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.

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. 

***

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. 

OPEN LETTER OF BELARUSIAN CULTURAL WORKERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We, the undersigned, cultural workers demand:

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

2. To release all political prisoners and detainees.

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

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

We consider the actions of the law enforcement agencies to be illicit, inadequate and offensive to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, according to which the individual, their rights, freedoms and guarantees for their attainment constitute the main goal and value of the society and the State (article 2 of the Constitution of Republic of Belarus).

Signed,

Signed,

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

Alexey Naumenko, artist 

Anna Samarskaya, researcher of the history of Belarusian photography

Elena Naborovskaya, culturologist, curator of art projects 

Olga Mzhelskaya, art manager 

Antonina Stebur, curator, researcher 

Nadezhda Makeeva, artist 

Nadezhda Sayapina, artist

Katsaryna Ramanchyk, manager of cultural projectsў 

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

Oksana Gaiko, director, actress, Kryly khalop theater

Anna Smolyakova, artist 

Nastasya Gancharova mastachka 

Igar Gancharuk, photographer 

Maxim Shumilin, photographer 

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

Arthur Kamaroўski, paet, performer 

Alena Kazlova, poet, pianoforte 

Vera Kavaleuskaya, curator and editor 

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

Ekaterina Smuraga, photographer 

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

Anna Loktionova, art manager 

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

Alexander Marchenko, director 

Aleksei Borisionok, curator of contemporary art, researcher 

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

Kanstancin Varabei, producer, Maisternya satyyalnaga kino

Alexander Silvanovich, artist 

Vіktoria Varabei, ssenarystka, Maisternya satsyyalnaga kino

Ekaterina Averkova, director 

Sergey Smirnov, pianist, co-founder of Nouvelle Philharmonie

Tatiana Ermashkevich, translator 

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

Elena Ge, researcher 

Daria Amelkovich, cultural journalist 

Nastya Narunasа, architect 

Dima Tsypkin cellist, co-founder of Nouvelle Philharmonie

Polina Zadreiko, musician, NABT

Olesya Burdina Drama Theater 

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

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

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

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

Christina Ivantsova, designer 

Aleusandr Lytin, photographer 

Oksana Gerasimyonok, musician 

Dana Antonovich, museum worker 

Taras Tarnalitskiy, journalist

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

Marina Dashuk, theater 

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

Viktoria Kharytonava, photographer 

Anna Balash, artist, Belarusian Union of Artists

Alexey Andreev, editor of the anthology “Monologue”

Alla Savoshevich, artist 

Lyudmila Gromyko, theater critic

Snezhana Makarevich, direction 

Tanya Artsimovich, cultural worker 

Yuri, Yakovenk, artist of the Belarusian Artists Union

Olga Sosnovskaya, artist of the Vienna Academy of Arts

Olga Nadolskaya, cultural manager 

Danil Shayka, journalist 

Ekaterina Shimanovich, set designer

Ekaterina Solodukha, Producer, Independent Theater Company “HomoCosmos”

