ARTMargins Online Blog

ARTem. Presentation of ART.

Hello! My name is Artem, I live in the country, about which many of you have no idea. However, the majority of people who live here also can hardly understand what kind of country it is. If you want to have your own opinion about our country, the best way is to come here to see everything with your own eyes. Though, if don't have such opportunity just read George Orwell's novel "1984" and you will clear up quite a lot.

First, I'd like to stipulate: I'm just an amateur in art as I don't have any artistic education. My diploma of a journalist was of use to me during 5 years of work in the system of state audio-visual mass media (there are no any other in Belarus). Everything I've learned over these years allowed me to make some defined conclusions about our culture. These particular conclusions I'm going to share with you.

With the word "Belarus" foreigners normally have two associations: Russia and dictatorship. Either do I. Unfortunately, these associations are not unreasonable. My blog will be about Belarusian culture, so I'll try to avoid political "associations", though I not really believe it is possible.

Well, I begin.

Belarus – is an independent country with just more than twenty years history. Before this for about 70 years it was a part of a former USSR and earlier - a part of other state formations. Modern Belarusian art is rather hazy concept, even hazier than Belarus itself. Being the inheritor of a Soviet culture, the art of our country still preserves traces of socialist realism. The whole official Belarusian culture is conjunctural. It is based on Soviet ideology and propaganda. For instance, for more than half a century the prevailing theme here is a Great Patriotic War. Another favourite theme is patriotism. If to believe in postulate that art is a reflection of reality, then official Belarusian art is a reflection of non-existent reality, it has nothing in common with what is real. Informal art (a kind of art that the government prefers not to take notice of), on the contrary, mainly appeals to everyday life, that's why it often contains political and nearpolitical subtext. The most noticeable modern Belarusian art-activists – Marina Naprushkina and Ales Pushkin. Their works mainly appeal to social and political reality. The performance of Ales Pushkin "A present for President" in July, 1999 became very popular in mass media. The area for that performance was a Residence of President, to footsteps of which the artist, partly dressed up in a national costume, brought and unloaded a cart full of dung. With a help of pitchfork he attached a portrait of Alexander Lukashenko to a dunghill with words of gratitude "For five-year fruitful work". The most important part of the performance, as well as of the majority of Pushkin's performances, was his detention by policemen.




The most significant project of Marina Naprushkina was an opposition comic newspaper "Belarusian self-governing". With financial support of Kulturstiftung des Bundes she managed to print 60 thousands of copies. Spreading of the newspaper in many towns of Belarus was carried out by activists of non-governmental organizations.





It's quite natural, that such kind of art is often exposed to censorship and persecutions of government, that is why the theme of dissidence and artistic immigration is particularly urgent for Belarus.

Such situation gives rise to the main problem of modern Belarusian art – isolation from the worldwide context. The educational system, mass media and other state institutions present only classical art as a standard. And only classical art receives the governmental support, which is in fact rather small. Of course, the support is given under condition that the art fits in with ideology. All kinds of art that are different are taken as something miserable, worthless. Few exhibitions of urgent art generally take place in the capital and usually are held by enthusiasts or European organizations. Small number of people attends such exhibitions, normally – youth. The absolute majority of our population simply don't understand or unable to understand modern art. To be objective it should be mentioned that in the field of classical art the situation is hardly different.

There are still no CENTRES OF MODERN ART in Belarus, and the only place where it is promoted somehow is "Ў" gallery. The gallery got its name in honor of "Ў" – a letter of Belarusian alphabet. There is no such letter in any other alphabet all over the world. Symbolically, the gallery is located in the place of survivals of the Soviet past – bottle redemption center. Besides permanently changeable expositions various cultural and educational projects take place there. In this very building one can find: a book shop (where it is possible to come across almost any kind of literature, even opposition and modern Belarusian literature) and a shop with handmade clothes and accessories.



Nevertheless, if not to pay attention to a low cultural level of art consumers, in Belarus there are quite a lot of artists, who study and develop urgent art. But, in view of everything above-listed, they often have to exhibit their works on the territory of nearest European countries: Poland and Lithuania. In my next essays I will tell about some of them in more details.

Artem Onaschenko
Author: Artem OnaschenkoWebsite: Belarus
Artem Onaschenko, 26 years, blogger, journalist. In 2009 I graduated from Institute of Journalism of Belarusian State University, faculty of mass media. I worked 5 years on state TV-channel (CTV), now I am a television editor of internet-portal about modern Belarusian culture, where I have my own blog as well. I'm keen on literature of post-modernism, Indie rock music and Art house films.

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