge → … → Ilgashevsky Textiles – ALH (atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrogen) → DJ AUTOMAT – TURNS ON MAGMA LEANED BACK 10 METERS BA$$ BOO$T

By Aleksei Borisionok

Anxiety is a place, a place is a destiny

Annotation

The manual for non-work and laziness from n i i c h e g o d e l a t accumulates a variety of approaches on the topic, which were developed by individual employees of n i i. Non-work with anxiety, with visual and poetic images, and with the body are the constituent parts of this manual; sometimes the routes proposed by researchers unexpectedly intersect, forming new nodes on the time/body/space map. Sometimes the routes exist autonomously. We sincerely hope that each of the users will be able to creatively apply our practices to their own lives.

Content

1) Non-action Algorithms

  • anxiety mapping
  • wet cleaning vs deadline
  • translate me into text
  • slow motion
  • deadline as a tool for procrastination

2) Possible problems and solutions
3) Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
4) Glossary
5) Subject Index
6) Where else to find information on the subject, contact information

  1. Non-action Algorithms
  • anxiety mapping

anxiety is a place, a place is a destiny
work on destiny, line your anxiety, prepare a map and a plan
here are the flashpoints of anxiety, it is a solitaire, travel through it as through a mine field
traveler is a possibility for a prosthetic, imagine yourself in a blaze
for example (*)
this autumn field, the islands of anxiety are smouldering under the yellow leaves,
recognizing anxiety is a code, the same code is sewed into your body somewhere
encounters, feel your future burns like if they have been always present
put on a bandage, put the plan on the map, rub these leaves with ointment

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 

trace anxiety places on the body, paint them and decorate
you dressed yourself up, let’s work with this
how long have you been together
how long are you going to be together
answer politely and correctly
how did I meet you – I recognized you by the scent of leaves, you are my series of explosions,
let’s decorate these places and go to a party
hyperlinks and exilement, deport me to all the anxiety places, I follow right now oh now I cross
your page is on fire
I leave it a like
it gives me a wink
do you already know where to be on fire tonight?
would you drop me a link?
places want to be round as nests,
anxiety is also warping into a nest
over-scrolled pages as tiny nests on the fingertips

  • wet cleaning vs deadline

(*)

I lie and look at the floor. I can do no more in this state – just lie on the floor and look at the floor. I focus on a thin layer of dust with petals from a bouquet brought on the eighth of March. I look and feel how desire to remove it increases. At the moment this is my strongest desire, it is stronger than the desire to live.

Cleaning is what I want right now. Wet cleaning. I would even say full-scale cleaning. It is necessary to sort out the closet, remove the winter clothes, arrange the spices according to the flavor strength. This is very important, much more important than my deadline on a text, and even more than an unedited video.

Quite rarely, or rather quite briefly, we find ourselves in a state of insufficiently chewed affect when we do not know what we feel. Sensory recognition habits work smoothly, thus we quickly pack affects into a narrative. Anxiety is either a means of achievement, or a consequence of an affective broth, of the non-discrimination of emotions.

Anxiety involves the imagination: I want to imagine the contours and clear silhouettes of future errands, reports, projects – instead of this rattling and discrepancies within myself; the fever of emotions produces spoilers of the future, which can be returned to when resonances fade away.

  • translate me into text

***

verses on the way to a workplace
notes in the bathroom
how does inner jelly live
a jiggly subject
a magician of anxiety states, a teacher, a guru
dark knowledge from the other side
acts of despair
soulful practices
recognize me
then translate me into text
this is a deck of cards
face down
face up
I’m lying on the bed
ever accelerating deceleration
I see the traces of grief on my friends’ faces and the grief itself
here are its crinkles
and these chinks
and this inappropriate pause in a conversation
friend, we are seaming ourselves into a one soft cloth
we are waiting for ulysses
a table
there’s an old cup of morality
rattling on the table
while you are eating up your dinner with no taste of food
my dear, I’m ready to sweep open toward

  • slow motion

Find a quiet, secure place where no one can distract you from doing the practice. Do a little warm-up that will prepare the body for slow movement. Turn on quiet meditative music (Chinese bells suit perfectly). Set the timer for a specific time. It is recommended to start with 15 minutes of deceleration per day, gradually adding several minutes every time you do this exercise. Theoretically, it is possible to extend the practice to 24 hours a day, but for now, as far as we know, no one has been able to achieve this result. Start the slow movement from the fingertips, gradually outspreading it to the entire body. Try to include the entire possible range of body movement, while maintaining the slowest speed that you are capable of. Continue moving until the timer signal goes off. Smoothly exit the slowdown state.