Alexander Budko, musician, music teacher

Irina Kondratenko, art critic, curator

Maxim Sarychev, artist

Daria Kulsha, theater man 

Elena Gurina, artist

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

Tatiana Zaidal, culturologist, ART Corporation

Hanna Yankuta, writer, pianoforte 

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

Nikolay Lavrenyuk, cinema, “Listapad” Film Festival

Irina Demyanova, documentary

Alexey Boreisha, Department of Cultural Affairs, BSU

Nastya Kaminskaya, designer

Andrey Volchyok, actor

Andrey Belsky, head of the theater lighting section

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

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

Daria Potaturko, director

Palina Khadoryk, smm Kupalausky teatr

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

Veronika Ivashkevich, artist

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

Elena Sidor, assistant director

Vera Prokhorova, designer

Vasily Burdin, graphic artist, designer

Alexander Veledimovich, photographer, teacher, writer

Kirill Gormash, artist

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

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

Dmitry Yankov, manager of cultural and social projects

Anya Yakubovich, artist

Evgeniya Tsygankova, art teacher

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

Iryna Gerasimovich, pioneer

Pavel Pavlyut, actor

Marina Karman, art critic, teacher of the drawing studio

Uladzimir Gramovich, artist

Sofia Sadovskaya, art critic, curator

Olga Romanova, ECLAB culturologist

Anastasia Avraleva, artist

Alesya Zhitkevich, artist

Sasha Stelchenko, director

Natalla Jarnak, culture

Irina Lukashenko, cultural manager, Artonist

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

Uladzimir Paznyak, artist, Academy of Art in Szczecin

Lesya Pchelka, photographer. Manager of cultural projects VEHA

Anna Sokolova, artist

Alexey Lunev, artist

Evgeny Kurilchik, artist-soloist-instrumentalist

Ekaterina Yukhnova, artist-soloist-instrumentalist

Dmitry Khlyavich, choir conductor

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

Gleb Amankulov, artist

Igor Stakhievich, artist, Artonist

Tamara Basakova, Culture

Svetlana Gaidalenok, theater teacher, Kryly khalop theater

Svyatogor Masha, artist

Leonid Nesteruk, artist

Mikhail Gulin, artist

Antonina Slobodchikova, artist

Olga Kostel, ballet master

Maria Kostyukovich, film festival coordinator, film critic

Anton Sorokin, artist

Tatiana Kilimbet, PR manager

Dmitry Karakutsa, marketing

Svetlana Vladimirovna Zhukovskaya, Assistant Director

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

Valentina Pisarenko, art critic

Olga Veselik, violin teacher

Krystsina Drobysh, actress

Igor Avdeev, musician of the symphony orchestra

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

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

Nastassya Zharskaya, library NBB

Alexey Strelnikov, theater critic

Andrei Lyankevich, director of the Month of Photography in Minsk

Elizaveta Buzanovskaya, graphic designer

Uladzislau Mashchanka, artist

Daria Brian (Golovchik), director

Alena Ivanyushenko, playwright

Svetlana Stubeda, lecturer at BSUKI

Tatiana Gavrilova, soloist of the Bolshoi Theater of Belarus

Alyaksey Saprykin, actor, Belarusian Free Theater, Art Syadziba

Igor Chishchenya, documentary filmmaker

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

Elizaveta Rusalskaya, illustrator

Ksenia Gunina-Averburg, artist

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

Vlad Khvostov, artist and designer

Elvira Koroleva, international social projects

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

Alexander Filippov, ballet dancer BGAMT

Genady Arkhipau, artist / painter

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

Yanina Zaichanka, artist, performance 

Irina Averina, actress Social Theater Laboratory

Sergey Belookiy, artist of the Belarusian Union of Artists

Georgy Anischenko, musician

Vladimir Bychkov, team leader

Albert Litvin, musician

Daria Sazanovich, artist

Maria Adamchenko, artist (painter)

