“My personal story is a simple and, alas, a widespread example of the regime repressions, described by the new expression “If you were not in prison, then you are not a Belarusian”. I was sentenced to 15 days for participation in an unauthorized event (Article 23.34). … My imprisonment led to an acquaintance with women of different ages, characters, spheres of activity and interests, forms and manifestations of their civil position.”
OPEN LETTER FROM THE INTERNATIONAL ART COMMUNITY IN CONNECTION WITH THE ARREST OF THE ARTIST NADEZHDA SAYAPINA AND OTHER CULTURAL WORKERS
Nadezhda Sayapina is now free and safe, but many cultural workers – as well as hundreds of other citizens of the Republic of Belarus – remain in prison cells or will get there in the future. We publish this open letter with a video message from Nadezhda alongside with the extensive list of signatures to once again express our solidarity and support.
We consider the actions of the law enforcement agencies to be illicit, inadequate and offensive to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, according to which the individual, their rights, freedoms and guarantees for their attainment constitute the main goal and value of the society and the State (article 2 of the Constitution of Republic of Belarus).
In this essay, curator and writer Aleksei Borisionok addresses labor structures and working conditions within the artistic field of the USSR and Eastern Europe, and continues with a closer look at Belarus, focusing on its outrageous “parasitism tax” and the artistic reactions to it.
Alena Chekhovich, a lawyer from a Belarusian human rights organization Human Constanta, examines the Culture Code in detail, discussing in simple terms the concepts of cultural and creative workers, registration and taxation of the activities of creative workers, the process of obtaining a certificate of a creative worker and much more.
Belarusian artist Uladzimir Hramovich talks about his experience in obtaining the official status of a cultural worker – a forced reaction to the Belarusian law on “not employed in the economy”. The artist describes the process of collecting documents for the commission, the committee meeting at the Ministry of Culture and shares his reflections upon the state of Belarusian contemporary art as well as his civic position.
Independent researcher Elisabeth Kovtiak presents the results of the workshop of the STATUS project, Designing the Parallel Society, which was led by two Swedish artists John Huntington and Lars Noväng in Minsk. As a response to the problematic aspects of the Ministry of Culture and the KGB, and a wider problem within Belarusian official discourse, the workshop team invented the Ministry of Uncertainty – a space to train one’s ability to become an active member of society and to enjoy it.
November 23, 2019 in Minsk will host the Congress-performance of cultural workers initiated by the members and participants of the project “STATUS: The role of artists in changing society” (Belarus and Sweden). During the one-day event, there will be discussions and conversations, workshops and performances, as well as presentations of the artworks related to the issues of working conditions and legal status of artists in Belarus and Sweden, defending rights, equality, gender and age. Congress invites professionals from the field of culture and arts, as well as anyone interested in the stated topics.
In early 2019, as a response to a request made by the Belarusian Union of Designers, the Belarusian Ministry of Culture officially proclaimed ‘exhibition activities’ (or, in other words, exhibition-making) neither an intellectual, nor an artistic practice, provoking public outrage and mockery. Using this episode as a case study, researcher Anton Barysenka reflects upon the current status of an artworker in Belarus, and comments on the structural decay and tensions within current Belarusian culture politics.