  • deadline as a tool for procrastination

I exist only six months ahead.
One residence confirmed my participation,
which means that I won six more months of the future.

Postponed events form the horizon of the future, the future that does not exist in the post-truth world. These are the small horizons of upcoming events, projects, conferences, reports and trips. When they approach, they burst on the tongue like a fizzy candy, creating a spoiler of an event online. This is usually enough for the event to never happen.

Deadline, as the most accessible tool for procrastination, will allow you to postpone an event for as long as possible. When you have a deadline, you see this point on the map (also many see the line which is often called deadly), so you can start moving in different directions, leaving behind unnoticed bookmarks, ruins of chats and links that lead nowhere. This is a digital nomad strategy without a rigid structure and given rules for rambling on the Internet.

Try to reasonably approach the deadline and use it repeatedly, endlessly prolonging and postponing. As such an environmentally friendly example, the Biennale The World Without Work, which consisted of numerous open-call parties “before” and endlessly postponed events “after”, can be cited.

2) Possible problems and solutions

The main problem of procrastination is its usefulness. If I do not write the text I do the dishes; if I do not do the cleaning, I watch the movie; if I do not watch a movie, I wander on the Internet and learn something new. This paradox leads us to the fact that procrastination is the most productive, socially approved action. The vice of the 21st century is encrypted labor. Using simple actions, remove the stigma from procrastination, regain the right for laziness.

3) Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is the difference between laziness and procrastination?

Answer options:

– Laziness is sweet, procrastination is bitter.

– Procrastination is an intact and explicit process, it is uninterrupted even if discretely divided into parts by a different charge, but it is a single act, and it is positively charged; while laziness implies a stillbirth of the action, before its formation as an impulse, denying it beforehand and keeping the negative charge all over.

– In procrastination, there is a certain potential, a charge. It is like the rune Isa, the rune of freezing. It seems that nothing is supposedly happening on the external level, but juices accumulate inside, they circulate, prepare for Spring. And laziness is just a waste of time.

– Laziness as the saving of strength, the unwillingness to invest in something worthless, kinda good laziness, laziness of care, like: I am tired, I want to lie down – well, lie down; laziness as bliss, lazy noon, let’s go swimming after lunch – no, let’s lie down for a while in the shade, I’m lazy to go; laziness as the ability to relax, to contemplate, the ability to be at rest.

Laziness as an unwillingness to overcome difficulties because the meaning of this overcoming is not very clear, i.e. laziness is something (in a positive sense) healthy: why should I slave away and sweat for this? for what? Thus, laziness is also associated with motivation: something does not provoke laziness in me (personal examples) –even if this is a very tedious task, exhausting. Thus, it is either pleasure from the process, dedication, or strong motivation.

When I say: I’m lazy, – I confess that there is not much pleasure here, and I am not very passionate, and I have no particular motivation.

There is a big difference from procrastination – because it is unconscious, procrastination is precisely like inhibition, postponement, this is when the unconscious beats you, goes around from the rear, leads you somewhere, although you seem to be doing something.

And laziness, if you say: I am lazy, is an open position, an open non-recognition of all your “bonuses” for enduring the alleged difficulties. And that is why laziness is scourged as the mother of vices, because it is a scandal – you confess that there is no pleasure in what you are invited to do, you are not carried away with this, and this motivation does not work for you. And this is a reason to be excluded, because you kind of question some kind of a common game. When you say that you are too lazy to do something, you devalue this action, and thereby terribly offense those who value this business.

4) Glossary

n i i c h e g o d e l a t – liquid / fluid institution that explores and promotes topics and ideas related to post-labor society

a world without labor – a society which is free from the need to engage in alienated labor; possible on the condition of overcoming capitalism

basic income – the regular payment of a certain amount of money, providing a decent standard of living, to each member of society, regardless of their income level and without their need to perform any work

anti-praxis – a strategy aimed at breaking the cyclical nature of the development of capitalism; proposed by representatives of unconditional acceleration (U/ACC). “To accelerate the process, and to throw oneself into those flows, leaves behind the (already impossible) specter of collective intervention. This grander anti-praxis opens, in turn, the space for examining forms of praxis that break from the baggage of the past. We could count agorism and exit as forms impeccable to furthering the process, and cypherpolitics and related configurations arise on the far end of the development, as the arc bends towards molecularization of economic and social relations.” (Edmund Berger)

44 futures – a practical phase of n i i c h e g o d e l a t readings.