Maxim Krekotnev, editor of MMAM

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

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

Andrey Pichushkin, artist

Timofey Panin, artist

Olga Khatkovskaya, computer graphics artist

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

Ekaterina (Mara) Tamkovich, director 

Yuri Zverev, musician

Evgenia Balakireva, student of BSAI

Yana Alekseenko, director

Olga Tereshonok, teacher

Anna Shevchik, designer

Olga Buravleva, director of the Bolshoi Theater of Belarus

Alexander Adamov, artist

Ekaterina Maylychka, artist

Irina Zdanevich, interface design

Dmitry Kutuzov, designer, master of art history

Anton Klepke, publisher of children’s books

Yana Sycheva, DPI

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

Konstantin Selikhanov, artist

Svyatlana Barankoўskaya, artist

Svetlana Slynko, accountant

Irina Polamorenko, clownery

Elizaveta Mikhalchuk, art critic, curator

Ganna Panyutsich, artist

Yana Romanovskaya, artist, designer

Andrei Sagchanka, teatr, adukatsya, cinema Tuteyshy teatr

Alexey Lukyanchikov, sound engineer

Anna Silivonchik, artist

Vasily Peshkun, artist

Evgeny Sivakov, musician

Sergey Semyonov, musician, teacher

Andrey Anro, artist

Vasilisa Polyanina, artist

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

Ekaterina Muravitskaya, museum

Lyudmila Rolich, artist

Ivan Semiletov, artist Union of artists

Renata Stepanova, designer

Evgeny Shimanovich, musician

Pavel Khailo, artist (Ukraine)

Elena Chepeleva, artist, ceramist, sculptor

Olga Kopenkina, curator, art critic

Valentina Pravdina, set designer, theater production designer.

Ekaterina Vysotskaya, UI / UX Designer

Victoria Shkorova, art teacher 

Marina Makarova, designer

Sergey Ashukha, artist

Alesya Murlina, artist, sculptor

Margarita Trukhova, draftsman

Arthur Kirel, artist

Anastasia Bulak, watercolor artist 

Julia Babkina, designer

Andrey Chesnokov, executive producer

Lydia Pogodina, student

Vera Odyn, architect

Maria Belorusskaya, musician

Roman Aksenov, artist

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

Vialeta Sagchyts, media

Dmitry Klechko, education

Viktor Kopytko, composer

Alexandra Karnazhitskaya, set designer

Svetlana Golubovskaya, musician

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

Sophia Saprykina, doctor

Alisa Prokhorova, art critic

Dar’ya Buneeva, artist

Daria Lebedeva, clothing designer

Olga Korol, craftsman

Natalia Dashko, designer

Dmitry Skovoronsky, accompanist of the theater studio

Natalia Matsevilo, employee

Ekaterina Andreevna, designer

Raisa Borushko, Artisan

Valentina Pravdina, set designer

Christina Khramaya, painting

Alena Gil, artist

Evgeniya Lettskaya, housewife

Elena Yankovich, designer

Lida Nalienka, literary editorial board, pioneer 

LyubovSretenskaya, artist

Polina Tishina, art

Victor Dovnar, artist BGTHI

Raman Tratsiuk, artist

Anna Plashchinskaya, craftsman

Olga Kirillova, pianist of the Academy of Music

Maria Lazarchuk, designer

Julia Arestova, office worker

Olga Bubich, art critic

Victoria Pozdnyakova, student

Galina Romanova, artist

Olga Nikolaevskaya, theater manager “MusicLand” theater company

Dmitry Kashtalyan, artist, graphic artist, illustrator

Katerina Sinichenko, designer

Dzmitry Padbyarezski, journalist of the watch “Mastatstva”

Marina Napruschkina, artist

Polina Pitkevich, actress, ECLAB Social Theater Laboratory

Aliaxey Talstou, artist, writer

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

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

Ekaterina Starkova, artist

Alexandra Galenko, artist

Alexey Okunev, music

Olga Anisko, art critic

Elizaveta Mikhadyuk, illustrator

Andrey Ivanov, playwright

Ekaterina Orabey, art critic

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

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

Olga Remenitsa, librarian

Lina Bulygo, cultural manager

Andrei Gancharoў, design, theatrical porch

Dangolya Rosickaite, Director

Diana Betsun, artist-designer, animation

Elena Perovskaya, theater worker

Daria Parfenenko, Museum Researcher

Marina Derkach, theater worker

Elena Tsvetaeva, contemporary art

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

Tatiana Kachan, artist

Valeria Didenko, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Kirill Khlopov, artist 

Evgeny Sivakov, musician

Tatyana Karpacheva, artist

Dar’ya Kulikova, monster

Alisa Fursevich, specialist in educational process support

Natalia Ivanova, editor

Ilona Dergach, curator

Zhanna Gladko, artist

Andrey Korolevich, cinematographer

Natalia Ivanova, cinematographer

Marya Badzey, kaardinatar praekta wir.by

Yulia Vorik, actress, theater projects manager

Julia Shatun, cinema

Natalia Baraboshkina, screenwriter

Polina Butko, site editor. BGAI student sound engineering

Lyudmila Perepechko, film studio “Belarusfilm”

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

Marya Rudzyankova, nastanitsa School of craftsmanship

Alexander Svishchenkov, director

Elizaveta Dubinchina, illustrator

Daria Volkovets, actress Theater “Na Nemig”

Artyom Busel, film and TV sound engineer

Alyaksey Busel, sound engineer at Palace of Republic 

Anastasia Vyaznikova, artist

Ekaterina Tarasova, director, producer

Palina Kuranovich, researcher at BDMNAiP

Vyacheslav Kruk, sound engineer

Andrei Klyutchenya, film art National film studio “Belarusfilm”

Andrey Sheromov, sound technician

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

Nadezhda Abramchuk, director

Ulyana Khripko, artist

Andrey Sheromov, sound engineer

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

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

Alexander Krasheninnikov, deputy manager of the RE:PUBLIC club

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

Diana Levdanskaya, design

Sergey Mikhalenko, Chairman of the Union of Photographers of Belarus

Andrey Steburako, designer

Vyacheslav Abramtsev, screenwriter, playwright

Natalia Podvitskaya, actress

Marya Maroz, artist

Andrey Kudinenko, film director Belarusian Union of Cinematographers

Irina Brizhis, artist, animator

Anastasia Kardash, theater

Sergey Babenko, cultural worker

Vladimir Rimkevich, artist

Angelica Mnatsakanyan, English teacher

Alla Kurkul, cinema

Rustam Agayev, radio

Ekaterina Kliots, graphic artist

Yana Shklyarskaya, art critic, Darwin Museum

Larisa Pavlova, craftsman

Baranko Svyatlana, artist

Anastasia Sokolovskaya, illustrator

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

Genik Loika, sculptor

Alexander Prokhorov, artist-sculptor

Denis Kondratyev, artist-sculptor

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

Zhanna Morozova, DPI

Ganna Komar, poet, translator

Lyudmila Skitovich, stage designer

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

Yuri Solomonov, theater designer

Anton Kolyago, film critic

Viktar Starukhin, artist

Renata Stepanova, designer

Alexandra Grakhovskaya, conductor

Sergey Stets, musician

Anastasia Khaminova, education

Dina Danilovich, curator, photographer

Valentina Kolesnikova, artist, craftsman

Marta Shmatava, BSM artist

Tatiana Kondratenko, artist BSAA

Maria Chernykh, costume designer

Anna Romanova, art critic, independent curator

Anastasia Nemchikova, film critic

Anna Savchenko, film director

Dina Zhuk, artist

Nikolay Spesivtsev, artist

Irina Doinikova, museum worker

Evgeniya Yesko, museum worker, researcher

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

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

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

Oleg Zhuravlev, sociologist, musician group Arkady Kots

Anna Petrovich, sound engineer, musician, group Arkady Kots

Dmitry Vilensky, artist, Chto Delat group

Olga Tsaplya Egorova, artist, Chto Delat group

Nina Gasteva, dance artist, Chto Delat group

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

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

Ivan Streltsov, critic and editor of Spectate.ru

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

Yulia Chernyavskaya, professor

Vyacheslav Sashcheko, teacher, director

Anastasia Shchitzova, lecturer at BSUCA

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

Gennady Fomin, lecturer at BSUCA

Ella Levanova, culture

Dmitry Matuizo, BSUCA teacher, musician

Elina Dmitrieva, culture

Antonina Shchastlivaya, artist

Olga Tereshonok, lecturer of BSUCA

Maria Fomenko, manager of the Plastforma Festival

Natalia Ponomareva, artist

Alexey Loiko, Belarusian National History and Culture Museum

Anna Stalmakh, teacher

Viktor Lobkovich, producer

Alyaksandra Ignatovich