Bodily-vocal-graphic performance based on the books of Nick Srnicek / Alex Williams and Peter Frase, in which the authors describe possible types of future in automation

Nomadism – a movement characterized by the rejection of the idea of rigid structures based on binary oppositions and the idea of strict determinism. Nomadism means slipping through conceptual landscapes and a geographic matrix without setting any structural goal; not sharing and not attaching; hacking central control code and stable movement score. It is autonomy and independence from determined conditions.

5) Subject Index

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 

6) Where else to find information on the subject, contact information:

https://vk.com/nii4egodelat
https://www.facebook.com/niichegodelat/

By n i i c h e g o d e l a t

Relaxation / relaxed tongue

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 
Relaxation is at the heart of labor. Let’s try to find and preserve it.
  1. To achieve a state of relaxation, detach will from an organ.

ENVISIONING THE VIRTUAL

BRIAN MASSUMI

The word “virtual” came into everyday use in the 1900’s, as a rider on “reality.” The rider overrode: the connotation was unreality. In the phrase “virtual reality,” the adjective virtual stood as a synonym for artificial. Artificial, in this context, meant illusionary. The context, of course, was the dramatic registering in the popular imaginary that enormous changes were on the horizon with the dawning of the digital age. The first tentative steps toward the construction of interactive immersive environments had triggered hyperbolic worries – or hopes – that the fabled “cyberspace” of 1980s futurist fiction was on its way to supplanting “actual” reality. The world would be swallowed in its own artifice. Synthetic imagery, animated with simulated events, would morph into an all-encompassing virtual habitat, somnambulist Matrix of the illusion of life.

2. But an organ can dry out! // quote

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 

Relaxed (Mt.4:24, Mt.9:2) – a disease that deprives a person of free movement, and thus the connection between the will and the body part affected by relaxation breaks. When the word is used in the New Testament, it can mean apoplexy or paralysis of the whole organism, paralysis of one side of the body, paralysis of muscle contraction, so that the body parts can neither be raised nor stretched, and then the affected parts of the body are soon made wither. This disease is still prevalent in the East. The parts of the body remain motionless in the very position in which they experienced a sudden seizure, and the suffering is sometimes so intense that soon after the seizure death occurs (Mt.8:6).

3. What do you replace the will with in order to protect an organ from drying out so it stays flexible and soft? You can moisten it with a vagina or, alike the creeping types of plants, cling to watered species, sing songs. You can also do a pleasant massage!

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 

DON’T perform any movements with the tongue. Relaxed, wide, flat. These are the main three points. Your head will perform all the movements needed. When your head moves upwards, your tongue wouldn’t go anywhere: it will just follow your head.

Here it’s demonstrated of how to finish the upward movement of a tongue

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 

Exercises to relax the muscles of organs of articulation. Self-massage of the tongue

We will make a useful massage to the tongue – so that our tongue becomes obedient, calm, relaxed, and it would easily pronounce various sounds. Your lips and teeth will help with that. They will stroke, pat, tap the tongue. And now carefully look at the pictures and try to remember them.

tongue-spatula

doing lip movements

doing teeth movements

stroking

clapping (tapping)

First you need to make your tongue in a shape of a spatula, and then do this:

We stroke our tongue with our lips affectionately

Algorithm: desire provokes relaxation; toss in some curiosity/attention/interest/dedication to detail, and the new 👅 of philosophy is ready!

Image provided by n i i c h e g o d e l a t 

THE END

By n i i c h e g o d e l a t


  1. Sven Spieker. The Big Archive. Art from Bureaucracy. Cambridge, London: The MIT Press, 2008. P.3.

OPEN LETTER FROM THE INTERNATIONAL ART COMMUNITY IN CONNECTION WITH THE ARREST OF THE ARTIST NADEZHDA SAYAPINA AND OTHER CULTURAL WORKERS

Nadezhda Sayapina is now free and safe, but many cultural workers – as well as hundreds of other citizens of the Republic of Belarus – remain in prison cells or will get there in the future. We publish this open letter with a video message from Nadezhda alongside with the extensive list of signatures to once again express our solidarity and support.

***

We, 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. 

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DEAR ART WORLD: #METOO IN THE SWEDISH ART COMMUNITY

Introduction

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.