Yanina Rashchinskaya, director

Dmitry Lonsky, sound engineer

Yury Butsko, montage specialist

Valeria Mandrik, screenwriter

Ekaterina Romashko, National Film Studio Belarusfilm

Nadezhda Kolesova, make-up artist

Alana Ivory, director

Alexandra Butor, film director

Olga Zharikova, teacher of cultural studies

Vitaly Shchutsky, sociologist, researcher, art critic

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

Elena Vorobyova, artist

Aleksandr Zamkouski, theater

Andrei Vylinsky, translator, Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater

Pavel Niakhayeu, musician, lecturer, translator

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

Alexander Kozlov, actor

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

Anna Malinovskaya, culture

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

Irina Skizhenok, museum employee

Pavel Vasiliev, artist

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

Nikolay Mikhailov, lecturer of BSUCA, choreography department

Ilya Malafei, Cultural Researcher

Olga Matusevich, artist

Volga Vishneva, exhibition activities

Zmіtser Vishnyo, writer, artist

Nadezhda Evseeva, casting director

Andrei Dureika, artist

Kristina Baranova, production designer

Hanna Zubkova, artist

Maria Belkovich, playwright

Inga Lindarenka, cultural manager

Denis Romanovski, artist

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

An updated list of signatories can be found here 

PRODUCTION DRAMA: LABOR AND LAZINESS OF ARTIST IN BELARUS

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

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

1. EASTERN EUROPEAN LAZINESS AND COERCION TO LABOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. FREELANCE AND THE UNION OF ARTISTS

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

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

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

How can an artist avoid paying parasitism tax?

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. COMMUNITIES, FICTITIOUS RELIGIONS, PRODUCTION DRAMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

UNDER THE PAVEMENT: THE MARSH – OR HOW CAN WE RE-ASSEMBLE OUR PERCEPTIONS OF THE PAST AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ says the White Queen to Alice.”

Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

The city […] is: “man’s most consistent and on the whole, his most successful attempt to remake the world he lives in more after his heart’s desire. But, if the city is the world which man created, it is the world in which he is henceforth condemned to live. Thus, indirectly, and without any clear sense of the nature of his task, in making the city man has remade himself’.

David Harvey in The Right to the City

14 May 1940, during the invasion that led to the occupation of the Netherlands in the Second World War, German bombs set the city center of Rotterdam ablaze. This horrific tragedy created a tabula rasa for post-war city-planners and engineers put in charge of rebuilding the city. The construction of the Kleinpolderplein – or ‘Little Marsh Square’ – highway intersection, planned from the early 1950s, finished 1973, became one of the crowning achievements of the reconstruction.

Nowadays, however, the flyovers have become a symbol of how modern urban planning dissected the city, creating withered spaces, social boundaries between neighborhoods and unhealthy urban environments. Traffic lights, narrow sidewalks and the imposition of vehicular high-lines are elements trapped in a passively accepted semantic field asserting the supremacy of the car. Also, when the highway was built, it marked the border of the city, but nowadays it is encrusted in the urban plane of a growing city. An upcoming decommissioning of the flyovers highlights how the modernist and technocratic dream of conquering the empty spaces in the city with the imposition of the car has failed: from their place in the mid 20th century, the planners of the intersection could not conceive of a city that would produce such extensive motor traffic, that the intersection by the year 2025 can no longer bear the weight of the cars and the air pollution it creates is no longer acceptable in the urban environment (and the global atmosphere).

The multi-layered history of the intersection means that it has the distinct ability to take on various forms of heritage. As some sort of concrete cathedral, the highway intersection bears witness to the emptiness in which it took form in the era of reconstruction and thereby it stands not only as a memorial to the destruction of WWII: the modernist assumptions of the car conquering the urban landscape that governed the thinking of mid-twentieth century planners simultaneously convey the heritage of their utopian dreams and their failure to capture the reality of the present-day future. The problem is that Kleinpolderplein was not easily perceived as such a memorial: the noise of traffic, the distance to the city center, the inaccessibility for pedestrians did not invite citizens to gather here and uncover the layers of history in active heritage processes.

To address the importance of spatiality in knowledge production, Thomas F. Gieryn coins the term “truth-spots” – that is to say, truth can have many forms, but it always takes place and each place generates a certain set of criteria that determines one value of truth over the other.1 Stuck in the spatial imagination of the times, the urban planners in times of reconstructing the city wanted to forget the traumatic recent past and projected their spectacular utopian believes on the empty spot Kleinpolderplein was at that moment. Their beliefs, however, have become outdated now that the Kleinpolderplein was condemned to be demolished because of the construction of a new ring road.

Thus, the highway intersection does not any more fulfill the original criteria for the production of truth any longer – and the question is now whether they have not changed altogether. If we are to make sense of the Kleinpolderplein as a carrier of memory and examine it as a cradle of new urban imaginaries, the notion of imagination is where our focus should lie. Paraphrasing Immanuel Kant, the Swedish geographer and multifaceted philosopher Gunnar Olsson defines imagination as the human faculty used to make the absent present. That means that it is both the faculty we use to call forth places that are not ‘here’, but also the faculty used to call forth places that are not ‘now’; to re-member perceptions of the past and expectations for the future, both of which are by definition never present. The artist collective Observatorium, commissioned to make an artwork under the flyovers, approached their project with widely different imaginaries of the past, present, and future than the engineers and city planners in the 1950s, and began to imagine the Kleinpolderplein as a place for culture by placing a museum gallery for sculptures from the city and a water square with pedestrian-oriented flyovers. Their local ad-hoc project initiative became the start of a long-term intent to be involved in the planning process, aimed at trespassing the modernist planning regimes, with a growing group of allies from different fields of knowledge – amongst them Moniek Driesse, one of the authors of this piece. They all started to believe in the dream of transforming the highway intersection into a highway landscape park.

Leonie Sandercock notes that in order to trespass the modernist planning regime, planning practice needs to go through a transformation and practitioners should develop the ability to “imagine oneself in a different skin, a different story, a different place, and then desire this new self and place that one sees”. Further, she writes that planners and citizens2 need to “suspend [their] habits of being and come out in the open and engage in dialogue with strangers”.3 So when people in Rotterdam were invited to places they had never been before, at least not as pedestrians, it opened up new spaces for remembrance, resistance, and reflection. A one-day festival was organized to show what the flyovers of the Kleinpolderplein can be like when cars are no longer the dominant occupants of this space. The participants explored and observed the unexpected rich biodiversity along the shoulders of the highway, listened to future narrations as science fiction, and toasted to the concrete biotope, distilled skillfully into healing cocktails.

If the urban space is interpreted as an infrastructure of knowledge, where nodes of connection form spaces where truth is produced, then these structures become the boundaries that frame our imagination. The various creative interventions at the Kleinpolderplein intended to alter those infrastructures in order to allow new agencies to develop. The underlying landscape, the marsh, becomes the incarnation of a natural, dynamic landscape system, in opposition to the oppressive modernist planning regimes that try to conquer nature. Thus, following Gunnar Olsson’s dictum, this allows us to imagine not only a past before the bombing of the city, but also ahead in time in which cities give room to people, plants and animals to thrive for years into the future.


  1. Gieryn, Thomas F. (2018). Truth Spots: how places make people believe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  2. Sandercock L (2002) “Practicing utopia: Sustaining cities”. In: DISP 148: 4–9.

  3. Idem